“Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”
“I do,” says the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
“Wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”
“I do,” says the Bride, the Church.
“I, Jesus Christ, take thee, the Church, to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, forever and ever, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
“We, the Church, take thee, Jesus Christ, to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, forever and ever, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I give thee my troth.”
Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4)
God has joined together in Holy Matrimony His Son Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church. He has pronounced that we are married, and vows were taken by both parties. This is no mere fiction and no mere allegory. In fact, it is so real that the human marriages we participate in are not the reality of which Christ and the Church are pictures: they are the pictures of that greater reality!
This idea, this truth, that we are married to Christ, is such a fruitful one that I can only suggest some of the ways thinking of our relationship with Him in this way can yield. I have to admit, it’s a stretch of the imagination for me to think of myself as part of the Church as a Bride, a feminine image. But it is the way God has revealed who we are in Christ. Women have had to use their imaginations to put themselves into masculine images for millennia: I guess I can!
The first way I think of our Bridegroom is how much I should love Him who first loved me, for it is the love of God that is now ours that unites us together, a love incarnated in the Son, a love crucified on the Cross, and a love raised up to heaven for us.
I’ve always wanted to be the best at something or have the best. Now I can boast that I have the most excellent spouse! (Actually, I already can boast that of the earthly wife God has given me!) He is unparalleled in His glory and beauty and power. He is completely mesmerizing and charismatic. There is no one else I can love as I love Him, nor should I, and I should be jealous of that love so that nothing seduces me away from Him.
His love makes us beautiful and lovely as well: His love makes us loveable. How perfect and passionate His love is for me, for us. He truly and alone keeps His vows perfectly and loves me whether I am sick or healthy, rich or poor, or young or old. His love is not fickle and cannot be diverted.
There is no earthly spouse that cares for us as much, especially when we are sick and lonely and weak, and unlike most husbands, He knows what’s wrong with us, even when we, in wifely fashion, refuse to tell Him. He loves to talk with us about our problems and how our day went, and He wants us to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
How weak my love for Him sometimes is, how often I abandon Him for others.
One reason for this is that I am not constant. I am faithful to Him when I think about it and when I see Him and am not too dazzled by the beauties of the earth and her people. I have to remember that I have taken vows and have promised to be faithful, and faith is the bond that unites me to Him.
But my love and faith are often weak, and a primary reason is that I do not spend enough time with Him. We all know marriages where the husband and wife live 2 separate lives together, but our marriage to the Bridegroom is to be closer than any earthly marriage. In these, God proclaims that a man and a wife become one flesh. But in or marriage to Him, we are united in spirit by the Spirit, for “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17). This union never ceases, although I seem to be able to live without experiencing it.
The purpose of marriage is to become one, and blessed am I among men for the union I have with Jackie. But our marriage to Christ must also be marked by a unity, a unity that is fed and nourished by a true co-habitation. Our union with Christ can’t be a mere idea or theory: it must be an incarnated reality. Our lives must be shared with His life, which means we must be in the Church. It’s not enough to make a few conjugal visits every once in a while, as if He is locked away in a prison somewhere! He is supposed to dwell in us, and we in Him.
How much I should love to spend time in His presence and be fed from Him. Every chance I have to hear His Word and digest it, I should take, for that is how He comes to us. Every chance I have to eat His Body and drink His Blood, I should take, for that is how He unites Himself to us.
Let me surrender and offer myself to Him, my soul, my body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto Him; humbly beseeching Him that I, and all others who shall be partakers of His Holy Communion, may worthily receive His most precious Body and Blood, be filled with His grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him.
For this Husband of ours, we should adorn our marriage and make ourselves beautiful to Him. He has first adorned us, like no other Bride. He has clothed us with a white garment and precious jewels. “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). More than this, He clothed us with Himself, since He has made us one with Him. And therefore, He loves us as He loves Himself. When He took His Bride, He made her the fairest in the land: “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” (Ezekiel16:14).
We have married the richest king whose kingdom is glorious and powerful and rich beyond belief. He has made us His heirs, and what He has He has promised to share with us.
Therefore, we should adorn our marriage and make ourselves beautiful for Him. We should put on the jewels He has given us, the jewels that are tokens of His love and presence and our identity in Him. We must seek to give Him glory whenever we can, and we glorify Him whenever we obey Him. We make ourselves beautiful to Him the more we become like Him, perfect and lovely in all things.
When we are trying to attract the object of our affection, whether before we love, or when we fall in love, or when we love, we take pains to find out what pleases the one we love. Therefore, we should go to extreme lengths to find out what is pleasing to Him (Ephesians 5:10). Actually, it’s not so hard: He’s told us. What He wants is us! All of us, all of the time, to be made loving and loveable in all things by obedience and humility before Him. He is pleased when we are chaste and holy and have reserved ourselves and the best of us for Him and Him alone.
We please Him as well when we bear fruit, which is one of the holy purposes of every marriage. “That you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Rom. 7:4). What is this fruit? In this life, it’s bringing others to Him and bringing those in Him ever closer to Him and feeding them for Him. It’s bearing the fruits of Spirit in increasing measure: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Loving Him, spending our lives with Him, and being one with Him, our lives should be filled with delight and joy. We are the giddy Bride, the buck-toothed, emaciated, clumsy, dim-witted damsel in distress that He has chosen to be His Bride. We have been offered continual access to Him: He’s never too busy or too tired or indifferent. He offers Himself to us, to serve us and to love us and care for us. In Him, we have every true thing we falsely seek in this world through others.
From His hands we have every good gift and every delightful thing in creation. In Him, we have the intimacy and worth, the peace and security, and the goodness and pleasure that we crave. And therefore, we are to rejoice always in His presence.
This is the nature of our marriage, and these are the vows we have taken. This is the meaning of our justification, sanctification, and glorification. It is the very meaning and glory of our lives!
Prayer: O Lord, prepare my heart, I beseech Thee, to reverence Thee, to adore Thee, to love Thee; to hate, for love of Thee, all my sins, imperfections, shortcomings, whatever in me displeaseth Thee; and to love all which Thou lovest, and whom Thou lovest. Give me, Lord, fervor of love, shame for my unthankfulness, sorrow for my sins, longing for Thy grace, and to be wholly united with Thee. Let my very coldness call for the glow of Thy love; let my emptiness and dryness, like a barren and thirsty land, thirst for Thee, call on Thee to come into my soul, who refreshest those who are weary. Let my heart ache to Thee and for Thee, who stillest the aching of the heart. Let my mute longings praise Thee, crave to Thee, who satisfiest the empty soul, that waits on Thee. Amen. (E.B. Pusey)
Points for Meditation:
1. How does thinking of your relationship to Jesus Christ as a marriage change your daily response to Him?
2. How much do you delight to spend time with Him each day? Does He receive much “quality time” from you?
Resolution: I resolve to ask the Lord today what would most please Him and, having heard, vow to do it.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day