The readings from the Feast of the Assumption still echo in my mind. I am particularly mindful of their announcement of victory:
I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One. Rev (12:10)
Then comes the end, when [Christ] hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25-27)
He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Lk 1:55-59)
Earlier this week we meditated on the need to cultivate serenity in the midst of the great cultural battle that is being waged all about us, and in which we are engaged. And one of the sources of that serenity must be the knowledge, revealed by God, that we have the victory.
This does not mean that we sit back and do not engage the fight for truth and God’s Kingdom. But it does mean that we engage the battle with the serene confidence that, even despite setbacks and times of diminishment, the battle is the Lord’s and that he has already won, only the news has not yet leaked out to some.
The Church is a Bride, not a widow. Her spouse Jesus lives, and, as the text above from First Corinthians says, he is putting every enemy under his feet, yes, every authority, sovereignty and power. And indeed the Church, his Bride has thus far outlived everyone of her opponents, from the Judaizers, to Caesar, from Napoleon to the USSR.
Many today shout doom for the Church, declare her outdated, irrelevant, and boldly (and foolishly) declare, like many before, that they will see her buried. “Ah!” they gleefully scoff, “Your day is over!” Yet long after the reductionism, materialism, atheism and confused moral vision of the modern scoffers has run its course, the Church will still be here proposing the Gospel and praising the Lord.
She is a living bride, espoused to the sovereign Lord of History. Persecute her, and she only grows stronger, command her silence, and still she sings with wedded bliss, looking always to her glorious spouse. Yes, she sings:
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
Yes, still she sings:
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.
And even in a time of persecution and seeming decline, we ought never forget that the victory is our in Christ Jesus. The Bride’s victory is well attested by God himself:
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. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Rev 20:2-6)
It is done, the victory is certain and it is ours in Christ Jesus.
The Church is a Bride, not a widow, though you might never know it walking into some Catholic parishes where the Mass seems more like a funeral than a wedding. A quick look might yield an impression other than a wedding: sour faced saints, bored believers with a kind of “tedium delirium” look. Yes, “the frozen chosen” look. Where is the joy, the zeal, the happiness of the Bride who is loved, and has been saved by her groom from other bad suitors? Always remember that the Mass is the great wedding feast of the Lamb. And the Church, joyful to be with her victorious groom, rejoices to hear his voice, and share sweet communion with him in the Holy Eucharist.
Yes, a bride, not a widow.
Do you live this way? Are you and I confident even in the midst of conflict and setbacks? Do we engage the battle with a serene confidence that comes from knowing the ultimate victory is ours? Or does anger and vengeance in us bespeak more of a fearful striking out? Do people see a joy and confidence in us that is increasingly unassailable, or are we an easy target to unsettle with fear?
It is a very different thing to engage the battle with joy, confident of the ultimate outcome, than to engage the battle fearful, and insistent on present victory. If present victory is the only measure of success, then the cross, seen only in its present moment, was a failure. But clearly it was not. Thus, we engage the battle, not to win every present fight, but knowing that even momentary losses are often paradoxical victories. Why? Because Jesus is the Lord of History. He can make a way out of no way, and write straight with crooked lines. He can draw life from death, and victory from defeat. He has the power to do whatever he wills. And even as the sinful world laughs, he is treading underfoot all error and sin. The boastful cannot stand their ground before the Lord.
The Church is a Bride, and the joyful mother of us all. Have confidence, and be of good cheer. The world as we know it may be passing away, but the Lord has conquered, and the Church, by his grace and promise, will remain always, and share in the ultimate victory of Jesus, when He, having placed all his enemies under his feet he hands over the Kingdom to his Father.
The Church is a Bride, not a widow.