Monday, May 2, 2011

Christ the Bridegroom: #1

**This three-part reflection on "Christ the Bridegroom" was contributed by a guest author as a response to my earlier note on the Church as The Bride of Christ. The essay is subtitled: A Reflection on Spirituality, Sexuality, and the Implications of Our Mystic Marriage. The author is a close personal friend of mine who was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, and who has helped me considerably in understanding Orthodox beliefs. The epigraph is from Song of Songs 7:10.**

I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me.

Of all the metaphors we have been given for Christ’s relationship with us (and His love for us), the one I think that we as Christians contemplate and analyze the least is that of Christ as the Bridegroom, Christ the lover. I would venture to guess that many of us feel more than vaguely uncomfortable picturing Christ as some love-struck character from a chick-flick, pursuing some romantic object. It seems almost sacrilegious. Our minds can associate Him with the loves philos and agape without problem, but romantic love, eros, seems too base, too fleshly for the eternal divinity of God. It’s one thing to say that Christ loves us, after all, but how can He be in love with any single lowly human in the sense of the all-consuming adoration that we associate with romantic passion? How can He be in a marriage with any of us?

Yet the image of Christ as a lover is deeply Biblical. Not only that, I’ve come to realize that if we do not consider Him in that light, we may obstruct the ability of Christ’s love to transform our lives in the way He intends for us.

I know that I personally had great difficulty comprehending that being "the Bride of Christ" was a work of romantic love, and that it was a love for me personally as well as for the church as a whole. I think in general it's much easier for contemporary Christians to view Christ as having a passion for humanity collectively because this seems more fitting for the Son of God and less like the kind of subjective whim we associate with romantic impulses—or the lecherous deities of Greek mythology. Of course Christ does love humanity collectively in the romantic sense, but this does not mean that He cannot love us each individually in the romantic sense as well. After all, he is and infinite God.

For me personally, associating Christ with romantic love seemed so counter-intuitive that it required me to clarify both my ideas about romantic love and the nature of God.  The first thing that came to mind when I thought about God is that God is love. That being the case, I realized that his essence must encompass all forms of love, including romantic love (eros).

Then I realized that -- though I had always considered eros to be a lowly human form of love -- eros in its true form is the highest form of love, because it also contains philos and agape within it. Since God is love, therefore, and romantic love is the highest expression of love, it must follow that God is not only capable of romantic love but that His very existence is a constant outpouring of romantic love for His beloved.

And of course whenever we hear the words "Christ’s beloved," we reflexively think of the Church. In fact I know I had personally heard the phrase “beloved of Christ” so often that it had lost all meaning for me. But perhaps that was because I had never considered it in a proper light. I had short-changed the nature of Christ’s love for us because I had never been taught to analyze the fact that His marriage to us implies romantic love, and that His romantic love is a love for us as individuals as well as communally. Had I only known the true nature of my bridehood earlier in my life, I could have saved myself a whole world of grief.

Check out the rest of this essay at:
Christ the Bridegroom: #1
Christ the Bridegroom: #2
Christ the Bridegroom: #3

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