Catechism 14: A Description of the Church; The Bride of Christ, Part 1

Catechism 14: A Description of the Church; The Bride of Christ, Part 1

God planned marriage to be a picture of the relationship of Christ and the church.

"Many names, moreover, which are replete with mysteries, have been used to designate the Christian body. Thus, by the Apostle, is called the spouse of Christ."-Catechism of the Council of Trent.

Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body. Ephesians 5:22-23

The church is betrothed, espoused and promised as the intended bride of her husband, Jesus Christ. The marriage is not consummated. That is yet to come when he returns for us.

For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

What does it mean when St. Paul says that the church is espoused or betrothed to Jesus?


It is important for us to understand the difference between an engagement and a Jewish betrothal. We would tend to think that they are the same. In fact, they are described as the same in my dictionary, but there is a vast difference between the two. A betrothal (in the past) was the legal side of the marriage for Jewish people; it is, in fact, a covenant. The Jewish people call it kiddushin (betrothal).

There is no set way to do this, but quite commonly it was done by the payment of a bride price in the presence of two witnesses, and reciting the marriage formula, "Thou art consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and of Israel." She is not required to respond; her silence is her acceptance. This reserved the young woman for him until the day of the wedding ceremony after which the marriage would be consummated by the two becoming one flesh (having intercourse). It doesn't matter what you call it, betrothal or engagement, the important thing to know is if there are vows involved or not. They know that this is done when they are betrothed, and we know this is done at the altar. This is very clear in our minds that the wedding day is the day of no turning back. Just as it is clear in the mind of the Jewish people when they are betrothed according to their customs.

Although of course, some of them break these vows just as some of us. Nevertheless a traditional Jewish betrothal is taken very seriously because this is their vow. So an engagement may be called off at any time, and for any reason because no vows are made, but rather they agree to make those vows at a later date. Whereas a betrothal is a Jewish person's vows, and therefore binding until death do they part.

This is why sometimes in the Bible a wife can be called a wife before she is actually married, a man may also be called a husband in the same situation, father-in-law, son-in-law, etc. The Bible may also say married when actually betrothed. Also, it may say adultery instead of fornication. But adultery cannot be called fornication. Because one takes a vow when they are betrothed it is understandable how one can be considered married. If the person fornicates it could be called adultery. Of course s-x before marriage is fornication, not adultery, but God's word, customs, and ways of speaking do not always follow the rules. We all know a whale is a mammal, not a fish; yet Jonah's whale is called a fish. There are lots of funny things that don't go by our proper English rules. All we can do is accept that fact and try to reach for the meaning of the Word. So it is understandable for fornication to be called adultery, but to go the other way and call adultery fornication doesn't make sense. Because to call fornication adultery, is showing the strength and importance of a covenant by exaggeration. But to call adultery fornication lessens the strength and importance of the covenant. Once one has made a covenant and consummated it, to lessen the value of an extra marital affair and broken vows from adultery to fornication would be a little odd. We exaggerate things to prove a point, but it doesn't make sense to make a point by lessening the value of something, at least not in the case when you would try to prove the strength and not the weakness of something. So adultery may be fornication, but fornication cannot be adultery. 1

5 Characteristics of the Bride of Christ

A Worker at Home:

The Bride (The Church) maintains, rules, and guides the Home (the Family of God) It is not her main job to provide for them. That is the Husband's (Christ) responsibility.

She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands. And she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens. She hath considered a field, and bought it: with the fruit of her hands she hath planted a vineyard. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good: her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry: fine linen, and purple is her covering. She made fine linen, and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite. She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Proverbs 31:13 15-16, 18-19, 21-22, 24, 27

I will therefore that the younger should marry, bear children, be mistresses of families (Or rule and Guide the Home) I Timothy 5:14

The aged women, in like manner, in holy attire, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teaching well: That they may teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, sober, having a care of the house, gentle, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5

The Bride of Christ should care for its children by providing sustenance through the body and blood which her Husband, Christ, has provided for her.

The Bride of Christ cares for its children through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Confession etc. The Bride of Christ maintains discipline in the "Home" by teaching, warning, and training up the children.
God's intention for the Bride of Christ is to find her fulfillment in maintaining the "home" and children and by keeping the "house", loving the children and making the "home" a haven for her family.

Is the Bride of Christ today fulfilling her responsibilities as she should? Or is she allowing chaos, division, and confusion reign in the "home"?

It is The Bride of Christ duty to be a help or "help meet" to her Husband

And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself. Genesis 2:18

Ezer which is commonly translated as "help" is really a rich word with a much deeper meaning.
Diana Webb in her book Forgotten Women of God clarifies "help" by explaining,

"The noun ezer occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. In eight of these instances the word means “savior”. These examples are easy to identify because they are associated with other expressions of deliverance or saving. Elsewhere in the Bible, the root ezer means “strength.... the word is most frequently used to describe how God is an ezer to man."

For example the word "ebenezer" in 1 Samuel 7:12 is used to describe the power of God's deliverance. "Eben" means rock and "ezer" means "help" or "salvation". Ebenezer therefore means "rock of help" or "rock of salvation". The root "ezer" is the same word that God used to describe to Adam who Eve was. She was not intended to be just his helper, rather she was intended to be a savior.

