Scripture begins and ends with a marriage. This is foundational to understanding our relationship with Christ and His Kingdom in the New Covenant. The enemies of Christ and His Church make war on the family to undermine the world’s understanding of covenant and further divide man from God. Adam and Eve were joined in one flesh in their relationship with each other (Gen 2:24). Christ is united with his Bride, the Church in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9). As members of the Church, we are also united in one body with Christ (1 Cor 12:27). This unity in flesh and faith is the essence of covenant.
In the Garden of Eden, God formed Eve from a rib taken from the side of Adam. In Christ and His mother (1 Cor 15:45-49), God formed the new Adam in the womb of a virgin (Jer 31:22). The blood and water poured from the side of Christ at Calgary birthed His bride, the Church. All life begins with God, our Creator. All life is oriented back to Him, the fountainhead.
The best builders begin with the end in mind. In the beginning, man was made in the image and likeness of God as the peak and purpose of His design. Sin corrupted creation. Christ came in the form of man to redeem man from his infidelity. From the Fall of Man to the advent of the New Covenant, God prepared man for adoption into His family, the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ adorned by His virtue lived through the saints (Rev 19:8)—preserved as a pure virgin (2 Cor 11:2) and illuminated by His glory.
Old Testament Prophecy:
Do not fear, you shall not be put to shame;
do not be discouraged, you shall not be disgraced.
For the shame of your youth you shall forget,
the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
For your husband is your Maker;
the Lord of hosts is his name,
Your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth (Is 54:4-5).
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord;
great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from oppression, you shall not fear,
from destruction, it cannot come near (Is 54:12-14).
New Testament Fulfillment:
One of the seven angels who held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. (Rev 21:9-11).
The wall was constructed of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb (Rev 21:18-23).
The water which poured forth from the side of Christ purifies His Bride in the baptism of Her members. His blood given in Eucharist is life (Lev 17:10-11). The Spirit promised by Him animates us in service. Through repentance, belief, and love we have eternal life in Christ.
As the Bride of Christ, the Church must be united with Him in one flesh and spirit. As He is the way, the truth, and the life so must She be the way (Acts 9:1-2), the fulfillment of all truth (Mark 1:15), and life for all who believe (John 3:16). She must be one in Christ as He is with the Father—united in one faith (Eph 4:1-5). It’s a relationship we best understand through the life-giving context of holy matrimony. (Eph 5:21-33).
… I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor 11:2).
Some see the Church as full of rules. She is both Bride and Kingdom. All kingdoms have laws and rules. Are the rules impediments to a personal relationship with Christ? Shouldn’t relationships be free from rules? If I asked people to describe marriage, most would begin with the assumption, “When two people love each other…” and that is all we need. Love. It’s simple, right? It’s a relationship. It’s a covenant bond. It’s all about love. Yet you could fill a library with the books that have been written on marriage.
Loving is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. It comes naturally to us who are created in the image and likeness of God who is Love-personified. It gets complicated due to our selfishness and free will. Love requires a constant commitment to not take the other for granted… to remember special occasions… to serve the other’s needs… to put someone else before ourselves. Our relationship with God is the same. Unfortunately, we need to be reminded of our commitments in our relationships. Libraries are full of books on relationships for a reason… our pride and selfishness make it difficult.
God gave us rules to follow in the Ten Commandments. The first three deal with our relationship with Him. The other seven are about our relationships with each other. All relationships have rules whether we realize it or not. What if we analogize the Ten Commandments as rules for a happy marriage?
- We will have no higher human relationships outside of the one with each other.
- When we hurt, we will reconcile with each other.
- We will remember special occasions and be attentive to each other.
- We joined two families and will respect our new parents as our own.
- There will be friction at times but we will not become violent.
- Our bodies are one flesh… we will not share this embrace with any other.
- We will be faithful stewards of our household.
- We will not lie to each other.
- We will respect each other.
- We will find our happiness in our life with each other.
When He gave us the Ten Commandments, God gave us a way to understand our relationship with Him and others. He summarized these rules in love. If we love Him and those He loves, we fulfill His law (Deut 6:4-5 & Mark 12:29-31). Just so do we fulfill our own marriage vows through love. If we focus on love for each other, all else falls into place. God’s Law is a law of love.
In His Resurrection, Christ has taken on a new body. Yes, His physical body has been glorified. However, His body in the world—the Church—has also been glorified with Him. Through the Church, we are the hands and feet of His body (1 Cor 12).
What is the nature of this body of Christ in the world? This body is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. We become members of this body through rebirth in the waters of Baptism, receiving life through communion in the Eucharist, and living in the Spirit through Confirmation. These are the Sacraments of Initiation. This body is sustained like any other body; through food, discipline, maturity, mission, and healing. We find these in all of the Sacraments of the Church.
The body must be one. It must not be a spiritual monstrosity with multiple heads and physical distortions. There will be one head—Christ—and each part of the whole will have a function like the limbs and organs of a natural body. Let there be no syncretism where we desire to merge comfortable falsehoods with difficult truths. To be one in faith, we must accept in faith even that which we do not understand by reason and can’t perceive with our senses.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it (1 Cor 12:27).
Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy (1 Cor 12:14-26).
The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” [UR 2 § 5].The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body” [GS 78 § 3]. The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity” [UR 2 § 2] (CCC 813).
The body must be holy. As this is the body of Christ—who is God in His nature—so must His body in the world be holy. Just as Jesus was both human and divine, so will His body be in the world. It will be set apart from the world and will be at odds with the world.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:5-6).
The body must be catholic. Christ is present in this body. It must be universal and united across space and time. As Christ is infinite, the Church must be infinite in Her welcome to all people. There is no divide in this body. All of Her members are members in perpetuity, joined forever in everlasting life. We profess one undivided faith. All are called to union with Christ.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
[through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven (Col 1:15-20).
The body must be apostolic. What is an Apostle? These are the ones who were chosen by Christ to be His ministers of the Kingdom. They received His instruction (the Deposit of Faith), witnessed His death and resurrection, and were commissioned to teach and preach in the world. This body was formed by Christ and infused with His spirit to carry on His mission to call all people to Himself.
[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:21-23).
Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:28-31).
When the Spirit came upon the Apostles at Pentecost, they were confirmed in their work for the Kingdom. They emerged from their room as bold warriors for faith in Christ, the Messiah. May we who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in Confirmation do likewise and live faithfully as members of Christ’s holy body, the Church, and may She be steadfast in fidelity to Her Bridegroom.