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'A marriage which really works is one that works for others'

Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made: the prince and princess on their wedding day. But fairy tales usually end at this point with the simple phrase "they lived happily ever after." This may be because fairy stories regard marriage as an anticlimax after the romance of courtship.

This is not the Christian view. Our faith sees the wedding day not as the place of arrival but the place where the adventure really begins.

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There is an ancient Christian tradition that every bride and groon on their wedding day are regarded as a royal couple. To this day in the marriage ceremonies of the Eastern Orthodox Church crowns are held over the mand and woman to express the conviction that as husband and wife they are kings and queens of creation. As it says of humankind in the Bible. "Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands."

On a wedding day it is made clear that God does not intend us to be puppets but chooses to work through us, and especially through our marriages, to create the future of His world.

Marriage is first of all a new creation for the partners themselves. As husband and wife live out their vows, loving and cherishing one another, sharing life's splendours and miseries, achievements and setbacks, they will be transformed in the process. A good marriage is a life, as the poet Edwin Muir says: Where each asks from each What each most wants to give And each awakes in each What else would never be.

But any marriage which is turned in upon itself, in which the bride and groom simply gaze obsessively at one another, goes sour after a time.

A marriage which really work is one which works for others. Marriage has both a private face and a public importance. If we solved all our economic problems and failed to build loving families, it would profit us nothing, because the family is the place where the future is created good and full of love -- or deformed.

Those who are married live happily ever after the wedding day if they persevere in the real adventure which is the royal task of creating each other and creating a more loving world.

That is true of every man and every woman undertaking marriage. It must be specially true of this marriage in which are placed so many hopes.

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Much of the world is in the grip of hopelessness. Many people seem to have surrendered to fatalism about the so-called inevitabilities of life: cruelty, injustice, poverty, bigotry. and war. Some have accepted a cynical view of marriage itself.

But "royal couples" on their wedding day stand for the truth that we help to shape this world, and are not just its victims. All of us are given the power to make the future more in God's image and to be "kings and queens" of love.

This is our prayer for Charles and Diana. May the burdens we lay on them be matched by the love with which we support them in the years to come. However long they live may they always know that when they pledged themselves to each other before the altar of God they were surrounded and supported not by mere spectators but by the sincere affection and active prayer of millions of friends.

Thanks be to God.

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