For Brendan and Rosie’s wedding this summer, the first reading was taken from Gregory of Nazianzus’ Carmina 1.2.1. 262-275, 283-287. Brendan supplied a prose translation, but because your blogger here is that kind of guy, I felt impelled to look up the passage in Gregory’s original Greek and work it out for myself. Let it be acknowledged that this may be the only passage in which GRegory has anything favourable to say about marriage, and even here he praises it only to set up celibacy as a preferable alternative; still, if one doesn’t worry too much about intention and context, it’s a pleasant enough poem. I’m not sure I agree wtih the aspects of marriage he approves, and I frown as I try to imagine the comparison of married life to an amiable leaping colt. Then again, he’s a Doctor of the Church, and I’m just a doctor in a church.
As the sermon process wove and coiled and spooled and tangled, it occurred to me that the Greek might be translated into blank verse in English, with only
a little some a certain amount of torturing the syntax. So I, undeterred from a little syntax-twisting in a good cause, ended up with this:
To one another hands, ears, feet we are,
once wed. A twofold strength our marriage brings:
Well-wishers’ double joy, ill-wishers’ pain.
Who share in common sorrow, lighten grief;
who share in merriment, laugh sweeter still.
More pleasant wealth, to minds harmonious;
more pleasant harmony to paupers, than that wealth.
To both, wedlock’s the key to prudent minds
and seal of love’s affectionate demand.
A colt, whose bounding friendship heals a mood;
a sip from home’s fresh well, reserved for home,
nor gushing out, nor bottled for export.
One nature in the flesh, like minds, of piety
a spur to one another — desire piques like with like.
. . .
Sed contra, single hearts live light,
requiring only trivial aid from God,
while those protecting partner, property,
and progeny — these sail upon life’s deeps.
They need God’s help the more, and God provides
the more; therefore, God treats them mercifully.
It won’t be nominated for any awards, but if some other patrologist invites me to preach at a wedding featuring Gregory’s encomium on the married state, I may have this in my pocket (so to speak) to work from.