Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 4, 2007
Wedding ring a sign of love made eternal
Religious symbolism more important than 'flash and cash' in choice of a ring
- Design Pics photo
David Goa says a wedding ring is a kind of shimmer on the water of much deeper reality of commitment to helping another work out his or her salvation.
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WCR News Editor
May the Lord bless these rings which you give to each other as a sign of your love and fidelity."
"There is tremendous simplicity there," says Bernadette Gasslein, "and the rings are the symbolic form of what the vows have spoken. The ring says the same thing. It is blessed and kind of sacramental."
Gasslein, a member of the National Council of Liturgy of Canada and co-ordinator of liturgical life at St. Charles Parish, points out how the blessing invokes the name of God "as we give the ring to our spouse it is a sign of our love and fidelity."
Too often in today's society, the wedding ring and especially the engagement ring, are chosen for flash and cash instead of remembering what they symbolize in the eyes of God and the Christian Catholic wedding ceremony.
Gasslein works with couples planning their wedding liturgies two to four months before their wedding day. One of the main stumbling blocks is that most people have consciously or unconciously formed their ideas of what their wedding day should be since childhood, says Gasslein, "and have the picture rooted in their imagination.
"Human beings have a life-long formation for weddings."
But she notes the wedding ring is part of the liturgical celebration and becomes "part of your heart, imagination, part of your body, part of your identity," and should be chosen with those considerations in mind.
Ring taken off for surgery
Married for 17 years, Gasslein went in for surgery and had to take her wedding band off.
"On my hand day and night for 17 years and I had to take it off and I was not thrilled about it. Not thrilled about it at all."
Former senator Jean Forest also knew the plain gold band meant commitment when her husband Rocky slipped it on her finger some 60 years ago.
"When we met in Manitoba, I was well on my way to the convent," says Jean. She believed her vocation was to become a Sister of Charity of Halifax. However, her spiritual director advised her to complete her teacher training, teach for a year and pray over it.
But Jean met Rocky who was just out of the navy, fell in love and he gave her a small solitaire engagement ring.
"I had such mixed feelings," she says. "I was so much in love with him, but I was still wondering if this was my vocation."
Love won out
Rocky moved to Edmonton and Jean taught for a year.
Then a phone call came from Rocky in Edmonton and he told Jean, "I am coming for you and we are going to be married or else."
Jean gives a low chuckle as she remembers, saying, "I was on a party line and the teacher in the community and I was not impressed."
But love won out and when Rocky slid the plain gold band on Jean's finger in Edmonton, "that was my solid commitment to him."
Twenty-five years and seven children later, Rocky replaced the wedding set with a bigger solitaire. But included in the design were nine tiny diamonds, seven representing the children, the other two representing Rocky and Jean, and the big solitaire - the family.
"After 25 years, we knew what marriage was really about."
Father Mike McCaffery agrees that often "the simplest ring has much or more meaning than the big diamonds."
A priest who has married hundreds of couples, McCaffery says the giving of the wedding band was "basically a male thing in the old days.
"It was a visible symbol of the vows made by the groom that he wants to protect and provide for his wife, a symbol of commitment to that particular woman, the need to be faithful to one another, and that he would journey with that particular woman."
David Goa readily picks up on how the exchange of rings underlines the partnership aspect of marriage.
"The ring is an image of fidelity - a kind of shimmer on the water of this much deeper source which is to commit yourself to the other for the sake of working out their healing salvation and wholeness."
The director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the Augustana Faculty of the University of Alberta, Goa notes the earliest evidence of rings was associated with slavery and bondage. But not today.
"The ring is obviously a symbol of fidelity. And people see the exchange of rings as a way of expressing the hope of that fidelity.
"The spiritual purpose of marriage is a spousal covenant where you love one person and help each other to work out their salvation, help them to become whole. It's a healing."
Father Jim Corrigan of Sacred Heart Church in Wetaskiwin also acknowledges God's prominence at a wedding when he blesses the rings first and then remarks on "how they symbolize the eternal covenant the couple is making to each other, themselves and God who made their love possible."
For Father Patrick Baska of St. Alphonsus Parish the eternity aspect of the ring's symbolism is foremost when he talks about the bands' denoting endurance and continuity between the couple.
"There is no beginning, no end."
Should there be a diamond, Baska says it "symbolizes the many facets of a relationship and love to be shared - the mystery of each person to be discovered together."
Drawing from his own family's experience, Baska says, "My mom is Irish and there is a song she loves."
A traditional ballad sung at many an Irish wedding, its title is She Wears My Ring.
And here's the first verse:
"She wears my ring to show the world
That she belongs to me,
She wears my ring to tell the world
She's mine eternally."