What is it about life that makes us assume the living of it will meet the expectations we have of it? Hold that thought, I’ll be back to it. My stories do come to an end but the telling of them goes round in circles before getting there so please be patient. I took some career testing about ten years ago and I tested out in the 98th percentile to do the very thing I do. How cool is that? I love being a priest. I love it more now than I did over thirty years ago when Bishop Stough laying his hands on my head pushed down hard symbolizing as he put it, “the weight of the tradition falling on my head.”
I didn’t’ see stars then but have from time to time since. However, I confess that of all the tasks of the priesthood the one that has worn thin for me is weddings. The unscientific poll I run with colleagues of all Christian stripes and even across lines of religion reveals a distinct cooling of the ardor of clergy for the joining of the ardor of others. It’s nigh universal. Why? You clearly have never lived through the doing of one. Not that they are all bad because they are not, but odds being what they are, ever so often the ancient gods or some other infernal power decides it is time to afflict the House of Saint John with what my staff calls the “wedding from hell.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that weddings should be produced like funerals: planned quickly, executed carefully after which we move on. No such luck, wedding planning begins the day the baby girl is born. If you can put your hands on a copy of Bride Magazine at the bride’s house you would find that the subscription began nine months before her birth. Even before we routinely learned the gender before birth, even then, hope sprung eternal.
Premarital counseling is required by Episcopal Canon Law. It’s a good idea in theory. However, it is almost impossible to get a message to people moving toward one another accelerated by the rock of ages from their families of origin. No matter how hard you chase after them the message never catches up. It actually works better six months later. A wedding really belong to the bride’s mother not the bride. So long as everyone knows that nobody will get hurt. I have a theory about that, the only original thought I’ve had, namely that Eve, being made from Adam’s rib and all. never had a fancy wedding so she stole her daughter’s and the disruption has been displaced by one generation ever since.
So putting it lightly, a lot is riding on one day in the life of a couple, rather more than one 24 hour period was constructed to bear. This weighty reality is such that the marriage is almost a let down from the wedding. Not only that but we think we are to live by the phrase (taken from fairy tales, for crying out loud), “they lived happily ever after!” Give me a break, if you please. Nothing could be further from the truth and the makers of liturgical books have much lower and more realistic expectations. According to the Book of Common Prayer what matters is what you are prepared to do. Will you love and cherish? It never asks once whether you are in love such that the axis of the earth moves when you look into each others eyes. Not only that but the covenant (contract in the State of Tennessee) is just until you are dead! There is no marriage or giving in marriage in Heaven.
It strikes me given the fact that our Lord himself tried to avoid getting involved in a wedding crisis that time in Cana, we should be more careful ourselves. He would have gotten away with it too except his momma forced his hand in the matter. Perhaps that is when they gave up on the idea and banned weddings in heaven. Now that I know there are no weddings to do in heaven, I’m even more interested in going there.