Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Marriage

An Implausible Homily

During the last semester of my diaconal formation, we are focused on homiletics and liturgy.  My last homiletic’s assignment was to prepare a homily (preached today) for a pretend couple that was described as follows:

  • Felicia, 24 year old Hispanic conservative Catholic whose parents are very traditional Catholics (i.e., Tridentine).
  • Achmed, 26 year old Muslim whose parents are very traditional Muslims.

The Gospel was from Matthew 22: 34-40,

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

I had to do considerable amount of research so I could find some common ground…and there is very little; however, here is what I came up with. Overlooking that this scenerio would never occur in real life – one or both sets of the parents would put a stop to it, I was asked to prepared the following homily for their wedding. Feedback is appreciated.

Felicia and Achmed, it is with great pleasure that we celebrate this afternoon, your marriage covenant. All of us are here gathered around you to witness your union in the sight our Lord. But before you offer your vows or nikah to each other, Scripture compels us to ensure that your vows always possess your heart, soul and mind in order that you may glorify the Lord and be blessed through your covenant.

Achmed and Felicia, it is true that you come here today from two very different cultures and religious traditions. And, that is part of the beauty of this solemn occasion. You see, both of our traditions find themselves rooted in a common heritage through the Patriarch Abraham whose life and family was dedicated to honor the Lord. Because of this common heritage, we also have a deep understanding of covenant. It is through Abraham that we begin to understand that while contracts are an exchange of possessions, covenants are an exchange of persons brought together by God. The result, covenant creates family.

The covenant created by God through your vows is a joining of your very selves. We share a common understanding that this covenant makes two indiduals one flesh, which is never meant to be severed during your lives.

This covenant not only unifies both of you, but also your families. And we must admit, as your parents have, this unity may sometimes be a challenge. Felicia, you from a Hispanic Catholic background and Achmed from a traditional Muslim family, are blending two very diverse cultures. But while the differences may seem glaring, the values which your families have instilled within each of you, form the common ground and foundation of a successful marriage.

During your time of marriage preparation, it quickly became clear to me that your families had formed deep within you the virtues of faithfulness, family, service and hospitality.

We live in a culture that does not understand the faithfulness of spouses or the importance of family. This is an essential service you can offer. In a society that needs to rediscover that covenant cannot be tossed aside, but requires hard work and commitment, you can be that witness.

Our culture also does not prize close family bonds. Your strong family roots through this covenant will be permanently fused. Both of your families, from this day forward, will now be one through your marriage. The love and firmly rooted faith of your families will not only serve to strengthen and support your marriage vows but will serve as a place of healing and comfort in times of need. I am convinced that your families will be there to share in your joys and triumphs…and support you in times of sorrow and trial. Your continuing commitment to involve extended family in your marriage, will be a glorious witness to the world that our God desires all to be one.

Both of our religious traditions have inherited from Abraham a strong sense of hospitality. The openness of your home to the stranger in need, and your commitment to the less fortunate among us, not only honors the Lord, but makes real His sovereignty among us. Even here today in this Church are the first fruits of your love for one another. Our Lord’s command to serve and love our neighbor is evidenced by our honored guests here among us.

We who are gathered here today, now urge you in the sight of God, to be faithful to your vows and duties as husband and wife. We charge you to place your marriage at the service of the less fortunate and to always have the Lord in your heart, soul and mind. For it is the Lord that will now hear your nikah and blesses you through this marriage covenant. And now, without distraction, and with a firm purpose, let us hear you declare your intention and vows.

Brainwashing our Children: What’s a Baby?

The Washington Post offers a daily summary of the news through  a sister publication called Slate Magazine. It seems to be aimed at the trendy young adult who are looking for daily news sound bytes and entertainment. Unlike many other young adult news services that tend to be quite edgy and sarcastic (The Onion for example), Slate actually does report news, albeit at times slanted towards a particular political disposition.

One of the top twelve stories for today: Young People Clueless About Babies. Well duh!!! The English paper, Guardian originally published this story entitled, Childbirth a Mystery to Young Brits.Whether it be Slate or the Guardian reporting the story both publications seem to be in awe of some of the following statistics:

  • 20 percent of British 18- to 25-year-olds found that more than 20 percent think pregnancy lasts for 12 months
  • 10 percent believed eating red meat influenced the sex of a baby and half expected a baby to walk and talk within its first year
  • 20 percent of the childless respondents thought the umbilical cord was a musical note

And it goes on.  Now, I am curious about two somewhat obvious questions in my mind. First, “Why are they surprised?” and “Why would the media outlets think that our youth and young adults would know anything about babies except how to abort them and prevent growth and eventual birth through the use of contraception? Maybe it is me, but I see a direct and logical correlation here.

For the last 50 years in the United States we have actively been at war with the most defenseless in our society – the unborn child. As we discussed on Tuesday, contraception among this demographic is at an all-time high. We have spent our time teaching women how to turn their wombs into a “embryo non grata” locked-down facility and our men how to use women for a quick cathartic romp in the bed. It is a simple military principle. You do not consort with the enemy – babies in this case. The womb which was meant to be a haven of safety, comfort, and the pride of parents has become a multipurpose chamber of torture, death and an inconvenient medical procedure to be endured by many women and in some cases enforced by men.

All our culture has really taught, and continues to teach, our youth is that the marital embrace is not really for marriage and not really an embrace – more of a drive through. Arguably, most Catholics do not know that there are two goods to the marital embrace: 1) procreation and 2) unity of the spouses. Most get their hackles up when they hear this because the common perception is that the dictatorial old men in Rome are saying, “The marital acts is only for children.” Please! They are not that stupid or naive. The procreative good is higher than the unitive good because in theory, children outlive their parents and continue society. The Church also realizes that if you remove the possibility of children from the equation (this is not to be confused with those who by an act of nature, accident or genetics are unable to procreate) the spouses are apt to use each other thus destroying the good of unity. Holy Mother Church wants spouses to come together in the marital embrace: Respecting the creative power of the body; Respecting the beauty and freedom to say, “yes” or “no”; and Choosing to come together out of love and in truth. Most profoundly, she realizes that among all the earthly symbols for the Most Blessed Trinity, the martial embrace is the best that we have – even though every analogy falls short.

