Retreat Conference given Mother
(Easter Retreat 2001 GOOD FRIDAY)
THE BRIDES OF CHRIST
by Mother Shirley-Anne
When one conjures up in their mind the picture of a bride,
it is usually an image of a beautiful young woman dressed in a long gown of
virginal white, a delicate and modest veiling surrounding her head and her arms,
and an aspect of happiness, expectation and love. This is our image. But here we
view the bride on the human level, the earthly aspect: we think of the physical
union which unites man and woman, which makes of them one.
Today we know the Brides of Christ are not of this category,
but of a far higher and more perfect plane. A bride is a lover of a man. A Bride
of Christ is one whose soul loves the Soul of Christ.
The general thought of a Bride of Christ conjures up a
picture of a Religious Nun, clad in Habit - and veiled - who has taken the vows
of poverty, chastity and obedience to God; who has given her life over to Him,
totally, in one of self-sacrifice, mortification, self-giving, until death. She
has aligned herself, totally, with Jesus; has taken His interests as her own,
namely the saving of her soul and the salvation of all souls. This is indeed a
Bride of Christ. Christ is her Spouse. She lives for Him and His Divine Will.
However, what we have now come to understand, especially
living in the Order the new way of Consecrated Life, is that we are all Brides
of Spouses of Christ according to the manner in which we live and love. To be a
Bride of Christ is to be a lover of His Soul, to put Him first in all things, to
place His interests above our own and to live the Holy vows according to our
state. Here we have a "marriage" or "wedding" of souls.
In the Gospels, Our Lord says: "You must love the
Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength
and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself". Note - with
all your soul. Jesus, in effect, invites all with these words to be His Bride,
His Spouse. Jesus, the Spouse, the New Church, invites us to the Wedding.
Now, in the Gospels there are many examples of these holy
souls who lived for Him - true Spouses, true Brides. The soul has no gender,
being neither male or female because it is spirit - it is made in the Image and
likeness of God - therefore it is attracted to its origin. True lovers of God:
their souls yearn to be as one with their Beloved. Our souls were created with a
spark of the Divine Fire. The Fire of Love generated the soul, and the soul
retains that spark of Love.
At the time of our Lenten observance, we focus,
particularly, at this very hour on Our Saviour Who hangs between Heaven and
Earth. He hangs suspended, His Life Blood seeping down upon the Earth, purifying
and cleansing. He bathes His Holy Mother with His Precious Blood - She who has
no need of the purifying Blood because of Her Immaculate State. At this time,
Jesus suffers his last Agony, and I can do no better than to focus on the
greatest of Saints, the Holiest Woman: Mary, the Bride of Christ, the most
perfect Bride. The true Bride, the faithful Bride, the loyal Bride places the
Will of Her Spouse before all else. Here the great Co-Redemptrix suffered the
immense agony of seeing the One whom Her Soul Loves, being done to death. She
stood there willingly and assented to the greatest Sacrifice. Is not this the
most wonderful example of perfect Love? She suffered atrocious agony in heart
and mind, in union with the Will of God. It was God's Will that His Son should
suffer thus - and so it was Hers, but at what an enormous cost. The most perfect
union of Souls. Can you imagine the suffering of His Holy Mother - it is beyond
all comprehension, for She Loved with a Holy Pure Love and was loved in the same
way - such an exalted, supremely Holy, Marriage of Souls. The Soul of Jesus
united with the Soul of His Mother. The Soul of God united with the Soul of the
Mother of God. Mysteries beyond under-standing.
If you are a lover of the "Poem of the Man God"
and have read in these pages of the Love between Son and Mother, you will
understand the beginnings of the depth of perfect love.
Let us stand beneath the Cross with Our Blessed Lady - She
Who, before the Soul of Jesus departs, becomes Our Blessed Mother, given to us
out of Love, as a dying legacy from the Lover of our souls.
