|The Spousal Love of God |
Icons of "Christ The Spouse"
I Love Because I Love -St. Bernard
I Give Myself As A Spouse Forever -St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle
Mary & Priest´s Spousal and Paternal Love Msgr. John Cihak
God Spouses His People
The image of God as our spouse, already in the O.T., reveals the passion and intimacy of God's love for us which we were incapable of reciprocating due to sin. It could not be restored but through Christ, the Divine Spouse who comes down to us.
"And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband,’ and no longer will you call me, ‘My Ba′al.’ For I will remove the names of the Ba′als from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord." (Hosea 2:16-20)
For as a young man marries a virgin,
Jesus is our Spouse
"Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Mt 9,14-15)
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut
Christ's entire life, His immolation, His Cross, His suffering, His death, was to reveal the love of His Heart for His bride and to raise her to be His forever.
This is the hour of gladness
Spousal love is the love of Christ expressed at the cross where he laid down His life for His bride. We must remember that He died for a sinful bride who rejected her and still often does. What is our response? He desires the bride to follow Him and enter into union. For this she must deny herself and take her cross. Both men and woman are called to this union with Christ and to reflect Christ's love in the way they love one another. When this radical love unites hearts Christians become credible witnesses.
St. Maximun the Confessor wrote that Jesus is a divine person who loved us with a human heart. He loved us without reserve, He loved us with a profound desire of being corresponded, He loved us to death. His amazing divine-human love gives us a new understanding of the meaning of spousal love. This is the love of God who entered into covenant with His People and was faithful even when the bride was not.
God's love begs for a full response from us who as members of the Church are His beloved bride. That is why we offer ourselves as victims, "for Him, with Him and in Him", as we say in the mass. This is the kiss of love.
Saint Paul was concerned that the new Christians would be unfaithful to their union with Christ. Indeed few enter deep into it:
I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. (2 Cor 11:2)
To be spouses of Christ is synonymous to being saints. God created us a profound union of love with Him. The sacrament of marriage is an image (a wonderful one indeed) of a much greater reality: Our spousal with God. If we understand this we will desire it above all things.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:23-27)
Discovering the spiritual core reality of spousal love in Christ is not to minimize the meaning of the sexual union in the sacrament of marriage. Rather, we come to understand its true purpose as an expression, a sign, that is meant to communicate the total self giving of the love of God. At the same time we are able to see that spousal love is not confined to sexuality. In fact sexual union, even among married couples, is not true spousal love if it fails to express the sacrificial love of Christ.
In the mystical tradition of the Church it is well known that Jesus calls religious women to be His bride. But also married woman, like Ven. Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, have entered into mystical marriage with Christ.
Priests, as alter Christus, have a spousal relationship with the Church. They are called to give themselves completely to her, to shepherd, teach, serve, provide her spiritual nourishment and to die for her.
In order to understand spousal love as it refers to the relationship between Jesus and Christians, it is necessary to be healed from the prevalent sexual obsessions which permeate our culture. We must discover that all the essential characteristics of spousal love are revealed in Christ's love on the cross. We must ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to understand it and live it.
Mary is the Bride
"Rejoice Virgin and Bride" (Akathist Hymn). She cooperated with Him in the salvation of the world. The relationship of Jesus and Mary is the first fruits of the restoration of man-woman relationships. They loved each other intimately and in perfect purity.
Thomas Kempis thus encourages us to attend to Jesus our spouse:
The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations; welcome consolation, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy. So come, faithful soul. Prepare your heart for your spouse to dwell within you. For he says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and we shall come to him and make our dwelling within him. ...Until you are united intimately with Christ, you will never find true rest, (From the Imitation of Christ, O.R.,Wed.week 16th.)
Jesus to St. Faustina:
Now you shall consider My love in the Blessed Sacrament. Here, I am entirely yours, soul, body and divinity, as your Bridegroom. You know what love demands: one thing only, reciprocity." (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1770)
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying,
Jesus our spouse
There are two things that are God’s and God’s alone: the honour of receiving confession and the power of granting forgiveness. Confession is what we must make to him, and forgiveness is what we must hope to receive from him. The power to forgive sins belongs only to God, and this is why we must confess them to him.
But God has taken a bride. The Almighty has taken the feeble one, the Most High has taken the lowly one – out of a servant he has made a queen. She was behind and beneath him and he raised her to be at his side. From out of his wounded side she came, and he took her to be his bride.
Just as all that the Father has is the Son’s, so too what the Son has is the Father’s, since they share the same undivided nature. In just the same way the bridegroom gave all that was his to the bride and shared all that she had, making her one with himself and the Father. Hear the Son making his plea to the Father for his bride: I desire that just as you and I are one, so these should be one with us.
The bridegroom is one with the Father and one with his bride. Whatever in her was foreign to her nature he took away from her and nailed to the cross. He carried her sins with him onto the tree and by the tree he took them away from her. Whatever was natural and and proper to her he took on and clothed himself in it. Whatever was divine and proper to him, he bestowed on her. He took away what was diabolical, took on what was human, conferred what was divine, so that all that the bride possessed should be the bridegroom’s also. Thus it is that he who has committed no sin, on whose lips is no deceit, can say Take pity on me, Lord, for I am weak – for he who shares in his bride’s weakness must share in her lament, and thus all that is the bridegroom’s is the bride’s also. Here is where the honour of confession comes from, and the power of forgiveness, so that it can truly be said: Go and show yourself to the priest!
The Church can forgive nothing without Christ, and it is Christ’s will to forgive nothing except with the Church. The Church can forgive no-one except the penitent – that is, one who has been touched by Christ – and Christ does not wish to forgive anyone who does not value the Church. What God has united, man must not divide, says Christ, and Paul adds, I am saying that this great mystery applies to Christ and the Church.
Do not sever the head from the body so that Christ is whole no longer. For Christ is not whole without the Church, nor is the Church whole without Christ. This is why he says No-one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man who is in heaven. He is the only man who can forgive sins.