Quote from our wedding program

I was very blessed to have married Bethany on May 22.  We returned from our honeymoon a couple of days ago.  I wanted to post the quote that we chose to put in our wedding program.  It’s from Tertullian’s To His Wife, and can be found in William P. LeSaint’s translation (p. 35).

We both enjoyed learning more about the Church Fathers through a class that I taught for our church.  We used Bryan Litfin’s excellent Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, and found a section of the following quote in his notes, which we decided to use.  We hope to read the whole treatise together soon.  We didn’t have communion at the wedding (unlike in Tertullian’s description) because we had a large number of non-Christians there and didn’t want to put them in the position of feeling like they should take communion, but we did have a chorus sing a blessing (Lutkin’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” one of Bethany’s favorite pieces).

So here’s the quote.  The second paragraph describes an ideal that we hope will be a reality in our marriage:

How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which the Father gives His consent? For not even on earth do children marry properly and legally without their fathers’ permission.

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. ( To His Wife, II, 8 )

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2 thoughts on “Quote from our wedding program

  1. Tertullian had some good things to say, but he died a Montanist heretic, and his writings on marriage reflect that. Like most heretics, he took a good (celibacy, marriage, martyrdom) and made them absolute goods, taking them to extremes. He absolutely condemned second marriage, even after one’s spouse had died. His severity in marriage was mirrored in his severity in other areas, such as condemning flight in time of persecution. While some have been given the grace to face death boldly and even sought to not have others intervene on their behalf and deny them martyrdom (e.g., Ignatius of Antioch and Jesus our Lord, if the latter can be called a martyr), this is not the route God has ordained for all people. Personally, I’m a bit wary when reading Tertullian, especially his writings from later in his life, such as On Monogamy and To His Wife.

  2. I know that Tertullian was a pretty severe writer to the point of being unhelpful (or perhaps worse) sometimes. But I think that he was right on here.

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