At a time when reality television offers us a peek into the best and the worst of weddings, there's a statement that provides a spiritual grounding that brings me peace as I ponder this step for any couple.
It's by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science and this newspaper. It reads: "May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man's spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 65).
This prayer (I like to think of this statement as a prayer) asks that Christ be present at every bridal altar – from simple vows taken and given in a silent chapel to the elaborate drama of a Hollywood gala with helicopters circling; from one performed in the dust of an African village to one taking place in a Scottish castle; from a first marriage with bride and groom having dated only each other since middle school to the fourth marriage of an octogenarian – each bridal altar deserves the benediction of Christ's, Truth's, presence, turning the water into wine.
This presence of the Christ turns that which refreshes hope and cleanses the palate of all that is in the past, into that which is inspiring and gives one deep and profound opportunities today for "growth in grace ... patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" ("Science and Health," p. 4), for being ripened and matured through love's great desire to live with another in communion and cooperation as husband and wife.
This week, when someone I care for deeply is getting married, that statement has caused me to think about what makes every bridal altar so deserving of that prayer. And my prayer has led me to one word: hope. It takes remarkable hope to approach the bridal altar – hope that self can be subdued by love, hope that grace will reign in our hearts and homes, hope that our lives will be an inspiration of hope to others who may feel shy or weary, who may have given up dreams or are protecting tender hearts from possible hurt.
So today I am celebrating hope with dear ones everywhere – the children who hope their parents have found their "one true love" this time around, parents who pray their daughters and sons will be cherished and supported in their dreams and desires, friends and families who hope their loved ones will be in love "forever and ever, amen" as Randy Travis sings.
Dearest ones, on your wedding day, when you are making a "sanctuary of your heart," I pray you are blessed with many things – great love, profound kindness, deep faith, persistent patience, abiding tenderness – but most of all, hope.
If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all....
This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance....
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13, J.B. Phillips