To be honest, the above statistics were the good news. Here is the bad news:

  • 26 percent of the female respondents admitted they would consider plastic surgery after giving birth in order to regain their pre-pregnancy body shape
  • 27 percent admitted they would consider genetic engineering if it meant a better-looking baby

I wonder if our fanatical view of needing our bodies to look a certain way has anything to do with this? For the past twenty years of ministry, I have worked with too many to count  men and women (young and old alike) with poor self-images. They all have something in common:   they believed that in order to recover a healthy self-image they needed to look a certain way through exercise, control of food and/or compliments. Akin to this is also that you cannot be critical at any point but must tolerate the self-destructive patterns in thinking and attitude, and even sin. Unfortunately, that is bad Catholic psychology. Even more unfortunate is a society that encourages it, which at the end of the day is really called the sin of vanity. The individual who needs (or believes they need) to look and act a certain way or needs an inordinate amount of affirmation will never have a healthy self-image. They will on the other hand develop a very healthy narcissistic personality and cultivate the malignant cancer called vanity. Why? Because instead of justice being the virtue that stands guard at the gate of our heart, vanity takes its place and protects the lack of a good self-image (based on truth and reality) by demanding a skewed sense of justice. And what does that skewed sense of justice allow? It turns in on itself and others – it cannibalizes the psyche and relationships that can actually bring about healing. Without going completely off topic, a healthy self-image is the product of an intimate relationship with Christ who gives us the grace to then view ourselves as we truly are: the good the bad and the ugly.


Do you know what the actual sin Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure said caused Adam and Eve to fall? It wasn’t pride but vanity. They continue on to say that pride is at the core of concupiscence and all sin but the actual sin was yep, you got it, vanity.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

What do the statistics tell me? Two things. The first is that we need to engage the Culture of Death to teach the joy of children. Many young adults and teens I meet do not even want to hold a baby because they might make a mistake or the baby won’t like them (If that were the case I should be devastated since every child cries when they see me – including my own). They are afraid of the child. Perhaps because they intuitively know that from the time they began school they have been taught that children are a burden and will interfere with their bucket list and social lives. Maybe by holding the baby they will discover that what the culture had said about them and babies are lies.

Secondly, we need to elevate motherhood back to its proper place – and that does not mean Mother’s Day. My second oldest, when our fourth was born, saw my wife’s belly and exclaimed, “What happened to your tummy Mommy!” Immediately she responded, “The wrinkles are God’s gift to me to say I am a Mommy and continually remind me even when you leave the house and have your own children one day.” Me, the heartless-one, walked out of the room with a tear in my eye humbled by this profound truth. It is true that for 99 percent of women who bear children, their bodies never return to what society calls their “former glory.” But Scripture says,

Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. (Psalm 127:3)

Ladies, if any man tells you that you are less beautiful because of giving birth, they are idiots and do not deserve you. Please quote me on that. You have participated with God in the act of creation and should be proud of it! Also, just because the man can successfully procreate does not make them a father. They need to follow through in providing, educating and protecting you first, and then your children, till death provides the vacation he has always been hoping for.

Once the child is born many parents hit the panic button because now the question is “How are we going to pay for them or their education?” It is not unreasonable to think this. When I say, “God will provide” I am not being trite or saying don’t give money a second thought. Those who know my family know how the Lord continues to provide for us. Husbands and fathers, why is your wife worrying? Your job is to alleviate that. It may mean working two jobs. That’s okay, you were built for that. It may also mean you do not get to have a man cave. That’s okay too, being with your family is more important. It could mean that you have to do without. That’s even better because you are instilling in your family what it means to sacrifice and grow in virtue.

My prayer for all the teens and young adults is that you find a spouse who loves you for who you are and desires to bless all of us with many children (in that order please: Marriage then children). Teach your children and every teen and young adult you meet to love children and to have a brood. The world would be a lot happier place with smiling babies around us. As my best man reminded me on my wedding day, “Be fruitful and multiply.” So being obedient, we replaced ourselves and had two more. Not only did God bless us with fantastic kids, they want kids too.

Research to Support Structures of Sin

Warning!! This Blog post is meant for adults only or parents with their teens. Contains information inappropriate for our youth.

Institutionalized Structures of Sin

In his Apostolic Letter Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI stated that in society there are some sins that are so entrenched in the culture that they become part of the fabric and structure of the society. John Paul II continued this discussion of institutionalized societal sin in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis which called for Christians to come together in solidarity to overcome and evangelize these structures.

One of the many modern deep-seated structures of sin in our country is contraception. In 1930, Pope Pius XI promulgated the encyclical Casti Connubii which also prophesied the intrinsic link between contraception and abortion. Unfortunately, the statistics have proven him accurate. Yesterday, the Washington Post brought to our attention the recently published 118-page report: National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) in its article, The Checkup – Survey reveals America’s Sexual Activity, Condom Use. The good news is that it was impartially funded (note the sarcasm in Q’s typing) by Church & Dwight Co. Inc., maker of Trojan® brand sexual health products There were a number of co-authors that included Stephanie Sanders of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Department of Gender Studies at IU (to see the full list of co-authors go to the NSSBH web site provided above). We MUST take note of this study and be familiar with its findings. Not because we agree with it but because it will influence our public health policy for several generations:

This survey is one of the most expansive nationally representative studies of sexual behavior and condom use ever conducted, given the 80-year span of ages,” said Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. “These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections, and unintended pregnancy. (Source: Washington Post)

The study had a number of key findings but recognizing that your time is precious, let me highlight four using the following direct quotes from the introduction to the study on the NSSBH Web site:

  • According to the study’s findings, 1 of 4 acts of vaginal intercourse are condom protected in the U.S. (1 in 3 among singles)
  • [F]indings show that condoms are used twice as often with casual sexual partners as with relationship partners, a trend that is consistent for both men and women across age groups that span 50 years.
  • When it comes to responsible sexual behaviors, condom use is higher among black and Hispanic Americans than among white Americans and those from other racial groups.
  • Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active,” said Dr. Fortenberry. “Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents’ lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex.


