Spouses are united to each other and Jesus in Catholic marriage Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Mar. 04, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

A company organized a salvage operation off Ireland's coast in order to recover treasure from a sunken Spanish treasure ship.

Day after day, diver after diver plunged into the cold waters and came up with nothing much. Then a diver discovered treasure that excited the entire crew. It was a wedding ring that a nobleman gave to his wife. On the ring was a heart accompanied by the words "I have nothing more to give."

In the sacrament of marriage, the couple is married when they exchange wedding vows in the presence of either a priest, deacon, or bishop plus two witnesses. After this, they exchange wedding rings and say, "Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Some call this a secondary commitment.

Humorist Erma Bombeck once remarked, "For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times that it is time to go home. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward."

The Romans believed a vein of love (vena amoris) connected the ring finger to the heart.

Marriage covenant

Catholics who receive the sacrament of marriage especially treasure their wedding ring because it reminds them daily of the covenant they made on their wedding day.

A covenant is based upon the unconditional love and trust the couple expressed when they pledged, "I take you to be my (husband/wife.) I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life." Since a ring has no beginning or end, it symbolizes the eternal love and unity of the couple.

Fr. Walter Burghardt said that Catholic marriage is too serious of a proposition to be left solely to husband and wife. In marriage, husband and wife are united to each other with Jesus in marriage.

In no. 1660 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, "Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament." Jesus helps the couple live this sacrament through special graces.

In no. 1642 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, "Christ dwells with the couple, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and follow him, to rise after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love."

Through the graces of marriage, they help one another to attain holiness in their marriage and welcome and educate their children.

Marriage: the school of love

In Catholic marriage the couple is called to love each other as Christ loves the Church. Marriage is the school of love because the couple learn to love more deeply as they grow together. I rejoice when I hear a married person say, "My spouse is my best friend"or "my spouse is Christ to me!"

Husband and wife lay down their lives for each other in little ways.

This involves giving and receiving. It may be as simple as laying down the newspaper when the other wishes to communicate. It may involve cooking a special meal with love, doing one's share, or giving encouragement when the cold north wind of worry blows or the lamp of hope dims low.

It may be as complicated as postponing one's career in order to give more quality time to the children. It can mean lying awake nights because the baby is teething or missing one's favorite television program repeatedly to attend a school play or child's soccer game. It may mean supporting the other during an illness. Spouses are career students in the school of love.

They never stop learning to love, forgive, and grow.

Beauty of an age-old love

In one of the nuptial blessings the presider prays,

"Father, give the couple the strength which comes from the gospel so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others. (Bless them with children. Help them to be good parents. May they live to see their children's children.) And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven."

Someone asked "Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?" Another answered, "Yes. It is an old married couple finishing their life's journey together. Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped; their faces are wrinkled but still radiant; their hearts are physically tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.'" (Anonymous)

Christ's love has given such couples the graces to live for a lifetime the inscription on the wedding ring, "I have nothing more to give."

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.