In 1994, in a little country church in North Dakota, Ruth and I had the great blessing of being married on the vigil of one of the chief feasts of the Virgin Mother of God, of whom Luther said, "No woman can inspire such pure thoughts in a man as this virgin." How fitting to embark on the gloriously rough, strange road of marriage with such a Marian backdrop. The truest, purest, most blessed and fruitful marriage is that between Christ and the Church, and so the holy life of Mary serves to remind us, among other things, of this great marital dimension of the Church's (and the Christian's) life in Christ, for Mary is the perfect pattern and image of the Church.
As glorious as marriage truly is, I dare not glory in it, for as the text upon which Ruth's father preached that day tells us, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." All of life for those baptized into Christ, it turns out, is shaped by the cross. It's all about Jesus, the forgiveness of sins which He won for us by His death, the life we have in Him, our identity in Him. Even the high calling of marriage serves to conform us to His sacrificial life and death. It is the setting of God's love and forgiveness in Christ, shared among Christ's members. Another way to consider this mystery is that the paschal mystery of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection life is lived out in the life of those who are in Christ. As Gerard Manley Hopkins writes,
for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces
When we embrace our vocations, we embrace the holy cross. Such an embracing will always be fruitful. The fruit is not always ours to predict nor easy to identify from a fleshly point of view. But it is there. And so I do glory in this way of the cross.
Happy anniversary, Ruth. Seventeen years and counting.