Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Christ the Bridegroom

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were keeping a fast. And people came and asked him, "Why is it that when John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are keeping the fast, yours are not keeping it?" Jesus said to them, "Can wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and when that day comes, they will fast.  (Mark 2:18-20)

IN THE EARLY 1970's, bored and bumming around the seminary library stacks one night, friends found a huge tome titled, The Catholic Educator, written at the turn of the century. Gathered around a large table, our mouths dropped open when one of us read aloud from the chapter, Instructions to the Bridegroom. That for the sake of virtue and chaste love in his marital obligation the bridegroom ought to emulate the bull elephant which stays hidden in the brush until the last minute, completing the pro-creative act as quickly as possible and then immediately to the river to bathe.

I'm sorry to say but those are the ideas of an unfulfilled and joyless priest. It reflects an uptight and prissy view of sexuality under the guise of modesty and virtue. Twisted up religion!

It also makes for Christians who think their mission is to be shocked and appalled (read the Letters to the Editor in so many Catholic newspapers) at the moral weakness of the world rather than transformed in the mind by the un-imagined, or yet-to-be imagined Jesus. Christ loving the world like a bridegroom loving his honeymoon wife. We're not talking hand-holding here.

Jesus the Bridegroom in all of his self-gift, his desire for the beloved, in the intimacy and vulnerability of the wedding night. Could this be why Jesus is stripped a number of times in the Gospel Passion accounts and naked on the cross - to image this vulnerability in love?

Many of us will remember when the altar in Catholic Churches faced at least symbolic east. That altar usually resembled a sepulcher or tomb. One author reflecting on that altar and the male priesthood suggests that the priest there, leaning over deeply, is an image of Christ leaning over his wedding bed! The first and last thing the priest does at every Mass is to lean over to kiss the altar. Perhaps the kiss signifies more than the veneration of relics.

Is this too much? Too far-fetched? Unsettling or discomforting? Or does it take your breath away? Of course, the suggestion of Christ's loving marital physicality takes us at once to the much deeper interior and en-passioned lean of his heart towards humankind in all of its wounded disarray and fatigue. 


  1. This view of a wedding night is so ridiculous. Jesus surely did not teach his followers to view each other with such sterility. Sex is tender and loving. Even though this book is from long ago, I don't think the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has changed much. Archaic in their thinking.

  2. I don't disagree, but let's be sure (me too) not to worry about them, and to see the silly example as a point of departure.

  3. Your image of Jesus the Bridegroom is quite beautiful. Jesus intimately loving each and every one of us as a wholly loving spouse would. Taking us unconditionally into his embrace and never faltering in His dedication. We should all know such love in our marriages as this.

  4. This is why I read this blog. Your candid departure from what we have come to expect from the Religious Community is a breath of clean spring air, full of life. A refreshing look at our faith values. I can't say thank you enough.

  5. People should not be shocked by the moral weaknesses in the world? Should we accept the decline of morality and embrace this new disregard of values and say nothing? I am sorry to say that the tenderness of the honeymoon night is all but nonexistant in today's world. Your image of the Bridegroom Jesus will be lost on the younger generation.

  6. I was thinking that very thing - that the image of Jesus the Bridegroom hovering over his wife (humankind) would be lost on many - perhaps especially the young. That shouldn't keep the priest, or any of us, from proclaiming it. Which leads me to imagine perhaps that you are of an "older" generation which is able to appreciate the sense, and that you have seen over a longer period of time even a great deal of the world's weakness. But to live in a state of "shock" as some Christians do? - no, that I believe is wasted energy. If anyone had a right to be shocked, we might think it was Christ himself, and the saints who often encountered the most appalling behaviors in culture and Church. Still, in joy they pressed on! A Christian who has lost his/her joy is really useless to Christ.

  7. You certainly do give us things to ponder with your posts. Maybe a better understanding of the joy God intended for us could come to be realized. Maybe, its the fear and lack of trust some feel.

  8. I love the way Christ spills out of the icon onto the frame. He is with us. But why are his wrists bound with rope? What is the significance to this particular icon?