The Bridegroom comes! A reflection on the great wedding feast that Advent announces
November 30, 2016 (Blog.ADW) -- The coming of Christ at Christmas was as an infant and thus we don’t usually think of wedding imagery. Yet since the first coming of Christ has certainly already been fulfilled, we now focus more on His second coming, of which the first coming is a sacramental reminder.
Thus, in Advent, our longing and excitement are also directed to His glorious second coming. Mother Church, the New Jerusalem, our Mother, looks for her groom Jesus to come again all His glory:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. … I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear” (Rev 21:2-3; 19:7-8).
This longing remains until Mother Church, Christ’s beautiful bride, hears these words from Him: Surge amica mea, speciosa mea et veni! (Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one and come!) (Song of Songs 2:10). Her longing cannot be quenched until He comes again in all His radiant beauty and majesty. Until then she longs, looks, and waits.
Although some of her children have attained to this glory, she waits and longs until the number of her elect children are complete and she, in her fullness, will go to be with her spouse forever in beatific glory.
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One of the great Advent hymns of the Protestant tradition, “Wake, O Wake,” picks up this bridal theme and “weds” it with Advent longing. This particular translation (from the German) is a masterpiece; it is both biblical and artistic:
Wake, O wake with tidings thrilling;
The Watchmen all the air are filling;
Arise, Jerusalem, Arise!
Midnight strikes, no more delaying;
“The hour has come,” we hear them saying;
Where are ye all ye virgins wise?
The bridegroom comes in sight
Raise high, your torches bright!
The wedding song swells loud and strong;
Go forth and join the festal throng.
Zion hears the watchman shouting;
Her heart leaps up with joy undoubting;
She stands and waits with eager eyes!
She her love from heaven descending;
Adorned with truth and grace unending;
Her light burns clear her star doth rise!
Now come our precious crown;
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son;
Let us prepare to follow there
Where in thy supper we may share.
Yes, there is a great wedding feast in every liturgy, and its culmination looks to the glorious second coming of Jesus. This Christmas, look to your wedding garment, which the Lord gave you at baptism to bring unstained to the great judgment seat of Christ. The Bridegroom comes! Let us go out to meet Christ the Lord (cf Matt 25:6).
Here is a performance of the great wedding song of Advent, “Wake, O Wake,” by the choir of Trinity College in Cambridge.
Reprinted with permission from Community in Mission.