Monday, September 11, 2006

A Marriage

From Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1651)
Stratocles the Physitian, upon his wedding day, when he was at dinner . . . could not eate his meat for kissing of the bride, &c. First a word, and then a kisse, then some other complement, and then a kisse, then an idle question, then a kisse, and when he hath pumped his wittes dry, can say no more, kissing and colling are never out of season, . . ’tis never at an end, another kisse, and then another, another, & another, &c.

My friends Sandy and Sarah were married yesterday. The ceremony featured
the reading of Genesis 2:18-24:
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

I know this passage has been used through the years by those whose primary interest in religion is as a justification for placing women under the control of men. But regardless of how the Bible’s authors present the creation of Woman, the moment of recognition, down through the millennia, rings true: none of the others the Lord shows Adam is right, but when he sees Woman, he knows, “This is bone of my bone.”

It doesn’t happen for everyone—and the skeptic in me warns that sometimes when it does happen, it can’t entirely be trusted—but love at first sight can be real and glorious. I don’t know if Sandy and Sarah really knew the moment they met, but yesterday we heard again and again from friends and family who did see it, clear and beautiful, when they first saw the couple together.

Though the historical resonance and familiarity of the King James version of the Bible usually leads me to prefer it to any other, in this case I actually like Robert Alter’s recent translation a bit better, especially once he gets to that moment of recognition:
And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.” And the Lord God fashioned from the soil each beast of the fields and each fowl of the heavens and brought each to the human to see what he would call it, and whatever the human called a living creature, that was its name. And the human called names to all the cattle and to the fowl of the heavens and to all the beast s of the field, but for the human no sustainer beside him was found. And the Lord God cast a deep slumber on the human, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been, and the Lord God built the rib He had taken from the human into a woman and He brought her to the human. And the human said:

“This one at last, bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh,
This one shall be called Woman,
for from man was this one taken.”

Therefore does a man leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they become one flesh.

This one at last.

Congratulations, Sandy and Sarah. The years are ahead of you; be each the other’s sustainer.

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