Saturday, April 28, 2007

Engagement Rings

A while back I had an idea where the custom of giving engagement rings arose. Two days ago I decided to blog about it. This morning while doing research on the subject I discovered that, at least according to Wikipedia, my theory is without basis. I still feel justified in sharing my theory, as it is interesting and as it deals not in facts but in motives.

It is the case in all close friendships that one wishes to somehow express the value of the friend to himself. Quite often this is done by physical means: a handshake or hug or pat on the back. Still others like to try to say or write their appreciation. And then one gives gifts. Gifts are especially useful when the friend is at a great distance from oneself.

When we add the fervor of early romantic love such as produces engagements and betrothals, bound by the proprietous restrictions of physical contact in such cases, and complicated by the often tongue-tied state of the participants, gifts are even more important. Each parting is harder. Long partings are hardest. One wants to leave some reminder of his love with his beloved. Don't forget me. I'll come back for you. Let me seal my love for and commitment to you.

So the man gives the woman a ring. Like royal signets of the ages which bore the seal of authority, this ring is itself a seal, a downpayment, a promise. The gift both protects and somewhat satisfies their love.

I've also been thinking that the Holy Spirit is just such a seal of the Church's betrothal to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. He is the downpayment and protection and sign of ownership. He is the promise of the return of our Beloved Redeemer. And He is an ever-present reminder of our Lord's love.

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart,
as a seal upon thine arm:
for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave:
the coals thereof are coals of fire,
which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it:
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love,
it would utterly be contemned."
~ Song of Solomon 8:6-7,

To God be all glory.

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