At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass yesterday morning, as the distribution of the Eucharist began during Holy Communion, I looked up, and in my mind’s eye, I saw the beautiful image of a lady dressed for her wedding. She was standing in the sanctuary to the right of the priest, our parochial vicar, who was facing the nave and distributing the Blessed Sacrament. She was also facing the people who went up to receive Jesus.
She was fully covered in a white matrimonial gown which appeared to be made of linen with pearls woven in (there were shiny glimmers here and there). There was no silk, no saffron veil, but all like a finely woven embroidery of linen covering her hair and face and draping over her gown. She was just standing there, her arms covered under her gown and veil.
This inspired in me the thought of a real Wedding Banquet, and the holiness of what we should be thinking when we approach the sanctuary during Holy Communion. The image was brief, but I saw her. Who was she? Was she a vision of Holy Mother Church?
Hear how St. Isaiah the Prophet writes of God’s love for the Church as His bride:
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer. [Isaiah 54:5-8]
Hear how St. John the Baptist speaks of the Lord as Bridegroom to His Church:
He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. [John 3:29]
Who is the bride here? We assume it is the Church after the imagery of Isaiah (and other prophets), and that the bride is not necessarily happy since it is only the friend of the bridegroom who is said to be happy. Hear also how St. Paul joins in to teach the reality:
For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. [Ephesians 5:29-32]
And with St. Paul, we see atheists Lord’s role as Bridegroom confirmed and understand more fully the Lord’s intentions to care for the Church as His Bride.
I think the image, then, was a reminder to us about the Lord’s intentions for the Faithful – that He give us a most Holy spouse in Himself, and that we be treated such that we may become healthy enough to respond to His call to be like a holy spouse in that divine metaphorical matrimony and marriage, the actual application and eternal living out of which remains veiled in mystical secrecy…and misunderstandings as a result.
Now, I think that many people, including devout religious, misunderstand this mystery of the metaphorical bridal imagery. I have misunderstood it, too. I’m sure that there are people who go after the religious, celibate life seeking something like a human marriage with the human person of Jesus Christ – an imagined, “perfect husband” who is found and intimately experienced in the heart and mind. However, those who follow this line of thought may easily be led into a fallacy, the fallacy of a real human marriage. This is not a human marriage – it cannot be; for how can a temporary institution be applied to an eternal state of being where that human institution, and elements of it, is no longer in effect? For as Jesus the Lord Himself revealed regarding the human institution,
…You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. [Matthew 22:29-30]
How do the angels of God live, and can their lives be spousal as we understand the word? We assume that we know about angels, but we do not know in fact since we are not angels and do not experience the life of angels. So, let us clearly state now that our relationship with God is metaphorically marital and monogamous, not really marital and monogamous in the sense of a real human marriage, and is somewhat like the little-understood lives and relationships of angels with God.
We can continue to build our understanding of metaphorical marriage with the Lord, and entrench our understanding of a requirement for metaphorical monogamy with God in the command which comes from God Himself,
…you shall have no other gods before me. [Exodus 20:3]
Also, as the Lord commissioned Moses to teach to the Chosen People, Israel, a teaching which the Lord Jesus validated, we can understand a commanded metaphorical monogamy, not only between our current generation and the Lord, but also between our future generations and the Lord since we are to teach our children to also love God in a metaphorically monogamous way:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]
And, in summary, the vision of a lady dressed for Matrimony reminds us of the Lord’s faithful intentions for the Bride, the Church, in a metaphorical marriage with Him, and also the expectation that the Bride is or will become prepared to fulfill that honor, with a mind set for monogamy and, with that monogamy, the loving and dedicated care of the Lord.