Having dispensed with the customary reading of Corinthians 13:4-8:
- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
- Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
the Minister – the struggling sun alighting his thin face, the leaves from the trees shading his features in ugly patches – turned to the Groom and turned to the Bride, and he asked them each in turn:
“Groom, what is your favorite food?”
“Steak,” was his answer. He had to think about it.
“Bride, what is your favorite food?”
“Chocolate,” she answered without hesitation.
“And do you love steak? Do you love chocolate?” asked the Minister.
“Yes,” answered the Groom.
“Yes,” answered the Bride.
From beneath him, the Minister produced a body. Free of blemishes, unmarred in any conceivable way, it was in a word, perfect.
“The Ancient Greeks,” he began, addressing the Groom and the Bride and us, the Dearly Beloved, his hands hovering gently above the body, “have four words for love.”
He looked down at that perfect body, that immaculate skin.
And he plunged his hand within, producing a horrible shlucking sound as he probed past muscle and sinew, past bone and fat and guts, searching for purchase. He stopped suddenly as he found the love, and with a strength almost unimaginable, he pulled it out for all to see.
“AGÁPE! Spiritual love, good will and benevolence!” he cried. “With this, you love a spouse or you love a dog and are loved in turn and in kind by them. You are content, with this kind of love.”
He held the love before him, where it pulsated, trying to keep in erratic time with the body from which it had been so cruelly torn. Bile oozed from its insides; sugars and toxins spilled from it, unprocessed. Large and unwieldy, the love was tossed back inside the body’s abdominal walls.
The Minister pointed at the Groom, and then to the Bride.
“Do you each have this kind of love for each other? Do you have this love for each other more than you have for steak? FOR CHOCOLATE?”
“Yes,” was the answer, echoed from Groom to Bride.
Throwing his hands up in the air, the Minister continued. I blinked and suddenly he was driving them down again, into the body once more.
“ÉROS! Physical, passionate love. Attraction, romance. I take it you are well acquainted with this love already,” he intoned rather matter-of-factly, indicating the Groom and the Bride as he moved further down the body, grasping the love at last with both hands. A great balloon, he retched it from its place and held it before us all, cradling it as one cradles a newborn. Juices spilled from the love. It churned, searching, questioning; always hungry, forever ravenous.
“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” whispered the Minister, gently rocking the love to and fro and bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Yes,” was the answer, immediate and true.
The Minster nodded curtly and dropped the love into the gaping hole before him. He surveyed the crowd, letting his hands wander along the length of the body.
He came to the head, and paused.
I stared on, unable to look away.
We went in through the eyes.
Pulling this love out in handfuls of chunks and mush, he continued.
“PHILIA! The love of the intellect. Loyalty, virtue and friendship. ‘Mental love!’” he almost screamed, grabbing frantically at the love, fingernails embedding deeply into the grey matter within.
The synapses of the love spurted, firing helplessly into space, trying desperately to connect as the love was thrown haphazardly over the Minster’s head, at the Groom and the Bride, at the crowd of Dearly Beloved. Finally, having run himself ragged, the Minister stopped. He looked down into this red, red hands and regarded the love with something like pity.
And just as simply, he shrugged off the love, flinging its remnants it into the woods behind him.
“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister, wiping his hands on the sides of his trousers.
“Yes,” was the answer. The Groom’s voice flattered, consumed with emotion. The Bride’s chest shuddered, as she tried to hold back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her.
The Minister closed his eyes, breathing heavily, nodding gravely. Finally, he pulled back his arms at impossible angles and plugged first one and then the other fist into the centre of the body. He found what he wanted easily.
“STORGĒ! Affection. LOVING AFFECTION. Familial love, natural love, LOVE OF GOD!!!” he shouted, holding this love high in one triumphant hand, while the other braced itself against the poor, mangled body.
The love pounded and throbbed. It shuddered; chilled by the afternoon breeze, pumping diligently away to serve the others, even at it itself was rapidly losing precious oxygen.
“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister,unwilling or unable to lower his arm, squeezing the love till it was pushed through fingers like tree roots.
“Yes!” answered the Groom and the Bride, both shaking in exquisite agony for what was to come.
“Good. Good. Very good,” said the Minister. He put the love into his back pocket, for later.
Depleted of energy and seeing now his impending irrelevance, the Minister softly proclaimed, “You may then, finally, kiss the Bride. God. Bless. You.”
The Groom, at last, kissed the Bride.
The Bride, breaking the kiss, turned and smiled widely the Dearly Beloved.
And I remember thinking, almost aloud:
Love is, and it wants what it wants.
And who’s going to clean up all this blood?