Treasures of the Roman Ritual: The Rite of Betrothal
We continue our occasional series on excerpts from the Extraordinary Form Roman Ritual with a rite not often mentioned: The Rite of Betrothal, or engagement, of a couple. This optional ceremony speaks beautifully of God’s plan for the man and the woman. Interestingly, the Rite of Betrothal is slightly lengthier than the actual Rite of Matrimony.1. The priest (vested in surplice and white stole) with his assistants (vested in surplice) awaits the couple at the altar rail. At hand are the stoup with holy water and the altar missal. As the man and woman come forward with the two witnesses they have chosen, the following antiphon and psalm are sung on the eighth psalm tone: Antiphon: To the Lord I will tender my promise: in the presence of all His people.
Unless the house be of the Lord’s building, in vain do the builders labor. Unless the Lord be the guard of the city, 'tis in vain the guard keeps his sentry. It is futile that you rise before daybreak, to be astir in the midst of darkness, Ye that eat the bread of hard labor; for He deals bountifully to His beloved while they are sleeping.
Behold, offspring result from God’s giving, a fruitful womb the regard of His blessing. Like arrows in the hand of the warrior, are children begotten of a youthful father. Happy the man who has filled therewith his quiver; they shall uphold him in contending at the gate with his rival. Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever, through endless ages. Amen. Antiphon: To the Lord I will tender my promise: in the presence of all His people.
2. The priest now addresses them:
Beloved of Christ: It is in the dispensation of Divine Providence that you are called to the holy vocation of marriage. For this reason, you present yourselves today before Christ and His Church, before His sacred minister and the devout people of God, to ratify in solemn manner the engagement bespoken between you. At the same time you entreat the blessing of the Church upon your proposal, as well as the earnest supplications of the faithful here present, since you fully realize that what has been inspired and guided by the will of your heavenly Father requires equally His grace to be brought to a happy fulfillment. We are confident that you have given serious and prayerful deliberation to your pledge of wedlock; moreover, that you have sought counsel from the superiors whom God has placed over you. In the time that intervenes, you will prepare for the sacrament of matrimony by a period of virtuous courtship, so that when the happy and blessed day arrives for you to give yourselves irrevocably to each other, you will have laid a sound spiritual foundation for long years of godly prosperity on earth and eventual blessedness together in the life to come. May the union you purpose one day to consummate as man and wife be found worthy to be in all truth a sacramental image and reality of the union of Christ and His beloved Bride, the Church. This grant, Thou Who livest and reignest, God, forever and evermore. R. Amen.
3. The priest now bids the couple to join their right hands, while they repeat after him the following:
In the name of our Lord, I, N.N., promise that I will one day take thee, N.N., as my wife, according to the ordinances of God and holy Church. I will love thee even as myself. I will keep faith and loyalty to thee, and so in thine necessities aid and comfort thee; which things and all that a man ought to do unto his espoused I promise to do unto thee and to keep by the faith that is in me.
In the name of our Lord, I, N.N., in the form and manner wherein thou hast promised thyself unto me, do declare and affirm that I will one day bind and oblige myself unto thee, and will take thee, N.N., as my husband. And all that thou hast pledged unto me I promise to do and keep unto thee, by the faith that is in me.
4. Then the priest takes the two ends of his stole and in the form of a cross places them over the clasped hands of the couple. Holding the stole in place with his left hand, he says: I bear witness of your solemn proposal and I declare you betrothed. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As he pronounces the last words, he sprinkles them with holy water in the form of a cross.
5. Thereupon he blesses the engagement ring:
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who made heaven and earth. V. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto Thee. V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray. O God almighty, Creator and Preserver of the human race, and the Giver of everlasting salvation, deign to allow the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, to come with His blessing upon this ring. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for endless ages.
The ring is sprinkled with holy water.
6. The man takes the ring and places it first on the index finger of the left hand of the woman, saying: In the name of the Father, (then on the middle finger, adding): and of the Son; (finally placing and leaving it on the ring finger, he concludes): and of the Holy Spirit.
7. The priest opens the missal at the beginning of the Canon, and presents the page imprinted with the crucifixion to be kissed first by the man and then by the woman.
8. If Mass does not follow (or even if Mass is to follow, if he deems it opportune), the priest may read the following passages from Sacred Scripture:
Tobias 7: 8
Tobias said: I will not eat nor drink here this day, unless thou first grant me my petition, and promise to give me Sara thy daughter… The angel said to Raguel: Be not afraid to give her to this man, for to him who feareth God is thy daughter due to be his wife; therefore another could not have her… And Raguel taking the right hand of his daughter, he gave it into the right hand of Tobias, saying: The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may He join you together, and fulfill His blessing in you. And taking paper they made a writing of the marriage. And afterwards they made merry, blessing God… Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today, and tomorrow, and the next day; because for these three nights we are joined to God; and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God. So they both arose, and prayed earnestly both together that health might be given them.
R. Thanks be to God.
John 15: 4-12
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is My Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; as I also have kept my Father’s commandments, and do abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled. This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.
R. Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
9. Lastly, the priest extends his hands over the heads of the couple and says:
May God bless your bodies and your souls. May He shed His blessing upon you as He blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May the hand of the Lord be upon you, may He send His holy Angel to guard you all the days of your life. Amen. Go in peace!
10. Before leaving the church, the betrothed couple as well as the witnesses will affix their signatures to the document previously prepared for this purpose. [The Ritual goes on to provide an example document.]
11. If Mass does not follow immediately, it would be appropriate to sing at this time the seasonal anthem of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
Mon. 08/06 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Transfiguration of Our Lord)
Tue. 08/07 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Cajetan, Confessor)
"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"