Copulation is everywhere in America. Cosmo will tell you, each and every month, 57 new ways to please your man in bed. Major infotainment sites rank celebrity bulges, plus tell you what stringy, over-exercised star is doing which muscle-bound pretty boy. Target sells bondage gear so you can pick up a blindfold with your toothpaste and precooked chicken. Commercials, movies, television, and Internet pound into us that everyone, everywhere is pounding each other all the time. Add to the equation actual porn that is only a few keystrokes away.
All this for a process that—let’s face it—is pretty simple mechanics. Copulation, in the twenty-first century, is no mystery.
If C.S. Lewis wrote Narnia to be a place where it is always winter but never Christmas, we have created a culture in which it’s always copulation and never consummation.
Consummation. That’s an old-fashioned word we do not hear much anymore. But it’s time to bring the word back.
Consummation Wears Many Disguises
Actually, consummation never left. It just went underground. It is everywhere. It’s the moment when Rose makes Jack the king of the world, when Andie McDowell’s Rita buys Bill Murray’s Phil at “Groundhog Day’s” bachelor’s auction, when it’s clear Maria will never be a nun. In a movie, you know when two characters find each other at last, they cement together. Perhaps Harry said it best as he raced to Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Consummation contains within its borders that moment when two people fall in love, the kind of love that changes their reality, that inspires people to move across the country, change dreams, alter the course of their life. It embodies the kind of love that means nothing will ever be the same again.
It’s the moment two “I’s” become a “We,” when love becomes a Fact with a capital F, a thing above and beyond the parties involved, uncontrollable, wild, durable, powerful. Love becomes more than a wish, more than a longing. It becomes a reality, written on the heavens and not easily escaped. When it breaks, it hurts desperately.
Consummation is all about sex but not just about copulation. Animals copulate, but human beings consummate.
Consummation Combines Desire and Fulfillment
The word “consummation” does not mean what we have colloquially reduced it to: just another version of “copulation.” It is so much richer. It means to bring to perfection, to fulfill, to complete, or bring something to its highest level.
Only consummation combines the wanting and the having, desire and fulfillment. Lovers have and hold, thirst and drink, hunger and taste in a perpetual mix. They have their cake and eat it too. It defies explanation, rising above rational thought to the realm of poetry: a cycle, a repeating dance, a never-ending song. As Maroon 5 sings, “I’ve had her so many times and somehow I want more.” It values the beloved in the morning as much as the night before, wants him more with each having.
More than anything, like Kate promised Jack, consummation never lets go. It spans eras, becoming in itself an eternal thing, released from the bounds of time. A young husband loves his wife in joyful anticipation of growing old together. An octogenarian husband makes love to the beloved girl he married when he takes his wrinkled bride to bed. Consummation cannot fit in anything less than a joyful lifetime.
People of faith know that the union of two lovers in mutual desire and satisfaction becomes an icon. An “icon” is a beautiful thing in itself that also points to and incarnates a greater, richer thing. Loving, lifelong consummation is an icon of the love of God for his human creation. But these are great mysteries, as St. Paul tells us.
The irony, of course, is that mere copulation is a poor way to find consummation. It happens, of course, rarely, that loveless sex leads to love. But more often, it leads to heartbreak. Love leads to sexual consummation, not the other way around.
The real miracle, in today’s world, is that so many young people, with no remaining social or religious pressure to do so, go ahead and opt for the hope and cock-eyed optimism of lifelong commitment. It’s a brave thing to do, to grasp for the golden ring of consummation, to believe in such an audacious and terrifying finality, to put one’s very heartbeat in the hands of another person.
The only thing more scary is to never find it at all.