Bullet 1

We should note that the first bullet illustrates a seemly low use of contraceptives -specifically condoms. Two important points. The first and most important observation is that the study finds usage of condoms an unacceptably low percentage:

These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections, and unintended pregnancy. (Emphasis mine)


This data, when compared to other studies in the recent past, suggest that although condom use has increased among some groups, efforts to promote the use of condoms to sexually active individuals should remain a public health priority.

The study also seems to indicate that it is evidently critical that among the terrible diseases that ravage the human person listed (usually contracted through intimate relations), pregnancy should be included. I am reminded that when my oldest was born in 1995, I was unable to get insurance coverage when I changed jobs. The insurance company determined that the pregnancy was a preexisting condition sharing the same status as cancer (which is also wrong to deny coverage). While too late for me, thankfully, the laws changed in June 1995. Or, even more serious, when my wife and I were overjoyed finding out that she was pregnant with our fourth, the doctors, nurses, phlebotomy technicians and even admin assistants continued to ask her if she wants to keep the child since we already had three (Did I move to China?). Needless to say, Kaiser Permanente in Fairfax, VA received a number of phone calls with documented abuses of HIPAA and conduct unbecoming. More to the point, the researchers in their analysis, extrapolate that obviously we need to promote better the use of condoms and it must remain a public health priority. I don’t want to be cynical (yes, I do) but could the need for increased awareness be that Trojan is the principle funder of the study? I work for an advertising company and I believe that we call this “increasing your market share” – just thinking out loud.

The second point is when you weed through the research you find that condom use is considerably higher for the most vulnerable – just not for vaginal intercourse AND for those over the age of 25. Among our youth it is 79.1 percent for men and 58.1 percent for women between the ages of 14-17 (See Condom Use Graph). Our young adults between 18-24: 45.0 (m) and 38.7 (f). Across all age-groups, the average percentage is closer to 33 percent for men and 29 percent for women. For your reading pleasure, notice the statistics are much higher for non-vaginal intercourse.

Bullet 2

The fact that condom use among causal partners than those with “relationship partners” – whatever that means – is twice as high in not encouraging. This should really point out to us that there is a whole population out there that is starving for love. As odd as what I am about to state sounds, it is secondary to a rampant trend that my wife and I have observed among the young adults and youth. We are growing a society of users. While being very efficient and profitable for a business the damage that is done emotionally, physically and relationally can only be described as epic. What we see in relationships (not sexual or among dating but familial and even in business) is a take-what-fulfills-my-need and then discard. I guess we are greener than we thought, recycling all the time- even people. A corollary to this is that our young adults and youth are not forming relationships that are healthy and beneficial. What do I mean? True friends and family are not meant to give you what you want or make you feel good about yourself all the time. They and give  you what you need. This poor self-image society first must embrace the good, bad and the ugly about themselves in order to become who God has created them to be.

Bullet 3

Well, how is not forming permanent relationships that tell the truth -verbally and with your body – responsible. As we know (for those who have never considered this before), the very act of intimacy says I give my myself totally and completely to you, without reservation. Contraception says, I give myself totally and completely to you, except…We are lying with our bodies. I wonder why the study did not point out that Health and Human Services as well as USAID (on an international level) have always targeted minority populations. Sounds a little Margaret Sanger to me.

Bullet 4

On the positive side (yep, I found something), the study does use the word abstinence. It even links it to the words responsible and condom (Shoots! I was being positive). Well, I am glad that among our youth there are those who are abstaining. That being said, it is irresponsible for our youth to be sexually active. That does not make them adults, it makes them starved for attention and love. It also is a great indicator that we are failing them and they are being catechized in the art of sexual usury. Where is the prime source of catechesis – arguably, entertainment. I could lay out a case for this but it seems among all the topics we Catholics want to confront, we remain cowards when it pertains to our television, movie and music habits. For some reason, we believe that once we hit a certain age, the images and music no longer affect us. I think that if this is the case, then let the two-year old watch, listen, say and do what they want – we are just arguing about age not holiness.

Looking to the Future

I highly encourage everyone to read, digest and make an active choice to respond to this study. It will shape our health and education policy for years to come. As Catholic Christians we need push back, re-educate and evangelize. The truth is resplendent – but we first need to embody it. Cultures are changed one person at a time and sometimes we have sweeping changes through politics and great moves of God. Do your part. The lines have been drawn and the battle has begun. So, where are you going to start?

Teen sex not always bad for school performance


Well, it seems that the American Psychological Association (APA) is having another Forrest Gump moment. You know, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Except the APA’s box has been sitting outside in the 100 degree Atlanta heat and has melted into utter oblivion. Another way to say it, in Forrest Gump vernacular, “Stupid is as stupid does.” You may be asking, “What is he ranting about today!” Great question, glad you asked.

This morning, the Washington Post published a story entitled, Teen sex not always bad for school performance. To summarize, the APA states that their latest study shows that committed sexual relationships among high school teens does not adversely affect their GPA.  Additionally, those who are in uncommitted sexual relationships or just “hook up” have a slightly worse GPA than those who practice abstinence. Based on this evidence, there is a call to reform the sex ed programs to reflect this new found knowledge and to put the hearts and minds of our teens at ease by telling them it is okay to have marital relations with someone you are not married to while you are in high school.

Initial thoughts

Sooooo, if I want my teen to improve their GPAs I should encourage a committed sexual relationship? Or maybe, “Hey fill in the name of your son and/or daughter here, if you have relations with your date tonight, make sure you two are committed or your grades could go down!” Last but not least, “Mom and Dad, do not tell me that I cannot have relations with my date.  The APA says that if it is within a committed relationship, my GPA could be greater than those who abstain. PLEASE!! I am trying to get into college!”

