I am supposed to be studying Ethics right now. I'm going through my notes though, and I'm currently taking a break to share some notes from a lecture I went to last year back on main campus. The lecture was given by Dr. Bergsma, a biblical scholar and one of the greatest theological professors here on campus - Dr. Sirilla is only slightly higher on my list. This lecture focuses on the Gospel of John and the Passion of the Christ and the imagery found within the text illustrating the spousal relationship between Christ and His Church. Bergsma's words are so insightful and profound - my notes do not do them justice - but I hope that they will assist you in preparing for the beauty of Easter and help you draw ever nearer to Our Lord in His unending love for His children.
Preparation For The Easter Triduum By Dr. John S. Bergsma, a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, given on March 31, the Eve of the Easter Triduum 2010.
In English, the Passion of Christ refers to Christ’s sufferings and death. The word is of Latin origin which means “to suffer/endure.” But the word “passion” has other meanings as well. For example there is “passion as in the phrase “one is passionately in love.”
Both of these are found in the Gospel of John: passion as in suffering and passion as in love.
John paints his Gospel with the imagery of marriage, of Christ giving His life for His bride.
This imagery begins in John Chapter 2.
“On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee...” John 2:1
The third day is a new creation week when “Adam and Eve” come forth. Eve comes to Adam on the 7th day of Creation in the Book of Genesis. Similarly, on the 7th day accounted in the Book of John there is a wedding. Jesus is the new Adam. Mary is there. Jesus calls Mary “woman.” Why? Christ is invoking the concept of her as the woman, the new Eve.
He tells her, “My hour has not come.” According to the Jewish tradition, the bridegroom is supposed to provide the wine. Jesus is not the bridegroom at this wedding. He says this because HIS wedding has not come... yet. Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you,” which is wisdom itself. After the steward tastes the wine, he calls the bridegroom because it was his responsibility to get the wine. The steward gets on the bridegroom’s case, because THIS wine is high quality stuff. 180 gallons of expensive wine!!! John is indicating here the magnificence of Christ the bridegroom. When He performs the duty of the bridegroom, He does it excessively. He does it tremendously. he is the quintessential , the best Bridegroom.
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11
The Apostle John speaks of seven signs. The first is the miracle at the marriage at Cana. The last is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. THe first sign is linked to the seventh. These are the only two signs were Mary appears. Her presence and the image of wine link the two events. The hour of His wedding is used in reference to His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. He tells her that His hour has not yet come, yet He still performs the duty of the bridegroom.
John the Baptist calls Christ the Bridegroom: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.”
John the Baptist says he is the groomsman: he makes way for Him.
|The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, Northern Renaissance Period|
(Details of Weyden's painting set to Victoria's music. Please watch!)
Christ meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. This is the third time in Scripture where this happens, and each time it has ended in a marriage.
John Chapter 4 is the Spiritual Betrothal Scene.
Christ speaks of living water, Baptism. Jesus is spiritually wooing the descendants of Israel - through this Samaritan woman - back to Himself.
John Chapter 12: Mary Of Bethany Anoints Jesus
Mary pores oil on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. The oil is called nard, and is spoken of again in Scripture only in the Song of Songs. It is a nuptial perfume that covers the bride and the bridegroom Solomon in the Song of Songs. Judas complains. It is very expensive, the equivalent of $2100, according to Dr. Bergsma.
Jesus is the Bridegroom worth every penny. He pours out His love for us. The Law came from Moses, but Love and Truth come from Christ. He gives an abundance of grace, grace upon grace.
“Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:7
In the case of this nuptial perfume, Jesus makes the same reference He did at Cana: His hour had not yet come. The perfume is to be saved for His burial.
John Chapter 18: The Arrest Of Jesus
In ancient Jewish marriages, it was customary for the bridegroom to have an entourage, a procession with torches and lanterns. If the Bridegroom was of elevated rank, the procession might carry weapons as well. In the Gospel of John, as Christ approaches His hour, He is accompanied by such an entourage: Judas and the soldier come to retrieve Christ from Gesthemane with swords and torches.
John Chapter 19: Jesus Is Crowned With Thorns
After the Scourging, the soldiers crown Christ with thorns, clothe Him in a purple robe, and hail Him the “King Of The Jews.”
