The sacramental symbolism of the union of man and woman in “one flesh,” that is, the union of bridegroom and bride, has been preordained by God from the very beginning of history to point to and prepare for the true one flesh union, the utterly virginal, sacramental union, of the definitive Bridegroom and Bride—and this occurs in the communion between God and humanity, between the Trinity and each human person, in the incarnate flesh of Jesus Christ. The “first espousal” takes place in the Incarnation, in which God himself pours out the fullness of his love into the receptive womb of a virginal woman, weaving together in her flesh a living body for his own Son. But this union continues to progress, to deepen, until it is truly brought to its climax as this Son of God and Son of woman is stripped naked at the Cross and gives himself entirely to and for his beloved bride, who stands before him in receptive love and the reciprocal donation of herself to him. The Virgin Mary is this bride par excellence, and in her each one of us finds our place; and yet this mystery is also realized, already, in Mary Magdalene and John the beloved disciple as well.
Here is the true “one flesh” union in which the man lays down his life, his body, for the one whom he loves, even to the point of death. He says to her in this place: “You are precious and beloved to me, and I am and will be yours, totally and forever.” Here we witness the truth that “love is stronger than death” (Sg 8:6). But such a mystery is fully unveiled before our eyes in its true radiance only in the Resurrection, in which the Crucified Flesh of Christ is raised up from death and enters definitively into the realm of God—into the very innermost life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! And from this place the same Christ, in body and spirit, continues to communicate himself to us unceasingly. His Body truly pervades and permeates the whole creation, which he has espoused to himself in his Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.
And yet this gift of self to us, and our reciprocal gift to him, reaches its highest point in the Eucharist. As John Paul II says: “The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. Christ, in instituting the Eucharist…thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine.’ It is a relationship willed by God in both the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption.” It is therefore in the Eucharistic Communion that each one of us experiences most intensely the union for which our hearts were made: our nuptial union with the divine Bridegroom, before whom we are all truly bride. And it is in the Eucharist, too, that we can learn what it means to live our sexuality to its fullness, both as woman and as man, in our relationship with God and with one another. The Eucharist teaches us how to love, how to give our lives for others, how to shelter and nurture, to tenderly embrace, to have compassion, to suffer as a gift for the good of all, to rejoice in the beauty of gratuitous intimacy. But above all, it does more than teach; it effects within us a radical liberation and transformation, for through the Eucharist we let ourselves be enfolded in the very Love that created and sustains us, and we let ourselves be penetrated and permeated by the Mystery that desires to communicate itself to us and for which we thirst.
Yes, and this Mystery—the innermost intimacy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!—already cradling us in itself at every moment, and already communicating itself without reserve (even if through a “veil”), will become fully visible and palpable when Christ comes again to effect the final consummation of this blessed marriage at the end of time. Then, as Job says, “with my very flesh I shall see God,” yes, “my eyes shall behold him, not another” (Job 19:26). What a breathtaking promise! The very spiritual mystery of the Trinity’s inner life will be visible and tangible to my incarnate, physical humanity!
Beholding the Trinity face to face, and truly touching him who touches me, I will experience the most blessed consummation—the “one flesh” union for which I long—with the entire Trinity, through the incarnate humanity of Jesus Christ. And in this place, utterly penetrated and permeated by the loving self-communication of God, I will be able to see, know, love, and embrace every other human person whom God has made. This consummation of intimacy with the Trinity will overflow into and entirely enfold all of our human relationships; and because of this, they will surpass in depth and intimacy anything that we knew before while in our mortal life.
Yes, we will be able to receive into ourselves, and to give ourselves unreservedly to, the persons whom we love, in a union that is not sexual but virginal. And yet in being virginal, this union is no less intimate than sexual union, but rather more so, the fulfillment of the reality of which the sexual embrace, and marriage itself, was but a sign and sacrament. For this virginal embrace will not disregard the body, but rather integrate it entirely into the mutual self-giving of persons, in which their shared acceptance and loving surrender will allow them—in both body and spirit—to penetrate and permeate one another in an embrace that allows both to live in one another and to share a single life of love, of complete intersubjectivity and total mutual indwelling.