All the days of my life

Wedding vows, May 26, 2001

I remember this day, eleven years ago. In the morning we had a birthday party for my maid-of-honor and dear friend, Laia. The afternoon was consumed by jittery preparations and far too many photographs (which seemed, a few years later, far too few photographs). Everything was quick and nervous and I kept wondering what I had missed, what I had left undone.

When the hour arrived, I went out into the courtyard, where the sandstone of the church building was yellowing in the late afternoon sunlight. I walked in the church doors — beautiful carved wooden doors that have appeared in my dreams and have always symbolized my hope of salvation — and looked in the sudden darkness for the one person I had been waiting all day to see. And time ceased.

The smile there — there was recognition in it, and a joy that has an element of surprise, a love that sees a gift that surpasses all expectation, a promise of eternity. Christ was there, saying that no preparation was wasted and none was necessary. The only thing that had been missed was here. There was grace there in the antechamber.

And then the timelessness went on within time, and Matt kissed me through the veil, so thin he didn’t see it, and hugged me like a vise and took my arm, and we processed towards the altar and sang and vowed our fidelity and received Holy Communion.

So we began our life together. When I remember that day, I remember our vows — not, actually, the ones we said that day, which are the alternates and which I would have to look up, but the ones we expected and memorized and wrote in our wedding book beforehand and spoke to one another in our preparation: “I, Kim, take you, Matt, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you, in good times or in bad, in sickness or in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” I test the words and taste the truth in them. I remember the tenderness and awe in Matt’s voice as he put the ring on my finger, this sign of his love and fidelity. And I remember the smile.

I use my marriage as an example when I teach about anamnesis, the kind of remembering that Christians do in sacramental celebrations. Anamnesis is remaking ourselves by our memory of God’s gifts to us. It is not just a recall, but an entering into the mystery being recalled. I don’t just remember that I vowed; I renew the vow, and rejoice in the one who was there and the subtly different one who now is. I don’t just remember the love and commitment offered to me then; I see it anew in the love now offered to our children and the commitment to the daily sacrifices of living together.

Anamnesis is a bit like a french braid: it starts with a small strand, like a smile piercing darkness, but every time you flip it over you pick up a bit more in your fingers. A vow, an evening meal, a lost ring, a diagnosis, an intimate moment, a shared communion. An undeserved forgiveness, a perfect trust, a free sacrifice, a tired child; an all-encompassing covenant. Soon what you have in your hands is so large that you can’t see and can’t hold the whole, and that is how you know that God has come to dwell among us again, there under your hands.

Always quick in school, I am a slow learner in the things that really matter. I struggle to believe in the notion of unconditional love — for me, even me! Julian of Norwich understands me perfectly: “For some of us believe that God is almighty and may do all, and that he is all wisdom and can do all. But that he is all love and will do all, there we fail” (Showings, ch. 73, spelling modernized). I am remembering God’s love for me in the antechamber of this life, and the anamnesis begins with that smile on my wedding day.

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10 comments

  1. May there be many more years where the flames “are in-folded/Into the crowned knot of fire/And the fire and the rose are one” — your image of the braid, folded over, brought in, made me think of Eliot’s imagery. Thank you for this beautiful reflection!

  2. Thank you for your words… they touch the soul with gladness.
    May I nominate you to be one of the writers/translators for the Roman Missal, 4th edition?
    peace.

  3. Thank you for a very beautiful reflection on marriage. I would be grateful if the liturgists on this blog would comment on the relationship between Matrimony and Orders. My wife and I were married 53 years ago. We were ordained as a “diaconal” family 40 years ago. Of course, from the point of view of the church I was the only one ordained. Still it is as a family that we serve the poor, sick and outcast. My wife and children participate in catechesis of children and adults, including RCIA. They help prepare for baptisms and weddings.
    My wife and children were very involved in my ordination rite. They vested me with stole and dalmatic and were in the sanctuary for much of the service. Since then at Mass I always leave the sanctuary to give my family the kiss of peace. To do otherwise would IMO be to ignore not just my family but also the connection between our marriage and the eucharist.
    I realize that participation in diaconal ministry by family members must be optional. However, over the last 15 or so years I have noticed little or no participation by families in the ordination of permanent deacons. At celebrations such as funerals, episcopal functions, etc. when there is a group of deacons, they sit together in the church vested in albs. It seems that they must pretend to be celibate while acting liturgically. Perhaps their wives and children are present but lost in the crowd. I always opt to sit with my wife and not vest. What do you think of the idea of vested deacons scattered around the church with their families? Would that honor both sacraments? Are there other ways to acknowledge and honor both sacraments?

  4. Christ was there, saying that no preparation was wasted and none was necessary.

    This is a superb statement of the Christian doctrine of grace and conversion. I would probably have said something boringly scholastic about operative and cooperative grace. This is far better.

  5. Thanks to all of you. Michelle, that is indeed an apt image! Ed, it sounds like you are better prepared to reflect on the relationship between marriage and orders than I am. I take your comments seriously. Fritz, I can now, 11 years later, discuss the scholastic categories, but I think sacramental experiences like this one are the only reason I can understand them. Thanks for recognizing the grace image.

  6. Congratulations, Kimberly, on 11 grace-filled years! Yes, I have also used memories of weddings and such to try to demonstrate anamnesis; but yours was a much richer expression!

  7. Thank you, Kimberly! What a beautiful expression of how our human partnership can help us under stand the unconditional LOVE of God!!!
    I would have no notion of this love were it not for my Patrick!!

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