The other part of the term "help like unto" which is commonly translated as "meet for" or "fit for" is the word "k’enegdo". It is hard to know exactly what the word k’enegdo means because it only appears once in the entire Bible. Yet Diana Webb explained that,
"Neged, a related word which means “against”, was one of the first words I learned in Hebrew. I thought it was very strange that God would create a companion for Adam that was “against” him! Later, I learned that kenegdo could also mean “in front of” or “opposite.” This still didn’t help much. Finally I heard it explained as being “exactly corresponding to,” like when you look at yourself in a mirror."

Eve was not designed to be exactly like Adam. She was designed to be his mirror opposite, possessing the other half of the qualities, responsibilities, and attributes which he lacked.

What does this all mean for the Bride of Christ? The Bride of Christ, in a nutshell, is to "help", ezer, her Husband in the saving of the Church. She fullfills what is lacking in the her Husband's part in Salvation. She completes His work on the cross.
St. Paul said this, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting [or lacking] of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church:" Colossians 1:24

The Apostle Paul in his suffering and preaching continues the reconciling work of Christ. ( Origen, Chrysostom, Theodore, Severian, Theodoret, Ambrosiaster.) Paul represents all Christians, and ultimately the church itself, as a corporate continuation of the reconciling work of Christ (Augustine).

The Bride of Christ Should Love her Husband and her Children

That they may teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children. Titus 2:4

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loveth him who begot, loveth him also who is born of him. I John 5:1

How should the Bride love?

And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away: I Corinthian 13:3-4

Love is Patient:

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Ghost (Galatians 5:22).

Impatience is a fruit of selfishness. And selfish is simply an ugly, accurate description of my fallen, depraved nature, which wants all of creation to serve me. Selfishness is the real archenemy of love. Love is patient because patience is a dying to selfishness. It is the belief that in this dying we will find greater joy in the joy of the ones we are seeking to love: God and His children.
The Church should be patient with those who are struggling to do the right thing. Don't expect people to "turn over a new leaf" right off the bat!

Love is Kind:

The Greek word rendered “kind” in this verse literally means to “show oneself useful” in the sense of manners or morals. The first concept is related to the idea that to be kind means to be useful or helpful. In this sense, kindness is not merely an attitude or state of being. It is also a deed. The connotation is that kindness is to be obliging and accommodating. Love, in this context, creates no trouble or disturbance but, rather, desires to promote happiness by extending good to others. It is a good-naturedness that not only wishes well but also does well. Kindness is benevolence in action. The second concept that is implicit in kindness deals with being courteous, polite, compassionate, and affectionate. It refers to conduct that is gentle, mild, tender, and pleasant, especially under provocation. It is the opposite of acting bitter, sharp, disagreeable, and harsh.

The Church should itself be useful in the community as well as conducting itself in gentleness, mildness. that does not mean that we should allow every sin in the book to go on in the Church. But we should handle it with compassion and affection.

Love does not Envy:

When God tells us that love does not envy, He means we need to be happy for who and what we are. We are not to be comparing ourselves with others, nor are we to be jealous, spiteful, or possessive of others, because God is the One in control, and He has a unique plan for you and me.

Our little Parish may not be as nice or as big as the one down the road. But if God is in control we can know that he has a unique plan for our little Parish just as he has a unique plan for the big one.
Love dealeth not perversely: ST. GREGORY, in his explanation of these words, "dealeth not perversely," says that charity/love, giving herself up more and more to the love of God, ignores whatever is not right and holy. [Mor. 1. 10, c. 8.]
The Church, will not allow the things of this world to destroy what is holy. The Church, will not allow things that are sinful to come into the life of the family of God.

Love is is not puffed up:

To be puffed up is to have an inflated opinion of oneself. But pride cannot coexist with godly love. Christian love is not proud or focused on self. Did you ever see a balloon that was not blown up? How big was it? It was pretty small-and hardly noticeable. But if you blow it up, what happens to the balloon? It gets much bigger-maybe ten or twenty times bigger-and is much more noticeable. That's what it means to be puffed up. It means you want people to notice you; it means showing off.

The Bride of Christ, when there is a scandal, does not try to hide it because of trying to save face. They deal with it for the sake of the children and Christ there husband.

Love is not ambitious:

Ambitious means "having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed."

The Bride of Christ's goal is not in succeeding as it is to fulfill the will of Christ there Husband. No matter the results or the consequences.

Love seeketh not her own:

Sin is, at its core, selfishness. We fail to conform to God’s design for us and miss out on His blessings because we are too busy with our own interests.

The Bride of Christ only seeks what her Husband Christ seeks. It has no agenda other then doing the will of their Husband.
Love is not provoked to anger: The Bride of Christ is not to be touchy, easily provoked, fretful, resentful, suspicious, or oversensitive with her feelings. She is to be very slow to get angry, and she is not to let little things cause her to "fly off the handle."

Love thinketh no evil:

To thinketh no evil is to not form unjust opinions of others. It is not however implied that the Bride of Christ is blind to facts, or that she is incapable of thinking of things as they are. She is simple-hearted and unsuspicious.

Catechism 14: A Description of the Church; The Bride of Christ, Part 1
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