Friday, August 09, 2013

Musings on Marriage

It's an odd thing . . .

Tomorrow I get to officiate the wedding of two members of the church I'm serving, two colleagues (well, one colleague and one in training), and two friends . . . all in the same day.  But that's not what's so odd.  It's odd that I have anything to do with it.

I'm told that in the Catholic tradition the only one of the seven sacraments the priest does not perform is the sacrament of marriage.  That, it's been explained to me, can only be performed by the couple themselves.  The priest is merely a witness.

So it is, I believe, in my tradition as well.  Most often, in my experience at least, the wedding is not the beginning of their relationship.  I once officiated at the wedding of a couple who'd lived together for 17 years!!!  During that time they'd raised children, faced good times, and bad.  Certainly their wedding day was not the beginning of their commitment to one another.  And, so, whatever it was that made of them a married couple, it wasn't that a religious figures "solemnized" their "nuptials."

Or consider same sex couples.  In many states -- including my new home of Virginia -- two people of the same gender are not allowed to have someone solemnize their nuptials.  There is no priest or rabbi or imam to bless their union.  And yet I can attest that many of my gay and lesbian friends are just as "married" as any of the straight people I know.

And then, of course, there are myriad of examples of heterosexual marriages that are full of abuse, and infidelity, and disrespect, and which certainly seem to me to be anything but a "marriage."

So what is it that makes a couple "married"?  Simply put, it's their love.  Tomorrow I will describe marriage as "an institution founded in nature, ordained by the state, sanctioned by the church, and made honorable by the faithful keeping of good women and men in all ages."   Truth be told, though, it's all about the love that two people have for each other.  Jamie and Pam will be married because they are making of their lives a committed union, not because of the words said, or the place in which they were said, nor the person (and persons) looking on as they say them.

I do not understand why some people can't understand that the gender of the two people really doesn't matter.  I mean, I actually do understand why some folks think that.  What I don't understand is why they aren't able to see that they're wrong.

Some day they will.  Some day our children will look back and wonder at the prohibitions against same sex marriage the way we look back at the prohibitions against mixed race marriage.  When I began my ministry there was no state in which homosexuals had the same legal right to marry as their heterosexual neighbors.  Now I have to write, "In many states . . ." because now there are states that have come to see the light.  I feel certain, now, that I will live to see this change.

Pax tecum


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Lynn said...

I bought J&P a pretty little card:

"'I do" is the perfect beginning to a dream come true."

Now I've added a blog-induced hand written qualifier:

Not the beginning, but it figures prominently along the way.

We UUs can be sticklers for the truth.

arthurrashap said...

It was a lovely and moving marriage ceremony at Church yesterday -- and I was somewhat taken back by the minister asking Jamie and Pam to repeat after him the vows and promises that I assume they created. Given your musings, perhaps in future ceremonies, those "vowing" could do so on their own.
Another suggestion I have (and have done) is to invite the attendees to speak a bit more than "I will." The ceremony is a mutual one where those invited are not only witnesses but also supporters over the balance of the relationship and sharing welcoming to the family and pledging their support, in my view, adds to the purpose and meaning.
I appreciate your sharing your thoughts and this pledging ceremony is, indeed, one that can be so meaningful.
Arthur Rashap

RevWik said...

We can indeed, Lynn. In my humble opinion, mostly a good thing . . .

RevWik said...

Arthur, thanks for the comments. As to the "repeat after me," I'll confess that it's essentially pragmatic. In my experience, when a a couple recite their own vows -- either reading them from a card or, perhaps even more so, speaking them from memory -- they are more likely to be pulled out of the moment. Their thoughts turn to whether their projecting well enough to be heard and whether they're remembering the words accurately. I tell couples, "your only job during your wedding is to be in love. My job is to ensure that the ceremony goes off okay. So when the time comes to say your vows, I'll say them loudly enough for everyone to hear and you can focus on talking to each other." I've had couples whisper into each others' ears, giggle, cry . . . lots of different things. But when couples say their own, again only talking about my experiences, they inevitably became "performers" at the very moment I think they most need to be focused only on each other.