By Frederica Mathewes-Green
June 8, 2016
[June 8, 2016: “Glory and Honor: Orthodox Christian Resources on Marriage,” edited by David and Mary Ford, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press]
Like elementary school students, writers are regularly asked to supply an essay to fit an assigned title. When I learned that the title of this essay would be “The High and Holy Calling of Being a Wife,” I did what any sensible person would do: I tried to get out of it.
My husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary last spring, so I have extensive experience in being a wife. But whatever I’ve been doing around here for the last 40 years, “high” and “holy” aren’t terms that immediately spring to mind. For most of us, married life is something we make up as we go along. We learn some deep truths along the way, but usually immediately after it would have been really useful to have known said truth. Whatever height or holiness might have resulted would be entirely the Lord’s doing, not our own.
But that’s true of everything we undertake, isn’t it? We don’t know what we’re doing a lot of the time. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know whether what we just did (or said) was the right thing to do (or say). And yet grace still emerges, sometimes at the most unexpected places.
My sweetie and I got married May 18, 1974, under a big oak tree. The wedding party, which included a black lab wearing a red bandana around its neck, processed through the clearing, with our hippie friends standing on one side and astonished family members on the other. When we reached the tree, we turned to the gathering and recited the “God is Alive, Magic is Afoot” passage from Leonard Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers. (Everyone calls him “Fr. Gregory,” but I still call him by the name he had when we met. In these pages I’ll call him “G.”)
We had asked our friend, an Episcopal priest, to conduct the service, and were disappointed when he told us that we could not write our own vows. So instead we selected the coolest option from that church’s book of experimental services. We were hardly Christians at that point, and could have been better described as all-religions-are-equal syncretists. We considered Christianity less profound than some religions further East, but endearing in its own little way. About halfway through the service I read a Hindu prayer.
My dress was a simple shift of unbleached muslin. Instead of a bouquet, I wore a circle of flowers in my hair. (I meant this to be rebellious, but the joke was on me: crowns are essential to the Orthodox wedding service, and an ancient emblem of marriage.) After the service, the puzzled caterer set out the requested vegetarian reception. And then, as a string quartet played, we joined hands with our hippie friends and danced in circles under the trees.
This seems the place to say “I guess you had to be there,” but you actually didn’t have to be there. You’re picturing it just fine. When archeologists unearth our wedding photos hundreds of years from now, they’ll be able to place the date within five years. Read the rest at Frederica.com.