That phrase popped into my mind as I was waking up this morning, after a night of confused and rather strange dreams. Do people even say that part of the old wedding vows anymore? Evidently not. It's probably considered "politically incorrect." Ha!
I’ve been wondering where the heck "with my body, I thee worship" came from. What is its background and history? Is it even possible to trace something like that? I’ve got it stuck in my brain that, somehow, this is connected to very ancient goddess-worship practices that predate Christian customs by several thousands of years.
So, I did a google search and several Christian sites popped up that talk about the history of marriage in the west – some pretty interesting stuff. This research indicates that originally it wasn’t the priest (religious figure) that created the marriage, so to speak, in western tradition; instead, it was the act of the couple making vows to each other, not necessarily in the presence of witnesses other than themselves (and God, of course, an invisible but present witness), and/or ACTING as a married couple - actually moving in together and sharing a household and a bed, that formed the marriage commitment. The ideal setting for a sexual relationship was within the context of this kind of permanent, committed relationship. As one blog put it:
…love and passion, romance and affection [were] never meant to be expressed too casually, given too cheaply. Our bodies so tender, our emotions so fragile and our hearts so vulnerable are meant to be protected and honored. We are learning to give our bodies as an act of worship, of devotion, love and service to one person until death parts us.
Sounds about right to me, but then, I’m an old-fashioned girl.
I thought that this kind of sentiment was pointing me in the right direction, particularly when I read at the same website:
The pleasure of love, as God intended it, reveals a simple, shared pattern for a lifetime of love: he adores, she invites, they endure.
Hmmmm, ‘he adores, she invites, they endure.’ Sure sounds like the Goddess to me. Sexual union as an expression of love between a committed couple framed within the concept of sacredness – the act of union invoking something beyond and greater than the physical and emotional pleasure involved. In this context, sexual union is a spiritual event that invites ecstasy and opens one to the divine. This kind of intimacy is as far beyond "having sex" as Chateau Lafite wines are from sewer water.
On the history of the phrase, I didn't find much and don't want to spend too much time on this when there are so many other things demanding my attention. It is part of the old English wedding vows that many of us grew up hearing in old movies on television, starting out "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here…" It should go without saying that the traditions behind the prayers, rites and rituals recorded in the Book of Common Prayer are extremely old, and were formed and practiced hundreds, maybe thousands of years, before they were written down. According to this site, it was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who inserted the phrase "with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow" into the wedding vows, which survive in the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer. The writer at that website observed "Eros does not necessarily mean "lust," but often means "desire for union." It is from this truth that so many Christian mystics -- men and women -- went on to see Christ as their lover, or how the prophet Hosea could describe God as wooing back an unfaithful Israel."
Ahhhh, religious mystical traditions. The great mystery schools of the ancient goddesses; the Tantric traditions of the Hindus. People titter behind their hands about these traditions, they having been distorted into "sacred prostitution" and the 1,001 positions for "having sex" to try from the Kama Sutra. Totally and utterly missing the point, but since the Age of Enlightment befell us in the West we insist upon seeing ourselves – our "minds" – as separate and distinct from our physical bodies. And we have no souls or hearts. Thus, we titter and think about "sex" – something everyone "has" but no one talks about except who has the bigger penis, the most "notches on the bedstead", locker room jokes and snickers, hoochie koochie dolls in hip hop trash clothes who think they're "sexy" and women with size 42C breasts. Now how stupid is that?
I’ll take the way of the Goddess, thank you very much!