Beneath the Cross stood the three Mary's, the main-stay and
support of the Mother. The greatest penitent Saint, Mary of Magdala, who from a
notorious sinner of worldly passions, found true worth; true love: what can we
say about this Bride of Christ who, in a life of sin, fell so far that seven
devils were cast out of her, but whose heart was won by Mercy - the Love
Himself. Yes, the call of Love, the Lover of her soul touched a chord in her
heart. Christ, the Lover, wooed her soul and claimed it, drawing it to Himself -
and she responded to the Grace offered. She recognised in Jesus her Saviour, and
true Lover. She became - from a woman of the world - the greatest example of the
mercy of God. Once she found her way she flew to the embrace of God and took
refuge there. She who could not bear to be away from the Master: who sat at His
Feet, drinking in His words of salvation - so much so that the more practical
Martha remonstrated about her. But Mary drew her strength from her Lover, and
she would need His strength to survive the hours to come - the battering against
her faith - when she awaited the Resurrection of Him Whom her soul loved. Mary,
who would have fought to the death to protect Jesus, followed His Divine Will
and, although her heart was broken, turned to the Mother; to be the support and
strength of Her who would be the most afflicted.
Yes, it was Jesus Himself who had asked for this support for
His Holy Mother during His Agony. Mary fulfilled the task given to her by her
Spouse and it was she to whom Our Lord Appeared first after His Holy Mother, on
Resurrection morn. She merited that singular privilege by the love for her Lord,
and through the whole of her remaining life Mary lived in total union with her
Jesus. She lived only for Him; she, who had walked beside Him in His Earthly
ministry, had witnessed His immeasurable sufferings; His unbounded Love and
thirst for souls, joined with Him in His quest - the quest of salvation of her
own soul and the souls beloved of God She spent her years in solitary exile
expiating the sins of her youth.
Many years she lived in a lonely grotto on the coast of
France, her soul communicating with that of her Jesus - with that of her Lover.
And, as her life ebbed away - her life of penitence, her body worn out from
mortification and penance, her strength spent - she calls for her Lover, the
Beloved of her soul, yearning for His return once again. Her being is almost
consumed with love - and she hears once again the same Beloved Voice of old; the
Voice she heard in the garden so many years ago when she was young and full of
vigour; the voice that wiped away the agony and brought complete joy to her
soul. The name, "Mary", said in the strong melodious Voice of her
Jesus. "Rabboni" - He comes for her. Mary, who washed His Feet with
her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed and anointed them
with fragrant ointment on the threshold of His Death, is rewarded in like manner
by the visitation of Jesus, the reward of His Love for her. Jesus Himself comes
to her - she hears Him say: "Mary, I will precede you into glory. Kiss My
Hand and lie down in peace. Rest, give Me your thorns; now is the time for
roses. Rest and wait. I Bless you, Blessed one"! He lies her gently on her
poor couch. She is now in an ecstasy of love. He is gone.
Then a "Radiance" enters the grotto, carrying a
Chalice which he places on the little Altar and worships. Mary kneels and
worships, also. Her strength is slowly ebbing - her spirit soaring Heavenwards.
The Angel takes the Chalice and gives Mary her Jesus, as Food. The Angel departs
and Mary falls back on her cot in her ecstasy and the Eucharistic union cuts the
thread of her life. Her soul unites with that of her Jesus in complete union.
Mary Magdalen is the symbol of the soul in love with God; the soul who gives
herself, exclusively, to Him; consuming for Him all that she is and all that she
has. She is the symbol of all those souls who give up, in whole or in part,
exterior activity in order to consecrate themselves more fully to the immediate
service of God, and devote themselves by a life of intimate union with Him.
We look at the other Mary's who faithfully stood with Our
Lady: Mary Cleophas, sister in law of Our Lady and mother of Saints James and
Jude. This woman, a widow, who knew Jesus from baby-hood; whose own children had
had the privilege of being educated by Our Lady. This true believer who, after
the death of her husband, followed the Master, seeing to His needs and comforts.
Hers was a life of service; a true Bride of Christ.
The third Mary, Mary Salome, Mother of Saints James and
John. She who recognised the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven and pleaded for
her sons to sit at the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. It was she, with
Suzanna, who went to the tomb and joined with Martha and Mary Cleophas, to
anoint the Body of their Lord, led by the redoubtable Mary of Magdala. These
first Nuns - one might call them - for these were true Brides of Christ and
merited, by their fidelity to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to be
amongst the first recipients of the smile on the Face of Christ. The Holy women,
who by their obedience and true love, were given the Grace and privilege of Our
Lord's smile. Brides of Christ, lovers of His Soul, wedded in a union of love.
