Saturday, October 10, 2015

Where Was I? Part I: Marriage

The longest interruption in blogging since our launch in 2009 is going to require some explaining.

Part I: I Was Married

Straight away I must object–are things not back to normal already?– to the phrase get married, for one does not get married in the sense that one gets a cookie, acquiring it. Marriage is not possessed, but lived. Nor does one get married as one gets a lesson, comprehending it, for philosophy and theology aside, who can fully explain what miraculous thing is apprehended by the mind's eye in your spouse? There's a Menckenesque humor in saying that one gets married as one gets spanked, or gets his just desserts–but I can't say I agree, for marriage is more, not less, than can be deserved.

Rather than those, then, I would say one is married, that is, by someone. The question is of course now this: by whom? It is on the one hand by the spouses themselves, for they make the vows, and on the other hand the priest, who having shepherded the couple pronounces the marriage valid. This observation raised for me several others.

First, we need priests. More specifically, good ones. We need priests not only who know things, but who work hard, who are organized, patient, and accessible. We need priests who want to save souls, who want to administer sacraments and therefore are willing to undertake the burdens of paving the way toward celebrating them. That means, beyond learning perfectly to celebrate the ritual itself, they need to answer phone calls, reply to emails, and be available for meetings. There is always an inglorious underbelly to lofty pursuits: truth requires lonely scholarship, prosperity requires prudent administration, health tedious exercise, and so on. Therefore…

Second, it is often that when confronted with things which are ends in themselves, we neglect other responsibilities. For example, confronted with the lofty purpose of celebrating mass, a priest may forget that he has responsibilities of stewardship. Likewise, who hasn't known a teacher who takes seriously his job of explaining concepts, but fails to engage the class? The caricature of the artist who neglects basic cura personalis because he is consumed by his art is, with respect to his tunnel vision, dead on.

For my part I grew fixated on the Latinity and Catholicity of the mass and all of its parts. This sounds reasonable, if not noble, certainly far more than fussy bridezillas cackling about the decor of their rented halls, at least. Yet the mass itself–the music, the words, the tradition–began to blind me to its own meaning. Not advisable.

Third, we are dependent on tradition. Looking back, one of the parts of the wedding which pleases me most is that it is not an expression of my own uniqueness. Aside from the Mozart, Bach, and Byrd, which all suit me quite well, it was a service which countless other Catholics have celebrated throughout the centuries. We spoke our words and the priest his, because those are words of the ritual. The end. If you want to personalize something feel free to write a book, draw a picture, or dress up your cat. You can't change the words or form of ritual because the process of invocation is not democratic, rather it is studiously guarded by a trusted few because it defines a people and their relationship to the transcendental. To utter the words is to acknowledge the world according to the tradition. Invocation is an act of definition

Finally, marriage is a lot of work, chiefly work on your character. I've never wanted to be better more than I do now. No sense of abstract morality, no philosophical premises, no sense of professionalism has motivated me so much as my vows with my wife. 

Continued in: Where Was I: Part II: Because Latin

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