I have recently come across many engagement ring advertisements on the internet, through social media and YouTube, and many of them have caught my attention. All the ads seem to put the focus on the actual ring, which makes perfect sense because they are selling you a ring, however, they often come off as sellers of an engagement as well. I heard numerous advertisements using selling points such as “what are you waiting for?” and “if you’re stuck at home together, might as well make it official” (capitalizing off the quarantine and cohabitating couples). It seems to me that instead of trying to sell a ring to a couple who wants to get engaged, they are trying to sell engagement by using the pretty ring. There was one advertisement in particular that caught my attention, it showcased several beautiful and custom-designed engagement rings along with a montage of a man going down on his knee to ask a woman to marry him, the screen then focused on the ring and the narrator poses the question “would you say yes?”. This ad caught my eye and got me to thinking about engagement, marriage, and the much anticipated ‘yes’. The video advertisement is putting the focus of the choice to marry someone, the 'yes', upon the look or quality of the engagement ring. As if the ring should determine a woman’s yes or no.
So, what is it truly that you’re saying ‘yes’ to when a man goes down on his knee before you and asks you to marry him with a glimmering ring in his hand? When a woman says ‘yes’ to a man, she is telling him that she does indeed will to spend the rest of her life devoted to him and receiving his devotion to her, till death do they part. She is giving him and the world her ‘yes’ to a vocation to marriage, but more importantly, she is giving God her ‘yes’ to her vocation, to marriage, to a man who God will unite her with, for His Glory.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage as: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (CCC 1601) Woah. That is not something to be taken lightly. Marriage is a Sacrament, Christ made it so, and He made it so because He knows that it is a sacred way of life that can truly bring us to Heaven and make us Holy if we pursue it as God intends. Marriage is serious and it something to be revered and respected because by it, we, as men and women, are called to sanctify ourselves and give new life to the world in an amazing virtuous friendship with romance and joy! How great is that? Praise be to God!
A ‘yes’ to a ring, to a proposal, to an engagement, is so much more than accepting a gorgeous piece of jewelry that will forever remind you that a man wants to give you his life (so romantic! I know). It’s more than that, and that’s already great! It’s also your promise, your intention, to marry, and to marry him. It is you stepping into your vocation, opening and entering the door to marriage to begin a deeper preparation for it. It signifies selflessness. It is a symbol of undying love, love that will live and roar through rich and poor, sick and healthy, happy and sad, pain and joy, gain and loss, hard and easy, heavy and light, beautiful and ugly, amazing and mediocre, good and bad, better and worse. To hold another and cherish them and put them before you for the rest of your life. It is a symbol of the willingness to enter God's plan for man and woman and to be open to the life He gives us. Marriage is another call by which we live a life that glorifies our Father, to offer up to Him in Heaven in hopes that one day He will respond to us saying: “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Isn’t it amazing?
The Catechism calls marriage the “source of all Christian life” (CCC 1615), “the fruit of Christ’s cross” (CCC 1615), marriage is something that God made clear is indissoluble, it is His doing, along with our ‘yes’, it is sacred. It is a way by which we get to Heaven because it requires the ultimate sacrifice and life of virtue. It’s a daily choice to die to oneself for the love of God and each other. This is why St. Paul writes so beautifully about the role of husband and wife in his letters, why the Doctor of the Church St John Chrysostom tells us so eloquently with his golden words about the beauty and importance of Christian marriage.
Marriage between a man and woman was the intention of God the Creator from the beginning, and since the fall of man, He has given us the perfect example of the Holy Family when He sent His Son to redeem us. It is the total union of a man and woman, forever, Christ tells us that they are no longer two, but “one flesh” (Matthew 19:6), and it becomes the responsibility of each of the spouses to love one another as God commands and to bring each other to Heaven.
Marriage is a vocation so joyful, so sweet, so intimate, so loving, so familial, so beautiful, so hard and so worth it for those who are called to it. It is our pathway to Heaven, the cross that becomes our ladder. The yoke that is sweet. Marriage signifies grace, it communicates grace when it is between two baptized persons, this why God raised it to the dignity of a Sacrament in the New Covenant with man. It is truly a means by which we achieve sanctity. “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
And so, to all women in all states of life: next time you look at your engagement ring, whether you’re married or engaged, remember this remarkable truth. And next time you compliment someone else’s ring, remember it again. And if you’re not married or engaged yet, one day, God willing, when you’re given a ring of your own, remember this and cherish the truth of what an engagement to marriage truly is so that you may live it out! And if marriage is not your vocation, then remember to pray for those who wear these rings when you see them.