This is a phrase that has dripped into my consciousness lately. Usually filtered through some larger context of an idea aimed for, but perhaps not quite reached.
The Marriage of Heaven and Earth.
It all begins, of course, with the concept of romantic love. I have always smiled benignly when I have read how mystics have thrown open not just their souls but also their hearts to God. Open themselves up to feel cravings, and satisfyings, the depth of sorrow and the bliss of, well, bliss. For God.
For the air that we breathe, the surging of the ocean, the burning of the forests.
I love you, they scream in their words.
So I smile. What else is there for me to do?
Thérèse of Lisieux (most definitely NOT one of my favorite mystics) tells a story in her book, The Story of a Soul, about how one day as a girl she was so overcome by the beauty of the Earth, by her love of God in experiencing this beauty, that she could only look Heaven-ward as she walked home and her sweet, indulgent father was forced to guide her steps as they walked.
I love you, she always seemed to scream. Out loud. To her family. In her writing. In her dreams.
I love you.
It has overwhelmed me lately to realize that the entirety of Christianity is poised on this most fragile, most vulnerable of emotions. Like a herd of elephants balancing on a crystal point.
How is this accomplished, I wonder?
How does the crystal point of love hold up, sustain, complete, even, in its own way, the entirety that is God?
The point of meeting, of merging, of marriage.
I can call it Heaven and Earth. But I can also call it, the absolute and the relative.
And the relative is the relative in its imperfection, its imbalance, its impreciseness. Its failure. Ants go in the wrong direction and get lost; an avalanche kills a herd of sheep on the road below; war rips apart the landscape of all it touches.
In the relative realm, we have to take what we get, and if that means a heart full of love ripped apart by circumstances, then that is what it means. That is what we are left with: a handful of ashes, and some memories.
So how then can the relative merge with the absolute? How does imperfection make a match with perfection? How does balance find its rest in imbalance?
It would mean that the relative would have to open itself up to the vastness of the absolute. And the absolute would have to find a home, a security, in the relative.
It would mean that the relative would have to find the strength not to be overwhelmed by the absolute. And the absolute would have to find ways not to overwhelm, but to find a fit in the human, the small.
The always-there-ness of God’s love can be battered and compromised by our, the relative’s, loneliness, our boredom, our need for something tangible, something we can touch and know. How absolute can we be in our love in the face of eternity, we who can count our days as relative?
It is ironic, even, that it is the reality of love in our relative world that can be an instigation of our turning away from God. If we had to choose between love and God, which would we choose? If we chose love, would it be because it was there for us to have and to hold?
But the marriage of Heaven and Earth is the ultimate coming together. It is, in spite of Tillich’s assertion in the sermon I recently posted, Loneliness and Solitude, an end of aloneness.
Both for Heaven. And for Earth.
Heaven gives to Earth a place to blossom and truly express itself. Earth gives to Heaven the means to create, to have the hands, the legs, the words to express itself. The relative grounds the absolute so that its expression is possible on Earth.
This marriage, this love, brings it all together: the seen and the unseen, the light and the dark, the weak and the strong. Marriage means to bring together, and when the absolute and relative merge, something new is created.
And Eden is regained.