The Bride : The Church
"This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning the relationship of Christ and the Church." Ephesians 5:32
This is a very brief description of a complex yet mystical image St Paul calls a great mystery, but I trust you can begin a meditation with what I try to say .As we draw near to the birth of Our Blessed Mother, September 8, I think of the Bride.
This is another image I had wanted to paint for so long but never had the time. It was during the crisis of abuses in the Church that I turned to Cardinal Henri de Lubac's unique and magnificent book called "The Splendor of the Church" written in a form of exile, when he had been silenced. There is no trace of bitterness or victimization in his book, only a scholarly, lovely book about the Bride. It's (Her) beauty is incomparable and if you get a chance to meditate with the book you won't be disappointed.
For many years Church theologians argued about Revelation 12 and the Woman Clothed With The Sun; was this Mary giving birth or was it the Church giving birth? They ultimately decided it was a vision of both.
Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar says that some people are born with a "Church soul." By that he means that they (though imperfect and sinners like everybody else in the church) carry the church with them and worry or continue to love and agonize about Her like some parents do over their children. We have a growing list of 35 Doctors of the Church who are men and women with church souls, as well as a catalog of saints, prophets and holy women and men too numerous to mention.
What is your image of the church? From our two thousand year history we have a few I can mention beginning with the Savior and His apostles and disciples. Then the Woman in Revelation 12. The people in small or large homes gathered around the Eucharist in St Paul's letters, the church of the catacombs, the Ship or Barque of St Peter, the basilicas, Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, the Vatican itself, tiny churches and capillas ... Vatican II renewed and refreshed the striking image of the people of God. We all have so many images of church.
This image is of a radiant Bride who is perpetually young and pregnant. She walks barefoot through two thousand years of history amidst great dangers from within the church and without. But She cannot be touched or hurt. She is clothed with the sun or in this image, a luminous radiance that protects Her. She will keep walking carrying (Andrea della Robbia's medallion of) the Holy Child, the hand of the Father above Her, and the Holy Spirit guiding Her forward; for the Spirit always moves forward with infinite creativity and new life.
I remember reading in Letter XVII of "Meditations On The Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism" (by Anonymous 1985, Element Press) that the devil is only capable of repetition, evil ad nauseum, over and over and over. God alone is capable of miracles, of bringing life out of death and it's many grotesque faces we call the culture of death. God alone can put flesh on the dead dry bones in the vision of Ezekiel. The Spirit hovered over the void in Genesis and the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. We say in preface number 6 at Mass that we live and move and have our being in God - as if we're fish in the giant ocean of God - even if we are unaware or too preoccupied to notice we live in Him.
I think our image of the church is as important as our image of God, in that we live as the church we image. I hope for some people this image will be helpful and hopeful.
Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!
You who are an image of the church
Help us to love Her and bring the Gospel of your Son Jesus
Into our waiting world now and until we are forever
Home in the Most Holy Trinity and
Home with you
Fr Bill McNichols
Labor Day September 2017