Editor’s word: This is an element three of a sequence. Part one will be discovered right here and half two right here.
In the earlier article, we mirrored on human marriage, which “has profounder origins than the sexual instinct, and is connected above all with the spiritual nature of the human person.” Marriage on earth is however a mirrored image of the connection the place we discover true achievement: everlasting union with God. Holy Scripture offers us a deeper understanding of that relationship.
The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament appear to current totally different faces to us. To seize on the metaphor, God in the Old Testament doesn’t current His face in any respect, not even to Moses. But in the Incarnation, God has a face in fact, a real face that appears on us with human eyes and speaks with human lips — O surprise!
One clarification of the distinction between the Old and New was superior in the mid-Second Century by Marcion, who gave his identify to the heresy that denies the presence of God in the Old Testament. This false doctrine appears maybe just a little quaint to us now. But word that the 1910 version of the Catholic Encyclopedia refers to Marcionism as “perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known.” (Arendzen, John. “Marcionites.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol 9 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910) accessed 17 Dec. 2022. )
I ponder if we don’t inherit just a little taint of suspicion from these Marcionite forebears, which makes us too delicate to a sure lack of tenderness in a number of the Old Testament encounters between God and His individuals. But that is only a matter of emphasis. In reality, the Old Testament is dripping with God’s tenderness, albeit generally expressed in broken-hearted laments over His individuals’s unfaithfulness.
What distinguishes the Old and New greater than anything is the excellence between promise and achievement. God promised a lot, so typically, to His individuals. Augustine wrote, “We receive the Old Testament, therefore, not in order to obtain the fulfillment of these promises, but to see in them predictions of the New Testament; for the Old bears witness to the New. … [T]he holy and spiritual men of these times … understood … how God appointed all these sayings and actions as types and predictions of the future. Their great desire was for the New Testament.” Contra Faustum, IV.2. If the New Testament reveals the marriage feast of the Lamb, the Old Testament reveals maybe the courtship. This, then, is why we discover such deep wells of poignant longing in the Old Testament. The Old Testament recounts a passionate courtship, with the Lord Himself because the suitor. Biblical faith, it’s generally mentioned, is just not finally about how we search God however about how He seeks us.
Biblical faith… is just not finally about how we search God however about how He seeks us.
An unpleasantly graphic however deeply shifting account of His tender love is mirrored in chapter 16 of Ezekiel. The prophet tells how God discovered Israel, illegitimate offspring of pagan individuals, like an toddler deserted in a subject, not even cleaned from the bloody residue of delivery. He gently washes her and permits her to develop to lovely womanhood. “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, behold, you were at the age for love; and I spread my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness: yes, I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine.” Ez 16:8. And like a loving partner, He adorns her with embroidered fabric, with superb linen and silks and leather-based footwear, with jewels and bracelets and even a crown, until she is gorgeous as a younger queen.
It’s illuminating to pause the parable there; what follows is a mournful account of His bride’s unfaithfulness, however what we should not overlook is the love and compassion on show. This deserted whelp, in a situation that’s virtually repellant, is remodeled into a real paragon of magnificence. The lesson is that this: it doesn’t matter what pitiful mess I’m, irrespective of whose fault that’s, God does precisely the identical to me. No matter how a lot I’m marred by circumstances or sin, even when I’m, in plain reality, disgusting, right here is Our Lord, coming with water and oil to cleanse me, and with robes and finery to decorate me.
The Old Testament is brimming with profound expressions of affection like this. Usually, they’re accompanied by expressions of pleasure and delight. Through Isaiah, God speaks to His individuals: “As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” Is. 62:5. Here the prophet speaks of a future marriage, which we now know by means of Jesus Christ. We live in the age of achievement, for which so many generations waited. Even in their ready, although, the psalmist expressed the easy and deeply consoling reality of the Lord’s love: “the Lord takes delight in His people.” Ps. 149:4. His love is just not newly discovered; it extends far again into time, equally passionate, unwavering in tenderness, at all times close to.
His love is just not newly discovered; it extends far again into time, equally passionate, unwavering in tenderness, at all times close to.
Perhaps the Bible’s most vivid and lyrical expressions of God’s love are discovered in the Song of Songs. Again, as in Ezekiel, we discover an intimacy that just about should embarrass the reader unfamiliar with the textual content. It opens with the phrases of the Bride, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,” Song 1:2, and we all know the pressing longing of this soul in love. It is the longing of each soul, even when it lies underneath an accretion of betrayal and neglect. If we might throw off the detritus of despair, if we might take away the scar tissue left by sin, we might discover ourselves daring sufficient to say this. “[T]he Bride, in her exile, does not want anymore to be told about her Bridegroom, no matter how beautifully. Now she wants to talk directly to him, without any intermediary, and to be with him at last.” Arminjon, Blase, SJ. The Cantata of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988, Kindle ed.), “Overture to the Four Seasons of Love,” Reading. Father Arminjon observes, in the Introduction to his marvelous guide, that mystics from the Church Fathers to Therese of Lisieux have reverenced the Song of Songs. It isn’t any surprise.
When Jesus got here to earth, He got here to comprehend, to make actual, the wedding so lengthy spoken of. As long-married individuals know, this isn’t solely a matter of ecstasies. It entails a quiet and rising achievement that’s far deeper. The Bride and Bridegroom don’t spend the remainder of their lives dancing on the marriage ceremony. They begin making a house. This is the place Jesus needs to go, with every of us. We are to make a spot for him, for he longs to be with us in intimate friendship: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Jn 14:23. What a placing picture! There isn’t any suggestion of ascension to ethereal heights, no penetration of interior sanctums match just for the enlightened and highly effective. Jesus is talking of a loving domesticity. Jesus tells us, like he instructed Zacchaeus, to come back down rapidly from all such awkward perches, “for today I must stay at your house.” Lk 19:5.
The Christian path is ever main us to the place the place we actually belong. The stringent circumstances required for holiness don’t stand between us and admission to that loving house. They definitely make us higher firm, however that may come. To enter in, that’s the key. The Lord takes delight in His individuals; how might anybody flip away?
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