Who of us doesn’t either long for the ultimate husband or long to be the ultimate husband? As singles, it can be easy to fall into the trap of looking for the “perfect” spouse (even if in our heads we “know” that no one is perfect). The movies and billboards constantly promote the idea that we should be waiting for the “knight in shining armor” or the “drop-dead gorgeous model” that somehow all of us ought to be able to marry. One problem among many is that seeking perfection in another person is guaranteed to cause disappointment and disillusionment, since none of us are perfect. It will be a great relief to our future spouse if we don’t expect him or her to be the one who will “fulfill” us or who will make us completely happy. What a burden for him or her to carry!
At some point during these years of being single I realized that I was, in a sense, “idolizing” marriage itself – looking to it for my fulfillment. No, I didn’t think that any man would be perfect (at least not consciously). I was too realistic for that. Nor, of course, did I want any man looking for perfection in me, since he certainly wouldn’t find it! But on some level I thought that being married would fulfill me. It has helped me to realize that I can only look for real fulfillment in Christ, the ultimate Bridegroom, even while I continue to hope for an earthly marriage.
The journey of coming to relate to Christ as my Bridegroom has been a long one, and is ongoing. Holy Week provides a perfect time to meditate upon this great reality – not only for women, but also for men. As part of the one Bride of Christ, the Church, we are all called to receive God’s love as a bride receives the love of her husband. (cf. Eph 5:25) Realizing that Christ is our ultimate – and perfect – Bridegroom can help keep us from expecting to find the “perfect” spouse here on earth. Jesus is the only perfect spouse!
So what’s the connection between Holy Week and Christ as Bridegroom? In the Byzantine Catholic Church, during Holy Week, the “Matins (Morning Prayer) of the Bridegroom” is celebrated, so called because Christ is coming to give himself to his Bride on the Cross. One Matins hymn begins: “Behold, the Bridegroom comes…” Another addresses Christ saying, “I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment, that I may enter therein.” Matins on Good Friday announces, “The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails,” and the icon of Christ in the midst of his Passion is known as the “Bridegroom” icon. It is this very icon which sits at the spot where Christ was crucified, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
How is it that it’s precisely in his Passion and Death that Jesus is our Bridegroom? First, let’s remember that in the Old Testament, God’s covenant with his people on Mt. Sinai was viewed by the Jews as a marriage between God and his people Israel. Throughout the Old Testament the prophets refer to the God as the husband of Israel, a spouse who remains faithful despite Israel’s infidelities. For example, the prophet Hosea tells us, “And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband’… And I will betroth you to me for ever…” (Hos 2:16, 19) Isaiah says, “For your Maker is your husband… and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.” (Is. 54:5)
Now, Jesus is the Bridegroom of the new Israel, the Church. His marriage with us, his Bride, took place through his complete gift of Himself on the Cross. It will ultimately be fulfilled at the wedding feast of the Lamb at the end of time. (cf. Rev 19:7-9, CCC 1612) Tradition has long held that it was at his death on the Cross that the Church was born, when blood and water, representing Baptism and the Eucharist, flowed from his side. St. Augustine says, “When Adam sleeps, Eve is formed from his side; when Christ is dead, the spear pierces His side, that the mysteries may flow forth whereby the Church is formed.”
So during this Holy Week let’s really try to absorb the beautiful reality that Christ is indeed our ultimate Bridegroom! As singles, it’s all the more appropriate and important that we meditate on this fact. Relating to Christ as our Bridegroom can not only help us to have a more intimate relationship with him, but can help us keep our perspective regarding our desire for marriage. We cannot be the perfect spouse for someone else, and neither will someone else be a perfect spouse for us. Keeping our eyes fixed on Christ as the perfect spouse can keep us from placing unrealistic expectations on whomever God brings into our lives.
The Lover of Mankind has radically given Himself to us in the most complete way possible and continues to give Himself to us – if only we will receive Him! Entering into His love during this Holy Week, let us allow ourselves to be filled with it to overflowing, so that we may then better love all those God has and will put into our lives! Have a blessed Week of the Bridegroom and a glorious celebration of His Holy Resurrection!
“O Bridegroom, surpassing all in beauty, you have called us to the spiritual feast of your bridal chamber. Strip from me the disfigurement of sin, through participation in your sufferings; clothe me in the glorious robe of your beauty, and in your compassion make me feast with joy at your kingdom.” – Bridegroom Matins, Tuesday of Holy Week