“… You shall be called…Espoused. For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. (Is 62:4-5)
This is the first Sunday celebrated in Ordinary Time since the conclusion of the Christmas liturgical season. Yet still we celebrate the echoes of Epiphany with the great gospel manifestation of Jesus at the Marriage at Cana where the Virgin Mary directs her son, the Son of God, to begin his miraculous ministry. Our first reading is from Isaiah which predicts how the Lord God through the person of the Messiah would bind himself in marriage to Jerusalem, a symbol of the Church. There are many such images in the New Testament such as in the Book of Revelation when St, John’s vision on the isle of Patmos sees “a New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2).
In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians he uses the image of the Church to describe the sacrament of marriage and vice versa. Jesus as the head sanctifies his body the Church, bathing it in the water of the word so that he might present it to himself as a bride “holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27). This word once came to mankind through the mouth of Jesus Himself; now it comes through Holy Scripture and through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the sacramental life also gifted by Christ whilst He was personally present on earth. Further, Jesus offers Himself as the “bridegroom” in His answer to the question about His disciples not fasting (Mt 9:15) and in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:6). Even John the Baptist says that he stands in as best man rejoicing that the bridegroom, Christ, has finally come to claim His bride (Jn 3:29).
On this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time we have created a parable or rather an allegory of sorts for our bulletin cover. We use the beautiful work of Rembrandt entitled the The Jewish Bride (1666) to explain the love between Christ and His Church. Here we see the noble lord representing Christ approach his bride with a gentle, loving embrace. While drawing his bride to him with his left hand, he places his right hand over her breast so as to indicate the grace he pours into her heart. She, humble to his loving approach, only touches his hand softly with her left hand accepting affectionately his gracious love. The bride then displays tenderly the fruit of this grace (which always bears forth in wisdom and worship and good works) by placing her right hand over her womb. The noble man here is Christ-the-head; the noble woman here is Church-the-body or heaven and earth still being prepared as the New Jerusalem for its eternal nuptial to Christ on the last day in time which we all eagerly await.
Interestingly, this work has many interpretations to which we have here added our own. Perhaps, Rembrandt biographer Christopher White puts it best: this work is a “tender fusion of spiritual and physical love” (Reference: Wikipedia). So is the ministry of Christ which offers His divinity and His incarnate flesh for His beloved Church.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services