I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I set my alarm early this morning in order to watch the royal wedding between Prince William, second heir to the British throne, and his new bride, Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Maybe it was nostalgia, since I also watched Charles’ and Diana’s wedding on TV back in 1981. Or the idea of a royal prince picking a commoner to be his bride. Or maybe, as my husband suggests, it is the British blood that flows through my veins.
As expected, the occasion was beautiful beyond description. But I was truly and joyously surprised by the homily given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who pointed out not just to the bride and groom, but for all the world’s ears: “William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.” This couple, who did not live their single lives in a way that would indicate, publicly at least, a relationship with God, elected to immerse themselves in a spiritually vibrant wedding ceremony. A ceremony which, as the Archbishop proclaimed, symbolized the Royal Wedding to come between Jesus Christ and His bride, the Church.
I love weddings, and have been a guest at some incredible ‘wedding feasts.’ I know of some marvelous marriages, marked by deep love and selflessness, that have lasted for five, six decades. It’s what every bride dreams of. But thinking on weddings and marriages in human terms only does not prepare me for the Biblical image of being part of the bride of Christ and being the honoree at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
I know I’m not alone in this. These images simply do not register with our collective imaginations, as vivid as they can be at times. It bears remembering that the Biblical images we ponder are the best-shot efforts of a handful of Spirit-inspired writers at describing something in human terms that they themselves likely did not fully comprehend. And they are symbolic – they have layers of meaning – as well as being snapshots of some future actual event.
Up until now, I have been helpless to grasp and claim for myself the Biblical concept of being part of the Bride of Christ. That bride is some lofty, heavenly visage of beauty and perfection…I in my flawed, corrupt nature have felt no part of her. Until now. The archbishop, in his homily, gave me a handle, an image that makes sense to me:
“‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ So said Saint Catherine of Siena…. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves. … Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art.”
When I think of myself as Christ’s “work of art,” I understand. While I am not yet that heavenly bride of perfection and splendor, I am God’s work in progress, with His promise that I will one day become as He envisions, my “deepest and truest self,” God’s completed work of art.