Wednesday, May 9, 2007  

The union of opposites

Marriage and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb

by Canon John H. Heidt
Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Fort Worth


There are some married people who say that their marriage is quite wonderful, with never an argument between them and their spouse, never any tension nor an angry word. They don’t even disagree about the right way to raise the kids.

Then there are the honest people, people who know that marriage is hard work and making love a constant effort. They have faced the fact that the kids never do what they’re supposed to, that their husbands or wives rarely understood them, and they seldom agree about the things that really matter, things like cleaning the house or watching football on the TV. Marriage is difficult and love seldom easy.

It is not easy to unite opposites, and what is more opposite than men and women? I sometimes wonder if God split the human race in half simply to watch the two halves try to get back together again.  Marriage is the practice field for making it happen which, by the way, is why there can be no such thing as homosexual marriage.

Yet this difficult, hard won unity of human marriage is used to describe the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb, the messianic banquet, the celebration of the union of opposites, of finite and infinite in the Incarnation, of divine perfection with human sinfulness, of the Son of God with the children of men and women in a disobedient recalcitrant church.  Jesus is married to the Church, in an arranged marriage initiated by God the Father. Revelation pictures Holy Matrimony as a heavenly sacrament, or rather married couples are the sacraments of the heavenly wedding. The unity between the Church and the Son of God is the heavenly reality, and our earthly marriages are the outward and visible signs of that reality.

The marriage of the Lamb is celebrated by a wonderful wedding feast. Four and twenty elders, the priests of the twelve Old Testament tribes and the twelve apostles of the New Testament fall down in worship before the Lamb. Beyond them are a multitude no-one can number of those who are clothed in the white garments of the prayers of the saints. And the martyrs stand about with palms of victory in their hands. The various groups are not interchangeable but all are united by their common worship of the Lamb.

The union of two quite different kinds of people in Holy Matrimony depends upon both parties having something in common, and the quality of the marriage will depend upon what that is. The ancients said that a society of two or more people depended upon believing the same things and St. Augustine said that it depended upon loving the same things. That common belief and love which two people share should be none other than the Lamb upon the throne. If we both believe and love Jesus we can disagree about everything else and still enjoy the wedding feast of the Lamb.

For the sake of our earthly marriages we must make sure that our first Love, our primary marriage, is to the Lamb, and that the primary purpose of earthly marriage is to make saints to stand around His throne, remembering that only a superhuman sanctity can create a truly good marriage.

The heavenly marriage of the Lamb is as difficult as our earthly marriages. Jesus constantly has to woo and win over his self willed Spouse, the Church. We and our families are that Church. The smallest, most intimate cells of the church are our own families, not the diocese nor even the parish but the family.

We can always turn this belief and our love of Jesus into a merely private affair and try to be united to our spouses by some lesser common interest – a common love of tennis, or the same TV programs, the love of music, or even the love of our own  children. But what greater tyranny can we impose upon our children, or upon anything else for that matter, than to make our marital relationships depend upon them!  If this or anything less than Jesus Christ is our highest common interest, we will go whoring after other gods - the gods of power, money, self-interest, self-indulgence, or that ephemeral fantasy we like to call happiness. And as He suffers the indifference and betrayals of our families, our marriages, like so many, shipwreck on the rocks of anger, resentment and so-called incompatibility, forgetting that all men and women are incompatible.

When we come to the altar Sunday after Sunday let us renew our marriage to the Lamb, standing around His throne clothed in the prayers of the saints.  Then, having taken part in the Lamb’s wedding feast, let us go out hand in hand, loving one another and cherishing our differences.