I went to a wedding the other day. But it wasn’t the kind of wedding that you’d think.
Let me explain.
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, several hundred people gathered in beautiful St. John’s Church in Stamford. Sr. Catherine Marie and Sr. Shirley Ann knelt before the altar of God, and took perpetual vows in the Sisters of Life. They surrendered their lives in order to gain it, by marrying their Spouse, Jesus Christ, and by promising to serve his most vulnerable people.
Three other women, Sr. Brigid Ancilla Marie, Sr. Maris Stella and Sr. Mary Aquinas, took their first vows, committing themselves to live for three years in dedication to promoting and defending the cause of human life, while they further discerned their vocations.
This was a spectacular occasion. The music was heavenly, the Mass was profound, and the presence of Archbishop Collins of Toronto was a blessing. The Sisters were brimming over with joy as they watched their sisters move forward in their service to God. You couldn’t have asked for a more grace-filled event.
As a married man, I was particularly struck by the nuptial aspects of the profession. On the day of my marriage to Peggy, we committed our entire selves to each other, with no conditions or strings attached. We offered ourselves on the altar as a sacrifice to each other, in the presence of God, who was to be an indispensable partner in our covenant. We knew that this adventure would be hard sometimes, but we were confident that we could do it if we stuck together and let God help us through.
And here now were five women, doing the same thing — offering themselves on the altar of sacrifice, confident that their community and God would bring them through any rough waters. They were embracing their own nuptial union with Jesus Himself.
When Jesus walked among us, he asked us, very plainly, “Follow me”. Each one of us, as disciples of Christ, has to figure out what that means in his or her own life. For me, following Christ means to be a good Christian husband and father, and a missionary in my everyday life.
For Srs. Catherine, Shirley, Brigid, Maris Stella and Mary Aquinas, the path of discipleship has led them to a different kind of marriage. While we ordinary married people are trying to be witnesses of the Kingdom of God in the here and now, the Sisters are pointing us to the end of the story — the actual nuptial union of God and his people in the New Jerusalem.
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, the commemoration of the day when Christ revealed His heavenly glory, we in Stamford saw a hint of that same glory.
At the opening of the Mass, the Sisters processed in, singing the nuptial Psalm 45, with the response, “The Bridegroom is here; go out and welcome Him”. We might as well have been listening to the heavenly choir, their voices were so beautiful.
And in the vows of these humble Sisters, we saw a preview of the final wedding, the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride described in Revelation 21-22.
I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.”