"Every heresy is a forgotten truth seeking revenge."
Meet Mrs. Christ
It was 1982 and I was a student at a small Catholic College in the Midwest--the site of the first meeting of the famous Jesus Seminar (a group of scholars who at one point would question just about everything that has ever been asserted about Jesus).
On this night everyone was gathered in the cavernous chapel, that had been gutted after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. There was expectancy in the air that hung like the clouds of incense and fog produced by dry ice as the great drama in front of us unfolded. Over the course of the next two hours I would witness monks donning white leotards prancing in the air, angels of gloom and doom announcing plagues and terror from balconies above and then finally the appearance of the bride--the bride of Christ!
Now the great mystery leading up to this dramatic presentation of the Book of the Apocalypse or Revelations, was who was going to play the bride? After all we were an all male school run by an all male order of monks. There were women who worked in the cafeteria, administrative office and janitorial staff--but these were all rather serious women who didn't usually participate in these rather fanciful school plays. Perhaps it would be someone from outside. The actress Florence Henderson had made her acting debut at this school years before she ever was "Mrs. Mike Brady" when she was recruited by one of the monks who said Mass on Sundays in her parish in the nearby town where she had been born and lived as a child. Perhaps another future Mrs. Brady would play the part!
The music and singing of the schola reached a fever pitch as more incense and dry ice fog filled the raised sanctuary, obscuring the moving figures taking their places:
"Veni, et ostendam tibi sponsam, uxorem Agni."
Latin for "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb" a passage from the Book of Revelations found in chapter 21, verse 9.
Suddenly she emerged, at first only her leg covered in a white bridal gown breaking through the incense and fog--in unison with one of the white leotard clad monks on whom her arm rested in a courtly manor.
I looked around at my fellow students and some of the guests present for the drama. All faces were rapt toward the unfolding revelation as to who was the bride.
Then she was revealed.
It was Sister Mary John the Baptist!
The sixty-seven year old liberal nun who taught social issues in the college and who if you asked nicely would show you a picture of herself in a habbit from the 1960's. As hideous as it had been to witness some of the fifty year old monks prancing about in leotards, this revelation really took the cake--for although the gown she wore would have rivaled the one that Princess Dianna wore at her nuptials--the aged face of Sister Mary John the Baptist in that gown may have been the college seminaries way of giving us all a dose memento mori in a visual meditation that was sure to make celibacy more attractive!
I am sure that the image of a sixty seven year old woman in that beautiful white wedding gown would haunt the dreams of many of my classmates for years to come.
My first encounter with Sister Mary John the Baptist was during an orientation week when she led us in a guided meditation, meant to introduce us to this form of prayer. It was hot, we were tired and after forty minutes of imagining that we were on a mountaintop, by a brook, at a beach and finally at long last Jesus arrived, Sister asked us to imagine "What do you say to him?" Amador, a young student from Texas blurted out "Take me with you!" This was quickly followed by an anonymous passing of gas by another student that was loud (when everyone is silent--everything is loud)--which caused uncontrollable laughter that quickly broke the spell we had been under. Not daring to fully open my eyes, wet with tears from the laughter, I spied a peak at Sister who was not amused.
I heard chuckles behind me.
But who could play this role? No one person I realized for the Bride of Christ was not one person but the Church. And the image of Sister Mary John the Baptist has reemerged from my consciousness twenty years later when I hear Christians, even some Religious ask "What difference would it make if Jesus were married to Mary Magdalene?"
The short answer--it would be adultery.
I recently read a line that shocked me. Written by a learned group of Christians it said and I paraphrase "The Scriptures are silent when it comes to whether Jesus was married or not."
To the question of whether Jesus was married the Scriptures are not silent.