painting by Michael Deas 1995

from True Womanhood, Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894

In What the Wife’s Fidelity Consists

We have insisted much on the qualities which enable a wife to be, in the fullest sense, the most delightful companion, the most efficient helpmate, the most trusted friend and confidante of her husband.

All this she cannot be, without being at the same time most truly devoted to him in thought and affection,—so that he alone, after God, fills her mind and her heart.

We have touching examples of this inviolable fidelity,— springing, in the first instance, from that single-hearted and absorbing love of a good husband which leaves no thought of any other love being possible; and, in the second, from a wife’s own high principle and fear of God, which keeps her true to the love she pledged, even when its object has become most unworthy, or, possibly, most hateful.

Fidelity Illustrated

In the patriarchal ages before Abraham,—in the age of Noe and those preceding the flood,—there was no question among the families of the blessed line of Seth of admitting a second wife into the family.

That was characteristic of the evil brood of Cain,—his son, Lamech, being mentioned as the first who had departed from the unity of the institution of marriage as it came from the hands of the Creator.

But Seth himself, and every one of the blessed descendants who kept alive on earth the primitive faith in Jehovah and the belief in the promised Redeemer, also maintained in their households the faith they had pledged to the wife of their youth.

Though these men lived five hundred, six hundred, or even nine hundred years and more, their hearts were content with the love, and their lives filled with the fidelity, of that one woman: it was a sacred fire in these august patriarchal homes, burning undimmed century after century on the hearth-stone,—an example, even at this distance of time, deserving of the wonder and veneration of their degenerate descendants.

Rebecca’s Fidelity Prefigures that of the Church

The violation of that unity by Abraham, even at the solicitation of his faithful Sara, was a manifest imperfection in him, who should have known better, and a want of faith and error of judgment in her, who had been brought up among the licentiousness of the Mesopotamian idolatry.

But Abraham’s son and successor, Isaac, and his bride, Rebecca, departed not from the great primitive law. For Isaac, who bore the wood of his sacrifice up the mountainside was the figure of Christ; just like Isaac’s early and only love, Rebecca, brought to him so wondrously from afar,— was the type of the Church.

It is the love of both Rebecca and the Church that forms a model and a rule for every Christian wife.

Judith’s Example

We have nearer to us in the Old Testament history other touching examples of fidelity in wives to the husband of their youth.

Judith the Deliverer, “the Joy of Israel,” the glory and honor of her people, was widowed young, and, though surpassingly beautiful, and most wealthy, she remained true to the memory of her husband, inviolably faithful to the love she had plighted to him.

The sudden inspiration which came to her to offer herself to the admiring eyes of the Assyrian general, was no deviation from the law of fidelity which she had so scrupulously followed till then.

She trusted to God’s angel to keep her honor safe in the Assyrian camp, and, as she afterward declared, he had watched over her coming and going till she had struck the blow which freed her country.

The victory once won, and the national thanksgiving over, she put off her rich robes, resumed her sober widow’s weeds, buried herself once more in the solitude of her own house, and gave up the half-century of life which remained to her to prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, and the cherished worship of her husband’s memory.

Anna the Prophetess

So is it with that remarkable woman whom we meet with in the temple at our Lord’s presentation therein,—Anna the Prophetess. She, too, had been left a widow after seven years of companionship with her husband; and “she was a widow till fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fasting and prayers, serving night and day.”

She was rewarded by beholding in the flesh the Redeemer promised to Adam and Eve in the garden, and whose glory, like the first fires of sunrise above the eastern hills, patriarchs and prophets had only looked on “from afar.”

She was also privileged to see in the temple the Mother most blessed who was prefigured by Eve as well as by Judith.

These are only landmarks on the glorious pathway of true womanhood, pointing out in the inspired writings the honor paid to fidelity and the reward bestowed on it even in this life.

“It is amazing how, with time, the soul comes to dominate the body. Selfish people get the hard, selfish look. Generous people grow more physically attractive each day. People with the peace of God’s friendship develop expressions that instantly attract and constantly charm. A mouth that speaks kindly becomes a beautiful mouth. Hands that serve generously become characterful hands. Eyes that look out for affection on mankind are eyes that radiate an inner beauty not difficult to find.” -Fr. Daniel A. Lord http://amzn.to/2iCGqfN

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