“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride of the wife of the Lamb’” (Revelation 21:9)
Here we are near the end of the Bible in the Revelation experience. Is it not odd that one of the angels with the seven bowls with the seven last plagues is here inviting us to witness the glorious marriage of the Lamb whom we know to be our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ as the bridegroom? Also to recognize that the bride is none other than the holy Church all dressed in radiant white, symbol of purity and innocence? It tells us about angels. They are as their name implies, “sent” as messengers by the Holy Trinity to humanity. An angel like this brought the reader to the vision of the destruction of the great harlot, Babylon. Here the angel is announcing the glorious wedding of the Lamb of God and the Bride, the holy Church that the Lord bought with the great price of His Cross. The Bride-Church is a symbol of all who have the following attributes of unblemished flawless virtues radiating from their souls.
St. Paul set forth the attributes of the perfect Church. In Revelation those who dwell in such a Church are among those in the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to belong to Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who comes to claim His bride. From the apostle to the gentiles, we find their characteristics:
They are people who are devoted to one another: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” [Romans 21:10] When we read this, how does it resonate on the conscience of each member of the community we call Church?
These are people who can say of their fellow parishioners that they:“Honor one another above [them]selves.” [Romans 12:10] It means that each member in good standing holds all others in the congregation above themselves. They feel it an honor to be part of such a community of believers. Does this really happen?
It’s mandatory to dwell in harmony with one another: “Live in harmony with one another.” [Romans 12:16] It means that nothing is as important as to preserve peace among the family of Christ. Of course there are differences of opinion in the parish—everybody understands that—but they also realize that without the peace of God that passes all understanding, their Eucharist is hollow because their relations are shallow and worldly, not godly.
Love one another: “Let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love one another.” [Romans 13:8] Until we can realize the order from the Divine Liturgy: “Let us love one another that with one accord we may confess…Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” as Jesus said, we are talking nonsense when we say we love God. Here the expectation is that by the time we approach heaven, we have made love a way of life.
Accept one another: “Accept then one another, just as Jesus accepted you.” [Romans 15:7] To accept is to realize there are differences, and yet they do not prevent us from forgiving. The French say: To understand is to forgive. Acceptance is not approval—not even tolerance. It is compassion.
Serve one another: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in sinful nature. Rather serve one another in love.” [Galatians 5:13] Is this not the meaning of foot washing? What more powerful an example can there be than the Son of God washing the feet of fishermen? Are we above the Master?
Forgive one another: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” [Colossians 3:13] You will be stopped and forbidden entry into heave if you come with a grudge defiling your soul.
Encourage one another: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” [I Thessalonians 5:11] We are ordered to build up the confidence and to reinforce the positive images of all your sisters and brothers in Christ. There’s no place for a downer or defeatist in Paradise.