Hi, I just hoped that someone could enlighten me a bit more about what the Church says about being a “Spouse of Christ”. It was always in my understanding that nuns and religious sisters were “Brides of Christ” in a very literal sense, since they vow themselves, soul and body, to God alone, but I also understood this “Spousalship with Christ” to be something universal, whether man or woman, single or married, and something that every Catholic must have, since it is our life’s goal to attain to union with God, and this mystical “marriage” with God that began on earth comes to its complete fulfillment in Heaven where there are no more barriers between the soul and God.
I always understood that friars, priests, and monks represented Christ, and nuns, religious sisters, and consecrated virgins represented the Bride of Christ, but I’ve also seen it as: since every Catholic is part of the Body of Christ- the Church- and the Church is the Bride of Christ, every Catholic makes up a part of the Bride of Christ; therefore every Catholic is mystically a “Spouse of Christ”.
Please correct me if my understanding of this is incorrect. As a male getting ready to apply to a religious order as a friar, one of the principle foundations of my spirituality so far has been trying to be a Spouse of God and giving myself wholly and entirely to Him without reserve so that I can be completely in God and God will be completely in me, just like the verse “The two shall become one flesh” in a very literal and spiritual sense.
So in summary, I’ve always seen being “a Spouse of Christ” as something not only reserved for nuns but something that all Catholics are called to. I’ve never seen this as something weird, like a friar or priest being married to Jesus, since we are all part of the Bride of Christ which Christ desires to love and cherish as a spouse.
I think this idea is also expressed in the writings of Julian of Norwich in chapter 58:
And thus in our making, God, Almighty, is our kindly Father; and God, All-Wisdom, is our kindly Mother; with the Love and the Goodness of the Holy Ghost: which is all one God, one Lord. And in the knitting and in the one-ing he is our Very True Spouse, and we his loved Wife and his Fair Maiden: with which Wife he is never displeased. For he saith: I love thee and thou lovest me, and our love shall never be disparted in two.
Oh! Also, I’ve seen God as desiring to fulfill to the fullest extent all of our human relationships. God is our King, Creator, Parent- Father and even our Mother, Shepherd, Friend, Lover, and Spouse. He fulfills all of these roles, since only God can give us complete satisfaction. I think it’s exactly like what St. Catherine of Siena once wrote about in her ‘Dialogue’:
Man is placed above all creatures, and not beneath them, and he cannot be satisfied or content except in something greater than himself. Greater than himself there is nothing but Myself, the Eternal God. Therefore I alone can satisfy him…
And the greatest and most intimate relationship we can have is a spouse, so it seems to follow that God desires also to be our spouse, and we likewise should desire such.
I’ve done a lot of pondering and thinking about this, so I just wanted to check if I went down the correct mental path
God calls us into a deeper union of love for Him. Whether we are male or female, married, single or religious, we should all strive for that love. It’s the same love which led Jesus to lay down His life for our sins - *“agape” *or unconditional love. I do think that religious would have to display this kind of love on a daily basis.
The Church IS the Spouse of Christ and The Church IS all the baptized faithful. The Church, hence all baptized faithful, are destined for and called to Unity with God and Jesus is God. All Graces necessary are never lacking in all circumstances in all the lives of the faithful while on earth.
But we are not absolutely faithful creatures, we can and do fail the Graces we receive, and this speaks very loudly to the Loving Mercy of the Lord in a quite awesome and amazing way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The term “spouse of Christ” refers to different, but interrelated realities.
*]The Church enjoys the title of Spouse of Christ.
*]Those who mirror the Church most closely also share ]the Church’s title of bride of Christ: Consecrated Virgins (we are not talking about all religious here).
*]Those who mirror the Church less closely than CVs (because they haven’t received the consecration that conforms them as “persona Ecclesiae”), but nevertheless more than other souls in the Church are all who are in the consecrated state. This includes monks and brothers and friars and sisters and nuns.
*]Those who are part of the Church only by virtue of baptism are called “brides of Christ” in the “common sense” just like all who are part of the Church by virtue of baptism are priests in the “common sense” and not ordained.
*]The other use of the term “bride of Christ” refers to the soul in the mystical union. This is not strictly spousal like the consecrated virgin relationship, but is likened to a spousal embrace.
It is correct to say that all souls in the Church participate in her being a bride, but the only Consecrated Virgins who have received the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity from their bishop (whether as a cloistered nun or as a woman living in the world) have a spousal bond with Christ in the strictest sense. Again, it is very similar to the priesthood. Only men may share in the ministerial priesthood above and beyond the common priesthood, and only female virgins may share in the bride of Christ spousal relationship over and beyond the common spousalship.
