I don’t often celebrate marriages. It is rare that I feel that I am being asked to share in a life enhancing event, but rather am either an agent of the state or an interchangable actor. Thus, when I agree to do a wedding it is because I feel that I actually can contribute something real to the individuals who are celebrating their life together and the community within which they are nurtured and formed. I recently celebrated the wedding of J’net and Chris Cavenagh—a rare occurance, but one that I found personally meaningful.
What follows are two pictures from the wedding, and then my homily notes. Please click on the photo to see the full picture.
The photos were taken (in order) by Sean Cavanagh and Claudia DeSimone.
One of the prophets whose voices were heard during my younger days was Che Guevara. For years I had on my wall a poster with a quote of his: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, the true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.”
Earlier prophets also told of love—“Love one another.”; “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Love is a harshly gently force that demands that we open our eyes and hearts to one another. For me, the most radical expression of love is shown in marriage.
Entering marriage is a wonderfully dangerous moment—a luminal moment where everything is possible. Like sunrise or sunset, entering marriage is like passing into a new world where what is familiar is transformed. In my tradition, marriage is a sacrament and being married is therefore a permanent sacred expression of the possibilities inherent within creation—love and trust and hope and sharing and vulnerability and strength.
In our coming together today we join with J’net and Chris in celebrating something that is both intensely personal and definitively communal. They have entered into an intimate covenant with each other that is something no others will share. And yet such a commitment is only fully possible within a wider community. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to uphold and nurture a marriage.
Marriage is an opportunity to learn more about one’s self, to become more intently what one can be. It is a liberating reality. Having certainty that one is not alone makes it easier to find certainty about what one values, what one can offer to others, about one’s self perception. In marriage is the true opportunity to learn both how to give of oneself to others and how to accept such caring, mutual self giving that is only sustainable when those that come into a marriage are firmly valued as the unique and always surprising individuals they are.
Marriage does not involve the severing of past relationships, but is an opportunity to reweave the tapestry of relationships one is a part of. There are people that have unique stories and memories of J’net and Chris from years past. They shall continue to be a part of their lives, even if the expression of their relationship is transformed—it is not only the new relationship between Chris and J’net we celebrate today, we also celebrate and honour the new forms of many ongoing relationships that those gathered here in person and in spirit shall have with J’net and Chris.
Chris and J’net are not young people; they have established lives for themselves and bring to this relationship confidence and experience and knowledge that while they can meet life’s demands on their own, the challenges and delights that the future brings are best experienced and shaped together. As one observes them today, it is clear that they are not only a couple but are within a family spiral which helps to form a path for them as they move through the future together.
In the faith community I am a part of the role of clergy in a marriage is that of a formal witness—we confirm that the relationship we acknowledge has already had the ontological moment, that inherent and permanent change within the individuals that has moved them from being separate to being somehow both autonomous and one. We may sign papers and perform certain rites, but these are the public and communal expression of what has already occurred. That change may have occurred the first time Chris and J’net saw each other; it could have occurred during an argument; it could have occurred when the marriage license was issued. But at some point J’net and Chris felt certain that they had not only found someone to love but were different because of this love. At that point their marriage began.
Since that moment their relationship has grown. Part of what has helped it to grow has been the families Chris and J’net are a part of. How they view marriage and love was formed by those who nurtured them and who have been nurtured by them. You have to have some vision of what is possible through love to take the risks of living in love.
Another part of what has helped it to grow has been those who have come to be a part of their lives—those that they have worked with, have laughed with, have argued with, have dreamed with. You have to have your rough edges and your vulnerabilities tested by others before you can truly accept the challenge of living in love with someone. Because of the families and friends and communities that have formed and sustained Chris and J’net, they can love and care for one another, can grow as individuals and as a couple, can accept new shared responsibilities and new opportunities for delight.
I am honoured to have been asked to share today in this celebration. In their desire for marriage they remind all of us that we are never alone, of the possibilities of love in an often uncertain world. J’net and Chris, may you live from this day forth in love and hope.