By Lynne Keating
“I come to my garden, my sister, my bride … drink deeply, O lovers!” —Songs 5:1
Over the summer, I visited Longwood Gardens nestled in the historic hills of northern Delaware. These gardens were built during an era when gardens were designed to be romantic. I’ve included some of the photos I took so that you can see just how beautiful and romantic they are.
The awareness of romantic love is powerful and, at times, intimidating. And there is no circumventing the Scriptures, which speak of the love of God for His people as a romantic love. Jesus calls Himself bridegroom. What more romantic image can there be? The great mystics and doctors of the Church like Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Theresa of Avila, spoke of such a love and were chased out of churches and religious communities—too scandalous a thought! Yet, man or woman, this is who we are—the most desired lover of the King of kings.
A wise old mother superior once told me, “If you don’t know for certain who you are, the devil will try to tell you.” Since one element of our baptismal identity is that of “king,” how do we embrace the idea of a royal identity and the authority implied by the concept of “king”? And what’s love got to do with it?
Sometimes when I try to avoid a topic, the confrontation comes in a dream (where, I am told, our defenses are lowered). In just such a dream, I once saw myself as an awkward teenager with disheveled hair and mismatched clothes. In this dream, there was a boy who bought me an ice cream cone and sat next to me on a park bench. I asked him why he did this but he did not answer; he only smiled at me with kindness in his eyes. Toward the end of my dream, older and not so awkward, I was fixing my hair and putting on a lovely dress. I was no longer clumsy and unaware of my appearance. There was a knock on the door. There was this young man, older now, but with those same kind and smiling eyes. He held a bouquet of roses. My heart skipped a beat. When he saw me, he was so overcome with happiness, that he seemed almost weakened with love. There, the dream ended.
I knew this dream was special, because it would not leave my conscientiousness for several days. It took me a while to understand its meaning, though I asked the Lord to help me understand it. In time, I came to realize that when we accept the love of God and, because of it, strive to make ourselves beautiful in His sight, He becomes “bridegroom.” He is, to use human terms, overcome by our love, for we are in possession of His heart. Think about that.
When a woman marries a man, she takes his name. She is given rights and authority over his dealings, his finances, his household, and his decisions. Love and authority are, in fact, deeply and intimately connected.
In time, I came to understand that this dream showed me not only the persistent and patient love of God, but also the power which our love, when given in return, wields over His Sacred Heart. Just as a wife takes the name of her husband and becomes influential over his decisions, when we give our love to God, we take His name, share His royal identity, have recourse to His riches, and sway over His actions. Because of His great love for us, He allows Himself to be moved by our prayers, by what makes us happy! In short, His heart is overcome by His love for us. Think about that! Better yet, do what Mary did: ponder it deeply in your heart.
In the final analysis, only humility will allow us to stand before the greatest convergence of all times (poor and weak as we are). It is in humble submission, meekness, and poverty of spirit that we receive the power, the authority and the royal identity bestowed upon us by Love.
We must know for certain who we are. We are beloved. We are beautiful. We are bride!
Spend some time meditating on today’s Gospel in which we hear of Jesus as a young boy, spending three days and nights in the Temple of Jerusalem. Over and over again during His stay there, He witnessed the sacrificing of the spotless lambs, offered by the Jewish people for expiation for their sins. In that Temple, He came face to face with His identity, His mission: to be the spotless offering for our sins. Then, in humble submission to His Heavenly Father, and because of His great love for Him, Jesus submitted Himself to the authority of His loving parents, and returned home with them and was obedient to them.
Lord Jesus, today I reach out for your hand. I want to be with you. I want to love you for yourself alone. Help me to know you as you know yourself. Help me to come to know your will for me. Help me to embrace who I am in your eyes. Amen.
About the Author:
Lynne Keating, author and blogger, also lectors and teaches the Bible to CCD students at Saint John the Beloved Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. Convinced that this is one of the most exciting and important times in salvation history, her writing encourages all people to recognize and rejoice God’s self-offering love, revealed more and more through the actions of His people. Fellowship of the Lamb is Lynne’s blog.