Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fourth Century Texts Reveal True Bride of Christ


The Catechesis of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, an early fourth century Archbishop of Jerusalem, says the following concerning the Church as the Bride of Christ:

“The Church is called ‘Catholic’: such is the proper name of the holy Church which is the mother of us all. She is also the Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God (for it is written in the Scripture, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,’ and so on). Moreover she fulfills the type and carries out the pattern of the Jerusalem which is from above, which is free and the mother of us all. Though she was at first childless, she is now the parent of a mighty family."

In the early Church, the brides of Christ were specifically those women who dedicated their entire life to a life of purity for the sake of Christ, and in one of his poems St. Gregory the Theologian, a fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople, specifically addresses these virgins as the brides of Christ:

O bride of Christ on high,
Thy Bridegroom glorify!
Always thyself keep pure,
In word and wisdom sure,
That bright with Him all-bright
Thou e'er mayst dwell in light.
Far better spouse is He
Than earthly spouse could be:
Thy union happier far
Than mortal unions are.

In bodily estate
Thou yet didst imitate
The intellectual powers,
Giving to Him thy hours:
And didst acquire on earth
The angels' right of birth.
'Tis 'bind and loose' below,
Bodies from bodies grow:
Above each stands alone,
Nor loosing there is known.
Of pure existence, they
First bear the ethereal ray,
Spirit and fire: none rests,
Doing great God's behests.
But now wild matter found--
All nature flowing round
With unresisted force--
A mingled intercourse;
But God the flood restrained,
And marriage laws ordained.
But thou hast hence escaped,
And upward thy course shaped;
From matter's base alloy
To spirit's holy joy.

Mind harmonized with mind,
Doth truest pleasure find:
Such harmony is thine,
A harmony divine.
With flesh thou war dost wage,
And helpest God's image:
For thou art God's own breath,
With body yoked till death:
That out of wrestling sore,
At length the battle o'er,
And earth well beaten down,
Thou mayst receive the crown.
To marriage also raise,
But only second praise.
That is for passion given,
This is bright light of heaven:
That founds a pure offspring,
This is self-offering.
This honoured was, we hold,
At seasons marked of old.
To this in Paradise
Lo! Adam testifies:
For this on Sinai's peak
Doth Moses also speak;

And Zachary the priest,
Of God's true saints not least,
And whom we hail the rather
As the Forerunner's father.
But marriage hath its need:
Hence springs a holy seed:
And hence the Virgin bride
Honoured at God's own side.
Yet of the flesh it is, and earth,
All earthly from its birth.
When law and shadows ruled,
And we were sometime schooled,
Marriage held sceptre mild,
Yet like a little child.
But when the letter died,
The Spirit was supplied:
For Christ had come and borne
In flesh our woes and scorn:
Had brought Redemption nigh,
And then ascended high:
Christ, sprung from Virgin's womb,
Christ, Conqueror o'er the tomb.

Then continence did rise,
And this base world despise,
Which should its course have mended,
And high with Christ ascended.

Thou journey'st well! but haste!
Behind is fiery waste:
Take to thy steps good heed,
And to the mountain speed.
Cast not one backward glance
On Sodom, lest perchance
Thou, fixed upon the ground,
A pile of salt be found.
In battling with the flesh
Take ever courage fresh,
Neither by terror bent,
Nor over-confident.
Faint not, for He is nigh
Who will all strength supply.

A spark may kindle hell:
Water the flame cloth quell.
Full means to thee are lent
For good self-government.

Let thou the fear of God
Freeze the rebellious blood:
Fasting the flesh control:
Keep watches o'er thy soul,
And pour it forth in prayer:
Such thy true weapons are.
Add tears: and lowly bed,
With reeds or rushes spread:
One constant flame of love
Rising to God above,
And lulling all desire
Which doth not up aspire.
The fallen rise by thee!
The shipwrecked pitied be!
Thyself live out the gale,
Expanding Hope's bright sail.

They fall not who ne'er rise,
But they who try the skies.
Few mount on pinion wings:
Straight course to humbler things.
Fell Lucifer through pride
Angels in heaven reside.

One, traitor, sunk in night:
The eleven are stars of light.

Be pure, be wholly pure,
Of this make ever sure,
Lest thou, by heeding not,
Christ's spotless robe shouldst spot.
Let modest be thine eye:
Thy tongue speak maidenly:
Thy mind not pandering,
Thy foot not wandering:
Nor loud laugh marking thee,
As one we blush to see.

Thy poor and tarnished wear,
Thy unadornèd hair,
I honour more than pearls,
Or silken dress, or curls.

Fair flower is modest face,
And paleness is true grace:
And virtues plentiful
Are braid most beautiful.
With paints let others dress
The living God's likeness;
Live tablet they of sin,
And all that's base within.
Whate'er thou hast of beauty,
Die let it all to duty:
But beauty of the soul--
'Tis God's--it keep thou whole.

Of men, though good they be,
The sight 'twere best thou flee.
Some cheat might thee entrance,
Or be entranced perchance:
Eye now with eye bespangling,
And word with word entangling,
Then cheek with cheek o'erglowing,
And mutual passion flowing.
'Tis well: but not for thee:
Not thine the accursed tree:
The tree of Life thy care;
The serpent's guile beware!

O maiden, hear my word,
Have thou no other lord;
Thy Bridegroom reigns above
And bids thee faithful prove.

Thou from the flesh hast fled,
And it to thee is dead,
Why turn to it again,
And make thy work all vain?
That singleness of thine
Is a rare gift divine:
Few they whom it adorns,
As rose among the thorns.
Such grace'tis thine to know:
High o'er the snares below,
By which the wicked fall,
Thou safely passest all.

Lo! one no sooner builds,
And bridal chamber gilds,
Than she with mournful gloom
Forth bears him to the tomb.
Felt one a father's pride?
At once the loved child died.
And oh! the mother's pain
Of travailing in vain!

And jealousy, ah me!
How frightful 'tis to see,

When each the other taunts,
Where stolen friendship haunts!

What wormwood and what gall,
Worst recompence of all,
To rear up family,
And then dishonoured be!

One care is thine, one call,
To look to God in all!
But little thou dost need:
That little God will speed.

Shelter and barley cake
Sufficient wealth will make:
Nor shall dire need impart
Keen edge to tempter's dart,
As when Christ, hard bestead,
He bade turn stones to bread.

By thee, however tried,
Be all base gain denied:
Fowls of the air God feeds,
Sure then His saints He heeds.

Of oil, if faith prevail,
Thy cruse shall never fail.
By Cherith's desert brook
At the great Prophet look!
To feed him ravens sped:
So too shalt thou be fed!

How Thecla from the flame,
And lions, unscathed came,
Thou know'st: and how great Paul,
Preacher of truth to all,
Bore hunger, thirst, and cold,
Through death's worst forms still bold;
That thou might'st look, O maid,
To God alone for aid,
Who in the wilderness
With food can myriads bless.

Lo! beauty fadeth fast,
Nor will earth's glories last:
Wealth is a failing stream,
And power an empty dream.

But thou, faith's sail unfurled,
Hast fled this erring world,
Steering thy course on high
To realms beyond the sky.
There in the holy shrine
Thou shalt for ever shine:
And there with angels raise
The song of endless praise!

A better portion far
Than sons and daughters are!

But maidens, be ye wise,
And watch with longing eyes,
That when Christ shall return
Your lamps may brightly burn:
That with the Bridegroom ye
May enter in, and see
The beauty and the grace
Of His own dwelling place,
And share in truth and love
The mysteries above.


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