Entering the Love Story

Original Article by Christopher West Posted Here: http://corproject.com/95-entering-the-love-story-2/

The Bible is a love story. As Pope Francis declared: “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is” (April 24, 2013).

But what kind of love story is it? God loves us as a father, as a brother, and as a friend, to be sure. However, the interpretive key that really unlocks the mystery of divine love is marriage. Indeed, from beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of the bridegroom and of the bride and of their longing to become “one.”

The Bible begins with the marriage of man and woman, it ends with the marriage of Christ and the Church, and right in the middle of the biblical story we have the unabashed celebration of spousal union in the Song of Songs. The erotic poetry of the Song points ultimately to divine love and demonstrates that Christ loves his Church as “a lover with all the passion of a true love,” wrote Pope Benedict. Indeed, throughout the Old Testament, the prophets “described God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images” (God Is Love 9, 10).

In the New Testament, the marriage of God and humanity is consummated in the “bridal chamber” of Mary’s womb. Christ’s first miracle is at a wedding. He calls himself “the Bridegroom.” And at the high point of the entire biblical analogy of spousal love, St. Paul describes the “one flesh” union of spouses as a “great mystery” that refers to Christ and the Church (see Eph 5:31–32). This “great mystery,” St. John Paul II tells us, is “the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality. It is what God . . . wishes above all to transmit to mankind in his Word” (TOB 93:2).

What does God wish “above all” to tell us in his Word? He loves us. Again, he loves us as a father and brother and friend, to be sure. But he loves us in a particular way as a Spouse. In fact, we could summarize the entire Bible with these five words: “God wants to marry us.” When we proclaim Christ’s saving love to others, we are proclaiming the love of the eternal Bridegroom for his Bride and we are inviting them into this eternal communion with the divine.

“It is emblematic,” says Pope Francis, “how in the Book of Revelation, John, taking up the intuition of the Prophets, describes the final, definitive dimension [of our existence] in terms of ‘the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ (Rev 21:2). Here is what awaits us!” exclaims Francis. “And here, then, is who the Church is … a bride with her bridegroom. And it is not just a manner of speaking: they will be real and true nuptials! Yes, because Christ . . . has truly wed us and has made us, as a people, his bride. This is nothing more than the fulfillment of the plan of communion and love woven by God throughout history . . . ” (Oct 15, 2014).

Being a Christian, then, does not mean learning how to abide by a set of dry doctrines and repressive rules. It means learning how to direct the deepest longing of our hearts (eros) toward that which truly satisfies: the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church. These “heavenly nuptials” are what we yearn for, what we’re created for, and what we’re destined for. This is “the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every heart,” to use Pope Francis’s expression (Joy of the Gospel 265). If Christianity is not framed as such—as God’s passionate desire for union with us and our quest for the true satisfaction of eros in union with him—it eventually becomes incomprehensible and even meaningless. More than that, it can even morph into something destructive to our true humanity.

What is the task, then, of the new evangelization? It’s nothing other than heeding Christ’s call to “go into the main streets and invite everyone to the wedding feast” (Mt 22:9).

– From Pope Francis to Go, pp. 13-15