Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Of Marriage and Mysteries

I went to a distinctly Christian wedding recently and, for more reasons than I'm aware of, I felt I was privileged with a glimpse of something not just majestic and beautiful, but entirely mysterious. Of all the things that humans can do--command armies, build Babels, step on stars--nothing comes close to the mystery of one man uniting with one woman. We tread on holy, sacred grounds when we speak of marriage. The Catholic Church understands this, and many Protestants (myself included) would do well to follow suit. How unfathomable is it that two people can become one flesh--that they can have a relation of such love and perfect understanding that two can indeed be called one? As unfathomable as the Trinity. True, no marriage on earth embodies this, because if one did there would be no mystery. And yet we see a flash of it during a wedding. Even more profound, we see that it was intended for us. We know this not just by revelation through His Word, but also by example when in the flesh He gave Himself up for the Church, and how in return the Church to this day is joyfully striving to present Herself as a pure spotless bride, though mysteriously, She already is.

When I speak of mystery, though, I don't mean something that is beyond all understanding, or worse, irrational. (Heaven forbid if people these days still hold onto the fancy that Christianity is a mindless crutch because either they don't want to think through the superficial absurdities and contradictions, or they're afraid of what they might find. Fine if they reject it for other reasons, but I hope not for those two.) Rather, these mysteries, though incomprehensible in themselves, are actually loose manifestations of something we know to be far grander--much like inferior copies issued from their pure Platonic forms. And precisely because of that, these mysteries can work to guide us towards that grandness, towards truth, clarity, and understanding. It's somewhat like reading a great poem for the first time: though not at once understood, you know something great has been communicated, and that more greatness is to come. Or like marveling at the brightness of the moon in the clear dark sky and realizing at the end of time that it was the Sun that gave light to all. In this way, mysteries serve as great big signposts on that narrow road of righteousness, without which we'd quickly lose our way. And isn't that a nice little summary of mankind's history thus far? Every time we've ignored these mysteries and tried to figure it out all on our own, as we so often have done, the result has just been another lost philosophy of destruction and despair, of which we have much. That's why revelation is needed and that's why it was given. That's why we get to witness nature in all its raw mystery; or the birth of a child; or one joyfully bearing the burden of another. Or matrimony. Though these are all mysteries and forever will be until the end, for our time on earth, they're absolutely enough. Enough for what is entirely up to us.