Marriage as Sign & Symbol

th9PMJKT09In the book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea describes an off and on relationship between God and Israel. Israel is compared to an unfaithful harlot and God the faithful spouse who does not give up on the marital covenant, but rather chooses to “allure” his bride, Israel back. Hosea uses the marriage motif to describe God and his people.[1] The love between a husband and wife is a reflection of God’s love for his people as John Paul II emphasizes, “Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people.”[2]

Jeremiah uses the same motif in chapter three of the book of the same name calling Israel “a harlot with many lovers”.   He compares the unfaithfulness of Israel to the unfaithfulness of a wife to her husband, “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.”[3] The love of God for his people finds its fulfillment in Christ. God ultimately courts his spouse back through offering himself in total, life-giving love. John Paul II says that, “The communion between God and His people find its definitive fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the savior of humanity, uniting it to himself as His body.”[4]

Wedding Feast of the Lamb

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the “nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for ‘the wedding-feast of the Lamb.’”[5] A Christian marriage is to be a model and a sign of the covenant between Christ and his Church.

The Catechism goes so far as to say that the “entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church.”[6] Christ was the ultimate husband through giving his life for his bride, sacrificing for her, and in so doing, loving her. Likewise, Paul writing to the Ephesians compares the roles of husbands and wives to that of Christ and his Church calling for husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her”.[7] Throughout the New Testament, Christ refers to himself as the Bridegroom and to the people as his bride. The book of Revelation uses such imagery, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment….Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”[8] We are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb, for it is we who participate in the Mass. Baptism is compared to our nuptial bath, which is our entry into the wedding feast—the Eucharist.

[1] See Hosea 1-3. For further references in the Old Testament to marriage as a symbol between God and

His people see Jer. 2,3; Ezek. 16, 23; Isa. 54, 62.

[2] Pope, 10.

[3] Jeremiah 3:16-17.

[4] Pope, 10.

[5] CCC, 1612.

[6] CCC, 1617.

[7] Ephesians 5:25-26, 31-32.

[8] Rev. 19-7-9.

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