Monks and nuns and sisters and brothers and diocesan hermits who are in the consecrated state, by virtue of being in the consecrated state, resemble the Church more closely as bride of Christ because of their commitment to discipleship within the structures of perfect chastity and the observance of the evangelical counsels. They are, however, not brides per se because it is not vows of discipleship that make a spouse, but the consecration of virgins. You can see it like this in four tiers:
Bishops- Fullness of Orders. Most perfectly represents Christ as Priest, Bridegroom.
Consecrated Virgins- Fullness of Consecrated Virginity. Most perfectly represents Church as Virgin, Bride, Mother.
Note: Both vocations require a bishop to effect the ontological change in the identity of the person. Three bishops are needed to consecrate (ordain) a man a bishop. One bishop is needed to consecrate a virgin into a Consecrated Virgin.
Priests- Orders. More perfectly represents Christ as Priest, Bridegroom of the Church.
Religious and Diocesan Hermits- Consecrated state. More perfectly represents Church as (Chaste) Virgin Mother Bride.
Deacons- Orders. More perfectly represents Christ in ministry and service.
Secular Institute Members- lay/clerical state. More perfectly represents Church as (chaste) Virgin Mother Bride
Lay Men and Women- by virtue of baptism share in the common priesthood and in the common bride-ship. They do not share in the ministerial priesthood or the sacramental brideship.
I think that the above is all very true probably on the objective theological level. It does not take into account the subjective level or one’s personal holiness in any vocation whatsoever. Obviously, say a bishop or consecrated virgin for example, who does not live as he or she should does not “perfectly represent” anything except perhaps going astray somewhere, somehow from his or her vocation and call from God and the Graces he or she has been granted. This, of course, does not affect the truth of the objective theological definition of a bishop or consecrated virgin.
Luke Ch12 “that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.”
While the above quoted post may be all objective theological truth, there is that risk or even danger that a person holds to the objective theological level as some sort of class system in The Church and reflections on whose vocation and call in life is higher, or even the highest. Such reflections can only take place on the objective theological level alone.
Nothing whatsoever is higher than God’s Will and God’s invitation therefore to a person to a certain vocation or role in The Church and therefore one’s personal path in life. This is always on the subjective and quite personal level, while the absolute superiority of God’s Will in all things is an objective theological truth also.
The objective is dealing with facts, the subjective deals with how the person interprets those facts and how one lives out those facts in reality. We have saints who were priests and religious etc. etc. - also lay people who were saints. It is to holiness, to saintliness, that we are all called - while all may not be called to the priesthood or consecrated virginity for example.
If I hold that my vocation whatever it might be is the higher because of it’s objective theological determination or definition, then I would suspect that I have missed the intrinsic meaning of my personal vocation entirely if I interpret that personally as my own personal superiority in The Church. When God calls, be it to the Papacy or to the laity, it is He alone who provides all the necessary Graces to holiness, sanctity, for that particular role in life.
Glory to God and thankfulness for all the various vocations in The Church from Papacy to laity. It is He who calls as He may and when He may and whom He may to what He may - and one is humbled to the dust to know that The Lord should call to one in the first place to undertake any role whatsoever in life (from baptism and confirmation to Papacy - and baptism and confirmation is essential to all vocations) and guarantee to one all the Graces necessary to holiness and sanctity in that role whatever it might be. We are the Mystical Body of Christ on earth and all are equal in Christ, no matter their personal vocation in life, simply because when God calls and invites, He is also offering all the necessary Graces to holiness in that role and call. Every role and person in The Church is of great importance to the life of The Church else God would not call and invite in the very first place! “You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain” (John Ch15)
One could reason that without the priesthood there would be no Catholic Church as there would be no priests, consecrated virgins, religious - nor mankind itself - without marriage.
Jesus launches into a passionate and scathing, lengthy condemnation from which I am quoting in part only : drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=47&ch=23&l=11#x
“He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.  But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in; and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter.  Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: because you devour the houses of widows, praying long prayers. For this you shall receive the greater judgment…”…
The faith which is believed, fides quae, or objective faith, refers to the objective body of revelation, tradition, and the teaching of the Magisterium. This external object of our faith, Divine revelation, is handed down to us by the Church and is expressed by our Creed.
The faith by which it is believed, fides qua, or subjective faith, refers to the means by which we come to personally grasp the realities that are expressed by the deposit of faith. This aspect of faith refers to a concrete personal encounter between each one of us and God. This faith is indeed necessary for salvation.
Not too sure about such matters rather often (but like to have my say anyway:blush:), but I think that religious life is a unique state of consecrated living of it’s own in The Church.
Catholic Catechism. 925 Religious life was born in the East during the first centuries of Christianity. Lived within institutes canonically erected by the Church, it is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in common, and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church.468
Religious sisters are ineligible for the Consecration to a Life of Virginity.
