“And I will lift you up, each day of our lives, until our love reaches perfection in eternity.”
This was the extra vow, given to us by Fr. Gail White at our Engaged Encounter weekend, that my wife and I inserted at the end of our traditional wedding vows. Sadly, this is a vow my wife and I have broken numerous times over the course of our marriage.
As imperfect people, we haven’t always lifted each other up. Sometimes we’re moody, tired, out of energy, or just don’t focus on this wonderful vow. Regardless, we made this vow and we are convenantly required to uphold it.
Let’s break down this vow, and see how it might apply to your current marriage, or if single, to a future spouse.
“And I will lift you up”-I vow to honor you, to put you first, to think of what’s best for you and our marriage. I vow to do this even if I don’t want to do it, or don’t feel like doing it. Even if today I’m not feeling particularly loving towards you or you’ve hurt me, I vow to lift you up. I lift you up in prayer and in action, contributing towards your good and your positive self-esteem. I put you ahead of me, and speak and think kindly of you, especially in front of others (including my friends and co-workers.) In short, I live for you, and my job as your spouse is to love you as perfectly as an imperfect, simple person can, sharing responsibility for the eternal destiny of your soul and attempting to lead you to Heaven.
“…each day of our lives”-Yes I vow to lift you up every day, 24/7, regardless of anything else. Even if I’m angry at you or someone or something. Even if you neglected to lift me up. I look for ways to honor and serve you in word and deed, making small sacrifices (sacred acts) simply “because,” and for no other reason or personal gain. Each day we will grow together in love and holiness, and each day we grow closer to each other, our community, and to God.
“…until our love reaches perfection in eternity.” Our marriage is a foreshadowing of the eternal wedding between Christ and His Church. Our love for each other should reflect Christ’s love for His Church. His love is perfectly agape and eros combined. His love was consummated on the cross. Likewise our love requires self-sacrifice and a passion and death, in order to lead not just to small daily resurrections but the eternal resurrection of our souls and bodies. Each day we work towards the perfection we will only achieve in eternity, when Christ blesses us with the beatific vision which is pure selfless love. We can’t achieve perfection on earth. Adam and Eve had it but willed it away. We can will it and work towards achieving it, but achievement is only fully completed in Christ in eternity. While hard to comprehend, and certainly difficult to ever achieve on earth due to our fallen nature, our marriage life reflects our vow, our earthly intent to bring a bit of Heaven into our marriage.
The moral of course is never to give up. Don’t focus on failure but rather on the goal and reward. Marriage is not easy, but no covenant which pledges unselfish love and sacrifice is easy. Lifting each other up each day will result, at the end of our married lives on earth, in the eternal lifting up when we return home to the Eden we once rejected in favor of an imperfect and painful earthly life. Just as life can be painful, so can marriage. Just as Heaven is eternal bliss, so is our heavenly marriage with Christ, shared with our earthly spouse in the perfected union with the communion of saints and our Lord.