The Canadian novelist Robertson Davies has this dialogue between a bachelor Anglican priest and a woman faculty member in his novel, “The Lyre of Orpheus.”
iWhat do you think marriage is?” She asked,* “Just babies and eating off the same fork?i
iGod forbid!” the priest paused,”
“Oe Iill tell you what I really think, it isnit just domesticity, or the continuance of the race, or institutionalized sex, or” (God help us) “a form of property rights.* And it damned well isnit happiness, as that word is generally used.”
“What is it then?”
“I think itis a way of finding your soul.i
“Finding your soul?”
iIn a man or (in) a woman?i
iWITH a man or WITH a woman.* In company, but Oe essentially, alone — as all life is.”
Davies’ philosophy of marriage is a fitting text for a wedding.* In simpler terms what I think he’s telling Ellen and Paul this morning — and all of us married folk — is that marriage should make us better. Not only better partners or parents, but also better people.* Marriage is to help us find our best selves and grow our souls.
It’s difficult to discover ourselves and expand our spirits without help from intimate friends.* And at their best, that’s what husband and wife should be.
What Ellen and Paul are doing here today before friends, family — and before an Affirming God — is making the most important decision in their lives. For their real happiness their choice of one another is more important than their jobs, their education or even their health.
Having said that, however, we quickly pray the words of the old Spanish toast, that God will bless them with love, health and money — and the time to enjoy them. More than anything, though, more than health and money, their relationship as husband and wife will in great degree determine the rest of their lives.
Someone has said that a happy marriage is the world’s best bargain (O. A. Battista) and few would disagree. We pray for that happiness for Ellen and Paul, not only that their lives will be comfortable but that they will also be deep, meaningful, and spiritual — that their lives will be lived in service to each other and to others.
Albert Schweitzer, the philosopher, missionary and doctor said it bluntly,* “No one can be truly happy without serving others.”* Service to people breaks the shell of our self-centeredness, lets in the light, the air, and rain, and like the flowers in the field, enables us to flourish.
If this marriage is blessed with children, they will be another godsend.* As that wordsmith Paul De Vries, punned, “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.” Children with their demands, their care and their worries pull us out of ourselves and make us more mature, more giving, better human beings.
Marriage is not easy. “We are all on a spiral path.* No growth takes place in a straight line.* There will be setbacks along the way.” (Ano Ano the Seed – Zambucka).* It’s that way in every life.* It’s that way in every marriage. Marriage demands mutual forgiveness. Every married couple here knows that. Itis not easy to forgive, to move on maturely, and to live spiritually.* Itis the work of a lifetime.
But Ellen and Paul will not undertake that work alone. They have each other; they have family and friends. They have God’s sacramental grace. They remain individuals, but they have chosen each other, they love each other. That love will help them mature. It will lead them to find — and therefore to grow their souls.
And so, Ellen and Paul, as you begin this life journey, all of us here storm heaven for you calling down every heavenly grace. Your family and friends here encircle you, like the air that surrounds you, with their love, their caring and support.
We pray for you to a Loving God in the words of the Quaker hymn:
Remain beside us, Holy Friend,
Sustain us by Your power
That we may keep in faith and hope
Commitments made this hour.
Ellen and Paul, you can count on that power just as surely as you can rely on us, your families and friends.** Amen.