St John saw “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2 and 9ff.).
As Christ himself descended to earth from heaven, so too his Bride, the holy church, originated in heaven.
She is born of the grace of God, indeed descended with the Son of God himself; she is inextricably bound to him.
She is built of living stones; her cornerstone was laid when the Word of God assumed our human nature in the womb of the Virgin.
At that time there was woven between the soul of the divine Child and the soul of the Virgin Mother the bond of the most intimate unity which we call betrothal.
Hidden from the entire world, the heavenly Jerusalem had descended to earth.
From this first joining in betrothal, there had to be born all the living building blocks to be used for the mighty structure: each individual soul awakened to life through grace.
The Bridal Mother was to become the mother of all the redeemed.
Like a spore from which new cells stream continually, she was to build up the living city of God.
This hidden mystery was revealed to St John as he stood beneath the cross with the Virgin Mother and was given over to her as her son.
It was then that the church came into existence visibly; her hour had come, but not yet her perfection.
She lives, she is wedded to the Lamb, but the hour of the solemn marriage supper will only arrive when the dragon has been completely conquered and the last of the redeemed have fought their battle to the end.
Just as the Lamb had to be killed to be raised upon the throne of glory, so the path to glory leads through suffering and the cross for everyone chosen to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb.
All who want to be married to the Lamb must allow themselves to be fastened to the cross with him.
Everyone marked by the blood of the Lamb is called to this, and that means all the baptized. But not everyone understands the call and follows it.
There is a call to following more closely that resounds more urgently in the soul and demands a clear answer. This is the vocation to the religious life, and the answer is the religious vows.
They [those in religious life] want to belong pre-eminently to the Lamb for all eternity, to follow him wherever he goes, and to sing the song of the virgins that no one else can sing (Rev 14:1-5).
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942): At the Foot of the Cross; Copyright ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included. Maintained by the Austrian Province of the Teresian Carmel