“We’re almost there. Cold feet?” Jim asked Jane.
“I can’t believe we’re going through with this,” she shook her head.
“Hey, at least I didn’t make you walk five steps behind me,” he smiled, and she poked him in the ribs in response.
They hurried up the steps into church, entering just as the bells started ringing. They hugged and Jim made his way to the first row of pews. Jane watched him go, and found her own pew half way back. As she sat during the liturgy, she thought back to their last Pre-cana class.
“Seriously? Why don’t we just sit boy girl boy girl like in school?” Jane said. “That’s what this sounds like.” She and Jim were sitting at the Anderson’s kitchen table with their sponsoring couple.
“Let me quote a passage, and then I will explain,” said Bill, Phyllis Anderson’s husband.
Jane half-listened as Father Rick read from the Gospel, “… and your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” She craned her neck, and could see Jim up in the first row, one man among a number of other young to middle aged men, plus a few teenage boys. No women were sitting up there. Above him the Cross dominated her view, with Christ Crucified taking it all in, never once blinking.
“That passage has served to explain or justify man’s rule over women. Woman was punished by servitude to man.” Phyllis explained.
“Yes. ‘Eve’s curse.’ I know it,” Jane added.
“It may have well been called Eve’s Prophecy,” Bill continued. “Her seed did crush the serpent’s head. Did the fulfillment abrogate the curse in any way? There is no male or female in Christ as Paul said.”
Phyllis chimed in, “We are free of the law, but need the help of the Holy Spirit to fully exercise that freedom. If you don’t think so, there are plenty of divorcees who would disagree.”
As she listened to the homily, Jane thought about Jim, and a passage from The Book of All Saints that stayed with her:
For Clare, love takes on a concrete reality in Francis. Because Francis is a whole man, and perfectly pure, Clare is able to see the Lord through him. Francis and Clare possess a common task of making love for the Lord concrete.
Light streaming through a stained glass window from the low winter sun illuminated Jim’s pew. She looked at the Cross and thought some more.
Phyllis went on: “The thing about the word is that it is always new, and in its ever more we may find new yet true meanings. The passage makes no mention of a desire for God. If a woman’s desire is for her husband, then she has put God in second place. It is less likely that the man she has chosen will be a man of God. More likely a man of the world.
Bill said: “As an exercise in discernment, Father Rick and some of the priests in the other parishes are asking engaged couples to sit apart at Mass. Men up front, women behind them. The women are asked to meditate on this scripture, and consider whether their future husbands are trying to put on Christ, or just trying to put them on.”
“And its actually expanded beyond that. The boys, or men, in the youth group are also encouraged to sit up front. Their less likely to be checking out their female classmates and more likely to focus on the Mass.”
Jane’s mind drifted into thoughts about work and wedding planning. She was a perfectionist, and liked to get things her own way. Juggling the two had been a trial. Jim was patient, and patiently endured her short-temperedness with him. He did not cower, but let her anger pass through him as if he didn’t feel it. He would continue on with whatever he was doing or saying as if nothing happened, never taking the opportunity to lash back.
During communion, they made eye contact as he walked back to his pew. He winked at her before taking his seat. She managed to keep a straight face. She thought back to their first date, as they walked back to their car from the theater. Jim had kept insisting that he walk between her and the curb. If a car drives by through a puddle, the water will hit me, not you. They had made a game of it, she would cut to his curb side when he wasn’t watching, and then he would hold her arm and cross over behind her to his watchdog position.
“Miss me?” Jim said as they walked down the center aisle after Mass.
“You saw that light streaming through that stained glass window?”
“Yeah? It nearly blinded me.” he cocked his head.
“It covered everyone but you.” He poked her in the ribs.
After they left, they passed the Andersons, arm in arm, on their walk to the car. “Look, they’re still together!” Bill joked.
“Yes, I’m stuck with her,” Jim pretended to nod his head sadly, while taking up his outside position near the curb.
“Let the games begin,” Jane said, grinning up at him.