From True Womanhood by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894

The home is the nursery of the nation, and the deep and sacred love that binds into one existence the hearts and lives of husband and wife, is the soul of the home life. Everything which tends to lessen, to divide, to sully that sacred union of hearts, strikes at the very life of the family and aims at upsetting the foundations of the moral world.

The sacred virtue, the immaculate honor of every family, is inseparable from the purity and perpetuity of the love pledged to each other by both parents; more especially, in universal estimation, is the family honor dependent on the inviolable fidelity of the mother toward him to whom she gave her early love.

Hence the deep significance of the prayer of the church in the solemn ceremony of marriage. She who had proposed to the imitation of all wives the undivided and unalterable love which she ever bears to Christ, her Spouse,—who gives them in her inviolable and eternal fidelity to him, to his honor and interests, the model of the true woman’s unwavering, sustained, and devoted fidelity to her husband,—makes of this notion the central point in her magnificent marriage ritual.

Throughout all ages known to history, the most refined peoples have looked upon the ring as the symbol of eternity —as the proper emblem, therefore, of the union of souls underlying the matrimonial contract.

The Ring: Symbolic of Eternal Fidelity

When the Church has witnessed and sanctioned by her blessing the mutual and solemn pledge given by bride and bridegroom, she proceeds to bless a ring, which is given to the bride as a symbol and seal of the union into which she has entered, and of the enduring fidelity with which she is to feed the sacred fire of mutual affection and to watch over the honor of her hearth-stone.

“Bless, O Lord, this ring,” such is the prayer, “which we bless in thy name, in order that she who wears it, by preserving unbroken fidelity to her husband, may continue in peace and the accomplishment of thy will, and also ever live in mutual charity.”

Where the beautiful ceremonial is carried out in its intended fullness, the nuptial benediction is followed by the offering of the adorable sacrifice. Christ comes down on the altar, who so loved the Church, his Bride, that he ” delivered himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

There, at that altar and in that presence, kneel the two for whom the Savior God comes down, his hands filled with blessing for these his children beginning life together, and his heart overflowing with untold treasures of grace,— so needful to them on their pathway of pain and labor.

But there is more than this; the Church breaks in on the most solemn portion of the liturgy,—that between the consecration and communion,—to pronounce a further blessing on the bride.

Turning toward the newly-married, the priest, as if his hands were laden with the blessings brought from on high, and his lips touched with the hallowed fire to prophesy good things to the suppliants prostrate there, thus prays:

“0 God, who by thy might didst create all things out of nothingness; who, having ordered the first stages of this universe, and made man to the image of God, didst make man’s substance the principle of woman’s being, that she should thus be his inseparable companion, teaching us thereby that a union originating in such unity may never be broken without crime;

O God, who didst hallow this conjugal union by so surpassing a grace as to make the primitive nuptial alliance the prophetic figure of the mysterious union of Christ with the Church;

God, by whom woman is thus united to man, and the primordial society thus formed is endowed with a blessing which alone survived the punishment of original sin and the judgment executed through the deluge;

look down propitiously on this thy handmaiden, who, about to begin her companionship with her husband, beseeches Thee to grant her Thy protection: in her may the yoke of love and peace ever abide;

faithful and chaste, may she wed in Christ, and be evermore the imitator of holy women: may she prove lovely to her husband, like Rachel; wise, like Rebecca; long-lived and faithful, like Sara;

may the fell Author of (Eve’s) prevarication find no trace in her of the actions which he counsels; may she be immovably attached to thy faith and law: the spouse of one man, may no other love ever touch her;

may she school and shield her own weakness by home-discipline: may she be modest and dignified, chaste and venerable, enlightened by wisdom from on high; . . . may she win approval by her stainless life, and thus attain to the rest of the blessed and the heavenly kingdom.” * * The Roman Missal in the ” Nuptial Mass.”

“It is amazing how, with time, the soul comes to dominate the body. Selfish people get the hard, selfish look. Generous people grow more physically attractive each day. People with the peace of God’s friendship develop expressions that instantly attract and constantly charm. A mouth that speaks kindly becomes a beautiful mouth. Hands that serve generously become characterful hands. Eyes that look out for affection on mankind are eyes that radiate an inner beauty not difficult to find.” -Fr. Daniel A. Lord

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