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October 24, 2011

Together as One

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

Before I was a pastor, weddings were a social event to meet up with friends or family as we celebrate someone’s marriage. Wedding receptions were a time to drink and eat too much; to ridiculously move around on the dance floor (after a few drinks, what some would call ‘dancing’ gravitates to an area called ‘moving around uncontrollably’); and to lose your voice since talking with the person sitting next to you would be virtually impossible because the music was too loud.

Since becoming a pastor, the entire aspect of ‘weddings’ has changed for me. I think of them more in theological and spiritual terms, namely two of God’s children becoming one flesh. Marriage commitments and vows mean a lot more to me, as a clergyman, than they did before. The covenant aspect of the “I do” is so powerful, at least for me, for it signals a deeply spiritual willingness to spend one’s life with one they love, and no matter what comes up in life, whether good or bad, the”I do” is one that lasts.

Yesterday I attended the wedding of two terrific people, Jeffrey and Shifra. Coming from two different faiths (she is Jewish; he a Roman Catholic), their wedding was overseen by a Rabbi and a Catholic deacon. It was conducted using both religious traditions.

When the Rabbi stood to explain the ketubah to us Gentiles ( a ketubah is a Jewish covenantal agreement that outlines the duties of the husband towards his wife) and its significance in the marriage, the  “oneness” of marriage was striking. I sat there and started to long for us Christians to do something similar. State-sponsored marriage licenses are a joke; two people with ten bucks can fill out the paperwork to get married. But a ketubah really sets forth just how deep and “one” a husband and wife truly are to one another. Within the Jewish tradition, they are truly one.

It is not that we Christians lose sight of this understanding in the marriage service; we just do not take it to the next step and have the spouses sign a document that says they will be together as one for as long as they live. Honestly, I think we tend to miss this powerful significance of what a wedding is truly about.

OK, enough of my longing for a deeper marriage understanding amongst prospective spouses…yesterday’s wedding was fabulous. It was held at the Pleasantville Chateau in West Orange. At one time, this was a summer estate for a rather wealthy individual, but it is now offered as a catering facility. The grounds were impeccably kept; the house was stunning. In fact, the indoor pool in this estate was used in the movie “Cocoon” (the scenes where the cocoon’s were brought too after they were found in the ocean; where the seniors who were having so many health issues were essentially cured after diving into the pool with the cocoons at the bottom).

I saw a great number of people I haven’t seen in quite a long time, including my favorite Jewish Mets fan, Victor Traeger (and I mention him because he made a great admission yesterday: He reads this blog). If more Mets fans were like him, even I could see myself rooting for the team from Queens.

Sadly, I could not stay to the end — my chemo treatments didn’t treat me well on Sunday. I made it through the ceremony, the cocktail hour (didn’t eat anything), and the dinner up to the dessert. However, I skipped out right before the cake was cut. But my prayerful thoughts go out to both Jeffrey and Shifra as they start their lives together as one.

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