A Reflection on the Bridegroom Icon

BridegroomOur faith teaches that Christ became man so that we might by grace become God.  It is in this icon that we clearly see the import of this exchange. Here we do not see as we might expect, a groom full of joy and dressed up in handsome clothing, with a king’s crown on, and ribbons binding the hands of the couple as a symbol of how love binds them together. Rather,  in this icon we see a sorrowful Christ, a captive whose hands are bound, who is without a wedding garment, and who is wearing a crown of thorns.  It is here in this icon that we see Christ as having fully entered into the mess, the brokenness, the sorrow, of the Fall. He comes to his bride in humble clothing to match hers.

We know however, that the story does not end here. Although here He “weeps over Jerusalem” yet, “for the joy set before Him he endured the cross”—The joy over one sinner who repents, the joy of seeing His bride without spot or wrinkle, dressed in the glorious garment of His purity and light.  It is at Pascha that we will see the groom and bride as we expect in the fullness of joy and the beauty of holiness.

The Paschal Icon focuses our gaze on the Kingdom to come in hope and expectation, but it is in this icon that we are reminded of Christ’s example for us of how to live in a fallen world—that in the face of sin, love must be humble in order to act as a healing balm to the proud, love must be sacrificial and self-denying as a healing balm in the face of the selfishness surrounding us.  It is in this icon that we see what it means that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is in this icon that we hear Christ saying, “As I have loved you, so you also must love one another.”

— Anna Stickles