Religious nuns who are virgins (never had intercourse) who belong to Orders who have traditionally had the Consecration to a Life of Virginity or whose communities have received permission and who fulfill the conditions specified in the Rite and in their own rules may receive the Consecration. Such Orders include the Benedictines and Carthusians. Mendicant Orders rejected the Consecration for their nuns and only had religious consecration, although some Carmelites have papal permission to have the Consecration of virginity along with their religous profession.
Some nuns receive the Consecration to a Life of Virginity after they profess final solemn vows in their final Profession ceremony and some traditionally separate the two ceremonies. The Carthusians, for example, have Final Solemn Profession. Twenty five years later, they give the Consecration to a Life of Virginity to the virgin nuns. Some Benedictines separate the time between Solemn Profession and the Consecration to a Life of Virginity for ten or so years. Others have the joint ceremony.
That’s interesting to learn; thank you for posting. Do you know if an order such as the Visitation considers consecration? I am considering the Visitation nuns, but I do feel pulled toward consecrated virginity. However, I do not feel called to living out that consecration in the world, if I were to pursue consecrated virginity.
Since the Visitation Sisters were started by a widow, and for widows and delicate persons, I highly doubt that they ever had the custom of having the Consecration for those who were virgins. You could, of course, ask the Vistation Sisters themselves. A phone call would be a quick way of verifying. But my hunch is that they do not have the Consecration.
This is an old thread but I came across it and I’m interested in the topic.
I’m thinking about how in various accepted revelations to Saints and mystics, Our Lord speaks of His nuns or Sisters as His brides. How would what you wrote relate to this?
There is a consecrated virgin who has a blog and her idea was that CVs have the official canonical title that perhaps confirms a special charism, but female religious can have this charism too that makes them share in the spirituality and gives them a spousal relationship with Christ. Perhaps it is less direct than for a CV but still more literally spousal than for lay people. The idea of a charism is more of a personal idea on her part as she explains. Do you or anyone else have any thoughts? Here’s the article sponsa-christi.blogspot.ca/2015/03/who-can-be-called-bride-of-christ.html?m=1
Thanks for your question. Anyone can have any kind of spirituality they desire because a spirituality is an affective or discursive stance. In other words, I can see Christ as King and relate to Him in that way. I can see Him as a Brother or as a fellow Missionary. But this kind of affective stance of the will or reasoned stance has little to do with making one more special amongst the baptized. My imagining Christ as Priest and praying to Him or imagining myself as a priest when praying, offering sacrifice of my heart and soul doesn’t make me an ordained priest. Again, that is affective stance towards Him in my private devotion. I can do this as a man or woman. That is why the mystics can talk about God acting as a Bridegroom even though they are men. Jenna confuses that sort of spirituality/devotional stance with the true being of Spouse of Christ that is divided into the categories I have already given you.
I see what you are saying, but how do we explain that traditionally female religious have been seen as more literally spouses of Christ than lay people who share in the universal meaning of the Bride of Christ?
For example, we find this in their profession liturgies, they receive rings, they are described as spouses of Christ by Saints like St Alphonsus and others who are very authoritative. I have read traditional books describing religious life as a way to be a spouse of Christ.
Further, Our Lord said to a Saint in a revelation that when she took her final vows she became His spouse. He frequently talks to the Saints in this context, linking the two things together. It seems like a change in this way occurs compared to the time before their final profession.
A traditional priest in the book “Mystery of love for the single” talks about how a perpetual vow of chastity makes one a spouse of Christ.
There are also Saints who became religious as a way of answering a distinct call to relate to Christ in a spousal way, but they never had the consecration of Virgins.
From the tradition of the Church, the only way I seem to understand this is that female religious are more literally brides of Christ compared to lay people with no vow of chastity. Since CVs officially have this title, I do think its more direct for them. But if ONLY they are spouses of Christ in any way beyond the ordinary metaphorical way, then there have not really been many spouses of Christ at all between the early middle ages and post Vatican Ii… Because most orders do not even do the consecration.
I am not disputing about CVs… But how would you explain the well founded tradition of nuns being brides of Christ?
Maybe I’m missing something, but if we look at Saints, spiritual writers and Doctors of the Church, they seem to all agree on female religious literally having this relationship with Our Lord, in a greater way than lay persons… Do you have any thoughts on that? They can’t just be wrong I think?
Yes, I do have a response for this. First of all, the book (except where he refers to men) “The Mystery of Love for the Single” is a perfect book to explain the vocation of consecrated virginity because he quotes extensively (and almost exclusively) from Sacra Virginitas and the Rite of Consecration of Virgins. I hold that what the author says is invalid precisely because he failed to make some major distinctions that you are asking me to make. I do make these distinctions in the doctoral dissertation I am writing on the vocation of sacred virginity. Let’s just that the difference between a sacred virgin, religious, and a laywoman in private vows is not merely symbolic or metaphorical.
