It might be that Jewish thread running through my family, or the associations I’ve enjoyed over the years with my elder sisters and brothers in Judaism, but I feel an affinity to the Old Testament that not every Catholic gets.
For example, the fine texts in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) that urge the ancient Israelites (plus Jews and Christians today) to live a virtuous life, rooted in morals, good behavior, and dedication to God.
One such text that isn’t in the official Catholic wedding ceremony, but I think would fit is this passage from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, quoted by Jesus, and known as the shema:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!
Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
Drill them into your children.
Speak of them at home and abroad,
whether you are busy or at rest.
Bind them at your wrist as a sign
and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.
Write them on the doorposts of your houses
and on your gates.
The book of Deuteronomy attributes four lengthy addresses by Moses to the people. This passage, part of his second, follows his (re-)presentation of the Ten Commandments. As you see, it is an elaboration on the first commandment, to love the one God.
What does this have to do with marriage? For a Christian or a Jew, it might mean quite a lot. A couple choosing this reading on their wedding day signal to their family and friends and guests, and remind themselves that they are rooted in a faith tradition that demands not only a personal belief in God. Faith is more than words on a printed page. Faith is passed on to children. Faith is in mind wherever one travels. Faith is lived during work, play, or leisure.
A wedding band might be a visible reminder of a marriage commitment, but does our faith commitment have a similar visibility? If not on our bodies or our homes, in the actions we take as a married couple to live out our beliefs and practice what we preach?
It is possible to wear a wedding band and be unfaithful. Likewise to wear a cross, hang a picture of Jesus on a wall, and slink away when being a believer is inconvenient. But our commitments–those to God or to a spouse–help form us and mold us into the best possible version of ourselves. This passage presumes that love is a choice, a free choice, and a committed one. Why not take the moment of a wedding day to announce that we love God, we love a special life partner, and we will live out that commitment for the betterment of anyone who happens to witness our marriage?