The Bridegroom’s Friend

We have in the Gospel of St. John a robust and meaningful analogy in which Christ is the Bridegroom, the Church is His bride, and St. John the Baptist is the friend of the Bridegroom. The Baptist declared to his followers: “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (Jn 3:29).

St. Bede the Venerable explains: “John replies, He [Jesus] is the Bridegroom; I am the friend of the Bridegroom, sent to prepare the Bride for His approach. . . . By the Bride he means the Church, gathered from amongst all nations; a Virgin in purity of heart, in perfection of love, in the bond of peace, in chastity of mind and body; in the unity of the Catholic faith; for in vain is she a virgin in body, who continueth not a virgin in mind.”

Theophylact further develops the analogy: “Christ is the spouse of every soul; the wedlock, wherein they are joined, is baptism; the place of that wedlock is the Church; the pledge of it, remission of sins, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; the consummation, eternal life; which those who are worthy shall receive. Christ alone is the Bridegroom: all other teachers are but the friends of the Bridegroom, as was the forerunner.”

St. Augustine notes: “The friend of the Bridegroom ought to stand and hear, that is, to abide in the grace which he hath received, and to hear the voice in which he rejoiceth. I rejoice not, he saith, because of my own voice, but because of the Bridegroom’s voice. I rejoice, I in hearing, He in speaking; I am the ear, He the Word.”

St. John Chrysostom said in a homily: “The expression, ‘which standeth,’ is not without meaning, but indicates that his part is now over, and that for the future he must stand and listen. . . . And since the things he had hoped for had come to pass, he adds, ‘This my joy therefore is fulfilled’; that is, The work which I had to do is finished, and nothing more is left, that I can do.”

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. IV, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).

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