March 12th, 2011

eyes black and white

Homily for a Wedding

Dear Trân, dear Jason,

I readily admit I have long fantasized about delivering a homily at a wedding; therefore I am ever thankful to the two of you for granting me the opportunity. And how much more meaningful and heartfelt an opportunity to speak this is, when two wonderful individuals such as you love each other so strongly, having already braved space and time, armed thugs guarding imaginary lines on a map, superstition and social rejection — to be joined together on this blessed day. I therefore feel as honored as delighted of having been chosen to say a few things about this metaphorical knot that you are publicly tying today.

Marriage is a bond, whereby the joys and sorrows of one are shared by the other — not just legally, not just emotionally, but metaphysically indeed. How does such a miracle occur? Some say it's magically created by some supernatural force outside this world. To my rationalistic ears, however, this sounds less like an explanation than like a surrender to ignorance; what is worse, to a lazy listener, it might sound like an invitation to neglect the hard work that goes into actually making the Grace that is marriage happen.

As I understand it, a marriage is verily created by each of the two of you, starting from a time before you are even a couple, and not ending with this sacramental ceremony, but continuing every single day hence. It is built, bit by bit, with every emotion you share and exchange with each other, with every silly sign of affection you give to each other, with every gratification you grant each other, with every helping hand you extend to each other, with every plan you make together and follow through together, with every act of love you commit on each other's behalf — until your lives are intertwined, you develop your own lingo, and anticipate what the other means and wants before any word was spoken.

To an outside observer, the expense of time and efforts people put into a relationship may often seem to be but a waste of resources — that cynics may deride, that mystics may celebrate. But both cynics and mystics are missing the point. The coupling game is not time wasted — it is time well spent (at least when successful). And the value of the relationship built is not the cost sunk of past efforts, but in the promise ascertained of future joys. If the observed acts mean nothing to the outside observers, and fail to ascertain anything in their eyes, it is simply because these observers are not party to the interaction that give these acts their meaning.

The complex interaction by which a relationship is built is an interactive proof, through which the participants assert not only the continuing existence of their relationship, but also how they both continually benefit from it, how both are permanently fit for each other, and committed to keeping their relationship strong. Thus can two people probe the deep structure in each other's psyche and establish a bond to mutual satisfaction, when all static attempts at direct measurement would be vain.

Both members of a successful couple may find many benefits to their relationship. A person who shares your life will bring meaning to your existence when you're depressed, confidence in the value of your endeavours when you're in doubt, comfort when you're sick, energy when you're tired, support when you're weak, advice when you're confused. With the proper partner, you will be stronger and wiser, more focused and more productive. Now, as it grows in strength and permanence, the relationship may at some point graduate into becoming a marriage: not just the temporary relief of friendship or the passing excitement of courtship, but a permanent foundation upon which to found the rest of your life.

By becoming a marriage, for the world to see, you may strengthen your couple with the testimony and support of the society of your relatives and friends; and you may in turn enrich this society with the fruits of your common life. Oh how much joy can a successful marriage call forth! — whether sexual or intellectual, mundane or spiritual — not just for now, but for ever and after. Together, you may have, and raise, genetic — or memetic — children, to prolong your lives past their biological extent. Marriage is a costly tie, there is no question about it. But when well done with a well matching partner, it is a tie that frees, that protects both parties from the vagaries of the world, and opens possibilities to each of their self-actualizations.

Trân and Jason, today the relationship you built has reached the point when it has become a marriage. May you keep building this relationship into an ever greater marriage; may it continue bringing joy to both of you; may it last for the many decades of each of your lives; may it leave a legacy of joy to the future generations. May you two be each other's savior, everyday, from now on 'til the day you die, and beyond.

Amen.