Whose Spouse Will He Be?
by Fr. Alphonsus Hermes, O.Praem.
“At the resurrection, whose wife will she be? After all, seven had been married to her.” This proverbial wife was called to an expansive love. Her being was stretched to give herself in love to seven. Perhaps (despite the intent of the proposers of this parable) she stands as a symbol of the extreme capabilities of the heart of a woman, like Sarah the wife of Tobias, whose heart was stretched beyond the point of breaking to embrace—at last!—a person sent to her from beyond her wildest dreams, in a marriage so obviously arranged in heaven.
“Whose wife will she be?” After all, the marriage we know is exclusive. The two are equal partners, allowing for no others. By their fruitful union, they bring about the life of a new person, who has exactly one mother and one father. This is the design of the Creator for human beings.
And yet the heart and mind can embrace a love that is not limited by the flesh. And so Christ, the perfect man, is called the Spouse of Virgins, who in turn are called, each one, the Bride of Christ.
In the days when books were a highest authority, I read that the highest multiparous motherhood bore 56 children. And the record was a tie between two women. Yet the spiritual motherhood of virgin Brides of Christ blossoms forth in more children than the maternal body could ever bear. “At the resurrection, whose [Spouse] will [He] be? After all, [hundreds of thousands had given themselves in love to Him]:” had consecrated their bodies, hearts, and minds to Him in a consortium totius vitae—a sharing of the whole of their life!
Similarly there is one person, St. Joseph, praised as the Spouse of the Virgin. In this true marriage, although he did not claim the right to a one-flesh union with his bride, they experienced a love which was fruitful, loving the Christ-Child which the Father had sent them. Their love was faithful, free, and total, like any true marriage, lasting their whole life long. And yet there is a strand of devotion, in which not seven, but unnumbered men see themselves as heirs to Joseph’s station in life. For, even more than the woman in the parable, the Virgin Mary’s heart is expansive: “reaching from end to end … and ordering all things sweetly,” as any desired bride. Many aspire to union with her in a love that likewise is not carnal, yet imitates the faithful, free, total and exclusive love of Joseph for the incomparable Virgin as their Bride. Or like St. John, they take her into their own—their own heart, and home, and mind, and soul—and share with her a consortium totius vitae! Entrusted with the “most precious treasures of God: the Child and the Virgin”—especially in their ministry to the Child, the Body of Christ at the altar, and the guarding of their hearts in Marian consecration.
The Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple is commemorated in a lesser-known observance, the day Pro Orantibus—a day dedicated to those who pray—namely cloistered religious, nuns. Like the Blessed Virgin in the temple, who dedicated herself there in cloistered prayer, they immerse their hearts in union with God, as an example for all religious whose “first duty is assiduous union with God in prayer”—also according to the law of the Church. It is worth adding that all the baptized—and similarly all human beings—find their fulfillment and highest calling in the union with God, loving Him above all things with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. With the Virgin in the Temple, perhaps we can pause and remember those who offer their lives to effect the spiritual fruitfulness of the Church, who have dedicated their lives to “be love in the heart of their Mother, the Church,” bringing forth spiritual birth in the souls of countless, mostly unknown children. Especially our sisters in (the maternity ward of) Bethlehem Priory.
“The children of the resurrection no longer marry or are given in marriage.” For the saints in heaven have achieved that loving union for which their hearts have been fashioned, as they joined—as members of the Church, the glorious Bride—in the wedding of the Lamb.
The Gospel of John seems almost misplaced for the Easter season…
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