The Knot in the Sacred Bond

From Introduction to the Devout Life, III.38 (1609)

Would to God that his beloved Son were invited to all weddings as he was to that of Cana for the wine of consolation and blessing would then never be lacking…. I urge all married people to the mutual love that the Holy Spirit commends to them in scripture. O married people, it means nothing to say “Love one another with a natural love” for even pairs of doves do that well. Nor is it enough to say, “Love with a human love,” for even pagans are well-practiced in that love. But with the great Apostle Paul I say to you “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves his church; wives love your husbands as the church lovers her savior.” It was God who brought Eve to our first father Adam and gave her to him as a wife. It is also God, my friends, whose invisible hand has tied the knot in the sacred bond of your marriage and who has given you to each other. Why then do you not cherish each other with love all holy, all sacred, all divine?

If you glue together two pieces of wood, if the glue is strong, their union will be so close that the stick will break more easily in any other part than where it is joined. Now God unites husband and wife so closely in himself, that it should be easier to sunder soul from body than husband from wife; nor is this union to be considered as mainly of the body, but even more a union of the heart, its affections and love.

This love should also be an inviolable fidelity to one another. In olden times finger-rings were often graven as seals. We read of it in Holy Scripture, and this explains the meaning of the marriage ceremony, when the Church, by the hand of her priest, blesses a ring, and gives it first to the man in token that she sets a seal on his heart by this Sacrament, so that no thought of any other woman may ever enter therein so long as the one who now is given to him, shall live. Then the bridegroom places the ring on the bride’s hand, so that she in her turn may know that she must never conceive any affection in her heart for any other man so long as he shall live, who is now given to her by our Lord himself.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a gifted preacher and writer on the spiritual life, who served for several decades as Bishop of Geneva. Though a talented anti-Protestant controversialist, he was revered for his gentle spirit, which gained the respect of many of his opponents. His Introduction to the Devout Life, a manual for laypeople, is among the finest practical guides to discipleship. His feast day is January 25. The text has been altered for contemporary readers.


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