Tuesday, October 25, 2011

no longer two but one

On Saturday DPC had the joy of witnessing a wedding! Congratulations to Zach & Sophie!

As a reflection on the wonderful gift of marriage, consider these words from Mike Mason's book The Mystery of Marriage:

"Marriage is the closest bond that is possible between two human beings. That, at least, was the original idea behind it. It was to be something unique, without parallel or precedent. In the sheer sweep and radical abandon of its commitment, it was to transcend every other form of human union on earth, every other covenant that could possibly be made between two people. Friendship, parent-child, master-pupil -- marriage would surpass all these other bonds in a whole constellation of remarkable ways, including equality of the partners, permanent commitment, cohabitation, sexual relations, and the spontaneous creation of blood ties through simple spoken promises.

As it was originally designed, marriage was a union to end all unions, the very last word, and the first, in human intimacy. Socially, legally, physically, emotionally, every which way, there is just no other means of getting closer to another human being, and never has been, than in marriage.

Such extraordinary closeness is bought at a cost, and the cost is nothing more or less than one's own self. No one has ever been married without being shocked at the enormity of this price and at the monstrous inconvenience of this thing called intimacy which suddenly invades their life.

At the wedding a bride and groom may have gone through the motions of the candle-lighting ceremony, each blowing out their own flame and lighting one central candle in place of the two, but the touching simplicity of this ritual has little in common with the actual day-to-day pressures involved as two persons are merged into one. It is a different matter when the flame that must be extinguished is no lambent flicker of a candle, but the blistering inferno of self-will and independence.

There is really nothing else like this lifelong cauterization of the ego that must take place in marriage. All of life is, in one way or another, humbling. But there is nothing like the experience of being humbled by another person, and by the same person day in and day out. It can be exhausting, unnerving, infuriating, disintegrating. There is no suffering like the suffering involved in being close to another person. But neither is there any joy nor any real comfort at all outside of intimacy, outside the joy and the comfort that are wrung out like wine from the crush and ferment of two lives being pressed together.

What happens to a couple when they fall in love, when they pitch headlong into this winepress of intimacy, is not simply that they are swept off their feet: more than that, it is the very ground they are standing on, the whole world and ground of their own separate selves, that is swept away.

A person in love cannot help becoming, in some sense, a new person. After all, even to stand for five minutes beside a stranger in a supermarket line-up, without exchanging one word, is to be drawn irresistibly, uncomfortably, enigmatically into the dizzying vortex of another human life. It is to be subtly swayed, held, hypnotized, transfixed -- moved and influenced in a myriad of ways, subliminal and seldom analyzed, but nonetheless potent.

But marriage takes this same imponderable magnetism and raises it to an infinite power. The very next step in human closeness, beyond marriage would be just to scrap the original man and woman and create one new human being out of the two.

But this is exactly what happens (both in symbol and in actuality) in the birth of a child! Eventually the parents die, leaving the child a living sign of the unthinkable extremity of union which took place between two distinct lives. The two became one: 'Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.' (Malachi 2.15)."

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