Thursday, April 24, 2014

Odes to Joy: An Invitation and a Blessing

I'm counting the hours. In a few months, my life odometer flips over to 50, but that's not what I'm counting. I'm ticking off the minutes to Saturday afternoon, 4pm Pacific Daylight Time, when I Mel Soriano will marry my fiance Stephen. We've been planning, researching, and shopping since the SCOTUS Windsor/DOMA decision and, frankly, I'll be glad when the practical, detailed, tedious considerations of a big church wedding are finally over.
Melvin Soriano and Stephen Mulder

Oh don't get me wrong. I'm not counting to get it over. I'm counting because in a way, despite the stress, despite the anxiety, despite the dramas of who will or will not attend, I'm flat out, overwhelmingly overjoyed. It's not a simple joy. This joy is bubbling over from a deep well, an ecstatic effervescent thrill that has almost no equal. I'm getting married and, having been raised Roman Catholic, particularly as a Filipino Roman Catholic, it never seemed possible that I would be given this blessing.

I'm counting down the hours because the joy of being blessed in holy matrimony is so intense that I don't want it to end.

Stephen and I have known each other for some time, so I doubt I'm naive about the effort needed to succeed as a couple. And we all know that, as they say, the honeymoon eventually has to end. But the blessing remains. The marriage, if nurtured and nourished, grows deeper and stronger.

One doesn't have a joy like this often. I actually remember only one other time when I felt this ecstatic. Surprisingly, this parallel eluded me until I sat beside and lunched with Victoria Ix, the Director of Communications of the Diocese of Western Massachussettes, at this year's Episcopal Communicators annual conference in Chicago. We were exchanging our life journeys, and it's from our discussion that this article arises.

The other time I was this ecstatic was my recommitment to the church. As I mentioned, I was raised Roman Catholic, but their stance on LGBT drove me away during high school. It still saddens me. I wanted to be a part of the church, but felt excluded from one of its most important blessings. I stopped going to church, though I would periodically sneak back in, wrapped in anonymity, to be closer to the God I yearned to know. I didn't want my friends to find out that I sought out religion because so many had been hurt by the Church and it seemed callous to bring up painful memories.

In essence, I was out as a gay man, but in the closet as a religious human being.

Things changed when I was invited and welcomed into the Episcopal Church. I was overjoyed and truly humbled by my inclusion at the table. From a place of hunger to a place of spiritual feasting, I found more happiness than I had ever realized possible. Oh sure, I have doubts, but actually I love those question marks. It means that I'm thinking, that I'm praying, that I'm always seeking out those thin spaces to deal with the challenges of life and spirit.

My blessing this Saturday will be the second time that I've experienced complete joy at All Saints Church Pasadena. I pray that those who are single, both by situation or by choice, will find or continue to get what feeds them, but I know from my heart that this blessing is nourishing me through and through. On both occasions, one an invitation to live as Christ asked us to live, the other to be blessed in the vocation of marriage, I marched through dark, arid deserts and walked out into holier pastures. I fully grasp the concept of the word "sacrament" when I feel this joy. So many prayers to those in states or dioceses that obstruct or delay this blessing from its people.

So today, with manna for my soul and songs of joy, I count the minutes so that I can always remember this time. And I count the hours, days, weeks, and years when all of us who struggle with how God made us vs how society treats us, when all who wait for the arc of history to bend towards justice, when all of us children of God can bathe in the light and be blessed in the body of Christ.

Mel has invited Integrity to watch the live stream of his wedding at
Saturday April 26 at 3:50pm PDT

Mel Soriano
Integrity Board of Directors (Director of Communications, Secretary)
Vestry/Coventry Choir/Taizé/Labyrinth All Saints Pasadena

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