Serious thoughts

While the APA and other media outlets are campaigning to change our mindsets and steal our teens’ virtue, the Church continues to spread the good news that in Christ there is freedom. The Church is not against the marital act…it encourages the free, faithful, fruitful and total mutual self-giving of persons within the context of a marriage.

It is not like this government-endorsed hedonism is new to the Church. Remember Rome? I find it funny that University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright or Marie Harvey, professor of public health at Oregon State University think that teens are stupid. Lacking prudence, life experience and adequate control over their hormones…yes.  But they can think and they are observant.  You think they haven’t noticed the disastrous effects of the sexual revolution or that mom and dad switch out marriage partners more often that Paris Hilton changes clothes? I think they are observant and the following statistics are encouraging:

  • 54% of high school students are virgins.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2002). Youth risk behavior surveillance.
  • 58% on teens surveyed recently said sexual activity for high school-age teens is not acceptable, even if precautions are taken against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). The Cautious Generation? Teens Tell Us About Sex, Virginity, and “The Talk”. Washington, DC: Author.
  • 82% of teens desire to have one marriage partner for life.
    Barna Research, 1998
  • 87% of teens do not think it is embarrassing for teens to say that they are virgins.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). The cautious generation? Teens tell us about sex, virginity and “the talk.” Washington, DC: Author.
  • 63% of teens who have had sexual intercourse said they wish they had waited.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). Not Just Another Thing to Do: Teens Talk About Sex, Regret, and the Influence of Their Parents. Washington, DC: Author.

While these numbers are encouraging there is room for improvement. We need them to hear that the Gospel brings freedom in every area of our lives.  That modesty is not just about clothes but about speech and media too. For those of us who work with the youth, we need to show them first. Our living one way and teaching another compromises our witness…whether we believe it or not.

Some final snark

I thought I would end with a few reflections:

I wonder if our students test scores would improve if we spent more time teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic than how to put a prophylactic on a banana or a cucumber. I mean, I need an editor for my blog because writing and editing are not among my gifts (As Chris in a comment helped remind me – thanks Chris for the correction). Or maybe, that dating means I am ready for marriage and that committed till-death-do-us-part relations are vital to our national economic welfare (See the outstanding research presented by Dr. Patrick Fagan at the Family Research Council on this topic). Frankly, I am looking to marry off my kids one day and I need someone that they are worthy of or are worthy of them (BTW, just a note for the future, my best friend has a 9mm).

To my fellow parents, catechists and youth leaders.  How are you educating? Remember that every word, movie/television/music choice and or reference; every giggle or joke about the gift or sexuality, every fashion choice we make is being scrutinized by our children and students. FAITH IS MORE CAUGHT THAN TAUGHT. I am sure you are doing a great job since it is not only our soul but the souls of all who have been entrusted to us that are hanging in the balance. Of course, if we do not know how we are doing, we will at the general judgment when all our sins and meritorious choices will be revealed to all in the light of God’s grace.

To the those at the Washington Post who agree with this report and all the sociologists and sex ed teachers who are looking to warp our virtue: Go back to school, you learned nothing based on your comments. Oh, and demand a refund from your alma mater, you were cheated. Just sayn…

Liturgy: The Baldachinno

St. Thomas Aquinas College Chapel

Liturgically, a baldacchino (baldachin, or baldaquin) is the canopy over an altar or throne/cathedra (the use over cathedras has been forbidden since Vatican II)[1].  It is used particularly over high altars and in cathedrals. When it is purely architectural and not ornamental, it is also known as a ciborium. Another source describes it as,

…a permanent canopy made of wood, stone, or metal that rises over free-standing altars to show their importance. While medieval in origin, the notion of a baldacchino harkens back to the tent that Yahweh commanded the Israelites to erect over the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25-27).[2]

Jewish Tradition of the Chuppa

Preceding our tradition and closely related to the baldacchino is the Chuppa. This is the cloth canopy that was erected over the Ark of the Covenant but is also consider a constituent part of the Jewish betrothal and marriage rites. The rich symbolism that we share with our Jewish brethern can be seen in the following:

The chuppah represents a Jewish home symbolized by the cloth canopy and the four poles. Just as a chuppah is open on all four sides, so was the tent of Abraham open for hospitality. Thus, the chuppah represents hospitality to one’s guests. This “home” initially lacks furniture as a reminder that the basis of a Jewish home is the people within it, not the possessions. In a spiritual sense, the covering of the chuppah represents the presence of God over the covenant of marriage. As the kippah served as a reminder of the Creator above all, (also a symbol of separation from God), so the chuppah was erected to signify that the ceremony and institution of marriage has divine origins.

The “chuppah” may also represent the tent of Abraham, which was open on four sides. Hospitality is considered a cornerstone of the Jewish home.

Before going under the chuppah the groom covers the bride’s face with a veil, known as the badeken (in Yiddish). The origin of this tradition is in the dispute of what exactly is the chuppah. There are opinions that the chuppah means covering the bride’s face, and that by this covering the couple is to be married. Thus, some insist that the marriage witnesses also see this act of covering, as it is a formal part of the wedding.

The groom enters the chuppah first to represent his ownership of the home on behalf of the couple. When the bride then enters the chuppah it is as though the groom is providing her with shelter or clothing, and he thus publicly demonstrates his new responsibilities toward her.[3]

Secular and Christian Tradition

Within the secular realm, the baldacchino started out as a cloth canopy over a throne, this honor was reserved for royalty – especially emperors, kings, and those of sufficient authority or importance. An ecclesial example of this honor would be includes:

…canopies over each of the cardinal-electors, in conclave, symbolizing equal authority during the Sede Vacante. Upon election, the canopies of all but the new pope were lowered as the first gesture of obedience to the new pope.[4]

The literal translation of baldacchino, from Old English, means “stuff from Baghdad.”[5] This was of course a reference to the rich and beautiful silk, marble and precious stones found in modern day Iraq which was used in a baldachin’s construction. For many centuries, Iraq provided the materials for these glorious, and sometimes simple yet elegant structures.

