In Good Faith column: A many-splendored thing
“Love is a many-splendored thing.” I could have sworn that was a line from Shakespeare and not just a line with a link to the 1950s. A novel, a song, and a film of that title were all released in that post-war decade. Alas. I was even willing to spell it “splendoured” to make it look more Shakespearean.
Love is in the air this week with the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day. Never mind that we can’t touch or breathe on other people these days, let alone hug or kiss them. And never mind that the day commemorates a third-century priest who was beaten and stoned before his beheading at the hand of the Roman emperor for marrying couples in the Christian faith. So romantic!
But, since love is indeed a many-splendored thing, I’ve been reflecting on the different ways we’ve loved one another during this pandemic. Ironically enough, we’ve shown the greatest love for one another by staying apart. We’ve sacrificed the intimacy of friendships and extended family relationships by picking up the phone or logging onto Zoom. Rather than going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, we FaceTimed her. We found new ways to safely gather with friends, forsaking the indoor hearth for the outdoor fire pit.
At the parish I serve, we’ve been fully remote for worship for nearly a year. Of course, we ache to be with one another in-person, but our context and guiding principle of loving our neighbor precludes that, and we’re willing to wait until it’s safe for us all to regather. This is an act of love, as difficult as it may be. And while our worship may be virtual, our faith is surely not. Which is why we’ve stayed connected to God and one another throughout this time.
While wearing masks has unfortunately been politicized, this too is ultimately an act of love. We wear masks as tangible signs that we care about our fellow human beings. Love involves sacrificing our own interests for the greater common good. Masks, in addition to being practical shields against a deadly virus, are symbols of our love for others. What would Jesus do? He’d wear a mask.
One act of love that’s inspired me recently came about after a phone call from one of my parishioners. She had just spent hours online seeking to secure vaccine appointments for her parents. After successfully working through the serpentine system, she wondered if we might form a small team of tech savvy folks to help older parishioners secure appointments. Within the hour, we were doing just that - providing resources, making calls and navigating online portals on behalf of folks for whom the entire process was daunting. I’m convinced St. Valentine himself would have been proud of this effort.
I invite you to think about the creative ways you have shown love these past months; ways in which you have forged connections and deepened relationships amid trying circumstances. These are all displays of humanity at its very best. Sure, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (definitely Shakespeare). But even without the dozen roses emblematic of romantic love, love is a many-splendored thing. For love is what gives life meaning and infuses it, even during this season of pandemic, with hope.
The Rev. Tim Schenck serves as Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts. His latest book is “Holy Grounds: The Surprising Connection between Coffee and Faith - From Dancing Goats to Satan’s Drink (Fortress Press).” Follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.