Love and Marriage

Recently I’ve had some very interesting, though very saddening, conversations. I don’t know what it is about me, maybe I’m just a good listener, but people tend to open up and tell me things that they most likely would rather just not talk about. It’s an interesting position, and one that I at times regret. These days, almost always.

In any case, I’ve noticed now personally something that I’ve only previously been anecdotally aware of: the confusion of love as passionate attraction, and the definition of a properly working marriage or relationship as one in which that passion is alive. I suppose that it’s so ingrained in us by our typical cultural intake (by which I mean the vileness and intellectual vapidity that is entertainment-industrial escapism) that I doubt there’s any way to rescue people who have already been deeply immured in this quagmire but by the grace of God. But there is likewise a kind of recalcitrant clinging to unreality lying behind this, a denial of one’s own changing through time, that may be the root rather than the tree of the whole situation.

There seems to be no understanding that love has phases in a relationship, and that the very active passion of youth will give way to a more sedate relationship as time goes on. Heaven forfend that these people actually realize and admit to themselves and others that they’re aging, and that neither their minds nor their bodies are the same as they were when they were twenty-two years of age! At forty-four, one’s perspective had better be different, as one’s body certainly will be, as at sixty-six and at eighty-eight. To deny such is unrealistic to the point of ridicule, yet is is so very common. In the autumn of life, it should be understood that the comfort of a long-present partner, when all else around one will have been changing ceaselessly and frenetically, will be one of the greatest comforts of all–a stable and constant companion, one who’s weathered all the storms of life at one’s side. What a thing to look forward to! It is the unchanging, after all, that we ought to appreciate most in our lives. Yet, again, our culture teaches us that change is unequivocally good by default, and yet that paradoxically the retention of unrealistic youth is somehow a good thing. This is tied to the image of progress in the secularist gospel of social evolution, and in what one might call the socialist gospel of religious liberals which both seek to establish the Kingdom of God here and now through legislative means (though neither would necessarily name their goal thus or admit to this goal). All of this shows willful ignorance, a recalcitrant self-blinding of one’s eyes to aging, to change, to entropy, all the while proclaiming a paradoxical freedom to retain their youthfulness and not have their will thwarted. It is the mentality of a herd of two-year-old children. They would like to ignore their mortality, which is nevertheless always present, and their dissatisfaction in being reminded of changing bodies and relationships is unacceptable in the extreme. Their discomfort with this situation then expresses itself in dissatisfaction with the marriage that reminds them every day of this change, with the idea that out of it, somehow they’ll be younger, freer, happier, when in reality they will be starting from scratch, old and half-worn, deprived of the long-lasting stability and comfort later in life of one constant companion through thick and thin, through joys and sorrows, agreements and arguments, successes and failures, lives and deaths. It’s so selfish and so sad.

They ignore the possibility of letting love, real love, grow and change in their growing and changing lives with someone else. I find this deeply saddening.

Fifteen Shuffled Songs

Following the lead of Nick Norelli, I present what my iPod kicked up at me for the first fifteen songs in shuffle mode. Not too embarassing, as it turns out, and a representative cross-section of what’s stored on the thing….

1.) Gustav Holst: Double Concerto for Two Violins III. Variations on a Ground

2.) Get Back (Rehearsal) — The Beatles: Thirty Days

3.) The Christmas Song — Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas

4.) Prima Virtus Viri Sancti — Ensemble Organum: Chant Cistercien

5.) Once in a Lifetime — Talking Heads: Sand in the Vaseline 1

6.) Responsorium In die resurrectionis: Versus congregabo gentes — Ensemble Organum: Vêpres du jour de Pâques

7.) I’ll Get You — The Beatles: Past Masters 1

8.) George Frideric Handel, Chandos Anthem No. 11 – Sonata — performed by Harry Christophers: The Sixteen Choir & Orchestra

9.) Maquam “Sultani Iraq” – Samir Tahar: Dreams

10.) Psallit in Aure Dei — Lisa Gerrad and Patrick Cassidy: Immortal Memory

11.) Graduel: Recordatus est Domine — Ensemble Organum: Plain-Chant Parisien

12.) Filigree & Shadow — This Mortal Coil: Filigree and Shadow

13.) Till the Next Goodbye — The Rolling Stones: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll

14.) Where the Streets Have No Name — U2: The Joshua Tree

15.) Manuel Cardoso: Kyrie from Requiem Mass, performed by Schola Cantorum of Oxford — Magnum Mysterium I

The Plan

The goal in the plan of God is that human beings become like the resurrected and glorified Christ, that is, that they attain a heavenly, eternal existence.

John & Adela Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God, p. 121

The trick lies in effecting this!

A nice sunset

Here are some pictures I took just a few minutes ago from my desk. We had a surprisingly stunning sunset today. The city lights in the distance are those of San Francisco. Enjoy!

Another Fifteen Authors

My correspondent the generous liturgist Byron Stuhlman writes to share his own list of particularly influential fifteen authors. These lists are so interesting! Enjoy Byron’s selection:

1. The Bible, the basic witness to God.
2. The Book of Common Prayer, especially 1549 and 1979.
3. Louis Bouyer, Liturgical Piety, which introduced me to the paschal mystery as the basis of baptism, the eucharist, and the Christian Year when I was in college.
4. Gregory of Nyssa, who put me in touch with Eastern traditions in my college years (in Danielou’s selections) and later provided an alternative to Augustine’s version of the Christian story with his catechetical homily.
5. Alexander Schmemann, whose For the Life of the World and Introduction to Liturgical Theology made me familiar with Byzantine Liturgy.
6. Juan Mateos, whose articles and books first made sense of the daily office for me and introduced me to East Syrian worship.
7. Robert Taft, whose work on the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom made sense of the Byzantine eucharist for me.
8. Miguel Arranz, whose articles laid out the development of the Byzantine rites of initiation for me.
9. Abraham Heschel, for his masterpiece on the Sabbath.
10. Raymond Brown, for his work on John’s gospel and the trajectory of the New Testament.
11. John Macquarrie, for his masterful overview of Christian theology in his many books.
12. Jeremy Taylor, for his marvelous assimilation of Eastern theology and liturgy in the Anglican tradition (and for his courage to argue against Augustine.
13. Gregory Dix, whose Shape of the Liturgy first made sense of the eucharist for me.
14. Gordon Lathrop, for His Holy Things, a masterful liturgical theology.
15. Gregory Nazianzus, for his theological orations and his festal homilies.