1. An agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.
2. Law. An incidental clause in such an agreement.
3. Ecclesiastical. A solemn agreement between the members of a church to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel.
4. Bible. a) The conditional promises made to humanity by God, as revealed in Scripture; b) the agreement between God and the ancient Israelites, in which God promised to protect them if they kept His law and were faithful to Him.
5. Law. a) A formal agreement of legal validity, especially one under seal; b) an early English form of action in suits involving sealed contracts.
The word “covenant” is a pretty serious word. It involves agreements made under the law and under the eyes of God – indeed, it can involve agreements and promises made by God and between God and His people. A covenant is a promise that is formal, public, and enforceable. A covenant is a promise that must be kept.
Another unique feature of a covenant is that it often involves some kind of sign, or seal, or symbol that finalizes the agreement. In ancient times, a covenant was sealed with wax and a signet ring. In the Biblical story of Noah’s ark, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant with Israel never again to destroy the earth in a flood. In modern times, the covenant with which most people are most familiar is wedding vows, and the symbol most often associated with that covenant is a wedding ring.
My wedding ring, much like my wedding covenant, is simple in a way that belies the complexity that it represents. My ring is a plain band, unadorned with precious stones or any detailing other than a simple engraving: “HFP to SJM, April 12, 2008.” My wedding covenant can be summed up in a single sentence: “I will love you until we are separated by death.” That statement encompasses for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, forsaking all others, and all the other phrases that were part of our wedding vows. The ring, and the sentence, is a simple representation of a far greater, more complex, and more profound covenant.
As you can guess from the date, the ring in the photograph above is not my wedding ring. The complete inscription reads, “E.R. to M.R.G., Nov. 26th, 1902.” This ring was given to my great-grandmother, Martha R. Grominger, by her bridegroom, Emil Riesen, on their wedding day. Her ring, like mine, was a simple representation of a complex covenant. To me, it is a representation of a beautiful history of fulfilled covenants in my family. My parents loved each other until they were separated by death. My grandparents on both sides loved each other until they were separated by death. My great-grandparents, all four sets of them, loved each other until they were separated by death. And I have every intention that my husband and I will love each other until we are separated by death.
Perhaps someday my great-granddaughter will look at my wedding ring and think about her own wedding covenant, and feel pride in how many generations of women – and men - have honored the covenant symbolized by these simple rings.