31 May 2008

The Visitation of Christ and His Bride

We cannot help but rejoice in the presence of the Bridegroom. We cannot help but marvel and rejoice at the beauty of the Bride. For Christ the Lord is here (in the flesh) in remembrance of His mercy. And His Church is gloriously adorned with His righteousness, which is by grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit.

It is most appropriate that you (Sam & DoRena) are married on this festival day (the Visitation). For in St. Mary we behold an icon of the Church, and therefore an example of what it shall mean for you, DoRena, to be a faithful wife. Even as St. Mary, with the entire Church, submits in faith and hope to Christ her Lord.

What, then, does such godly faithfulness look like? Not pride, but humility. Not doubt and fear, but trust. Not complaint and criticism, but thanksgiving. Not anxiety and dread, but patient perseverance. All of this by faith in Christ, your Savior.

And for all of that, it is chiefly in hearing the Word and receiving the gracious gifts and blessings of the Lord your God that you live as a bride: from your pastor in the Church, and from your husband in the home. And that, for now, precisely under the Cross.

It is a paradox, but not a contradiction; a great mystery, which is by faith and not by sight. Today you wear it well, dear daughter, but it remains a hidden reality.

The revelation of the Mystery, and the resolution of the paradox, are in the Incarnation and the Cross of Christ (God in the flesh, in suffering).

Get your bearings and take your cues from Him, Sam. He’s your primary example. But He is also far more than an example; for He is your own Savior and Head, your God and Lord.

The Lord has done great things for you, and He has given you His holy Name — as you give your name to DoRena in marriage. All the more reason for you to deal gently and compassionately with her, your wife, as the Lord Jesus Christ deals with you in love.

That’s not just beautiful poetry — though there will be beauty and poetry in your life together. Nor is this simply theological rhetoric for its own sake. But this is to be the steady pattern of your life, day by day by day, in faith, hope and love.

Theology is nowhere more practical, nor more profound, than it is in marriage. Not because you theologize it, but because it is the Word and work of God, embodied and personal. Already in the creation of Adam & Eve (male and female, the man and the woman for each other), the Word was becoming flesh. And so also now in you (Sam & DoRena).

This creative Word and work of God is a communication and a communion. It is a relationship of love — to love, and to be loved — by the way and means of the Word. The speaking of that Word is definitive and decisive to all of creation; so also in holy marriage.

Talk to each other. That’s not just good advice or pop psychology, but essential to the Love for which God has created you and for which He now gives you to each other. Speak as you are spoken to, by and with the Word of God; as you also live by faith in that Word which God the Father speaks to you by His Son. Because it is the Word of Christ the Crucified, it is a Word of the Cross, wherein God is hidden in humility.

Love that Word of God above all else; trust it, and cling to it, even though appearance and experience seem to contradict and destroy it. Times of great joy, like today, are like little miracles along the way (anticipating the Resurrection). But there is the Cross, too, which first of all reveals the glory of God in Christ.

As the Word of God reveals the divine glory of the Cross, so is the Word that you speak to each other one of humility. Make yourself small, in order to serve your beloved — as the almighty and eternal Son of the Living God does not spurn the womb but makes of it His Temple, in order to give life to us all.

In all your words and actions, therefore, speak with compassion and care; with attentiveness to every need; with patience for every ill, every weakness, every burden; with forgiveness for each and every wrong; and with self-sacrificing service.

You should each so do and speak for the other. But, Sam, it is especially important for you to serve your bride in this way; because Christ is the Savior of His Bride, the Church.

In truth, you are free to do all this in confidence, because the Lord your God does all of this for you. In Him there is no selfishness or self-interest, but a loving desire to give and to share Himself. For His mercy is upon generation after generation of those who fear Him.

In that, your love for each other (in Christ) may give birth to children (as God so wills). And then, the most important thing you shall ever do for them is to bring them to God by the catechesis of His Word. Not only by teaching them the Bible and the Catechism (which you should most certainly do), but also by loving, serving, and forgiving them in Jesus’ Name and for His sake. So shall the Spirit of the Lord rest upon them.

But whether the Lord grants you children or not, whether early or late, whether few or many, your love for each other (in Christ) is to manifest itself in hospitality for others. The "little church" of your home and family is to welcome the stranger, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe and care for the forsaken.

It is not the two of you "against the world," no matter if it feels like that sometimes; but the two of you are bound together in love for the life of the world. Not by grand crusades and self-important "causes," but by your simple and straightforward offices and stations in life according to the Ten Commandments. Do what you are given to do.

The Cross of Christ and His Resurrection tell you the truth — concerning your marriage and your life, concerning each other and all your neighbors: Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but the humble will be exalted in and with Christ.

Do not become cynical or bitter. Repent of such despair as often as it enters in; it is the devil’s wicked lie. Fear the Lord, and do not be afraid of anything else. Fulfill your vocations in the confidence of Christ; they are not meaningless or pointless. Rejoice together, and weep together, but do so either way in hope. And pray without ceasing.

Your real life, your marriage and family are rooted and centered in the Church: the Bride of Christ, the Mother of God’s children. In the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the Breaking of the Bread, and in the prayers — that is where and how you live by faith and in love.

And that is where you learn the real measure and magnitude of marriage, both its profound meaning and the way in which it points beyond itself to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end (which even death shall not bring to an end).

The world gets it wrong on both counts: it idolizes marriage, on the one hand, and despises it on the other. Do not fall into either trap.

Your marriage, under the Cross, is a confession of the Word of God and a proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. Live accordingly (in faith and love). And just so, recognize that your marriage to each other, here in time, even unto death, shall finally give way to the heavenly and eternal Bridegroom of all Christians.

Indeed, already here and now, in the womb of His Church on earth, that great and glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, visits you in the flesh (with the Body and Blood conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate). Here He is hidden in humility, yet living and active, gracious and life-giving.

As the Father gives you to Him, and gives His own Name to you; and as the Holy Spirit joins you to Him, so are you one flesh and blood with God, the Lord.

So does He remember you in mercy and fill you with good things and bless you unto all generations. It is for that, above all, that we magnify the Lord and rejoice in our Savior today. For He has done great things for you and for us all, and mighty deeds with His outstretched arms. All that He has spoken to you shall be fulfilled, and we too shall call you blessed.

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

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