It is “wedding season” for us priestly types, and perhaps, for many of you, as sons, daughters, neighbors and friend’s children are making the trip to the altar. In my nearly 30 year of witnessing them, I have become convinced that weddings have an ability to give us an experience of and glimpse into the nature of God. In particular, there are usually three moments that stand out for me, and perhaps stand out for you, at every wedding I have been a part of. Interestingly enough, the correlate to the Trinitarian greeting that we use from St. Paul so often at the beginning of each mass.
The first moment: I always enjoy looking at the groom’s face while everyone else is fixed upon the bride walking down the aisle. There is this curious mixture of desire, of amazement, of joy and wonder at how beautiful his beloved looks on that day. And though I can’t know what is in their heads, I can’t help but wonder if and hope that, at some moment during that walk, they think: “What did I ever do to deserve this grace?” What did I ever do to have someone give their love and their life to me? What did I ever do to be able to find my life precisely as I give it away to them in turn? And in that moment, I think, they know “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace equals divine favor; it is that unmerited gift, that undeserved but freely given relationship that Jesus makes possible for us with God. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is made visible in the eyes of a groom watching his bride walk down the aisle, in the eyes of the bride as she kisses her father ‘goodbye’ and takes her grooms arms and turns and faces the altar.
The second moment – I’ve just alluded to: It is that moment when the father gives away the bride. It is a long walk, I think, for the dad down that aisle, and perhaps too short of one at the same time. Pride, joy, a tinge of sorrow, a lot of letting go – all of those emotions – are nestled in the bend of his elbow where his daughter’s hand rests. And as often as not, you see a father’s hand resting over his daughters – in that last bit of ‘protection’, that last walk of letting go. And you know in the tears they try to hide, a heart that bursts in love in the giving away. It’s the day they’ve always wanted for their daughter, but it is bittersweet– for they know not what the future will hold for their beloved. There is a huge surrendering there, a huge act of trust and letting go. “The Love of God” becomes so visible, so real in that timeless moment. If you take a picture of that moment, you see the echo of what St. John spoke of so eloquently: For God so loved the world, that he gave his ONLY son, so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. In every giving away in love, every surrender made to a bigger story, every sacrifice made for others, you and I touch the love of God.
Finally, I’m pretty convinced that couples don’t really realize that ‘it’ has happened – that they are really married – until just before the end of the ceremony. They’ve said the vows, exchanged the rings, had the nuptial blessing prayed over them, received the Lord in the Eucharist, visited Mary, and heard the final blessing. And then there is that small moment, almost invisible, where the couple is turned toward each other, and introduced formally for the first time. And whether it is a quick kiss, a kind of shrug of their arms enfolded in each other, or a clasping of the hands together – their bodies cement that moment when they realize: “It is us now.” The two of us traveling together, down whatever paths and whatever roads God has in store for us. There’s a quiet confidence in that moment, a thrill of the journey ahead, and a kind of ‘we can do this TOGETHER’ realization that comes upon them. It is the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” moment. That ‘fellowship’ is the Spirit’s gift to them/us. It is the love of the Father poured into the Son and the Son given back to the Father that creates the home called Spirit. It is that fellowship of the Spirit that helps them create a home together.
Weddings can reveal to us a lot about the Trinitarian nature of God. But they are not the only places where God is revealed. This week pay attention to those moments when you know “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” In each of those moments- breathe in that life that God is sharing with you, and breathe out your response of gratitude and love.