21 February 2008

The Voice of the Bridegroom

For the Third Friday in Lent (St. John 3:25-36)

Always a groomsman, never the Groom. That is John's vocation. Among those born of the earth, he is the best man, but he is not the Christ. He is not that true Light which shines upon the Bride and makes her radiant.

John's voice heralds the Coming One, the Word-made-Flesh, at whose speaking death gives way to life. That One is the Bridegroom, the Son of God, sent by the Father from heaven to court His Bride, to call her to Himself, to cleanse and clothe her with His righteousness, and to consummate His marriage to her in both body and soul.

It is to this union of Christ and His Bride, the Church, that every earthly marriage testifies. Husband, love your wife, therefore; forgive her sins; give yourself to her, and live your life for her benefit. Woman, likewise, love and serve your husband; submit to him in faith, for Jesus' sake.

Receive the spouse that God the Lord has given you, and be content. Do not covet your neighbor's wife or husband, but cherish the one whom Christ has given you in love. Or, if you have not received an earthly bride or groom, be content with Christ and faithful to Him.

Each of you, let all your thoughts, words and actions be pure, unselfish and charitable, as Christ is. For He is your heavenly Bridegroom, and by the washing of water with the Word, you belong to Him, His holy Bride. In His Body and His Blood, you are one flesh with Him. You, therefore, be holy, as He is holy.

You have nothing at all apart from Him; nothing but divine wrath, condemnation, and eternal death. In Him, you have everything; everything pertaining to life and godliness. For the Father has set His seal upon His Son, not only from eternity, but also in the flesh: in the waters of the Jordan, upon the holy Mountain, and in the Resurrection of the Crucified One.

This Man, the Bridegroom come down from heaven, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, He is the beloved Son. All that belongs to the Father is His. He has received the Spirit without measure, also in His flesh and blood upon the earth, in order to pour out His Spirit generously and without measure upon you. He has done so in the heavenly washing of your Baptism; as He does also for you here, at the festal board of His Altar, in His Holy Supper.

And He does so, freely, daily and richly, in His Word of forgiveness. He does so because He loves you. He has pledged Himself to you, bound Himself to you, and given Himself for you, forever.

As you belong to such a beloved Bride of Christ, as one whom He has baptized to be a member of His Church, so do you belong among the true daughters of Zion, the daughters of Jerusalem. The Father's Son is your true Husband. Thus, His Father is your Father; His home and His inheritance are yours. As He increases, so do you.

Dearly beloved, be awake and alert, therefore. Your Bridegroom soon will call you from this vale of tears to Himself — to your true home in heaven. He shall come to carry you, body and soul, over that threshold — through the waters of the Jordan into Paradise forever.

Listen for His Voice. He speaks to you, even now, by the mouth of His friend, His groomsman at this Altar. It is His own Voice, which He speaks to you in love. Consider what He says, and rejoice: "Take and eat." "Drink." Receive these gifts Christ freely gives. Believe His Word; believe also in Him, and have eternal life. So shall your joy be made full.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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