by Father Mike Stubbs
Our society often favors couples, whether married or not.
For example, restaurants frequently offer meal deals where two eat for the price of one. A hotel room costs the same, whether two stay in it or just one. Going as a couple makes good sense. Society encourages us to double up.
The same apparently held true in the ancient world. Society looked upon couples as the norm. This principle operated even in the field of religion.
For example, in Greek mythology, the god Zeus was married to the goddess Hera. The goddess Aphrodite had a boyfriend Ares, the god of war.
This followed the usual pattern in the ancient world. For the most part, each pagan deity had a sexual partner.
In contrast to this, the ancient Israelites did not believe that their God had a consort. They did not picture God in terms of a human body with sexuality.
Consequently, they also avoided any metaphor that might imply a human nature, such as God being married.
That is why Sunday’s reading, Isaiah 62:1-5, comes as such a surprise. It tells Israel: “The Lorddelights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”
We might remember that this prophecy comes rather late in Israel’s history. At this point, Israel was fairly secure in its understanding of God as a spiritual being, without a body.
Consequently, it could restrict this talk about God’s marriage to pure metaphor, and not imagine it to be a reality.
Notice also that the prophecy points to a future state of affairs, not a current reality. It does not give a timetable as to when this wonderful event would take place.
But as Christians, we see the birth of Jesus Christ as fulfilling this prophecy. In Christ, human nature has been joined to divine nature. Heaven is wedded to earth. God is married to humanity through Jesus Christ.
It is no longer metaphor, but fact.
In the prophecy, blessings are brought to those who are joined to God in marriage. God’s spouse will be covered in glory.
The prophecy assures us: “Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory . . . You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God.” It is a happy marriage.