Who else do we see beneath the Cross? We see the pure
virginal John; the youth who understood his Master; the youthful forerunner of
the celibate Priesthood; the pure lover of the Soul of Jesus. We see this young
man in his purity and chastity. He found his soul's desire in the mystical realm
of love. He, of all the Apostles, lived in the Divine Will and manifested it by
his life. He, the youngest, the purest, who understood the Heart of his Jesus
more so than any other. He who was so close to Jesus that His Head rested on the
Heart of his Beloved. It was he to whom Jesus entrusted His priceless
"Treasure": His Mother. How united were these souls: Jesus and John,
the Lover and the Beloved. How the young John suffered; but how like his Master
he became - for his Gospel written in later years, lives and breathes with the
love of the Master. John, indeed, was a Bride of Christ and spouse of His Soul
because of his virginal purity and love.
Who else braved the wrath of the authorities that fateful
day to perform the last offices for Jesus, the care of His Mortal Body.
Certainly tentative and fearful, but their love and respect for the Master gave
them the courage to come forward - Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They
professed their faith and love. Their souls loved the Love.
Saint John the
We now look back a short week in time. Not many days before
the Passion, we see Jesus in company with Lazarus; the resurrected Lazarus. This
young Noble - the richest man in Judea, but one of the purest of hearts to love
Our Lord - had suffered much. He, because of the life his sister had led, had
been ostracised by many. He could not hold up his head because of the great
blight on his family name. He saw his mother die of a broken heart. He saw his
sister, Martha's, chances of making a good marriage dashed, but he found his joy
and solace in the Love of Jesus, and who became so dear and beloved of Jesus,
his true Friend, that Jesus wept at his death, shedding Tears and sighs of great
Lazarus, who was asked by Jesus to remain at home, was not
given the solace of being with his Jesus to the end. He obeyed the Divine Will
and remained at home - commissioned to stay behind to gather the scattered
Apostles and bring stability to their unbalanced minds and hearts. The love of
this best friend of Jesus was shown in his desire to fulfil the Will of God for
him. He who also would also have fought to the death for Jesus, obeyed and
remained afar off, but whose mind and heart were united to those of his Spouse.
Brides / Spouses - the terminology differs, but the
substance remains - the union of souls in love, in obedience, with the Will and
Soul of Jesus.
There are many examples throughout the Gospels of the
traditional Bride of Christ - Palm Sunday: Annaleah - whom Jesus Loved so much
as to acquiesce to her request. She could not bear to see the death of her
Beloved. It was beyond her capability to see Him suffer in such a way, and Jesus
in His Mercy and Love, took her pure soul at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Is there any more touching scene in the pages of the
"Poem" except that of Jesus with His Mother, than that of Our Lord's
visit after His Resurrection to the Mother of the Demon? Is there any more
poignant scene than that of poor Mary of Kerioth, who had for her legacy the
motherhood of the great betrayer? Yet Jesus comforted this soul whom He Loved
and who loved Him, and yet she was for-ever tied to the memory of the son she
had produced. She who merited by her sorrow and Love, to feel the Tear of Jesus
upon her. The love of this Bride and the sorrow of this Bride of Christ was
great indeed. She who gave birth to the traitor, suffered so much, in a minor
parallel, to the Mother of the Saviour.
I return for a brief glimpse to the Glorious Saint Joseph,
the just man, totally attuned to the Will of God. He, who out of all creation,
was chosen to be the Guardian and Provider of the Son of God. The soul of this
pure man wedded to the Soul of God. He who travelled the road of life with
Jesus, who fulfilled his role to perfection. Is there any more Glorious Saint
besides the Immaculate Queen?
Saint John, the Baptist, who leapt in the womb of his mother
in recognition of the approach of the One whom his soul loved.
The Mother of the Saviour whose Will was en-closed in the
Divine, was indeed the most perfect Bride of Christ. The marriage of Her Soul to
that of Her Son was the most perfect union. The United and Undivided Hearts
totally as One, united to the other. Where Her Jesus is, there is Mary, the
great Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. She who merited by Her perfect Love
to be the forerunner and perfect type of all Religious women in all time.
As we stand at this present time - with Our Lady, the Holy
Women, Lazarus, the faithful apostles and Disciples - we turn our own thoughts
to the scene of Calvary. We united ourselves with the sufferings of the faithful
ones in their witness of love. We look to Our Heavenly Father in true love and
adoration, in gratitude for His Supreme Gift of Love to us. The Love of the
Father is beyond comprehension - that He would willingly sacrifice His Son and
Daughter for our salvation.
Compassionate the Father's Heart in these moments, for His
Heart suffers as He witnesses the sufferings of His Sacrificial Lamb: in the
Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.