The State Bed

The baldacchino is also responsible for inspiring the “State Bed” which later became known as the canopy bed of the hoi poloi.  The State Bed gain popularity in the late seventeenth century in France.  It was more ornamental than functional and was there to be a visual reminder of the royalty (and of course their humble importance) that resided there. Commonly, the room with the State Bed was used to receive important guests. History records the only time the State Bed was functional used was when there was a need to “produce a rightful heir” for the royal family.

Liturgically, the baldacchino has a rich tradition. The most recognized or famous baldacchino is in St. Peter’s. Pope Urban VIII commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design and construct the present baldacchino. Bernini designed the solomonic columns under the inspiration of the former columns surrounding old St. Peter’s high altar (donated by Constantine).  Below is a picture of St. Peter’s present baldacchino.

Baldacchino: St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

The Domestic Baldacchino

Nearly every little girl dreams of being royalty.  If asked, she many times would describe her bedroom with that canopy bed – otherwise known as a baldacchino.  But why? Women innately (though many times not consciously) understand that the marital act is in some sense, no less than as liturgical act which is sacred and deserves its proper solemnity.

The sacraments infuse holiness into the terrain of man’s humanity: they penetrate the body and soul, the femininity and masculinity of the personal subject, with power of holiness. All of this is expressed in the language of the liturgy…The liturgy…elevates the conjugal covenant of man and woman…to the dimensions of the “mystery”, and at the same time enabels that covenant to be realized in these dimensions through the ‘language of the body. (Theology of the Body 117b:2)

Christopher West summarizes this theology and that of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the following two points:

The Church celebrates her liturgy especially in and through the sacraments. Not only is conjugal life “liturgical,” but the Church’s liturgical life is in some sense “conjugal” (see CCC, 1617).

The one-flesh union is meant to be “Eucharistic.” Analogously, the Eucharist is the one-flesh union of Christ and His Church.

This place of intimacy and solemnity in the bedroom is but a reflection of the Sacred Liturgy.  For, it is during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Christ gives His body to His bride upon the altar to be communicated and consumed – to be in intimate communion.

“The Eucharist is the … sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride” (Mulieris Dignitatem 26).

So too does the bride and bridegroom communicate themselves to each other in the intimate communion of the marriage bed.  Is not the marriage bed also an altar of sacrifice where the bride and bridegroom are suppose to offer themselves totally to each other?

The marital bed can be viewed as an altar upon which spouses offer their bodies in living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is their spiritual act of worship (see Romans 12:1; see also CCC, 2031)

While not practical or even preferable, every married couple should have a “canopy bed” to remind themselves that their re-celebration of the sacrament of marriage is not only a human act but a solemn and liturgical act. During the marriage rite, the priest or deacon requests that the bride and bridegroom express their intentions to ensure that they enter into their vows freely, faithfully, and with the openness to fecundity – the same intentions for the marital act and reception of the Blessed Sacrament.

Should it be a surprise that in this age the integrity of the liturgy and marital act are being assailed from every side? They are necessarily bound to each other. May this silent liturgical structure remind and inspire us to stir within ourselves solemnity for the liturgy in the both the ecclesial and domestic church.

[1] James-Charles, Jr, and James-Charles Noonan. The Church Visible. New York: Viking, 1996. p 397

[2] “Campaign – Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.” Thomas Aquinas College. Thomas Aquinas College, 2002. Web. 14 July 2010.

[3] “Chuppah.” Wikipedia Foundation. 24 June 2010 Web. 14 July 2010.

[4] “Campaign – Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.” Thomas Aquinas College. Thomas Aquinas College, 2002. Web. 14 July 2010.

[5] Baldac is a medieval Latin form for Baghdad, whence fine silks reached Europe.

The Root and Face of Relativism

Traces spoke with David Schindler, editor of the North American edition of Communio, and Academic Dean and Edouard Cardinal Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America

Edited by Michelle Riconscente

Could you explain what relativism means?
In the etymological sense, it has to do with relation, from the Latin, “refero,” to refer or carry back to. Relativism implies reference to many, not to one: there is no universal truth, only many different truths.
It’s important to see that the origin of relativism actually lies in the sin of Adam, in his refusal to obey: his failure to accept being bound to another, which is to say, his premature assertion of his own creative capacity. In the most radical sense, relativism is a refusal of being a creature and thus making oneself the creator. Insofar as you act in the way that Adam did, you’re removing the source of truth from the Other and in that act seeking to become the source yourself. The first point, then, especially if we’re going to talk about America, is that the problem of relativism is finally the problem of God, because it’s a problem of what is ultimately the single, overarching measure of things.
In ontological terms, Adam’s sin consists in the replacement of the idea that “the true and the good and the beautiful are first given with being” with the notion that “things become true and good and beautiful insofar as they are the product of human agency.” You can see how this flows from what Adam did, because Adam refused to accept the given-ness of things, of being bound to this order. That is, according to this false understanding, truth is no longer something I first receive. The good and the beautiful are no longer in the first place things that happen to me and elicit my response, but rather things take on their value first by being projections of human freedom, products or objects of human choice. Truth becomes something we first make; and if we have that view, it’s going to be relativistic, by definition, precisely because truth then is no longer relative to the single ultimate source and measure of truth. I think that that’s the core.

