«The wedding guests»
"'A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and
the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak
in reference to Christ and the church" (Ep 5,31-32). This quotation from
the Letter to the Ephesians... compares the spousal character of the
love between man and woman to the mystery of Christ and of the Church.
Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church - the Church is the Bride of
Christ. This analogy is not without precedent; it transfers to the New
Testament what was already contained in the Old Testament, especially in
the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah.48 (Hos 1,2; 2,16-18;
Jr 2,2; Ez 16,8; Is 50,1; 54,5-8)... In these prophets the woman-bride
is Israel, God's Chosen People, and this choice originates exclusively
in God's gratuitous love. It is precisely this love which explains the
Covenant, a Covenant often presented as a marriage covenant which God
always renews with his Chosen People. On the part of God the Covenant is
a lasting "commitment"; he remains faithful to his spousal love even if
the bride often shows herself to be unfaithful.
This image of spousal love, together with the figure of the divine Bridegroom - a very clear image in the texts of the Prophets - finds crowning confirmation in the Letter to the Ephesians... where the fullest expression of the truth about Christ the Redeemer's love, according to the analogy of spousal love in marriage, is found: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (5:25), thereby fully confirming the fact that the Church is the bride of Christ: "The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer" (Is 54:5). In Saint Paul's text the analogy of the spousal relationship moves simultaneously in two directions which make up the whole of the "great mystery" ("sacramentum magnum"). The covenant proper to spouses "explains" the spousal character of the union of Christ with the Church, and in its turn this union, as a "great sacrament", determines the sacramentality of marriage as a holy covenant between the two spouses, man and woman.
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