Lector's Notes on the Prayer of Sarah and Tobiah

What the lector should know about the wedding reading from the Book of Tobit, chapter 8

First of all, which reading is it? At a Catholic wedding, there are two possible readings from the Old Testament book of Tobit. The second, shorter one is what we discuss here. It's only about 200 words and consists of prayer recited by a bride and groom. In the lectionary (the large ceremonial book you'll be reading from), this passage has index numbers [801] and 5 (The longer reading, from another chapter of Tobit, is the subject of a web page coming soon.

What's the set-up? This Bible story may have started with a folk-tale about a woman very unlucky in love. She has been married to seven men, for less than one day to each. Every time, on their wedding night, a jealous demon kills her new husband. Her name is Sarah, and of course she is desperate. She has already prayed for death herself. But an angel of God gives a good young man named Tobiah (or Tobias) (pronounced "toe BYE uh" or "toe BYE us") a way to drive away the demon. He and Sarah marry successfully, and this reading is the prayer they offer to God on their wedding night. The "deliverance" (or "protection") that they ask of God is deliverance from the demon that previously beset Sarah.

How should you read this aloud? There's no context given in the text, so the people hearing you need time to compose the scene in their minds. So announce the title, "A reading from the Book of Tobit" and pause. Then, to give the minimum context, you have to read the first sentence slowly, like this:

    On their wedding night [pause briefly]
    Tobiah arose from bed [pause briefly again]
    and said to his wife [pause once more].

There! Now your listeners know the setting and that the grooms name is Tobiah and that he's about to speak to his bride. Don't rush through this or the people won't get it.

The rest is fairly straightforward. We learn the bride's name, that both bride and groom are faithful to God, that they need deliverance from something, that they know their history (Adam and Eve, etc.). Read this slowly and reverently, like you're praying it yourself. Make it a prayer on behalf of the bride and groom who asked you to read this at their wedding. When you come to the end, "They said together, 'Amen, amen.'" pause for two beats. This tells your listeners that the intimate prayer they've been overhearing is complete. Then say, "The word of the Lord."

In case you want to know more: To learn more about the whole book of Tobit, Click here. That's the introduction to the book from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Next Chapter link at the bottom will take you into the book proper.

You won't find this book in the bibles used in Protestant churches. That's because Protestants accept the authority of Old Testament books only if the originals were in the Hebrew language. In the sixteenth century, when Protestants were deciding these things, only a Greek-language translation of the Book of Tobit was known.

The character for whom the book is named, Tobit, is the father of Tobias (Tobiah). He cannot see, and part of the story is how an angel of God helps son Tobias cure his father's blindness. Note the methods he uses both to heal his father's eyes and to drive away the demon that killed Sarah's prior husbands; they're quite picturesque.

See the reading text
as it's laid out in the lectionary

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Last update: January 6, 2011