It has been an odd week. My wife and I have celebrated the beginning of a life, the end of a life, and yesterday the continuity of a marriage, ours.
The beginning of the life was easy. It was the baptism of the first child of my wife’s niece, which would be the grand daughter of my brother-in-law, who, after the christening left for California on the search for 300 species. The christening went well, and from what I hear from my mother-in-law, the California trip is, thus far, a raging success. I am hoping for all 300!
The end of a life was a bit harder of course. My uncle beat the actuarial tables at 83, but one could argue that from a quality of life standpoint he would have been better off checking out about 4 years ago. The funeral was yesterday, which unfortunately was our anniversary. So we opted to visit the funeral home on Thursday night and pass on the funeral…a cold calculation in some fashion. The calculation would go something like this. Discounting weddings and funerals, I could count on one hand how many times I have seen my uncle in my life. Distance, life style, and some ancient hurt feelings (from before I was born) intervened to keep our families somewhat estranged.
The anniversary? In the past we have always gone on a vacation around our anniversary. Getting older we find less tolerance for the heat and the competition with others indulging in the rite of vacation. So we have moved our vacation to the cooler, less crowded autumn at the cost of somewhat shorter days. So we celebrated our anniversary, with a Sacrament, a dinner, a movie at home, and a cake.
So this has been a week of three Sacraments. The cool thing about going to hell is that you no longer have to play by other people's rules. Well actually you do...you still have to pay taxes, you can’t murder, rape and pillage, and you still have to stop at red lights. But because I am going to a Lutheran hell anyhow, I no longer have to worry about Lutheran rules, regulations, and definitions, just those imposed by the United States Government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The nature of the sin for which I am going to hell, which is not that bad in my opinion, will pretty much send me to hell in any Christian denomination so there was not much point in searching for another brand. The possible exception may be Quakers, they seem to waver a bit on my sin. I have to admit that if I was in the market for an organized religion the Quakers might get the sale. Too old and too set in my ways, and overly churchy people get on my nerves. Faux goody-goodiness gets under my skin. “Are you saved?” To which I always feel two replies well up from my Soul. “Yes, goddamn it”, or “No, quite actually I am going to hell, and you?” The bad thing about churches is that there is always some overly churchy s.o.b. sticking their nose in your business. I actually like churches, the physical structure, especially the old ornate Roman Catholic churches—with all those graven images that my grandmother used to raise hell about. Graven images and pre-marital knocked up-ness were cardinal sins in my grandmother’s book (the term pregnant was reserved for those with a proper marriage license). Sweet, vindictive, woman.
So for me it has been a week of three Sacraments, new life, the passing of life, and the reaffirmation of love. It been too long since I had Lutheran Catechism, I can’t remember what the Lutheran Sacraments are. Baptism certainly, but I am not sure about last rites (I don’t think so), and certainly not sex. Good God no…not sex. Hence the joy in the freedom blessed upon me in going hell. I get to define my own Sacraments.
The first is new life, it parallels Baptism…and Baptism will do, but I don’t believe that the infant I saw needed any sins washed away. She in her infantly innocence has no sin…original or otherwise. She certainly will at some time, being human, but unlike Saint Augustine, I don’t believe that this darling little Soul inherited any original sin through her father’s semen—just DNA. So there is nothing to wash away, and what right do we have to do so anyhow? Really shouldn’t she decide for herself if she needs her sin washed away? So in my mind, due to the fact that there is nothing to wash away, there is no washing. It is a ritual, powerful only in the fact that we give it power, but quite meaningless otherwise. I like Mathew Fox (the previous Catholic—now Anglican priest) believe in Original Blessing not original sin. If you want to shine up that Blessing a bit by dashing some water on an infant’s forehead, have at it. But don’t put horns and a forked tail on the little tyke. There is nothing inherently bad about being human.
Last rites. Now this one is a bit problematic. We opted against the funeral so we were not in a church. We were at the funeral home for about 2 ½ hours. In that period of time, we approached the casket for about 2 ½ minutes. I said something of a prayer for my uncle. Beseeching the Lord to grant everlasting life to this worldly sinner? Hell no. How in the hell can I beseech the Lord in some else’s behalf? And why should I? Maybe they want to go to hell. My uncle was a very religious guy. So I am quite sure that he went (or will go) to Heaven, United Methodist division. In my weirdo home grown, privately bartered faith based on doubt, he never had anything to worry about. Remember Original Blessing? Part of it is a Get of Hell Free card issued to every human Soul. Actually that is a bit of mental ritual. If there is nothing to get out, what the hell do you need the card for?