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The Twisted Song(s) of the Lover

Usually during marriage preparation, the question inevitability arises about the wedding music.  Most forget that a wedding is not a secular rite that just takes place in a Church.  Equally delusional, is the belief that the wedding rite and liturgy belongs to the Bride in order to fulfill her childhood dream that Disney created.  A wedding is a sacred event.  It is the re-enactment of the original marriage in the Garden of Eden now found inside the Church (See The Garden of Eden 2.0: Coming to a Church Near You).  One of the great challenges is the lack of catechesis that the young couples have as they prepare for the celebration of this primordial sacrament. Still, all the more, are those responsible for the care of their souls who either ignore the Church’s guidelines or who choose not to educate themselves.  This celebration of the union of a man and a woman should not be desecrated by music that is a mockery of the Sacrament.  Two songs come to mind that have been forbidden to be used in the Catholic liturgy (although every once in while they rear their ugly heads) – The Bridal Chorus and The Wedding March.

“Here Comes the Bride,” is the  stereotypically wedding processional that for some reason brides dream of – Thanks Disney! There are some really good reasons why it should not be used in a wedding ceremony, Catholic or otherwise. This beautiful piece of music hails from Act III of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. One of those reasons is that there is a fair amount of magic, deceit, trickery, superstition, perceived love and the death of the unhappy lover. Nothing about which speaks or reveals the sacred.

Frankly, Catholics are not alone in banning this musical score.  Jewish congregations ban its use because of Wagner’s blatant anti-Semitism. The Catholic Church in The Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass has a desire to elevate and “divinize ” this sacramental rite.  In paragraphs 19 and 20, the Rite states:

At the appointed time, the priest, vested for Mass, goes with the ministers to the door of the church, or if more suitable, to the altar. There he meets the bride and bridegroom in a friendly manner, showing that the Church shares their joy. Where it is desirable that the rite of welcome be omitted, the celebration of marriage begins at once with the Mass.

If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers [cross bearer, altar servers, lector(s)] go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.

The Rite does not assume the bride to be hiding somewhere and to suddenly appear. In 1971 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments forbade the use of The Bridal Chorus in the Marriage Rite, but for reasons stated in the Rite itself (i.e. that the bride and groom should walk down the aisle with the priest and ministers, and that an Entrance Song is sung to accompany them).

Knowing, unfortunately, how this liturgically proper rubric will dash every girl’s Disney dream of being the center of attention (which I believe is the same sin that was committed in the original Garden of Eden – pride and vanity) in a solo walk down the aisle, this liturgical aberration won’t change any time soon. A Church’s defense for refusing to play The Bridal Chorus must always be an official document.

Mendelssohn’s recessional, The Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is even more diabolical when used in sacred ceremonies. If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s comedy, you know it is a fantastically written plot surrounded by fairy tale and a fair amount of snarky humor. The Wedding March, accompanies a farcical union (And yet the marital embrace IS the most complete earthy symbol of the Holy Trinity) in the enchanted forest between the Fairy Queen Titania and Bottom (a man turned into a Jackass). Do we really need to explain this further?  It has no place in a liturgy though it is a “must see” rental from Netflix.  Any level-headed couple who has any desire not to make the implication that the  groom is an idiot or the marital embrace is a trivial joke, should immediately see the absurdity of using this music for their marriage ceremony. That is of course, if the Bride and Bridegroom remember that they are the living testament and witness of the Most Holy Trinity instead of a cheap advertisement for the latest Disney trailer.

Music is one of the most powerful gifts our Lord has provided humanity.  It is meant to inspire us and direct us to hear the eternal song that is in heaven.  Music is expresses the deepest sentiments of the soul.  For this reason, music is the expression or better yet, prayer of the individuals singing it or the ones accompanying it.  What are you hoping to communicate at your wedding?  What is your favorite musician trying to teach you?  That is a topic for a different day!

In the Garden Again: Death=Victory

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

On Easter morning, we again find ourselves in a garden (Mt 28:8 and Mk 16:8).  The enemy believes that he has won. But Aslan’s words in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrate a truth that the accuser of the brethren had not considered,

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[1]

As we have been discussing, a covenant includes mediation of a single individual for the entire people – by a High Priest. All the former covenant curses the Christ absorbed for His bride.  Why? In order for the curses to be lifted, and the human race to continue, either God or all of Israel had to die.  Our Lord’s humanity, taken on by a divine person qualified to settle a divine debt.  It was always in His deliberate plan of attack – the enemy had no idea.  More importantly, he had no idea that our Lord would resurrect.  The Warrior’s game plan was to yield Himself completely, totally, and without reserve.  It is at this point that the Warrior became the Bridegroom.  That is what the Bridegroom does for His Bride.  He offers himself in a complete exchange of persons.  What our Lord experiences eternally in the Blessed Trinity He now brings to earth for us to participate in.

The Anastasis

Scriptures says that early on the morning of the first day of the week (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1, and Jn 20:1) an earthquake took place (Mt 28:2-4) and rolled the stone away (Mt 28:4, Mk 16:4, Lk 24:2, and Jn 20:1).  The gospels recount that the ones who came into the garden to anoint the Lord were women.  Had Adam defended Eve, he too would have found his bride coming to anoint his body.  Many Rabbi’s even suspect that the Tree of Life, which was in the Garden of Eden, could have brought the First Adam back to life.  The Garden of Eden was also the primordial seed of all creation.  It was there the God gave all creation to Adam in order for him to adovah (work) and shamar (protect).  The Father also turned the garden into a temple by making it holy on that seventh day of creation. After a short slumber induced by God on day six, Adam awakens to find His bride before him in a temple (also known as a Church) on the Sabbath.

It is no wonder that the Christ finds more than one Eve in the garden this morning.  On Good Friday, the Church was birthed.  His bride was no longer one person but the Church in as a whole.  This is symbolically shown by the three women in the garden.  And how do we know it was love at first sight?  The women immediately run to the disciples to tell them that they have seen the Lord (Mt 28:8, Mk 24:9). They run to tell the disciples.  LOVE NEVER CONCEALS ITSELF!  Someone in love cannot help but share the love that they received through their words, actions and yes, their very person.  What is the message?  The Bridegroom is awake!

More importantly, two of the Gospels say that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 and Jn 20:14-17) who ran to tell Peter and John (Jn 20:2).  Our Lord desires a spotless bride and Good Friday is proven effective in the person of Mary Magdalene.

