Valentines for us all.

Mark Harris

(poetmark@worldnet.att.net)

Friends invited us to a dinner party: four couples, each to bring a dish. It was held the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, and so of course it was meant to be an occasion to share something about love in our lives. It was a delightful meal, simple and elegant. Our hosts finally brought the focus of conversation to a recall of romantic memories of each person for their mate. It was a gentle, pleasant time, unforced; the moment was filled with trust. And, so, we went around the candlelit table, each sharing something of romance.

Some spoke of the first time they met their mate, others of times of closeness, others still of how their hearts rose and sank with love. One shared the love she had for her mate who helped her try to find her birth mother. Two spoke of the words of love and commitment shared years ago when they publicly committed themselves to one another.

In our weary world we cannot help make the distinctions of the times. So it must be remarked that two were woman-man couples and two were woman-woman couples. But at that table, graced by the presence of loving kindness and trusting friends, there was not the wall of separation such distinctions are meant to reinforce. Of course there were moments, experiences recounted, pains and delights revealed, that made us aware that love and care was found with cost and joy different on some level because of this distinction’s importance in society and in the church.

What most struck me was the care of all of us around that table in not assuming distinctions in love, in care, in delight or kindness. We were simply there together at Valentine’s time, with open hearts. At this table we passed the bread of loving kindness, and drank the wine of joy.

What was most sad to me was the knowledge that although surely an icon of the banquet in heaven, this table was not an icon of the altar in the church. Something about this meal was sacred beyond the sinfulness of Church supported distinctions and separations. I wished the Church actual and political, visceral and real, might have been a place for that table, around which such simple joys were had. I wished the Church could have proclaimed the blessing of each of these couples, for every one was blessed. I wished that the Church might say, "bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death." (BCP, p.430) But in our present state of prejudice there is less often a Church location for the table of our companionship and for this blessing.

I consider righteousness proclaimed to be worth nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed. Where loving kindness of companions in life is proclaimed, and the joys of touch and taste and the leap of heart is recounted as a mark of that life sharing, it will be said that God indeed is close by and with us, and that we are close to the Glory.

I have now been a guest at the table with such fine company. I cannot hide now behind the church’s cautionary use of continued dialogue, debating the propriety of the guest list at any table. I must take my place beside my companions, or excuse myself and eat elsewhere. My "yes" must be "yes", and my "no," "no."

And, dear friends, I choose "yes" to the companionship of that table; "yes" to the peace and joy and laughter; "yes" to the echo of love in the eyes of other life companions to their most loved ones; "yes" to my life companion of these last thirty-three and counting years. For each time I say "yes" I do so to the heavenly banquet as well. And I will, God being my helper, say "no" with greater clarity to the continued discontinuity between that table Saturday night and the altar on Sunday morning.

Although I am sometimes a slow learner, good friends are teaching me at last the centrality of loving kindness to the breaking of the bread and the presence of the Word.

Happy Valentine’s Day (somewhat after the fact) to us all.


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