Saturday, 16 April 2011

Wedding season

My housemate's away for one; I'm aware of others having one today, and next weekend I'll enjoy witnessing another. Happily, the younger royals are getting in on the act, too. Yes, it's the season of weddings again - a joy to celebrate with friends. No need to feel left out, though: the best marriage in the universe is on offer to you, the one to which all the others just point. The one which will last beyond the sunset at the end of the film, and indeed, beyond the most lasting of these temporary marriages, because they can only be 'til death part us. For this marriage, the Bridegroom defeated death... so made an eternal promise. 

The engagement ring came with these words: 
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
As the guests gather for weddings now, it's not The Big Day. That's yet to come. [So keep saving for it, so you're ready.] Really, you're seeing a beautiful temporary picture of the Big Day.  
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.
So the wedding ring comes inscribed with the words, 'I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.' 

Thus that most soppy of theologians, the old German Martin 'married an ex-nun cos she was left over' Luther, wrote: 
The third incomparable grace of faith is this: that it unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage - no, by far the most perfect of all marriages - is accomplished between them (for human marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage), then it follows that all they have, becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His.
If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation to the soul. For, if he is a husband, he must take to himself that which is his wife's, and at the same time, give to his wife that which is his. For, in giving her his own body and himself, how can he but give her all that is his? And, in taking to himself the body of his wife, how can he but take to himself all that is hers?
In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For, Christ is God and man, and is such a person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, indeed, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, and his righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty. So then, when I say, such a person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of his wife, nay, makes them his own, and deals with them no differently than as if they were his, and as if he himself had sinned; and when he suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that he may overcome all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow him up, they must be swallowed up by him in stupendous conflict. For his righteousness rises above the sins of all men; his life is more powerful than all death; his salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.
Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ. Thus he presents to himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus he betroths her to himself 'in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies' (Hosea ii. 19, 20).
Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? 
Christ, that rich and pious husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all his good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in him, and since she has in her husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, "If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is his, and all his is mine," as it is written, "My beloved is mine, and I am his" (Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," victory over sin and death, as he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. xv. 56, 57).

[Aside: a few friends have posted this beautiful poem by Rael Mason, which captures the secondary place of marriage well, in a love poem, but not as you know it. "You'll never be the centre of my universe."]

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