Bringing the Bible into the Bedroom
Out of the books of the Bible whose central theme is marriage there are two that highlight the beauty and power of marriage and the marital embrace. These books are the Song of Songs and Tobit. Unfortunately, these two books are not typically read, even among Catholics. Actually, they are never read during the Sunday liturgy, but I believe this to be purposeful. These books focus on marriage and married life and it seems they are meant to be read within this context. Since the Church calls us to live holy marriages and be a symbol of God’s love in the world we must make scripture part of our married lives. If ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ, then we must take it upon ourselves to read these two critically important books with our spouses. This will help us to gain a better understanding of the power and significance our marriages have in this life and the next.
The Song of Songs is a love poem from God to his bride Israel. This love God has for Israel foreshadows Christ’s love for his Church. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:21-33 that Christ gave his life for his Church just as a husband is called to give his life for his spouse. In light of Christ’s sacrifice we can begin to see the importance of the sacrament of marriage. A man can more easily give his whole self and his whole life to his wife when he unites his sufferings to Christ’s sufferings, thereby strengthening the marriage in Christ. A second theme of spousal love, a bridegroom speaking with his bride as they enter the marital chamber, is also found in this book. St. John Paul II verifies for us that the love of the Bride and the Bridegroom is a theme by itself. This means that human love, blessed by God, is a theme of an inspired book of the Bible. The content of this book is clearly sexual, but it is sacred. It is only through these two lenses in which we can sing the Song of Songs correctly. St. John Paul II says we must look at this book in light of the beginning, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) If we are an image of God than marital love is an image or symbol of God’s love and it is good and holy. I will propose this analogy: God’s love is fruitful, it is total, it is faithful, and it is free. In these ways God loves the son and he pours out all his love on him. The son takes that love and, as evidenced by the cross, takes that love and pours it out back on the father, nothing held back. That exchange of love is so good and so great that we give it a name, the Holy Spirit. We mirror this exchange in the act when the husband loves his wife and pours himself out for her. His wife takes that love and returns it to him with nothing held back. That exchange of love is so good and so beautiful that in nine months we may have to give it a name. The Song of Songs provides a beautiful image for us as a couple approaches this exchange of love.
The book of Tobit magnifies the beauty of marriage and the joy that comes from victory over evil through the marital act. In this book after his wedding and before he joins with his wife on his wedding night, Tobias faces a demon who is haunting his bride, Sarah. Sarah had been married 7 times earlier and the demon killed each of the seven men who tried to enter the marital chamber with her. The Archangel Raphael exhorts Tobias, “Before you unite yourself with her, first stand up both of you, and pray. Implore the Lord of heaven that his grace and salvation may come over you. Do not be afraid; she was destined for you from all eternity, and you are the one to save her. She will follow you. . . . Do not be afraid (Tob 6:18).” Here in this test the couple is victorious. Here in this test life has victory because love supported by prayer is stronger than death. Love is victorious because it prays. Tobias and Sarah open themselves to God in prayer in unison; together they open themselves totally in unity to the living God. The love of the couple and their unity with each other and with God become a type of liturgy.
We should be developing this same liturgy in our own married lives. This may seem intrusive and awkward at first glance, but it is intended for married couples, especially those who have received the sacrament of marriage. For example, we are married on our wedding day, but on our wedding night the sacramental marriage is sealed. “Set me as a seal on your heart.” (Song of Songs 8:6) The married couple themselves are the ministers of the sacrament and the fulfillment of the wedding ceremony occurs on the wedding night.
Since the marital act is meant to be expressed regularly for the unification of the spouses and procreation of children we must continue to renew the liturgy in our marriages. This will be necessary to ensure we have holy marriages which are set apart from the modern definition of marriage and more importantly set apart for God. To begin living the liturgy in our marriages I recommend reading the Song of Songs and Tobit with our spouse, in private. We should read from these books regularly. The greatest lines of poetry in the history of mankind are found in the Holy Bible in the love poem the Song of Songs. God enters more perfectly into our marital embrace when a husband can use scripture to express his love and desires for his wife. This eloquent poem can help a husband to express the appreciation he has for his wife’s beauty in ways she wants to hear it. Also, by inviting God into the act through our reading of scripture we prevent any use or any “wild creature” from entering the garden.
The book of Tobit provides examples for prayer that can be used by couples in marriage to invite God into the marital embrace. Also, if difficulties or arguments have entered the marriage, the prayers in the book of Tobit can help to heal wounds and restore our spouse and God to the proper place in the relationship. How many of us in the marital embrace have ever considered that the person we are loving, and their very body, will be united with us and will also be united to Christ in the resurrection? This must be considered in order to make our marriages holy. It is time we take an active role as ministers of the sacrament of marriage to sanctify our marriages in Christ to bring the reality of God’s love to our world.