Scripture then says Peter and John ran to the tomb. (Jn 20:3-4) John arrived first, knelt down, saw the linens, and believed.  He did not enter though. He waited for Peter. (Jn 20:4-8)  So it is with all true mystics of the Church.  They may arrive first at understanding what our Lord is saying or doing but wait for Peter and the Church to investigate and believe.

What did Peter and John see that made His resurrection so believable – besides that He foretold it?  The following are a few thoughts from Peter and John’s view.

The Sepulcher

The sepulcher was a newly carved tomb (Jn 19:31). Archeologists tell us that the Jews had some interesting beliefs about the dead and where they buried their dead.  In the Jewish burial ritual, the body is placed on a carved out rock table in the center of the cave.  Along the edges of the cave, boxes would be carved out where the bones of their ancestors were place.  The Jews would come back to view the body on four separate occasions over an eighteen month period.  The quicker the body decayed the more sin the individual committed in their lifetime.

So, what does it say that not only did Jesus’ body not decay but instead resurrected?  It confirms the belief from the earliest Christian times that Jesus not only did not sin but He did not possess Original Sin.  Not sinning would only mean His body would not decay. Resurrecting on the other hand, that would mean the chains of Original Sin that bound us to death did not bind Him at all.   Additionally, Jesus was laid in a tomb with no bones of His forefathers.  Scripture gives no indication that they planned to move His bones like Joseph (Gn 49:29-32) or David (1 Kings 2:10), to be put to rest with His forefathers.  This detail provides a two-fold meaning.  The first is that He had no ancestors.  It is true that Mary is His mother who determines His Jewish heritage but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Alpha and Omega the Beginning and the End (Rv 1:8) – the divine nature of the second person of the Blessed Trinity has no ancestors.  He always is.  The second relates to the new order of creation that Jesus established by His resurrection – He is the First-born of the Dead (Rv 1:5).  The new Adam (1Cor 15:45) has established a new race where all find their heritage in Him.

Our Lord also knew that He would have detractors who would claim grave-robbers.  St. John states:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. (Jn 20:4-8)

Why is it so important that the cloth that covered the head was separate and rolled up and not with the other cloths?  Grave-robbers only broke in to steal the head cloth which was made of fine linen and could be sold for a large sum of money.  They also would leave the body in the tomb.  Rolled up is also an important detail.  We would say folded neatly.  Robbers do not fold and if they do, it is in haste. Our Lord wanted to make it clear that no grave robbers were here.

As we have noted in the past, gardens are only meant for the consummation of love between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  In times past, the enemy has been a source of division and fear within the garden.  Today is a new day and the enemy has everything to fear.  The reign of Christ the King has begun. Here today, the Warrior-Bridegroom appears perfectly healthy and the enemy and his minions, they find themselves defeated and cowering in fear.

The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. (Mt 28:4)

To add insult to injury, the Lord rises in with glorified wounds. Why? To remind the enemy that the mortal wounds he inflicted have begun the salvation of all mankind of course.  He had played right into the Father’s plan.

Again in this garden the daughters of Eve are found.  This time, unlike the original Eve, they trust and believe the Bridegroom.  They are the now the daughters of the New Eve – Our Lady and thus His Church.  So what is the battle cry of the Warrior-Bridegroom?  It is the ancient greeting and response that signals the defeat of the enemy:

Greeter: Surrexit Christus! (Christ is risen!)

Response: Surrexit Dominus vere! (The Lord has risen indeed!)

Every general has his standard or colors.  For the Christian, it is the Paschal candle that is lit at the Easter Vigil.  The ancient prayer that prepares the Easter (Paschal) Candle is all we need hear to understand St. Paul when he wrote,

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)

Preparation and Raising the Easter Candle Standard

Christus heri et hódie. Princípium et Finis, Alpha et Omega. Ipsíus sunt témpora et sæcula. Ipsi glória et impérium per univérsa æternitátis sæcula. Amen.

Per sua sancta vúlnera gloriósa custódiat et consérvet nos Christus Dóminus. Amen.[2]

Lumen Christi glorióse resurgéntis díssipet ténebras cordis et mentis.

Christ yesterday and today.  The beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. His are the times and the ages. To Him be glory and dominion through all ages of eternity. Amen.

By His holy and glorious wounds may He guard and preserve us Christ the Lord. Amen.

May the light of Christ in glory rising again dispel the darkness of heart and mind.

[1] Captured April 3, 2010.

[2] The Easter Vigil: Preparation of the Candle, The Roman Missal Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing Company (New York, NY: 1985) p.172

Shhhhh! It’s Holy Saturday

the story continues…

And silence covers the earth.  For the Warrior-Bridegroom is gone.  Our sanctuaries lay bare, our sacraments are not celebrated except in the case of the dying, and there is a hush over the land because of the quiet expectation of Resurrection Sunday while all still mourning the loss of our Lord.

On Holy Thursday, the disciples received our Lord. Good Friday signaled the consummation of His love for us.  But we were not the only ones waiting for His salvation.  Creation too received communion when He was laid in the tomb. When creation swallowed Him she remained in quiet contemplation for a day while meditating on how the Lord will redeem her through His Bride the Church.

And still there is more…  Today, the Church speaks of how our Lord preached the good news of the Gospel to the Old Testament saints.  They too wanted their opportunity to gaze upon their Lord and understand how He fulfilled all the covenant curses and blessings.  Most of all, our Lord is  preparing for His triumphant entry upon earth again.  That accuser of the brethren could not have even dreamed how a simple act of murder would shatter his reign upon the earth through the very covenants he used to proclaim his reign.

