Now, most people know that I'm not the biggest fan of romantic films. My parents always told me that they weren't looking for love when they found each other. They were friends first, and they both were surprised when the love came into being. They didn't see each other across the room or bump into each other and just magically and randomly fall in love like they were soulmates destined for each other; their friendship took a lot of work, and it slowly grew into the loving marriage they have today.
Now, last night a group of friends and I were watching a romantic comedy. It was the story of two women who traded houses for a vacation away from the men and heartache of their lives. The one from the US fell in lust with an Englishman, while the UK gal found friends in an aging movie writer and a young movie composer. The UK gal fell in love with the composer, of course, but there was something different about how she came into love. She came into friendship first. She was friends with the aging movie writer and the composer, and when the romance came into being it was not because they burned with passion for one another but because they both cared deeply for the writer.
I just finished reading a book on sexuality and the Trinity, and one of the points made was that love happens in three, not two: the Father and the Son need their love to be witnessed by the Spirit. The third party is not a third wheel but is part of the celebration and sanctification of love.
My sermon for tomorrow on St. Aelred of Rievaulx draws heavily on that. Marriage is a sacrament not because it brings us to fulfillment (which marriage may or may not do) but because it shows us the deep, committed love that is possible in human life (and, by extension, the love possible in the life of God and humanity). The witnesses of that love (the church) are not extraneous to marriage but intimately tied up in it. The Eucharist is not the priest letting those laypeople watch as bread and wine become body and blood-the laypeople are part of the Eucharist. Baptism isn't just the sprinking of water over someone- in the church context, it is witnessed and celebrated by the whole church.
Why this treatise on marriage and love? Is it just a defense of my criticism of romantic movies? Well, sort of, but this all goes to show that I'm not bitter and cynical about love. Love is celebrated in friendships with others. Romantic love is not two sets of eyes meeting across a crowded room but rather a specially consecrated friendship which builds up both partners and also builds up the world around them.
I'm not bitter and cynical even though I dislike romantic movies. I love romance which is the fruit of friendship.