For David and Corinna, 21 February 2009
What does it mean, to marry?
Marriage is an event, both simple and extraordinary. Something will be accomplished, here, today. Something will end and something begin. To marry is “to unite intimately”. It is rite of passage in which two lives are transformed. Two singular people say I – I will, yes – and find themselves we, us. First person plural.
This event takes place through words that are spoken: a solemn vow, a promise made, carried on the breath “from your lips to God’s ear”. One pledges one’s troth, one’s truth. Whatever words are used are words of honour. I take you as my husband, my wife, and I give my life into your care. In this exchange, the two become as one.
A unity, to be sure, that is not a totality, not sameness, not a suppression of the one or the other, but a togetherness and wholeness in which difference and distance are still cherished. A Christopher Isherwood character insists that love does not begin with two people drawn together, but rather “when they suddenly know they’re utterly, utterly different… it’s almost unbearable… Like the north and south poles, you couldn’t possibly be farther apart… and yet you’re more connected than any other two points on earth… because there’s this axis between you. And everything else turns round it.”
Marriage takes this axis, this love, as its base to support and cultivate it. The vow, the yes, I do isn’t done once and for all, but must be faithfully refreshed and renewed and remembered. It is for today, now, as you speak, and also for tomorrow. Yes and yes again for all the days and all the tomorrows that may come to pass between you – may they be abundant and profuse.
We all know this is a risky business, but anything less would be just a contract, a negotiated settlement, self-catering co-habitation. No adventure, nothing transcendent.
To marry truly is a deep act of faith. A leap of faith. Taking the plunge, as they say. Like trapeze acrobats, the only way for a marriage to fly is with perfect diligence, commitment and confidence. By all means, there should be careful thought in preparation, but the moment itself – the vow, the union, yes and yes again – must be a true leap into the unknown, holding nothing back, blind, reckless, voluntary, surrendered and direct. Delicate, exquisite flights of the heart to the heart’s desire. Yes, and yes again. In time, like acrobats, the routine grows sure and strong: this fidelity, this union, this axis. A familiarity and comfort with each other which will in turn allow for new daring possibilities and adventures to arise. This is marriage. This is what begins today for these two.
And we have all gathered together here because this intimate union also takes place in community. Friends and family are invited to witness these vows, these transformative words that will leave no tangible trace in the air, to dignify them with your own presence, say your own yes, here I am, so that no one could deny what is taking place here today. To say yes to their union, to admit no impediments to this marriage of true minds and true hearts. To welcome them together and to pledge your support. To celebrate and share in their joy. To give thanks for the day, and for all our relations, for the love of our lives.
“Go there where you cannot go, to the impossible, it is indeed the only way of coming or going.” – Jacques Derrida