Lord, it is good that we are here!
It is a scene that is by no means extraordinary at its start. It is just four friends going for a hike up Mount Tabor, talking, laughing, remembering, and looking ahead. In an instant, however, the veil is pulled back and we get a glimpse of a greater reality. There are now six people, three in dazzling white, and a booming voice coming from the clouds! The other three, suddenly underdressed, are astonished and acclaim, “Lord, it is good that we are here!” There is even talk of building tents and setting up shop with no real intention, or reason, to ever leave this mountain top!
Perhaps it is because I am in the blissful haze of a curly-headed newlywed, but the Transfiguration of our Lord sounds a whole lot like my wedding day. Just an ordinary day in a church, talking, laughing, remembering and looking ahead. Then the music changes, and in the back of the church appears my bride in dazzling white!…er…ivory! Throughout the day my new wife and I shared looks and stolen glances all with the same message: “It is good that we are here!” We even (half) joked several times that we should do this again next week!
Undoubtedly, the reason for such a blissful day was the countless prayers sent by friends and strangers in the months and days leading up to our special day. Of all of the details that went into our wedding, by far the most lauded was our request for our friends and families to join us in a novena for our marriage. If you are reading this and are getting married soon, DO THIS! The graces of the sacrament are more than real, and they are much more readily received when you and your spouse have opened your hearts to them, and when the Body of Christ, especially the section that is your family and friends (I guess it’s the spine, I don’t know, St. Paul wasn’t a doctor), is surrounding you in its loving prayerful embrace.
Now, I am not naive enough to think that our wedding is somehow more uniquely blessed than any other vows that have ever been exchanged. If human beings do anything well, it’s celebrating! A person, in most circumstances, is born into a celebrating family reveling in their arrival, and they leave this world, again in most circumstances, with a celebration of the life they lived. At birthdays, weddings, and funerals we gather together, we pray for each other, we enjoy each other’s company and then we go home. Perhaps, however, we need to go back to the Gospel we started with. Jesus allows his friends to soak in and celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime’s mountaintop vision, but then is quick to remind and encourage them that there is much work to be done in the journey down the mountain and through the valley. In fact, shortly after this event in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sends out his followers as “sheep among wolves.” The lesson here is that life is more about small moments than big ones.
Please do not misunderstand me, we must gather, pray and celebrate the big moments in life. However, three months after a baby is born, who is praying for and lifting up the mother and father exhausted and beleaguered by 3 a.m. feedings? Or six months after a funeral, who is there to help and pray for the widow as she begins to really feel the emptiness of life without her spouse? More personally, who is praying for and with the young couple who, after 9 months of marriage, are discovering that they have married someone very different than themselves, and are frustrated by the painstaking process of merging two lives into one?
I am writing this because in my conversations with other newlyweds, there is a story being lived that is not often told. Year one of married life is HARD. Two people who at times have found it difficult to handle their own brokenness now have to love and be loved by another, even (and especially) on each other’s worst day. Katie and I want to remind ourselves, as well as other engaged or newly married couples, to continually make praying with and for each other an everyday activity. This is fundamental because of the purpose of prayer, which is not to change God’s (or your spouse’s) mind but that God might change our hearts. Also, and perhaps more importantly, we must seek the advice and assistance of our community, as humbling and difficult as it may be. We must be honest and vulnerable with those who love us, and resist the temptation to put on a brave face to make it look like everything is perfect. Furthermore, I implore the community to reach out continually in love and support for the many young (and not so young) couples who are figuring out how to build a life together. Pray for them, help them, love them. After all, it took a community to form and shape them as individuals, and it will certainly take a community to help them live out this sacrament and their vocation. The wedding day and the Transfiguration are a glimpse and a taste of heaven, how much easier it is to walk the difficult road ahead when we remember these images!