Wedding Lectionary: Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16

We go deep into the apocryphal book of Sirach for this scarcely-used selection from the Wedding Lectionary. It derives from Wisdom literature, and like Tobit and the Song of Songs, has something of a poetic structure. Especially in verses 13-16 you can see the couplets of ideas.

The designers of the Lectionary have pulled out the positives from a rather long reflection (Sir 25:12-26:18) devoted to the contrast between good and evil women. Everything you read here at your wedding is the good:

Blessed the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; A worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life. A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord; Be he rich or poor, his heart is content, and a smile is ever on his face.

A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones; A gift from the Lord is her governed speech, and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth. Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste soul. A holy and decent woman adds grace upon grace; indeed, no price is worthy of her temperate soul. Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.

Ben Sira, the author of the book, didn’t seem to have a positive view of women. He doesn’t dwell on the qualities of the ideal husband, and why would you expect him to? Sirach, like most Biblical books, were written by men for men. Missing also is the vital role of the parent, which we do find elsewhere in wisdom literature and in one or two of the wedding scriptures.

Given all that, this excision is a good meditation on the ideal wife. And being a good wife is part of having a good marriage. The late Fr Joseph Champlin, in his reflection on this passage in Together For Life, focused on the balance in adults between being able to stand alone, and being able to need and be needed in the marital relationship. Do we recognize the need for each spouse in turn, to adapt, to need and be needed?

Most sections for the wife only or for the husband only draw their share of snickers, rib pokes, and all. You need a skilled wedding homilist to get past that. Most couples just bypass the troublesome passages altogether. And that’s too bad. This one has some gems.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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20 Responses to Wedding Lectionary: Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16

  1. Ivonne says:

    Can you send me the Spanish version of the following readings:

    Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16 “Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife in the radiance of her home”

    Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 “Te Woman who fears de Lord is to be praised”

    Thank you.

  2. A lectionary can be found at this site:

    I’m not aware of any Spanish-language Lectionary sites like the USCCB. But one can find many versions of the Bible online in Spanish–the main challenge is finding one approved for use at Mass.

  3. Alan Geraghty says:

    I am looking for the peice from Sirach starting with the words; “A loving partner is a safe shelter”

  4. Todd says:

    Hi Alan,

    You’re looking for Sirach 6:14-17, which in one translation I have is “a faithful friend is …”

  5. carolyn says:

    I am looking for the french version of Sirach 26. 1-4, 13-16

  6. Delores Joubert says:

    My Parents are having their 50th. wedding anniversary this weekend and are renewing their vows. Can you please send me the reading from sirach 26,14,13-16. a.s.a.p.

  7. Jason D says:

    I didn’t have this kind of wife in my first marriage which was only civil and thus not blessed by God. I repented of it after our divorce and will not make the same mistake. I long for this kind of wife and marriage as I actually had before my previous with the kind of woman described in chapter 25. Please pray for that for me soon and I will pray for all of you whom might need it. hanks and God bless you.

  8. Jason D says:

    I just realized and remembered that wicked women are also mentioned briefly in Sirach 26 as well, but in more detail in 25, which also mentions briefly the virtuous. My first wife was the exact wicked wife described in parts of 25 and 26. I do sometimes pray for her salvation, but now my desire for a virtuous woman described in these chapters is even greater, and I know they are hard to find. I am asking God, through Mary’s, St. Raphael’s, and my guardian angels’ intercession to help me find her and surround myself in the right areas to make it happen. Thanks for listening all of you out there and God bless you.

  9. Obehi says:

    Can you send me the Swedish version of this reading

    Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16 “Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife in the radiance of her home”
    Thank you.

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  15. Alison says:

    I have been trying to find a Norwegian translation of this reading for use at my wedding as I am marrying a Norwegian.

  16. John Chrysostom says:

    The book is not “apocryphal” — a protestant slander. We Catholics say “deuterocanonical.”

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  18. I recently heard this reading at Funeral and it made me feel sick. Damn those who believe such sexist tripe. I feel sorry for your wives

    • Todd says:

      Except that some husbands believe this applies to them as well. Universal virtue is not sexism. But you are right in the assessment that such qualities being wished for only in women is indeed sexist.

      Ben Sira was a misogynist, no doubt, regardless of his negative experiences with or views of women. That’s why all ancient literature, even some aspects of the Bible, need to be taken in careful perspective.

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