(Originally posted July 26, 2009)

There is a video sweeping YouTube that (unfortunately) explains a lot of what is wrong with Americans’ conception of marriage:

While the complete lyrics are at the end of this post, let’s go through the lines that do not scream “true love,” “lifelong covenant,” “for better or for worse”:

It’s you and me moving
At the speed of light into eternity,
Tonight is the night to join me in the rhythm of ecstasy.

Despite the poetic *brilliance* of these lines, this is not the way to begin a marriage. The wedding day, indeed, may pass at the speed of light. All the planning that goes into that one day may seem overblown given that it is just one day in what you hope will be thousands. But it is fitting to set that initial day apart, to mark it by a certain celebration and solemnity consistent with what the day brings about.

The sacramental bond brought about in marriage must mean more than this:

It’s like I’ve waited my whole life for this one night
It’s gonna be me you and the dance floor
’cause we’ve only got one night
Double your pleasure
Double your fun and dance

Those who wait their whole lives for one night of doubled pleasures are in for a rude awakening. For many marriages, the “ecstasy” and “pleasure” can pass as quickly as it came. The build up to the one wedding day is often an inadequate preparation for the lifetime of marriage.

Which is why I find videos like this–and the fact that they are a cultural phenomenon–to be very frightening. Could you imagine any other sacrament being celebrated this way? Why is it that priestly ordinations, baptisms, and other sacraments have far more solemnity attached to them? (For critics, yes, I am sure this kind of music and dancing would be allowed at some Catholic Masses. The fact that they might beallowed, however, does not mean it is right to allow it.) No priest I know would want anything like this style of music to be played at his ordination. It would demean the dignity of the day, and the dignity of the vocation. I believe it does the same thing for marriage.

TIME magazine recently wondered about the state of the American marriage, and the many unfaithful relationships the article highlights shows why foundations built on “me, you, and the dance floor” are not enough:

An increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principals, the intact, two-parent family remains our cultural ideal, but it exists under constant assault.

But I’m not so sure that the assault waged on marriage comes from without. Couples often wage war against their own marriages, always thinking that they bargained for something more, something better, something else. They want the “rhythm of ecstasy” to beat throughout their lives no matter what happens.

And things will happen. “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” Those are not words of flattery. They have real meaning. They bring about a real and lasting bond. And they bring about the grace to persevere. As the TIME article puts it:

The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it — given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized — simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren’t many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.

Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood?

While marriage is not only for the next generation and there is genuine pleasure between spouses without necessary reference to children, there is a teleological aspect to marriage that we should not set aside lightly. We are called, as couples, to mirror on earth Christ’s relationship with the Church. We are to be the living signs of the bond that Christ brought about through the Incarnation. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” (See Eph. 5)

The kind of sacrifice and dedication required of a man to live up to this calling does not come from “one night” and certainly not at “the speed of light.” Developing a sacrificial heart comes only after time, after actually sacrificing for your wife, and after experiencing some kind of death to self. It is, in short, a lesson in humility. It is not a chance to “double your pleasure / double your fun,” though genuine pleasure and contentment will come along with it. It is ultimately a time to love as Christ loved, to die to self, and to tap into the grace of the marriage sacrament.

* * * * * * * * * *

The full lyrics:

It’s you and me moving
At the speed of light into eternity yer,
Tonight is the night to join me in the rhythm of ecstasy.
Feel the melody in the rhythm of the music around you, around you
I’m gonna take you there, I’m gonna take you there
So don’t be scared
I’m right here baby
We can go anywhere, go anywhere
But first it’s your chance,
Take my hand come with me

[Chorus:]
It’s like I’ve waited my whole life for this one night
It’s gonna be me you and the dance floor
’cause we’ve only got one night
Double your pleasure
Double your fun and dance
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever girl forever
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever (ever, ever)
Forever on the dance floor

Feels like we’re on another level
Feels like our loves intertwined,
We can be two rebels breaking the rules
me and you, you and I
All you got to do is watch me
Look what I can do with my feet
Baby feel the beat inside,
I’m driving you can take the front seat
Just need you to trust me
Oh ah oh
It’s like!

[Chorus]

It’s a long way down,
We’re so high off the ground,
Sending for an angel to bring me your heart
Girl, where did you come from?
Got me so undone,
Gazing in your eyes got me singing what a beautiful lady
No “if”s, “and”s or “maybe”s
I’m releasing my heart and it’s feeling amazing
There’s no one else that matters
you love me and I won’t let you fall girl
Let you fall girl oh
Ah ah ye yer
I won’t let you fall, let you fall
Let you fall oh oh
Yer yer
Yer yer
It’s Like!

[Chorus]

Oh ah ah ah ah ah
Yer
Forever (ever, ever, ever)
Forever ever ah.

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