Our Restore Retreats often include an experiential activity where each person is invited to a…
Through the seasons of my life as a wife for 29 years and a mother of 9 children, Mary has journeyed with me. In her faithful companionship, I found the tender, wise, prayerful and loving mother my heart and soul longed for. Mary as my heavenly mother was a relationship that grew and blossomed so naturally and effortlessly. And then my journey took an expected and surprising turn and I was introduced to Mary as Bride and Jesus as Bridegroom.
Pause here a moment. Think of words such as: bride, bridegroom, wedding, spouse,and intimacy. What images and feelings do these words evoke?
Three and a half years ago, these words evoked in my mind and heart only images and feelings of sorrow, failure, heartache, and broken dreams. In October 2018, a judge declared my husband of 29 years and I divorced.
At that time in my spiritual journey, I had come to trust in and depend on Mary as my mother. I also had what I know now was a very limited understanding of her title “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”. It made sense to think of her as God’s Spouse if the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her and she had conceived Jesus, the Son of God, in her womb but my thinking of her as a spouse or bride did not go beyond the event of the Annunciation.
Jesus had plans to expand my mind and heart and He didn’t wait long at all. Just minutes after leaving the courthouse the evening the divorce was finalized, as I cried and prayed in the backseat of my father’s car, I asked Jesus, “Now what?” And to my surprise, in the heart of my heart, I heard Him answer, “Come be My bride.”
What? I could not have heard right. Was this really Jesus? How could He possibly want me, a failure at being a bride to be His bride? And what could He possibly mean by this? How was I supposed to be a bride to Jesus?
The teachings of St. John Paul II, in particular his Theology of the Body as presented by Christopher West and the TOB Institute, were my first guidebook on this new path. After several months of prayer and spiritual reading, I realized that actually I had been a bride of Christ since the day I was baptized and now He was proposing that I enter more deeply, more intentionally, into this intimate and profoundly healing relationship that He had always desired for us, for Him and me.
One statement from Pope John Paul II that made so much sense to me as I came to understand this spiritual spousal relationship was this:
“In the context of the “great mystery” of Christ and of the Church, all are called to respond – as a bride – with the gift of their lives to the inexpressible gift of the love of Christ, who alone, as the Redeemer of the world, is the Church’s Bridegroom.”
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that as baptized Christians, and specifically baptized Catholics, we are each, what St. Bernard of Clairvaux called, soul-brides. At our baptism, we became members of the Church, the Bride of Christ, and therefore, we too are spiritual brides. But God wants more from us than simply knowing with our intellect that He sees us as brides, that this language of nuptial imagery runs throughout Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. He desires that we allow this truth, Jesus is our Divine Bridegroom, to permeate our hearts and our souls and transform the way we pray, the way we live, and the way we love.
As I was led by the Holy Spirit more and more deeply into the profound mystery of the spousal love of God, Mary arose as the perfect model, the best teacher, of what it means to live out the identity bestowed upon me at my baptism. She was still and forever will be “my mother” but now she became “mother of the bride.”
I often wondered, “How did I never hear about this amazing reality? Why doesn’t anyone talk about Jesus as our Bridegroom and Mary as the Bride of God? Wouldn’t knowing that we are called to love with spousal love that reflects their pure and perfect spousal love for us and one another, help us have holier marriages and families?”
In Jesus’ perfect timing, He had waited until the moment when my heart most needed His spousal love to reveal the truth that He is the Bridegroom of my soul, and yours… our one, true, and eternal Spouse and Healer of our hearts.
And I knew I needed Mary, Mother and Bride, to teach me how to grow into my identity as a bride of Christ.
It is important to point out that in the natural order, Mary is the Mother of Jesus and it is a spiritual reality that is being described when she is called His Bride.
All souls, Mary included, are called to respond to the gift of God’s love as a bride responds to her bridegroom. Mary, perfectly responded to God’s love in every moment of her life and therefore she is the archetype of the Bride.
Mary’s destiny is your destiny. You are a beloved daughter of God the Father and a beautiful bride of Christ the Son. They desire to be one with you in Heaven for all eternity. And They have given you, Mary, Mother and Bride, to lead you to the eternal wedding feast.