THE BRIDEGROOM AND
HIS BEAUTIFUL BRIDE
HIS BEAUTIFUL BRIDE
There exists many beautiful stories, both true and novel, which have been written and many historical accounts exist, concerning noble and gentle bridegrooms and their betrothal and marriage to gracious brides. Those who remember such happy marriages, appreciate reading about the bride and groom’s mutual love and fidelity and happily observe its continuity through the years.
Such most fond memories are even more appreciated among those who themselves experience the same sweetness in their own betrothal and marriage, and who through faith and hope in Christ, have remained faithful and true to each other, with harmonious years in happiness and eventually growing old together. For them their sharing and mutual love is a foretaste of Paradise which was lost and the eternal Paradise. However, no matter how wonderful and worthy it may be, even this marriage is inferior and is a type of another more beautiful marriage.
The most beautiful betrothal and marriage story of all, is even now being written, and does not concern a marriage of man and woman, which even when enhanced by offspring, always ends in death – not exactly a happy ending, but inevitable, with only nice memories remaining. Even the secular saying “till death do us part” has a hollow ring, and sounds more like a threat than a promise.
In this perfect marriage, the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and we the Church are His Bride whom he has chosen. We need to reflect on this: Although he fashioned us out of the clay of the earth, and breathed His own spirit into us, giving us intellect, feelings and freedom to think and act, what did we do in return? We rebelled and continue to rebel against Him. But because He is good and the only Lover of man, His desire is to make us become like Him, holy and perfect! This takes a change of our thinking which is repentance. We are the prodigal son, who must return to our heavenly Father through Christ the Son of God.
Realizing that we are chosen should cause us to leap in spirit, which is what happened to the Theotokos, when she spoke of her marriage and coming motherhood: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Our betrothal and marriage is in fact, the only reality that we will find in our whole lifetimes. Everything else in this world is inferior, temporary, and most unworthy of our hope and love. The reality of the divinely beautiful Bridegroom who chose to take us to himself as His bride, for he did not seek a ravishingly beautiful woman, but a woman scarred with sins and transgressions which caused her to be hideous and ugly, for we all bear the hideous scars of sins and iniquity. That is why the Lord says about us: “There is none that does good, not one.”
Our Lord , the Bridegroom, helps His bride, as she endures many trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, readying herself for the great marriage feast. This bride, whom He is gathering into His Church, wherein the bride adorns herself, changing her countenance so as to rid herself of every blemish and the Bridegroom constantly helps her when she cries out to Him, for He and she desires to enhance her beauty. When that great day comes, she will be the most beautiful of all brides from beginning of time. Upon her first encounter with the groom, although He assured her of His affection but, warned her that she must rid herself of her ugliness following His instructions, and beautify herself with a beautiful wedding garment supplied by the Bridegroom, The Bride expresses this expectation with these words:
“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching. Again, unworthy is that servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore my soul, lest you be borne down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out from the Kingdom. Therefore rouse yourself and cry: Holy, holy, holy, are you our God, through the protection of the bodiless powers, save us.”
The betrothed examines herself in her mirror and shudders as she sees her own ugliness and uncleanliness. No matter how beautiful she becomes, she still sees her many blemishes and shortcomings which renders her unworthy of union with her divine groom. She is not looking at her physical body, for hers is not an ordinary mirror. It is the special mirror which is able to examine the condition of the soul and to observe any interior traces of ugliness. This mirror is super bright, and reveals many sins lurking inside us, which would have been overlooked without it. It reveals the hideous and empty pride of the Pharisee, and offers us the humility and repentance of the Publican. It offers the prostitute’s repentance and reveals the wickedness of the high priests who put Christ to death on the Cross. It speaks of the uncleanliness of the lepers, and arouse us the desire, to utter the words: “Lord, if you will, that I may be clean.” Then rejoice in His words: “I will. Be clean!"
The Gospel with its many facets, has immense power able to convert ugliness into beauty, and make prostitutes into virgins! The Gospel and its commandments are the means by which any one can look therein to examine themselves and to see if they are ugly or beautiful. What is this cleanliness that the Bridegroom desires? “If you love me, keep my commandments.” The Bridegroom does not seek external beauty but the inner beauty of the soul, cleansed and made worthy by repentance and partaking of the medicine of immortality. “For whoever eats this bread shall never die”, says the Lord.
Beware. For if this mirror shows only ugliness, because we fail to keep the commandments of Christ, it will also condemn us, because the bride must be beautiful. We can access the mirror found in the Christ given laws recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7, which begins with the Beatitudes.
Our beloved Bridegroom looks at every soul with infinite love and forbearance; seeking every soul who responds regardless of its sins or uncleanliness. He selects the unclean soul that He knows will be willing to engage in the struggle for purification, for nothing unclean can dwell His Kingdom. We see how He invisibly barred Mary of Egypt from entering the Church, who, for she was filled with her passion of nymphomania, yet she was seeking to enter the Church and reverence the Cross! It is obvious that the Lord provided her with a way to escape her wicked way of life. He also sees the murderer that will weep in deep repentance, be forgiven and become a saint; He sees the apparently upright man who will attack His bride and torture and slaughter them.The unfortunate one unknowingly and unwillingly by his evil actions helped them to be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom, for they showed their great love for their Bridegroom by sacrificing their lives. The Devil, the father of those who hate the Orthodox, is not aware that he is helping them to acquire crowns of glory as they go to their beloved Spouse, through the baptism of fire!
These are among the reasons why the Lord forbids us to judge and condemn anyone, because what we see and what God sees are two different things. Generally we judge the outer person while God sees into the very depths of the soul of ever man. Our primary and most important duty is the correction of our own souls, which requires the continual scrubbing and cleansing, with tears of sorrow for our many sins, according faithfully the method prescribed by our Lord. “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is present!” Confession, “whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven” Partaking of the Mysteries: “Take eat, this is my body; drink of it for this is my blood.” partaking of the Mysteries.
Some may ask, when will the Lord come to judge the earth and be eternally with His beloved Bride? The answer to this question is very soon., for each of us goes to judgment at the end of our life, when we step through the doors of death into eternity. Those who were faithful and true and have strove to obey the commandments will be exceedingly glad, while others will weep and hang their heads in the shame that has come upon them, trembling in fear for the endless punishment that looms before them..The day of our death is the beginning of eternal life, for nothing new will happen after death. When we depart we will depart and our works out of faith, will be the cause of either suffering or rejoicing. Having left this world, we will not find repentance, but a terrible remorse. Today, in this life, is the time to confess our sins privately to our Priest, or else we will proclaim them before the entire world on the day of judgment. Let us stand in fear and trembling before the just Judge, now while we still are able, pleading with Him to cleanse us and render us to be worthy of Him, and be ready at the call: “Behold the Bridegroom comes . . .” , we may enter into His bridal chamber and remain His eternal Bride for ever. This is the most beautiful and superior of marriages for we the Bride will rejoice with the Bridegroom for ever. This is what this present life is all about and sadly the words of the Lord ring true: “Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the way that leads to destruction, and many are they who go in there; because narrow is the gate and the way restricted, few there be that find it”