What is beautiful draws our senses to the sacred. At a recent wedding I attended, a harp, organ, and choir lifted their melodies to the heights. The groomsmen wore tailcoats; the bridesmaids, embellished gowns the color of jade. Even these breathtaking details, however, were nothing compared to the radiance of the liturgy, or the couple themselves.
After a tear-filled procession and Liturgy of the Word, the celebrant’s homily illuminated an essential truth of our vocations, one embodied in a particularly tangible way through the call to marriage: love and sacrifice say the same thing, but only to the extent that we embrace them.
“You love,” he said, “as much as you sacrifice, and you sacrifice as much as you love.”
What does this mean?
As a wedding guest, I took these words as a prayer for the couple about to become one, that they might spend their lifetime willing one another’s good and fulfillment.
On a personal level, I heard them as a call, insistent and clear: along this path, my husband’s and my pilgrimage to the eternal wedding feast, our vows merit that we love with the entirety of our hearts, even when emotion runs dry and when we’d prefer not to make the effort. That we embrace the good times and bad, knowing that in making a gift of our actions, time, and entire selves to one another, we’re free from enslavement to self-serving desires.
I often consider the link between the words integration and integrity when it comes to relationships. That is, the times when the complementary parts of who I am--body and soul, reason and emotion, and more--are well-integrated and not in conflict with each other, are the times I find myself treating my husband with the greatest sense of integrity.
These are the times when my love for him and the sacrifices I’m willing to make for him--taking on extra chores when he’s busy, respecting our budget, putting our kids to bed on the nights he has to bring work home--speak a language of wholeness and good will.
When our hearts are integrated, love and sacrifice say the same thing: I give of myself to you, I place your present wants and needs before my own, I enter into your burdens and carry them alongside you.
In the times I turn to my own selfishness, preferring personal convenience or comfort above what’s best for my marriage and family, I see our relationships being chipped away at. I see them quite literally dis-integrate.
Thanks to grace and mercy, these breaks can be restored to something like their former wholeness, and only in eternity will they be brought to perfection.
Only in eternity. The words of this wedding homily, an occasion of such heavenly rejoicing, drew my attention down to earth and to the tension we live out in our vocations. We are earthly and imperfect, yet our call is focused on eternal life; on bringing our spouses and children (biological or spiritual) to the banquet by way of love.
And how to pour out that love? Through our acts of sacrifice. Saint John Paul II said, “There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”
By praying for your spouse, by serving and assisting him without keeping score, by keeping your shared goal of each other’s fulfillment and salvation at the forefront--even when it feels too hard--you become living icons of self-emptying love, bearing Christ to the world.