"It is very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness."
My ex and I were fortunate in a superb homily, and so were Catherine and William on Friday. An abridged version of the homily yesterday by Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London (shown), follows. (Emphasis added)
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves. ...
A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. ...
We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another. ...
Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:
“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive. ...
I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:
God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is a commendable re-statement of the Golden Rule, our truest guide, which finds expression in the founding doctrines of all the world's major religions, from Judaism to Islam to Native North American spiritualism.
Bishop Chartres also alludes to loneliness, the widespread bane of this new century, best assayed in Bowling Alone: The Collapase and Revival of American Community. You can, of course, be alone in a marriage, a common and wretched state. I've long felt that loneliness, on its own and twinned with anxiety, grief and every manner of social and bodily suffering, is the worst of fates.
By now in the Western world, upward of 40% of people live alone. This isn't the place to explore the demographic reasons for a phenomenon as profound as the discovery of fire. But it's worth being mindful of, that our struggles are vastly compounded when we are alone in dealing with them.
The cure is the outward-directedness invoked by Chartres on Friday morning. Which costs nothing and is its own rich reward.
Richard Chartres, 132nd Anglican Bishop of London, is a vegan and an environmentalist committed to reducing his Church's environmental footprint by 60% by 2050. He made headlines in saying that "making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car" were a "symptom of sin"; and oversaw the publication of How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change a Christian?, a booklet describing the effort combat global warming as a "moral duty." The Guardian profiles him here.