Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Shirt Off His Back

For those of you who are married, do you remember the moment, that one particular moment, when you decided in your heart that this was the person you were going to marry?  For me it was watching the movie Hook with my honey and some friends at the theater.  I remember turning to look at him and thinking, right in the middle of Dustin Hoffman's meanness as Captain Hook, "this is the man I'm going to marry!" Just over one year after our first meeting we married and are preparing to celebrate 22 years together!

A number of years ago I had the honor of being involved in the wonderful courtship and wedding of two people I had known separately for years.  I had met the bride when she was six years old and I was 17 helping out at the day camp portion of the conference center I waitressed for.  This sweet curly headed little brown girl was full of spunk!  It was my job to get her over to the next activity.  She looked at me defiantly and shouted, "YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!", then proceeded to stomp on my foot.  She never stomped on my foot again, but she did gain a sweet place in my heart as I had the opportunity to watch her grow over the years.

The groom is the son of our very first priest.  The picture I keep in my mind of him is from when he was about 12 year old riding his skateboard down the street, tall and lanky.  Little did we know then that he'd fill out into a giant!  He was drafted to play for a professional football team and told his mother he thought he was about ready for a bride, but the women he was meeting were not the kind he wanted to serve the Lord with. 

The grooms mother and I had an opportunity one year to lead a workshop for homeschool family camp.  In the back of the room a lovely young woman asked some very good questions and made very thoughtful contributions to the discussion.  After class as we headed to pick up our little ones from childcare, the grooms mother sighed and said, "that girl seems like she'd be a great match for my son.  Too bad she's so young."  Thankfully I was able to shed some light on the age and character of this young woman.  The groom's mother contacted her son and told him about this young woman.  He was intrigued and asked permission to contact this charming her. 

The groom was living in another state so most of the correspondence was through letters, email or phone.  He had the opportunity to come home for Thanksgiving and enjoyed spending time with this young woman and her family.  One of the outings they arranged was to go to Downtown Santa Cruz and hand out sandwiches to the homeless.  As they were doing this, a homeless man came up to them.  They offered him a sandwich.  He told them, "I'm not hungry right now, but I am cold.  Could I have your sweatshirt?"  Without a second thought this young man took off the only sweatshirt he had brought with him and gave it to the homeless man.  The man was so surprised that he started to cry.  "I've seen a lot of people come down here handing out food and I've asked many of them to give me their jacket and you are the first one to ever actually do it." 

That was the moment.  That was the moment this future bride knew this selfless young man was going to be her husband.  She got a glimpse of his true character, one that desired the Lord, one that treated his neighbor as himself. 

Right here is usually when stories say, "And they lived happily ever after."  In marriage there is not happily ever after.  There are great times, good times and less good times.  There are some downright awful times.  There are many many opportunities to learn to die to self.  When children come along, there is the balancing act between lover, friend and mother.  Marriage can be a great challenge, but that doesn't mean we are failing or that it's all hopeless.  It is part of growing up and learning to trust Christ in every aspect of our lives.  This young couple is a beautiful example of Christ and the Church.  They love and live and keep striving for Christ.  Let us also embrace the struggle along with the blessing and trust our marriages to Christ. 

Icon of Ss. Joachim and Anna, Parents of Mary mother of Jesus

Traditional prayer for a married couple
O Merciful God, we beseech Thee ever to remind us that the married state is holy, and that we must keep it so; Grant us Thy grace, that we may continue in faithfulness and love; Increase in us the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, that no quarrel or strife may come between us; Grant us Thy blessings, that we may stand before our fellows and in Thy sight as an ideal family; And finally, by Thy mercy, account us worthy of everlasting life: For Thou art our sanctification, and to Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer by Archimandrite Nicodim (Mandita)

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, our Sweet Savior, Who taught us to pray always for each other, so that by thus fulfilling the holy law we will be made worthy of Thy mercy: look down with compassion on our married life and keep from all perilous falls, from enemies both visible and invisible, my husband/wife whom Thou hast granted me, that we may pass our time together until the end with oneness of mind. Grant him/her health, strength, and fullness of wisdom enlightened from above, so that he/she may be able to fulfill his/her duties all the days of this life according to Thy will and commandments. Protect and keep him/her from temptations, and may he/she be able to bear and conquer those temptations that come upon him/her. Strengthen him/her in right faith, strong hope, and perfect love, so that together we may do good deeds and that we may order all our life according to Thy divine ordinances and commandments.

O Greatly-Merciful Lord, hear us who humbly pray to Thee, and send Thy divine blessing in truth on our married life and on all our good deeds, for it is Thine to hear and have mercy on us, O our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.


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