Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Magical Spiritual and Emotional Journey

Friday evening, Father Mark Crawford and I co-officiated Sara and Pavel's wedding ceremony at The Bell Tower on 34th, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

It occurs to me that Sara and Pavel exemplify the very idea of lifelong learning in their relationship. Where differences of faith and culture can be an obstacle for some, for them it presented an opportunity for learning. As Sara says, "Our religious differences are something that could have potentially been detrimental to our relationship, but we are both very respectful of each other’s beliefs and faith. We push ourselves to learn more about both Catholicism and Judaism for ourselves and for each other. We find similarities between the two and discuss the differences." These differences served to enhance each one's connection to their own faith and heritage. As Pavel says, "Meeting Sara... helped enhance my Jewish identity."
Sara and Pavel came up with a really cool idea for the readings in their ceremony, that fit in with this approach. As a sign of respect for their own and each other's faiths, they chose to include two parallel and very well-known Hebrew Scripture and New Testament readings. As a sign of respect for their families, they asked their parents to read these, in Hebrew and English respectively. The central message of these readings is in one of the Hebrew Scripture verses quoted by the New Testament, which refers to man leaving his mother and father, and cleaving to his wife.

Now, asking their parents to read these specific verses was actually not just a sign of respect. It was a sign of admiration, as Sara and Pavel acknowledge the wonderful example their parents set for them, with their multi-decade love stories. As Pavel says, "My parents... are an inspiration to me of how to live and exist together as a couple. They are very passionate about each other and about life... I hope to have a strong and long lasting relationship like theirs with Sara." And as Sara says, "My parents... have been married an impressive forty-three years... They are considerate of each other, support each other, have truly been by each other’s side in sickness and health, they are affectionate and they make each other laugh."

Now, I always say there is no right or wrong way to do a wedding ceremony, and there is no one right way to do a marriage either. In fact, the very relationships that Pavel and Sara admire in their parents are profoundly different, as is Sara and Pavel's relationship from both of these relationships. And romance and fairy tales aside, turning two people into one unit, as these verses describe, takes work. In fact, it might be said that the only true absolute about marriage is that for it to work, you as individuals and as a couple must find that harmonic sweet spot between being your own person and becoming one flesh. And because we constantly evolve and change, our relationships and where that sweet spot is evolves and changes.

It is this type of dynamic that makes marriage one of the best vehicles not only for love and warmth, but for personal growth too. As Sara says, "I knew I could be with Pavel forever, when I could tell Pavel could see me for who I truly am... He challenges me to push myself, and sees success for me, and imagines things for me, that even I am hesitant to dream. We bring out the best in each other." And that is why Pavel describes their relationship as a, "magical spiritual and emotional journey together to fall in love." And he says that like any healthy evolution together, "there were ups and downs," but they both know, "that we are happy as can be together... we are ready to spend the rest of our lives together." This why he says, what is mutually true for Sara and Pavel alike, "There is no one else I’d rather spend the rest of my life with."

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