In the new Order of Christian Matrimony, the Church has added an official ritual for Blessing an Engaged Couple. (OCM 218-236) It includes prayers, readings, and of course, a blessing.
One of the suggested readings does not appear in the Lectionary for the Wedding Mass. It’s an Old Testament passage from the book of Hosea. The prophet communicates God’s deep desire for commitment, love, and loyalty. Did the mention of “betrothal” suggest this passage is somehow appropriate for engaged couples?
Let’s read, then discuss:
Thus says the LORD to Zion:
I will betroth you to me forever:
I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment,
with loyalty and with compassion;
I will betroth you to me with fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.
On that day I will respond—oracle of the LORD—
I will respond to the heavens,
and they will respond to the earth;
The earth will respond to the grain, and wine, and oil,
and these will respond to Jezreel.
I will sow her for myself in the land,
and I will have pity on Not-Pitied.
I will say to Not-My-People, “You are my people,”
and (they) will say, “My God!”
Hosea felt deeply the sense of betrayal of a people of had lost their spiritual grounding. Most of the book contains harsh warnings about religious unfaithfulness. You may recall that Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him. But he accepted her return and forgave her. He came to see this as a symbol of the relationship of God with his people. God established a covenant. The people turned to faithlessness. Then repented and God embraced them on their return.
Still think this is a good reading for blessing an engaged couple? I think I do. When in the infatuation stage, we think our beloved can do no wrong. But soon such a hope is dashed. Little bits of unfaithfulness–forgetting dates, persistent irritating behaviors, inattentiveness–can offer a drag on a relationship. What to do? Can we accept contrition for errors? Forgive the small offenses? Maybe that is a rehearsal for the bigger disappointments that may be ahead.
God’s commitment to us is an eternal betrothal, a forever-engagement in love with a chosen people. A human being makes a choice to love another exclusively. That’s not all roses and sunshine. Difficult days are inevitable. Will a couple be ready for them? Preparation for marriage should ideally delve into that. Maybe an 8th century BC prophet can get that discussion started.