Not that long ago "being committed" here in Jawja meant involuntary incarceration in the insane asylum at Milledgeville. Or it implied you’d digested the complete works of Flannery O’Conner.
|Duck & Bud Invoke Ancient Rite of Same-Sex Union|
My commitment to Duck was a different matter.
Duck & I became a couple eleven years ago, but we’d fallen in love before that.
In 1999, on the eve of Y2K, we marked new beginnings with formal commitment, not a marriage recognized by the United States government, or the state of Jawja, but for us, a passage uniting friends, families and our futures here in Sandtrap, in the home place of my ancestors.
Our minister told us some of the oldest Christian liturgies were for same-sex unions.
Ancient same-sex unions were news to us.
Duck was raised Methodist, I, Southern Baptist. We only got the church history they wanted us to hear.
Fortunately, a Yale University history professor, John Boswell, now deceased, translated several of these venerable rites.
Inspired by so-called “Y2K,” we chose a service of same-sex union from Y1K housed within an abbey at Grottaferrata in Italy. (See the full script here.)
These "crownings," as they were once known, begin with placing crowns on the couple's heads and end with a prayer for the crowns' removal.
The liturgy calls for the union to take place inside a church and to be conducted by both a priest and a deacon.
As stipulated, Duck & I stood before the Cross holding lighted candles in our left hands.
Before 120 of Sandtrap’s finest – our friends and family – we joined right hands upon the Gospel.
First, prayers were said for long-ago martyred same-sex couples. These included Serge & Bacchus, Cosmas & Damian, Perpetua & Felicitas, Cyrus & John. They had been martyred for commitment to their God, not each other.
Then there were prayers for the two of us.
The stipulated scriptures were read. We received communion, an element specified by all ancient liturgies for same-sex union. The patron saints of same-sex unions may be Serge and Bacchus, but Bacchus was just a name and had nothing to do with the Roman god of wine.
At least four Popes selected Serge's name for themselves before these ancient offices fell out of favor.
A post-ceremony highlight was our honeymoon visit to the monastery in Grottaferrata where 1000 years ago monks copied by hand what we now consider "our" ceremony.
Grottaferrata is a hill town outside Rome.
We set out from our B&B, a converted countryside stable, on foot following broken-English directions and a flawed map.
We arrived belatedly for Sunday vespers.
The tiny ornate church at Grottaferrata is nestled within an abbey resembling more a medieval fortification than a place of worship.
Darkly hooded monks recited prayers.
They chanted and bowed under the spirited guidance of a sprightly priest in vestments of chartreuse and gold. He rang bells, ripped altar curtains open and closed, and repeatedly swung incense over the congregants.
Duck & I left before services ended.
It was late; the walk was long.
And blood oozed from my palms.
On the way to the abbey, some distance outside the gates, a loose grate in the pavement flipped when I stepped on it.
I broke my fall with outstretched hands, but the tumble resulted in a skint knee, and sharp pebbles pierced my palms.
The wounds bore uncanny resemblance to stigmata.
Of course, the marks were there for the rest of the trip.
Every church in Italy has at least one statue looking Heavenward displaying his or her bleeding hands.
I gave each a knowing nod, "Yeah, stigmata are easy. I know exactly what happened. You fell."
(To read the entire script of our 1,000 year-old same-sex commitment ceremony, click here.)
Up next in the Heart of Jawja:
“Tater Tots in Mourning” chronicles the immolation of Sandtrap’s elder exhibitionist, Tater Tarver. (Go!)
© Phil Comer
Nonfiction. Names of state and community have been changed.
Text is copyright material of the author. Photo by Nick Oza. Unless stated otherwise, links outside this blog are for information and not the property of the author.