“I have a desire for something more in my life” I often hear. It is an echo of the deepest ache within, that insatiable hunger for Love Divine. But few realize where the banquet table lies that will satisfy. Few realize our calling as the Church to be a bride, the “Bride of Christ.” Very few know what this really means, and thus the ache, the hunger remains, because we haven’t found the key to let the torrent of God’s spousal love into our hearts.
I did not know what it meant as Church to be the “Bride of Christ,” and I acted like a bystander instead of a bride: I prayed in a detached way; I went up to receive Holy Communion with head knowledge about what was taking place, but not of heart. The hunger and longing remained. I sought fulfillment in finite things: popularity, human approval and praise, success in one thing or another, adventure, fun and so on. But the fulfillment was fleeting, very superficial and shallow. It didn’t even begin to touch upon the ache deep within.
Life went on, until one day a beautiful woman came and took my hand. She told me she would lead me to the one who could fulfill, but that I must open my heart and become receptive to His love, as she was; I must become honest and vulnerable about my deepest longings, be they rightly ordered or disordered.
And so it happened that she who is the “Spotless Bride” taught me what it meant to become the bride of Christ that I was called to be, that we are all called to be, men and women alike, including priests and bishops who must be a “receptive bride” before they can be in persona Christi. She taught me how to become receptive to the all-consuming love of our Divine Lover, and she continues to teach me. And, yes, this beautiful woman is Mary.
We Are All Called to be the Bride of Christ
So what does it mean for us as Church and individual members to be the “Bride of Christ”? Our Lord always uses analogies of this natural realm to depict our calling in the supernatural. So what are some attributes of a healthy earthly bride?
We see her as passionate for her lover, open in sharing fully who she is with him, radiant with desire and excitement for him, longing for communion and oneness. Her life becomes no longer her own, but one with her bridegroom. She becomes open to receive her husband in a physical way as an expression of their ever-deepening communion of heart, mind, and spirit.
So, is this the disposition we have as Catholics as we receive our Eucharistic Bridegroom in Holy Communion? Are our hearts, our whole beings, open and receptive with longing and desire for this greatest of all lovers, who longs to consume us with His fire of love?
As I shared earlier, to be a receptive bride means to receive Jesus, not in a detached way with only head knowledge of what is taking place, but also with heart knowledge. Who are we and what is stirring in our hearts as we receive Him? Who is He and what is stirring in His Heart as He enters into us? It is about being with our Divine Lover in our deeper heart, resting in our supernatural nuptial embrace, allowing Him to love us and enter into any rooms in which we find ourselves in our hearts.
When I used to receive Jesus in a very detached way, my spiritual life was in one box up above, and my earthly life with all its messiness and disorders was in a box down below. When in prayer or at Mass, far be it from me, I thought, to invite God into anything in the lower box. He was too holy and lofty for that.
Little did I realize that the precise reason He came to earth was to enter into the lower box, to enter into the mess and disorder of my life. For this is His role as our Redeemer. To invite Him into the lower box is to invite Him to be my redeemer, to acknowledge my brokenness and my need for Him.
And, as I began to acknowledge my brokenness and my need for a redeemer, I also began to get in touch with my deepest aches, needs and longings. It is in this that He brings the Banquet table to me (to us), and allows me to be nourished and sated by His love which alone can reach the deepest longings of my heart.
The Love of Christ Satisfies
So now the bride becomes sated, and every day the bride must live in the reality of the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7-9), and eat from the banquet table. The bride must remain open and real about her hunger, her needs, her longings, and continually invite the Bridegroom in to nourish and satisfy. And it is from here that the Bridegroom and Bride conceive many spiritual children who are in turn invited to live the wedding feast of the Lamb where the “Kingdom of God is at hand.”
As Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “God has placed in human hearts… a hunger which will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given so that we might be ‘sated’ with God here on earth, in expectation of our complete fulfillment in heaven” (Mane Nobiscum Domine).
May we all, as members of Holy Mother Church, open ourselves ever more fully this Lenten Season, to what it means personally to be the “Bride of Christ,” what it means to be receptive to our Divine Eucharistic Bridegroom.
And, yes, may Mary, the “Spotless Bride,” take us each by the hand and show us the way!
“For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5)
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20)