This couple, whatever else they did, seemed to stay focused on each other and on God. It has been fun, in recent months, reading their updates on preparations and growing excitement. They talked about their upcoming wedding as "the best day yet." I like that. Though not an end itself, it was exciting and wonderful. It was important and life changing. It was a new beginning. I am excited for them. I wanted to celebrate this wedding with them.
The Gospel reading today (Sunday's reading, we went to the vigil Mass) was one of the familiar scriptures that might easily slip through without impact.
"My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another."
The command is to love.
The priest told us we are not called to like each other. That sort of struck me. We have to love but we do not have to like. When we are young, we get the idea that love and like are similar, maybe different only in degree. (I like chocolate. I love dark chocolate.) He differentiated. Like is not something you can control. It is an emotion. Love is a decision. That is why Jesus can command it. Love, at least the love that He commands is a decision; it is not an emotion.
The priest went on, how are we to love? In the way that our Lord loves us. His love is sacrificial. He gave Himself wholly to us. He died for us. That is how He loved us. He did not tell us to face our sin and death. He broke their power by offering Himself, the Lamb, as an innocent sacrifice. When He tells us to love one another as He loved us, it is not a flaky, cuddly, sentimentalism. He is telling us to offer ourselves fully. Love sacrificially. Offer a love that is completely entrenched in the good of the beloved.
There is always some tension over the scriptural call that wives be subordinate. It is tempting to ignore it as an anachronistic command rooted in a sexist society, which we have long since left behind. Tempting, but that is an uncomfortable precedent for scripture interpretation. Also, it glosses over the complementary nature of the command.
"Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her."
In the objection, we forget what love is. Love is not about self. Love doesn't always feel good. Love is not a comfortable captivation. Love is a decision to put someone else above yourself. It is a decision to sacrifice. It is the opposite of the reinforced selfishness of our culture's wedding infatuation.
When Josh and I were married, the priest startled our collected family and friends. In the middle of his homily, he pointed to the crucifix and told us that that was the call. That is what love looks like. Christ crucified.
I went to an Orthodox Church for their celebration of Easter one year. It was stunning, both in familiarity and in difference. They sang, again and again, "Christ is risen from the grave! Trampling down death by death! And upon those in the tomb, bestowing life!" His death was our sacrifice, and our example of what it means to love. It is not easy, but it is joyful! It is beautiful! It is powerful!
Love is not always hard. No doubt, Christ laughed and had wonderful times with his friends. We know he celebrated with at least one couple at their wedding. He provided the wine when there was not enough. We should celebrate weddings! It is a joyful beginning, a union formed in love. And besides, celebrations are fun!
I was sorry to miss the wedding today.
I hope that the joy they have exhibited in the preparatory months leading up translates into a deeper joy in marital love. I pray that their faith grows. I expect that their unique challenges will be met with both love and faith. I hope this was their best day yet, and that their mutual love brings joyfully met better days and I pray that they meet their bad days with the same exuberant faith and love.