For Liz and Patrick:
I went to some friend’s wedding recently. As is true for most weddings, it was a blessed occasion, as well as the social highlight of the summer for me. I imagine this to be true for the bride and groom as well. They both beamed, emitting rays of tenderness and affection for one another. Being a ‘May—December’ affair, the wedding was the second marriage for each of them, a glorious promise of ongoing love.
The church was decorated simply, including a few voluptuous floral arrangements and an array of finely dressed friends and family. The music was stunning, the pianist stroking the keys with breathtaking precision and feeling. As usual, the soloist led us in song at appropriate places befitting a catholic ceremony, along with gifting us by singing two luminous solos.
As a member of this church myself, this soprano grabs me where-I-live, what with her perfect-pitch voice that carries all the naturalness and subtlety of a song bird on one hand and the immense, thunderous crescendo of a wave dropping dramatically on the other. She always ‘has me at the first note,’ immersing me in a pool of beauty. After her first solo at the wedding, a stray thought occurred: I could hire her to sing Ave Maria just for me, some other time in this acoustically perfect sanctuary. I could lose myself in that sound, transported during the translation of that elegant energy that passes through her mouth.
And then, of course, a few minutes later she sang it. With a small catch in my throat, I had to stop myself from weeping. A kind of pressure occurred in an effort to prevent the tears from flowing so publicly upon hearing Shubert’s masterpiece rendered so lavishly.
Then there was the couple! They were so very endearing, she in her 50’s and he in his 70’s: The bride so beautiful and light, the groom so gentle and self-assured. As they knelt, the priest said he would ‘be brief’ with his comments because, after all, the wedding couple had older knees. One can’t ask old knees to stay in that locked position for too long and expect to get up. And at that we all laughed recognizing the truth of it. Throughout the ceremony, the priest seemed demonstrably tender with the bride and groom, extending great delicacy and care. Having known the near-blind bride for years and the widowed groom for decades, he clearly celebrated their having found such a sublime love for one another, one that was not just gentle but sturdy as well.
Now, weddings are usually joyous affairs and catholic weddings typically display no small amount of additional reverence for God, being one of the holy sacraments. But I was particularly struck by the priest’s devotion during the blessing of the host as he prepared to share the Eucharist with the couple, as well as the rest of us in attendance. It seemed obvious and palpable that he loved God, correction, loves God. While communion might be his version of the soprano’s crescendo, it is sourced from the same place and he is in recognition of that fact.
It also felt like he was inclusive, conscious of the community before him, even beyond his role as priest. His actions were not rote like some priests, not a habit from years in the priesthood. Rather, the love emanating from him was genuine, palpable, a visible stream originating from something greater than himself. It was beatific, lovely and, dare I say, knowable. What’s more, that love felt energetic. It didn’t need to exert itself, it just ‘was’ as if powered by an underground spring. At some point, it seemed to me he delivered that love, priest-as-conduit for all of us to partake, above and beyond the sacrament.
And in a flash I was reminded of the most beautiful description of love shared by a man and a woman which is this: “The love we have for each other is not different from the love we have for God,” (Dr. David R. Hawkins and Susan Hawkins.) It is breathtaking to me that God’s love can be expressed beyond personalities, beyond any role of priest or soprano, beyond but including the union of a couple, incorporating the whole of humanity. All are equally sourced from the same spring.
And so I left the church that day feeling buoyed, enlivened, and blessed to be both witness and participant to this touching and beautiful wedding between two people who deeply love one another; to be blessed to hear the soprano’s powerful trilling; to be bathed in one priest’s transmission of the Divine. I was also buoyed by the promise, no, the knowledge that this love is unstoppable, pervading every atom, every cell, every droplet in the spring, every wave in the ocean, and all of life. For Divine Love is both eminent and transcendent, everywhere at once, animating all that is both in the now and in the ever after.