Despite the obscurities and difficulties of earthly life, the state of consecrated chastity foreshadows the union with God, in Christ, which the elect will have in heavenly happiness, when the spiritualization of the risen man will be complete.
According to Perfectae Caritatis, religious “recall to the minds of all the faithful that wondrous marriage decreed by God and which is to be fully revealed in the future age in which the Church takes Christ as its only spouse” (PC 12). In this marriage the basic value of virginity or celibacy in relation to God is discovered. It is for this reason that one speaks of “consecrated chastity.”
The truth of this marriage is revealed by many statements in the New Testament. We remember that the Baptist called Jesus the bridegroom who has the bride, that is, the people who rushed to his baptism. John saw himself as the “groom’s best man who waits there listening for him and is overjoyed to hear his voice” (Jn 3:29). This marriage imagery was already used in the Old Testament to indicate the close relationship between God and Israel. Especially after Hosea (cf. 1:2ff.), the prophets used it to exalt that relationship and to call the people back to it if they had betrayed it (cf. Is 1:21; Jer 2:2; 3:1; 3:6-12; Ez 16, 23). In the second part of the Book of Isaiah, the restoration of Israel is described as the reconciliation of an unfaithful wife with her husband (cf. Is 50:1; 54:5-8; 62:4-5). The presence of this imagery in the religious faith of Israel also appears in the Song of Songs and in Psalm 45, wedding songs prefiguring the marriage with the Messiah King, as they were interpreted by Jewish and Christian tradition.
Within the context of his people’s tradition, Jesus used the imagery to say that he himself is the bridegroom foretold and awaited–the Messiah bridegroom (cf. Mt 9:15; 25:1). He also insisted on this analogy and terminology to explain what the “kingdom” is that he had come to bring. “The reign of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son” (Mt 22:2). He compared his disciples to the bridegroom’s friends, who rejoice at his presence and will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them (cf. Mk 2:19-20). There is also the well-known parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to arrive for the wedding feast (cf. Mt 25:1-3), as well as that of the servants who must be watching to welcome their master when he returns from a wedding (cf. Lk 12:35-38). In this regard it could be said that the first miracle Jesus performed at Cana, precisely at a wedding banquet, is significant (cf. Jn 2:1-11).
By calling himself the bridegroom, Jesus expressed the meaning of his entrance into history. He came to bring about God’s marriage with humanity, in accordance with what the prophets foretold, in order to establish Yahweh’s new covenant with his people, and to fill human hearts with the new gift of divine love, enabling them to taste its joy. As the bridegroom, he invites everyone to respond to this gift of love. All are called to answer love with love. He asks some to give a fuller, stronger and more radical response: that of virginity or celibacy “for the kingdom of heaven.”
A Witness to Spousal Love
Pope John Paul II
23 November 1994