The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take of the free gift of the water of life. – Revelation 22:17
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This invitation to spiritual life is proclaimed as a wedding feast. Join in! (And who needs wine when there’s the “free gift of the water of life.”)
Spiritual practice means entering a covenant relationship, involving promises not just to each other, but with God as well. For most of us, our closest, most intimate human relationship vitally enhances the I-Thou encounter in other facets of our living.
And so, what I find myself moving toward is a recognition of what already exists: a couple who find that they share the dynamic of suitable helper one for the other, and that they sense this to be lifelong commitment, enhancing their spiritual and human journey.
It is important for Friends to remember that in Quaker theology, there are no “sacraments.” The term is not scriptural, and in his Apology, Robert Barclay thoroughly trounces the concept of sacraments. Thus, we do not consider marriage a sacrament. (Curiously, “marriage” is not even listed in the index!)
I believe we can still define some basic aspects or ideal conditions of marriage: It is monogamous, by definition (although monogamy may become an idol, at least without forgiveness). Lifetime – otherwise, it’s not really a commitment, is it? Has sexual nurture and bonding. Involves a helpmeet – that suitable helper and companion. Exists as a household within our community (the meeting is one of the modern forms of a village: to draw on an African saying, “It takes an entire village to raise a child”). It is public. It places voluntary boundaries upon individual sexual behavior. Encourages economic and emotional support and sharing. Offers a place for each person to rise above lusts of the flesh and move on to more universal concerns.
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Who now, that rightly considers this Dispensation of Favour, but must needs cry out, O the Height, and Depth, and Breadth, and Length of the Love of God, and of Jesus Christ our Saviour! who took not on him the Nature of Angels, but took on him the Seed of Abraham, and was made in every Thing like unto us, only without Sin, that he might restore fallen Men; which Thing I know will readily be granted. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)