April 21, 2010

Words and Music

The more I read essays from all quarters on the subject of Christian marriage, as various folks attempt (as I have myself attempted) to expound a theology (or at least a Christian anthropology) to account for this almost universal human phenomenon, the more I get the feeling that we are humming a tune for which we have forgotten the words.

While some play with distinctions between covenant and contract, I think we would do well to expend more time with words better suited to the music we sense deep within us: words like holiness and blessing, gift and grace, and above all, Love.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


R said...

. . .words like holiness and blessing, gift and grace, and above all, Love. . .

All of which point us towards the recognition of the sacramental nature of marriage, where all we in the Church are doing at best -- with the language about covenant/contract, etc., and the theology of the liturgy -- is highlighting God's loving grace at work in the life of the couple and the community that supports them!

Thanks, as always, Tobias, for cutting to the chase.

June Butler said...

I think we would do well to expend more time with words better suited to the music we sense deep within us: words like holiness and blessing, gift and grace, and above all, Love.

Tobias, I like your words. Yours are poetry. The two I would add from the experience of nearly 49 years of marriage are not poetry, but they have been vital to our being together for so long: commitment and, above all, trust.

Commitment was necessary to get us through the difficult periods. Without commitment, one or the other of us may have been tempted to give up during stressful times.

I've thought a lot about trust in marriage, and, for me, I don't know that trust, once betrayed, could ever be recovered. I've heard it said that it can happen, and with God's grace, I suppose anything is possible, but, thanks be to God, I've never had my trust in my husband put to the test.

But perhaps I'm going off topic to move away from the music.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Tobias, many thanks indeed for your amazing image of theologising marriage as “humming a tune for which we have forgotten the words.” This creates a whole zone of freedom within which to explore marriage as a calling, a process, a patterned behavior, rather than simply a legal entity, a duty, a fantasy goal. ItÆs the kind of zone within which we could talk real without feeling we are somehow betraying a shining ideal, and recover what is valuable in our tradition without committing to unjust and oppressive sociological frameworks that some say may have supported it in the past. Thanks indeed.

June Butler said...

A sense of humor and not taking oneself too seriously goes a long way in making a life together possible.

All right. I'm done. I'll go away now.

The Very Rev. Daniel B. Brown said...

Although this is not as poetic a treatment of the issue as you offer I think it gets at the ideas you express about marriage as blessing, etc. to remember that the services found between on page 422 and 438 most closely match the liturgies for ordination. We don't use much covenant or contract language in explaining the ordination rites but do talk about holiness and blessing.
I understand the similarity to ordination from years of offering pre-marital counseling that has included the presentation of marriage as a ministry to be accomplished not a status simply to be enjoyed. From that understanding it has always made sense to me to ask every couple gay or straight, "how will this marriage make the world a better place?"

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the further thoughts. To you, R., for inspiring them!

Mimi, as I always say in my baptismal instruction, they key to commitment and trust is love -- for you will not harm one whom you love (and respect). Commitment "for better for worse" -- which is where the covenant / contract come in -- will not stand without love and grace. And humor too!

Bp W., thanks for that. Making space for the Spirit to work is what I'm all about.

Oldmiler, Amen. I think it not wrong to think of marriage as a vocation, a talent, a gift -- much as we do ordination.

June Butler said...

Tobias, I had in mind the times in a marriage when the partners don't necessarily "feel the love", but knowing that trust and commitment are present help get us over the hump, with the help of God's grace and the love that is present even though we don't "feel" it right at that moment.

IT said...

Yes and yes. I think one thing I did not quite realize was how much work and dedication marriage takes--putting the "us" before "me". And making something so much bigger than one, as a result. It is commitment and trust, gift and blessing, generosity and need, and above all, love.

I love being married, can you tell????