So you see my uncle was always OK, because he had Original Blessing, the Inner Light, a Divine Soul which does not need to be saved. So he didn’t need any beseeching from some overly churchy s.o.bs (of which I noticed plenty in attendance—the damned goody goodiness dripping off them into a contemptuous pool of slippery ooze waiting to entrap the less than holy like the La Brea Tar Pits) or from a miserable wretch like me. He is fine…always has been fine…always will be fine.
I verified that the thing in the coffin was not my uncle. It had been my uncle, but he is long gone. The thing in the coffin was less my uncle than the photograph beside the coffin. In the photo, you could see the light in my uncle’s eye…that was my uncle, not the gussied up remains of the biological contraption that he once occupied. I don’t feel any dislike for bodies per se, but I am always amazed at just how much the thing in the coffin is not the person you knew and loved. I don’t get that feeling at strangers funerals, you know…the mother of a guy you work with. You never saw her in life, and you sure as hell ain’t seeing her now. You don’t know the “her” that is not there. So it is just the body of stranger, not somebody for which you miss the presence.
So then what is my Sacrament of last rites? Not totally sure myself. Physically I put on the sorrowful face and mumble the “oh you poor old bastard” routine. I even shed a genuine tear. I don’t seem to be able to control tears. But mentally it is quite different. It is more like…”hey you were a good guy. I am sorry that your wife and my mother had some bruised feelings years ago, but you know Ma she had a good bit of your father in her, and well your wife was a bit goody goody. I am genuinely sorry that you worked so damned hard all your life, only to spend the last 4 years in a living hell of Alzheimer’s. Say hi to everyone, tell my mother and father that I miss them. One of the first things to do is find yourself some private wooded glen and get reacquainted with your wife. She has probably learned a thing or two about the glory of love. (Yeah I don’t subscribe to that till death do us part in the marriage jingle. I think there is a lot of squeaky bed springs in heaven—just no weight to make them squeak, so they squeak on their own in pure joy.)
So out of the 2 ½ hours we spent at the funeral home, one sixty-ith of that time was spent in not mourning per se, but blessing a good man who lived a good life. The rest of the time, like the usual visit to a funeral home was devoted to chit chat that starts out with the dearly departed, but usually evolves to totally forgetting about the poor bastard laying in the coffin.
And the final Sacrament of the week? The reaffirmation of the our love for each other. Ahhh the juicy part. Well sorry I am not going to go into the lovely details. Let it suffice to say that we did the standard things that men and women do together in bed. And yes, it was fun, and it was Holy, and thus in my mind a Sacrament.
Sex is a Sacrament? I can see my grandmother spinning in her grave. But, yes I think sex is a Sacrament, a triune Sacrament between woman…man…and God. Points on a Holy Triangle, an Equilateral Triangle. Oh alright, if it suits your purposes put God on top, if you must. (And what the hell while I am being tolerant of your fooling around with my model, go ahead and put what ever genders you need in the two lower points—it is still Holy, even if I don’t understand it).
You should note, I have not said anything about marriage being a Sacrament. It should be, it could be, and often it is…but more often, it is not. In my case it is, and one of the reasons for it being so, is that we routinely practice the Sacrament of sex to help keep it that way. Nor should you take what I am saying as a testament to Tantric sex, which somehow seems to have laid claim to the term Sacred Sex. I think Tantra can be sacred, but not anymore so than orgasmic sex which some practitioners of Tantra look down as being base and animalistic. Once I read the astounding statement that if your partner was not willing to practice Tantra, you should get a new partner. What!!!! Sex is for the maintenance of a loving relationship between human partners and God. God and human relationships do not exist to practice Tantra. The religions of man always throw some BS in the game.
I am not naïve enough to state that all sex is a Sacrament. We know that plenty of it is not. But I will say it should be. It should never be unholy. It should always be practiced with love and with a sense of reverence that what you are doing is a three way pact between you, your partner, and God. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the rest of the world to develop that ideal.
So my wife and I practiced the ancient rite of communion between woman, man, and God. It was wonderful. The thought occurred to me that while we were engaged in a loving embrace of the flesh, that 80 miles away my cousins were laying their father to rest. Is it irreverent to have sex while another is being buried? My grandmother would be tsk tsking, fretting, and probably cursing at the notion if she were alive today. But as I laid in my wife’s arms, I thought to myself, “go on now find that wooded glen, or perhaps in your case an amber field of waving grain, and reaffirm again what you once had here. She has been gone for a long time. Get to know her again.” You see it is that overwhelming doubt that I possess. I really doubt that something a grand as sex is limited to Earth.
We had a nice dinner at her favorite restaurant, then rented a movie and had cake at home. It was a perfect day, and one that I hope to remember for eternity. It has been an odd week. A Trinity of Sacraments, new life, the passing of life, and the affirmation of love. Sometimes I feel the wonder of the Universe and the Holiness that we all possess, but so easily forget. This week has been such a time.