Also back to your original question of “spirituality”, I was reminded of a thesis I read a few years back defending the idea that the priest should adopt a Mary-as-my-bride spirituality. Needless to say, this is purely affective rather than a true relationship but if it helps a man to imagine himself in the place of the Holy Spirit or St. Joseph so be it. I think Jenna Cooper would defend it as the “grace” of having a spiritual bridegroomhood that men have and it being a certain spirituality. Again, the absurdity of such an affectation being rooted in an authentic spousal relationship is highlighted in this example but it is consistent with her concept of amorphous grace and devotion. Once more- a man or woman is free to imagine and affectively relate to the Blessed Virgin as a bridegroom (since we are, after all, baptized as priests, prophets, and kings) but does that pious sentiment actually make us authentically her bridegroom? Why don’t you ask her if it does since she should be consistent in her theological vision- what she claims of a spirituality for being bride of Christ should be equally valid for being bridegroom of a saint within the Church.
Well what I’m wondering in particular is why so much of the tradition of the Church seems to describe female Religious as spouses of Christ. It does so in a seemingly more direct way than for lay persons.
It is not just something in the book “Mystery of Love for the Single”. It is in every traditional book on religious life, from St Alphonsus Liguori, I think Blessed Dom Marmion, the Saints… That is my question. Because they can’t all just be wrong.
If everyone except CVs shares in the general meaning of being a Bride of Christ, then theres no difference in this way between a lay married woman and a nun? Yet the tradition of the Church calls the nun a Spouse of Christ. She gave up marriage maybe for this and probably experienced her call in these terms. Her profession liturgy and the Saints of her order spoke in a very spousal way of religious profession. Are you saying she is just like the married woman?
Even in words to the Saints Our Lord attached some special meaning to their vow of Chastity and linked it to a spousal relationship with Himself. So how do we understand that?
My only guess is that there is some difference, but for CVs its more direct, since more canonical.
What is the difference, between a lay married woman and a consecrated woman with a perpetual vow of chastity, and the difference between the consecrated woman and a CV? I would be grateful if you summarized this in a more precise way to help answer this question.
The reason I’m asking is not to have an online debate I’m actually learning about this topic because of my own discernment.
In the book “the True Spouse of Jesus Christ”, St Alphonsus Liguori talks about consecrated virginity and how it makes one a spouse of Christ. But then he talks about religious life and how to be a good religious for the rest of the book. Something I’m trying to understand with this thread as well. Elsewhere in another book on vocations, St Alphonsus links being a religious with being a spouse of Christ.
Somehow this needs to be understood in connection with other vocations…
I see three possibilities:
Only Consecrated Virgins have this title and for everyone else its metaphorical. (This seems to be what you are saying, or have I misunderstood?). The part that im trying to understand with this is all the tradition surrounding calling Religious brides of Christ. I mean it seems like a very serious statement to say that they are all wrong? This is why I’ve asked what is the difference between a CV, a Religious, and a married lay woman.
Virginity somehow vowed or consecrated to God makes a spouse of Christ and being a Consecrated Virgin is one type of this. Religious life would then be another type. Not sure how Religious fit in if they are not virgins, as this can happen.
The view of the other blog I linked.
One idea is that CVs bear the official title and are literally and most directly Spouses of Christ. Religious are also in SOME way I don’t understand, and for them its linked to a vow of chastity. Virginity would be a perfection of this vow. Married lay people share in being a bride of Christ in the general metaphorical way.
This is becoming very confusing… Not sure what to think. I would be grateful for any information, thank you
I’m just wondering how a woman can understand her vocation if her desire to be spiritually “married” to Christ lead her to a form of consecrated life but not consecrated virginity.
I guess this is personal to me because I have for a long time related to Christ in this way and its lead me to discern a life with private vows or religious life. The idea that religious life doesn’t make one any more a bride of Christ than marriage, and that both only have the general metaphorical reality, makes me confused about my discernment. In the worst case scenario I start to feel like nothing was real, and I’m trying to.figure this out so I don’t end up with some crisis of faith. Because for me this is what lead me to it, not an apostolate or another aspect of religious life. I thought there must be some literal reality there, even if less direct than for a CV, considering that so many women, including Saints, were drawn to religious life for the same reason.
My priest told me that making a religious profession and a perpetual vow of chastity leads to being a spouse of Christ… It sounded like this is true for all religious vowed to chastity, and that virginity is a perfection of the vow. That makes sense to me considering the tradition of the Church and the examples in the lives of various Saints. CVs could still have a more direct way of being spouses and I have no problem with that, and the article in the blog I linked seemed to explain that.
I am not here to argue my position, and to be honest I’m feeling very confused. I’m just trying to understand what is the case for other women who devote themselves to chastity. If there’s no difference in their relationship with God than those who are married, that could cause a woman to question her vocation if she experienced a call in a distinctly spousal way…