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Nuptial Rest
Sunday anticipates the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rv 19:9)

By Paul Simoneau

It is said that to truly receive a gift, one must be at rest. Keeping holy the Lord’s Day, solemnly inscribed in the Third Commandment of the Decalogue, provides the premiere setting each week for the reclining of the soul and body in order to receive God’s total gift of love—Christ in the Eucharist. In fact, Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter, Dies Domini—On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy, calls us to recognize Sunday’s “nuptial intensity” where “God reveals himself as the bridegroom before the bride” (No. 12).

“If the first page of the Book of Genesis presents God’s ‘work’ as an example for man,” Pope John Paul II explains, “the same is true of God’s ‘rest’” (Ibid, No. 11). However, we mustn’t think of God’s rest on the seventh day as some sort of “divine inactivity,” but as “… a gaze full of joyous delight” (Ibid). It is the gaze of the divine Lover upon the beloved. The prophet Hosea describes the “nuptial rest” that God desires to have with his beloved saying, “I will make you lie down in safety… and I will espouse you for ever” (Hos 2:18-19).

Indeed, perhaps no better nuptial image of rest exists in the human dimension than in that of the repose of a man and a woman in the sacramental embrace of marital union. Taken to the higher plane, Sunday represents the marriage bed for Eucharistic communion—“the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and Bride” (Mulieris Dignitatem—On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, No. 26).

In fact, “the ‘sincere gift’ contained in the sacrifice of the cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love” (Ibid). Pope John Paul II tells us that “In the Church every human being—male and female—is the ‘Bride,’ in that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person” (Ibid, No. 25).

In every Mass we hear the words, “This is my body which has been given up for you.” It is the Heavenly Bridegroom’s total, free, faithful and fruitful act of justice for love of his Bride, the Church. Approaching Holy Communion as a “Bride” and hearing the affirmation, “The Body of Christ,” we confirm the truth of this nuptial mystery with our “Amen.”

“Holiness is measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom” (Dies Domini, No. 27). In what better way can we respond to the Bridegroom’s gift than by making His words our own, saying, “this too is my body which I offer up to you.” In so doing, we enter “the depths of God’s ‘rest’ and… experience a tremor of the Creator’s joy…” (Ibid, No. 17).

On Sundays, God especially reminds us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Biblically, marital union is spoken of as knowledge because nothing is closer than that of the knower and that which is known. We seek, in justice, to know God so that we can “love and serve God and one another.”

Communion, properly understood, has both an “invisible dimension,” in and through Christ and a “visible dimension,” which entails communion in the teachings of the Church, in the sacraments and with the Church hierarchy (cf., Ecclesia de Eucharistia—On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church, No. 35).

The grave obligation to attend Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation is precisely because we can so easily become lost in the horizontal and finite dimension of our earthly realm and pilgrimage. Sunday then, properly observed, reorients the heart toward what is infinite.

In the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “You were made for the great Sacred Heart and no one but God can satisfy you. Your heart is right in wanting the infinite, but your heart is wrong in trying to make its finite companion the substitute for the infinite” (Your Life is Worth Living, St. Andrews Press, p. 272).

To close with a play upon the words of Pope Paul VI, “if you want peace…,” keep the Lord’s Day holy.


Mr. Simoneau directs the Justice and Peace Office for the Diocese of Knoxville.

Copyright 2008 The East Tennessee Catholic. Reprinted by permission.