The Son of David wore a special crown. In the Jewish marriage ceremony, the bride and the bridegroom are crowned. Jesus’ crown is a crown of thorns. Thorns are a result of the Fall (Genesis Chapter 3) and are strongly related to the result of sin. Jesus is our Bridegroom, and all we have to offer Him are our sins and the curse thereof. We crown Him with our sins.
“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.”
Christ was condemned at the same time in the ancient Jewish liturgy that the lambs were slain for the Passover meal.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom.” -John 19:23
Only one garment was without seam. Is referenced in (????), and refers to the garment worn by the high priest. (Brian, you’re going to have to help me with this one.)
A nuptial and priestly act. Is both priest and sacrifice.
Jesus went to His cross completely naked, as the bridegroom would go to the bridal chamber to meet his bride.
“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” John 19:26,27
When do we say these things? when a baby is born. This is the language of birth. A spiritual birth where the love of Christ and His bride gives spiritual birth on the Cross, and the first child is the Apostle John.
“After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’"
In the story of Isaac and Rebecca, Isaac’s servant knows his master’s bride by asking for a drink from the anticipated bride. This is a Scriptural theme. Jesus is longing for the return of love from His Bride. He has poured out so much for His bride, the Church, and He wants this love returned to Him.
“When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
This is the completion of the marriage, its consummation. Even the original Latin text expresses this with the words, “Consummatum est.”
Jesus falls into the sleep of death. Adam had to fall asleep for his bride to come forth. Similarly, Jesus has to fall asleep so that the Church, His bride, could come forth.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness-his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth-that you also may believe.” John 19:34-35
John calls out: I SAW THIS. He freeze frames this image because of its many sided meaning.
Blood and water is present at the birth of a child, so it is first of all, birth imagery. The second Eve is born from the side of Christ on the Cross.
Blood and water are also present in the consummation of a marriage,
in the first marital embrace.
Jesus says that He is the new temple. They used to pour wine at the base of the altar (where there would have been blood from the sacrifices), and so the wine and water would flow from the temple into the stream.
When His hour DID come, He would provide wine-the wine of His blood. Water=Baptism. Blood=Eucharist. This is how we experience Christ.
In Ezekiel Chapter 47, the prophet tells how on the last day, the new temple would come, giving new life. He is referring to the Holy Spirit. When Christ dies, He gives up His Spirit. He is giving up the Holy Spirit. The river of life is the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through the sacraments to give us new life.
“Nicode’mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
John 19:39, 40
Myrrh and aloes coat the bodies of the bride and bridegroom. They are also mentioned here in Jesus’ burial. They are associated with marriage. They are also very expensive, and about a hundred pounds are used to adorn Christ’s body. This once again demonstrates the greatness of the Bridegroom who gave up His life and poured out His love for His Bride.
The High Priest, priests were clothed in linen-Jesus is also wrapped in linen. Priests also were perfumed with myrrh when they went in to sacrifice.
Jesus is laid in a virgin grave. The earth is spoken of as a woman’s womb: “formed me in the depths of the earth, in my mother’s womb.” This is also found in Job. In Hebrew these two concepts are brought together. Christ entered into a virgin womb, into a virgin tomb, a symbol of the Church.
John Chapter 20: Jesus Appears To Mary Magdalene
This account should be read alongside Song of Songs Chapter 3, where Solomon describes a woman seeking her beloved at night, but she doesn’t find him. Mary comes when it is still dark (night) to find “Him whom my soul loves,” (Song of Songs 3:1) but she doesn’t find Him. She sees two angels: watchers. “The watchmen found me.” (Song of Songs 3:3) “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” (3:5) Mary was trying to do what the woman does in verse 5 of Song of Songs. But Jesus says, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)
Jesus gives His Body for His bride, He donated it for love of her. In the marital act, the bridegroom gives himself to his bride, but he also receives physical and spiritual joy in the act. But Jesus receives only pain. Thus, there is no self-interest. This is extreme, pure love.
A reminder: John also speaks of other things in his Gospel. Jesus speaks in John also of spiritual, sacramental matters. People can misunderstand the Passion and Death of Christ and leave it on a crude, physical level. We are speaking of the spiritual, sacramental level. We are all, the entire Church, called to be His Bride, espoused to Him. We talk of spiritual realities through analogy. Christ and His Church are united, and this union gives life, for at the Easter Vigil when people enter the Church, Christ & the Church are giving birth to new children clad in white robes.