The Word Embodied
Lovely in Eyes Not His
“You shall be called ‘My Delight.’”
Isaiah is not alone among the prophets in portraying our relationship to God in images of covenantal love. Hosea’s YHWH will “betroth you to myself forever, with tenderness.” Ezekiel spins a marvelous tale of courtship, betrayal, and redemptive pardon to explain the history of God’s commitment to Israel.
But Isaiah goes beyond the others. He presents an outright celebration of nuptials: God’s relation to Israel, to us, is an undying covenant of love and fidelity. “You shall be called ‘My Delight,’ your land, ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”
God’s desire and delight is to be one with us, to share in our life and destiny through thick or thin, to possess the same Spirit of love over all our miscellany of time and disposition. It is that Spirit, writes Paul, that we have been given in Christ and that unites us in body, worship, and common labors.
Thus, it might be more than happenstance that the first miraculous “sign” of Jesus recounted in the fourth Gospel occurs at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Not only does his presence bless the covenant of marriage; he personally heightens the celebration. Prompted by his mother, who informs him that there is no more wine and who alerts the attendants to do “whatever he tells you,” Jesus transforms six stone jars of water into wine.
And it is good stuff. “People usually serve the choice wine first; then when the guests have been drinking a while, a lesser vintage. What you have done is keep the choice wine until now.” This first sign of Jesus revealed his glory, and thenceforth the disciples believed in him. The glory revealed is that of the great God of transformations, a God who takes a mere creature for beloved spouse, who becomes our food and drink as if our bread and wine.
We have a God who refashions the human body into a temple of flesh inhabited by divine life. We are new arks of the covenant.
Jesus himself, of course, is the greatest sign of all. He, in one body, true God and true man, is the marriage of heaven and earth. He is the nuptials of God and flesh. He is the reason why, after Christmas, every new child bears the one Spirit wherein God calls each one, “My delight, my joy, flesh of my flesh, my spouse.” Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it thus in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”:
For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.
John Kavanaugh, SJ
Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.
**From Saint Louis University