For us, the adovah or work is about to begin.  Because the Lord hallowed the first garden, that work or prayer became a liturgy.  Our Lord lived all the ancient covenants that were formed through liturgies in His very person.  So, we wait for the next liturgy that signals His triumph.  Unlike most feasts, the Solemnity of the Resurrection does not begin at dusk.  The Christ makes His appearance with the lighting of the Paschal Candle at the beginning of the Easter Vigil liturgy.  With the thurifer censoring the way, we are reminded of how He led the Israelites through the desert by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day.  We hear all the ancient covenants that worked towards our salvation.  And then the liturgy goes silent in expectation…Like the parable of the 10 Foolish Virgins, the resurrection will happen suddenly and unexpectedly…and then the Bridegroom will appear.

May we wait as the prudent virgins did with expectant faith for our Lord!

The Lord is a Warrior and Bridegroom is His Name!

and the battle continues…

Paradise Lost

The mystics of the Church typically speak of five gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, the secret garden of the Beloved, the soul and the Holy Mass.  All of the gardens are meant to be sacred and set aside for the consummation of marriage.  As we continue our meditation, only two will concern us today on Good Friday.

Adam consummated his marriage in Eden and then let the nahash defile that garden with the entrance of Original Sin. Together Adam and Eve fell and ruptured their relationship with the Father while at the same time seriously wounded their relationship with each other.  They suddenly were alone.  This did not go beyond notice of the Father – He looked for them in the garden to keep Him company.  But they hid.  And so from this time forth in Sacred Scripture, the personal name of the Father is no longer uttered and we are expelled from Paradise.

Paradise being Re-established

The Lord knew they were coming for Him – He was totally in control. In fact, He went out to meet them. (Jn 18:4)  A lover always is open to reconciliation and that is why He came.  As He stood under the full moon’s light, He searched out and provoked the enemy by challenging a cohort to name the one they came for under stealth of darkness. He asked, “Who is it you want? Jesus of Nazareth, they answered.” (Jn 18:5)  Notice they did not say “You!” The darkened mind can never perceive Divine Love even when He stand before them.  (II Cor 4:3-4) And so, they arranged for a sign…a sign of love and affection.  A kiss.  The Divine Lover is betrayed by a kiss in a garden meant only for the consummation of love.  But tonight, that Divine Lover is also a Warrior (Exodus 15:3), the Captain of our Salvation (Heb 2:8-10), and a Might Man of War (Is 42:13).  A Lover fights (shamar – Gn 2:15) for his Beloved, or is supposed too…unlike Adam who handed his Bride over out of fear for his life.

So, our Lord looks and tells them, “I AM, he.” (Jn 15:8) And Scripture says that were paralyzed with fear and fell over backwards on the ground. (Ps 26:2)  This was the seventh and decisive “I AM” statement our Lord makes in the Gospel of St. John.  And again upon the earth, the personal name of God has re-entered the garden out of love and covenant.  Scripture then recounts a quick skirmish with Peter’s sword, the healing of a Malchus’ ear but the Lord is still in control.

Jesus had already begun is free sacrificial offering to atone for our sins at the Last Supper.  He now prepares to continue the liturgy and fulfill the rest of the covenantal curses from Adam through David as the High Priest.  But he cares first for His own, “If I am the man you want,let these others go” (Jn 18:8) His disciples flee…and all is still according to plan. For Jesus knew that in order to accomplish this sacrifice he must be alone:

Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community, he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. (Lv 16:17)

The Warrior had been captured but that was all part of the plan.  He is about re-establishing His Kingdom with the unwitting help of the enemy.

A  New Tree of Life in the Garden

Crucifixion by Cosimo Rossetti

Fast forwarding …A kangaroo court takes place (Jewish trials are never permitted to take place under darkness) and handed over to the Gentiles to be executed.  The Jews believe that by handing over Jesus to the Romans that they will be responsible for His death.  Had that been so, we would never enter into eternal paradise.  Pilate finds no wrong in Jesus and washes his hands of this murder – skillfully recalling Deuteronomy 21:7-8.

When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” (Mt 27:24)

Then all assembled shout out with the verse of our salvation,

And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Mt 27:25)

They torture Him and then march him up to Golgotha to crucify Him…and He is still in control.  Jesus, knew that Golgotha was one of the peaks in the mountain range of Moriah.  He would fulfill the ancient promise made on Mt. Moriah by Abraham to Isaac, that God would provide a lamb. (Gn 22:8)  Jesus knew that He would be the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the Passover requirements of an unblemished lamb. (Ex 12:5). He was still adovah (ing) for His beloved.

Then they crucified Him upon a tree.  Taking our sins upon Him, he fulfilled the covenant requirement by offering Himself, as the High Priest, to make atonement for our transgressions:

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his corpse hung on a tree… (Dt 21:23)

Now He looks to His mother and says, “Woman, behold your son.”  Shouldn’t He have said, “Mother…”?  In John’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus takes place on the day of the covenant, the seventh day, at which we find Jesus at a wedding.  In Genesis, Adam also meets and marries his wife on the seventh day.  Jesus calls Our Lady by the same name Adam called Eve, “isha”  The only other time we hear Him call her that is on the cross giving John to her as His son.  There too, he dies not say John but son.  A family is being born.  Here the Church finds our Lord reciting his wedding vows by His words and body to His Bride the Church found in Our Lady.  When we look upon Him can’t we hear Him say,

“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

The Church Fathers have always seen these last words of Jesus as His vows to His Bride the Church.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to always point towards the cross and shout out, “Nuptials, nuptials that what is going on here, Nuptials.”  But we all know that wedding vows are not complete until the vows are consummated.  Is it mentioned in Scripture?  John 19:34 says,

“but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”

And so the Church was born and given life.  Jesus gives Himself totally, completely, without reserve to His Bride.  To the mystics the cross is the marriage bed in which our Lord consummates His love for us.  It is no wonder that the saints say that when they unite their sufferings to Jesus on the cross they become blissful love.  Is that not the language the Bridegroom and Bride use when they describe their marital embrace?

And so the Lover plants a new tree in the garden watered by the blood of the divine and consummated in spirit and truth upon a cross.  The warrior lays down His life, unlike Adam, for His bride…and the serpent things that he has won.  But the story continues…on Holy Saturday.

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