Ord Om ordet

Niall og Dominiques bryllup

Song of Songs 2:8-10,14,16; 8:6-7 Set me as a seal upon your heart
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 L’amour fait confiance en tout
John 15:12-16 Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life, for his friends

Dear Dominique, dear Niall, for your nuptial Mass, you have set before us, first, a passage from the Song of Songs. It speaks of the nature of love, of the responses love evokes, of what love does to one who loves. To find this text, the Song, at the heart of the Bible has surprised more than one first-time reader who’d expected Scripture to be more ethereal, less passionate, and so less dangerous. We sometimes hear of people seeking ‘comfort in religion’, yet religion, taken seriously, can be quite uncomfortable. To speak publicly of love is not comfortable. Love is not a sentimental subject! It touches each of us where we are most vulnerable. It may evoke moments of near-perfect joy, moments we’d have wished could last forever. It may evoke unspeakable depths of pain. Between extremes, love speaks to all of us of longing, aspiration, self-transcendence: wonderful dimensions of experience, but by definition unchartered, charged with risk. In giving your lives to each other today, you are not choosing a safe existence. You are not entering the cushioned compartment of a chugging train bound for a scheduled destination. You are setting out on the open sea, deep waters, confident that love will carry. What a privilege for us, your family and friends, to witness this launch, to share in your happiness and to cheer you on with the assurance of our prayer, our affection!

So what does Scripture tell us about love? The Song of Songs has recourse to imagery from the animal world. The two species invoked, the dove and the gazelle, are conspicuous for their shyness – for the dove in question is a fluttering wood dove, not some bolshie metropolitan pigeon. Put a foot wrong, make an unguarded sound, and your dove, your gazelle, will be off like a shot, moving at speed. Love, then, calls for peaceableness. We speak of lovers wooing. What is it to woo if not to gain, by careful conquest, another’s trust? The seed of love is sown through the astounding discovery that someone cherishes and wants me as I am, without judgement, without a set agenda, without requiring me to be something, someone, I couldn’t, wouldn’t, be. In the Song of Songs, the beloved speaks: ‘My love, let me see your face, let me hear your voice.’ Don’t we all yearn to be seen and heard, to be known as who we are in truth? That is what happens when we’re loved. And so we’re opened up, little by little. In being known we’re set free to know in return, to embrace the other as other, ready, at last, to relinquish fear. Clearly, this is work accomplished over time – and I say ‘work’ advisedly. Love is at once a gift and a construct. We must apply ourselves to love, not expect to sit back and just enjoy it. Dear Dominique, dear Niall, you don’t need me to tell you how delicate threads of trust woven together over time form a fabric of phenomenal strength. Of this fabric is made the raft that will now speed you forward, the sail apt to catch and orient the wind. ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.’

Dans un concerto classique, de Mozart, de Beethoven, le dénouement du premier mouvement est précédé par une cadenza, un espace ouvert laissé à l’interprète pour ajouter son accent personnel à l’ensemble en développant à son gré les thèmes exposés jusque-là. La cadenza synthétise l’oeuvre tout en dépassant ses bornes, rendant manifestes ses potentialités secrètes. Le treizième chapitre de la lettre aux Corinthiens correspond à cette forme musicale. A la fin de l’épître le coeur de l’apôtre déborde. Il veut enfin faire chanter un motif qui a été sous-jacent à son discours entier, mais qui n’a pas eu l’occasion de se faire entendre par une voix de soliste. C’est frappant que St Paul, dont la prose est souvent inélégante, parfois dure, devienne ici lyrique, révélant un timbre dont on ne soupçonnait pas l’existence. Il s’exprime avec pudeur, exposant d’abord ce que la charité n’est pas. C’est paradoxal: souvent, avant de connaître l’amour, nous apprenons à reconnaître l’absence d’amour. Cette absence se fait sentir, nous dit St Paul, par un étrange sentiment d’inanité qui nous surprend à l’improviste, soit quand nous exerçons nos dons naturels au maximum, soit en présence de personnes qui prennent des initiatives éclatantes, soit au cours d’un projet de haute science. Objectivement nous devrions être comblés, pourtant nous avons, au creux de l’estomac, une certitude mordante qui nous chuchote: ‘Cela manque encore de substance.’ Non pas que les réalités en face de nous soient forcement faussent ou mensongères. La voix indique seulement leur insuffisance. L’amour, c’est ce qui correspond à notre soif d’un davantage insaisissable. Cette soif peut se faire impérieuse. Elle nous force à chercher un puits d’eau vive, à éliminer tout ce qui ne la satisfait pas. St Paul énumère: ce qui ne sert que mon intérêt à moi, ce qui sent d’orgueil, de rancune, d’ambition – non, ce n’est pas ça; j’ai besoin d’autre chose. J’ai surtout besoin de me donner. L’amour est l’élan qui nous pousse à donner notre vie pour l’être aimé, donc à supporter, à faire confiance, à espérer, à endurer. Au fur et à mesure que nous apprenions à vivre ainsi, une transformation s’opère en nous. Notre connaissance s’étend. Nous pressentons ce que pourrait être l’éternité. Car c’est bien vrai: l’amour ne passera jamais. Cette vérité époustouflante fait battre follement notre coeur. 

In the Gospel, Christ links love to friendship. To be a true friend, he says, is to set our friend’s flourishing above our own. Love looks beyond itself. It isn’t self-sufficient. It yearns to give life, to be fruitful, even at the cost of ultimate sacrifice. We’re in Eastertide. The extent of love’s demand is fresh in our minds. So is the fecundity of love, which really is stronger than death. That is what prompts the Church, these fifty days, to burst with shouts of Alleluia. Dear Dominique and Niall, today you pledge your love to one another; by solemn covenant you make that love the basis of your two lives become one. You can do this because your love is held, protected, and blessed by God’s eternal love, the ultimate force behind everything that is. This sacrament grants you privileged access to the law that governs the universe. ‘Set me as a seal upon your heart’, says the Lord. It would take a brave preacher to expound that verse to two cardiologists! Yet we do have a sense of what it means. May God grant you joy in your marriage, and may your married life, your foyer, be a source of life and joy to many others. Amen.

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