Some people are scandalised looking at the painting of Mary Bride of the Family, since the image doesn’t hide her femininity and they prefer the more modest Mary’s traditional portrayals. Over the centuries, not so rarely, this sensibility was the expression of a point of view that lead to separate the Mother of the Incarnate Word from corporeality and history! Actually, through these apparitions in the role of Bride, Mary reaffirmed an identity and a role that she has in the Church and in the human family.
She doesn’t want to be considered as a moldy Christian version of the mother goddess, but as real woman with all her femininity, a disciple of her Son and one of his co-worker acting as example for the “Community-Bride” of the Messiah. As a matter of facts, Mary Bride of the Family is the personification of a nuptial theology that is strongly affirmed both in the First and in the New Testament. The vision of the Marriage of the Lamb is the acme of this nuptial theology and it is described in the Apocalypse (chap. 19-22) to seal the whole revelation.
This nuptial theology was highly considered in the ancient Church. Consider that in one of the first Christian poetry in Semitic style, that is the Odes to Salomon, the Christian existence is seen as a nuptial union. Consider also the point of view of Fathers of the Church, in particular the master Origen who described the transformation through the Holy Spirit as a continuous process in three steps: from the purification and the enlightenment to the nuptial union, till the fullness of being assimilated by God. In his essay on The Virginity, Gregory of Nyssa explains how the own mystery of the Trinity gives meaning and basis to the choice of virginity, which is intended to be an “inner and spiritual marriage with God” (cf. A. Hamman, Per leggere i Padri della Chiesa, Ed. Borla, Roma 1992).
Over the centuries, a lot of saints and mystics lived and described the “life through the Spirit” in a nuptial-like style: Bernard of Clairvaux, Gertrude of Helfta, Angela of Foligno, Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux and, nowadays, Mother Teresa of Calcutta are just few examples who shared the same point of view. Present apparitions of Mary in the role of Bride of the Family represent a sort of consecration of this nuptial current which flows from the biblical epoch into the Church’s age.
Not only a new epithet (Bride of the Family) is at stake, to be add to the list of Mary’s titles, but also the right acknowledgement in Church’s historical path of the centrality of love’s experience in the relationship with God.
The Jesuit father Francesco Rossi de Gasperis described efficiently the biblical basis of these nuptial theology and mysticism. He belongs to the community of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Jerusalem since 1977, where he teaches the themes of the Jewish roots of Christian faith and the Christian theology of Israel, by leading biblical courses and conferences at the “Ecce Homo” Centre and at the “Ratisbonne” Institute.
Let’s read some paragraphs from his book on Mary in the context of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, which relate to the subject we are talking about:
«We considered the biblical meaning of woman reading Rev.12, as she is the personification and the symbol of the humanity-partner of God, both in the creation and in the covenant (Ge 3,15; Is 54; etcetera).
Both the humanity and Israel are woman, bride and mother before the God creator and saviour. The nuptial symbolism is not the only one that expresses the relationship between God and humanity, or between JHWH and Israel, but it’s one of the highest and of the least ambiguous, since it originates from the freedom of the Groom (God, JHWH), who choses and calls the loved one, and from the freedom of the bride (the humanity or Israel), who agrees to be chosen and reciprocates the love call. Consider the Song of Solomon and its special role in Jewish and Christian traditions […].
In the New Testament, the Groom-God comes towards Israel (and all humanity) in the flesh of Jesus from Nazareth. For this reason, the biblical woman-partner of God becomes the mother of the Messiah, acme of messianic people (Mt 1-2; 12,46-50; Mk 3,31-35; Lk 1-2; 8,19-21; 11,27-28; Jn 2,1-12; 19,25-27; Acts 1,14; Gal 4,4; Rev 12; etc.), and the fiancée and the woman of the Lamb (Rev 19,7-8; 21,2.9-10; 22,17).
John the Baptist defines himself as the friend of the Groom, […] while Jesus is the Groom-Messiah who has the Bride (Jn 3,28-30; cf. Jn 1,27). […] One more time, Mirjam from Nazareth is the favourite personification of these “feminine” vocation and condition of Israel and humanity. She is the woman (ghyné: Jn 2,4; 19,26; Gal 4,4; Rev 12; etc.), who God appreciated (Lk 1,30) as the king Ahasuerus liked Esther (Est 2,17; 5,8; 7,3; Rth 2,13; etc.).
The first announcements of messianic maternity joy, which prophets addressed to the daughter of Zion, the daughter of Jerusalem, are directed to her (Lk 1,28.30-33; cf. Zp 3,14-18; Zc 9,9; Redemptoris Mater, 14-17).
In a certain sense, she is the city of David, in which a saviour is born for all the people who is Messiah and Lord (Lk 2,10-11).
The Lord, JHWH, is with her (Lk 1,28), in her midst (Zp 3,15-17) – this time in a really unquestionable way (cf. Ex 17,7) – as He is in the midst of Jerusalem.
She is the full of grace (kecharitoméne: Lk 1,28; cf. Eph 1,6 and also Redemptoris Mater, 7-11), of the fulness of nuptial divine favour that goes beyond every frontier, not only those raised by sin, but also those demarcated by the creation».
(Francesco Rossi de Gasperis, Maria di Nazaret. Icona di Israele e della Chiesa, Edizioni Qiqajon, Magnano, 1997, pp. 73-77) [translation by Davide Pessina].
The texts of Vatican Council II expressed this nuptial concept of Church’s life in many ways, for example saying that God doesn’t stop to talk with the Bride of his beloved Son, although he already spoke to our fathers in the past (Dei Verbum, 8).
The Church is loved by Christ, her Groom, who gave himself for her (Lumen Gentium, 6, 7, 9, 39, 41; Gaudium et Spes, 48) and who entrusted the eucharistic celebration to his beloved Bride, memorial of his death and resurrection, in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross over the centuries. The entire liturgical year is described as the celebration of the salvation work of the divine Groom and the divine office is presented as the constant voice of the Bride who talk to her Groom (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47, 84, 85, 102). For this reason, “the Church keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire and, imitating the mother of her Lord, she keeps with virginal purity an intact faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity” (Lumen Gentium, 64).
Some priest our friends objected that the texts of Vatican Council II don’t talk about Mary as Bride. This is true, but it’s also true that everything said about the Church could be said about Mary, because: “the Mother of God is a type of the Church […], as she is the image and beginning of the Church as it has to be perfected in the world to come” (Lumen Gentium, 63, 68). Do not forget that the Council “doesn’t have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified […] concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us” (Lumen Gentium, 54).
In light of these thoughts and considering the outcome of this first twelve years on walking, we trust that these nuptial revelations of Mary contribute to enhance the comprehension of the “singular dignity of the Mother of God” (Lumen Gentium, 67). We also hope that the Church would acknowledge them, according to when and how God wishes, in support to the human family which is facing troubles and in support to the Church itself, which in these revelations can recognize and contemplate, like in a mirror, its own face of Bride loved by its Lord.