Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Ready for a Wedding (Continued)

A stunning depiction of the Wedding Feast at Cana by the Flemish master Gerard David (1500). Even this lavish representation of Christ's first public miracle, however, pales in comparison to Jesus’s description of the event in Anne Rice's The Road to Cana.

I was so fortunate to be reading Anne Rice’s new book, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, right in the middle of the preparations for my daughter's October 2008 wedding. More than once, it provided me with a much-needed reminder of what weddings are actually all about, and why human beings in all cultures put aside daily chores and cares to sing, dance, eat and drink with brides and grooms and their families. At the altar, the bride and groom face one another and pledge to be united “until death us do part.” They enter the marital embrace, (which in Christian cultures symbolizes the love of Christ for his Church, and in all human cultures has been invested with religious overtones), and become one flesh. The marital embrace is a physical testimony of the love of God for each human being, and each individual act of marital love is a transcendental act, invested with the capability to forever change all of human history with the creation of a new human soul—a child. Our culture spends the time and care on no other celebration that it does on weddings (which can rightly absorb the attention of an entire family for months), and this is as it should be. For all who participate and attend, and above all for the bride and groom, the wedding reminds us that God (whose love made Him a Creator), has poured His love into man and woman to make them co-creators with Him. At every wedding, we celebrate the mystery of the divine creative capacity hidden within each man and woman. Why was Road to Cana such a delight during our wedding planning months? It taught me that God loves weddings! A lovely detail of the plot is that the young Jesus (who tells the story in the first person) instructs his family to use his long-hidden birthday gifts from the Magi to finance the wedding of a local girl abandoned by her father. This girl is no stranger or mere neighbor to him: She is the woman He loves and would have chosen as His wife if the Father’s call had been to marriage rather than Calvary. Rice’s description of the wedding brought tears to my eyes:

Under the high ceilings of the house, the music exploded… Huge tables had been set throughout all the main rooms. Through the open doorways, we saw great tents spanning the soft grass, and carpets spread everywhere, and table at which everyone might gather, either on couches or right on the rugs, whichever they desired. Amid all, the candelabra burned with hundreds upon hundreds of tiny flames… Great platters of food appeared, steam rising from the roasted lamb, the glistening fruit, the hot spiced cakes and honey cakes, the piles of raisons and dates and nuts…. The music and the aromas of the rich platters melded and it seemed for a moment to me that—as I stood in the courtyard, in the very middle of it, staring from one feasting group to another…--I was in a great unbroken universe of pure happiness which no evil could ever approach.

In this setting, Jesus performs his first public miracle, and makes a gift of water turned to wine to the celebrating couple. The dancing, eating, drinking, and celebrating go on!

So, God loves weddings. When you are fussing over buttons on bustles, finding the perfect petit fours, and just the right bottle of bubbly for the toast, you are actually creating a Feast of Love that brings happiness to many, and above all, the Father of Love.

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