In a rural mountain town off the southwest coast of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a community of 13,000 ethnic Croats who have found the secret to a successful, lifelong marriage. Throughout the centuries of war and famine, of cultural and political strife, not one single divorce has been recorded amongst the inhabitants of Siroki Brijeg.
The residents of this town believe that the crucifix is the greatest symbol of the love God has for His children. While preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple chooses a cross together, one that will soon occupy an honored place in their new home. During the premarital meetings with the priest, the couple is told they have found their cross – not their partner – and this cross is to be loved, to be carried, not to be thrown away, but to be cherished.
The cross is carried during the processional to the church, and then given to the priest for a special blessing to protect the marriage. As they recite their vows, the bride and groom place their right hands upon the cross, pledging to always be faithful. When the time traditionally comes for the groom to kiss his bride, the priest instead invites the couple to kiss the crucifix, the source of love.
By placing the cross at the center of the marriage, the couple whole heartedly believes that abandoning each other is the same as abandoning their love for Jesus. Throughout the long years and the ups and downs of marriage, the crucifix offers a constant source of comfort. It becomes the focal point of family prayer, for the young couple believes deeply that the family is born of the Cross. When a trouble arises, or if a conflict breaks out, it is before this cross that they will seek help. They get on their knees in front of Jesus; they weep their tears and pour out their hearts, and above all exchange their forgiveness.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another. John 15:9-14, 16-17
Your spouse is your cross. Just as Jesus died for you, you must die to self for your spouse. The essence of love is sacrifice. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed himself completely for you on the cross. Are you willing to sacrifice yourself completely for your spouse? We become willing to sacrifice when we recognize the other person is worth the trouble. Can you honestly say “my spouse is worth the trouble”? If you can make that statement, you love your spouse with self-sacrificial love, a love that puts the needs of your spouse ahead of your own.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Embrace your cross and cherish it. It is the path to holiness and joy in your marriage.
May the Lord bless you and your spouse with abundant love for each other, as you outdo each other in love, keeping Christ at the center of your marriage.
 About.com, “Until Death Do We Part,” http://weddingtraditions.about.com/od/MarriageTraditions/a/Until-Death-Do-We-Part.htm, accessed October 21, 2015 at 4:29 p.m.