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Friend of the Groom...?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 10, 2003

Our sporadically separated brethren have instituted a Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants, now available on the Church Times site. The ceremony is prefaced by some pseudo-legal throat clearing that borders on self-parody:

In order to request this Rite of Blessing each member of the couple must: a) be free to enter into such a covenant. That is, they must not be in an existing covenantal relationship, including marriage. b) Enter the rite with an understanding that the relationship is to be exclusive of any other partners and have the expectation of permanence. c) Satisfy the requirements of any previous relationship. This involves appropriate support of dependants from any previous relationship and the appropriate dissolution and meeting of obligations that arise from the same.

The theatrical solemnity of the nuptial rite wobbles on a kind of high wire. The inherently unstable logic of a gay marriage means the liturgical pastiche by which it is ritualized is in constant danger of tumbling into Monty Pythonesque farce. The double entendres pop irresistibly out of the velveteen prose:

Holy and Eternal One, in the quiet night you have called us each by our own name.
R. In our very heart you have named us beloved.

You surprise us by your grace.
R. We are the fruit of your boundless love.

On our exodus way you nourish and free us.
R. You give us companions for our journey., etc., etc.

One can imagine the concomitant atmospherics all too clearly: imperfectly suppressed giggles from the friends of the spouses and a strained effort at gladness on the part of their parents. Yet what shocked me in reading through the ceremony was less the inversion of the nuptial imagery than the sacrificial language in the Prayer over the Gifts:

Faithful God, with these gifts you offer us communion in your Servant, Jesus Christ. May we who celebrate this sacrament be filled with the same self-offering love made manifest in him. This we ask in Christ's name.

We've all become inured to ritual "camp" -- at least to some extent -- by the manners of ritualists. But to assimilate the action of Calvary to our own society's cowardice in the face of self-indulgence still has the sting of blasphemy.

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