-Alice von Hildebrand
In these letters to a young bride, excerpted from her book By Love Refined, Dr. Alice von Hidebrand (Lily) addresses some of the common problems faced by young couples trying to live the Christian ideal of marriage.
At last, your deep longing is fulfilled: to love a man, to be loved by him, and to be freely bound to him in marriage “until death do you part.”
Now your great mission begins. Together, you and Michael must weave into the tapestry of your life the many themes we discussed during your engagement: the beauty of marriage – its tasks, its joys – and love’s power to lighten its burdens and sorrows.
I know how deeply you’ve understood the words of Thomas à Kempis, “Love is a great thing.” Marriage is also a great thing: the most complete, the most intense, and the most beautiful relationship possible between two human beings.
But like all great things in life, marriage is a risk – a “deed of daring” (as Kierkegaard said). That’s why a happy marriage is impossible for people who never take any step that might threaten their security. You and Michael now have in your hands the power to create an earthly heaven or hell. It’s no secret that marriage can quickly become a hell for spouses. But remember that humanly speaking, a great love between husband and wife can also be the deepest source of happiness this side of heaven.
How awe-inspiring to see the beauty of another soul, to love him, and then to be permitted to share in his intimacy, actually to become one with him! There’s no earthly experience that is greater than this unity of souls, minds, hearts, and bodies in marriage, which is why my husband always called it a “remnant of earthly paradise.”
Such sublime spousal love is a gift, but a gift that must be nurtured and sheltered. Because of human imperfections, difficulties crop up in marriage, even between people who love each other deeply. I think you’ll soon find that for this reason, although love is a gift, it must also be learned, especially as you try to relate it to your daily life which isn’t lived in a fairy tale castle but in the midst of everyday pressures, problems, and trials.
No outsider or institution can guarantee that you and Michael will achieve joy in your marriage. You’ll have to face the problems of marriage yourselves. Your success won’t depend on exterior circumstances, but on your own inner attitudes: are you both willing to fight the good fight for your marriage, trusting that your mutual love, strengthened by grace, will achieve victory in spite of the tempests that threaten every human undertaking?
I know that you’ve already begun to experience the hopes and delights of marriage, and that you’ll continue to do so in the coming months. My heart is filled with joy for you!
Your devoted friend,