How did a recent Mass reading about the Ten Commandments lead me to tears over the gift of the body and the hidden, particular relationship spouses share with one another?
The Book of Exodus accounts how, after times in conversation with God, Moses would descend Mount Sinai radiant; literally and visibly changed by the encounter. The Israelites were uncomfortable at the sight, “afraid to come near him.”
Ultimately, we read that Moses makes the decision to veil himself when he comes down from the mountaintop, covering the radiance upon his face. He only removes it when alone and in the presence of God, in prayer.
How beautifully analogous this sense of veiled radiance is to the way our own prayer lives can or should be, and to the nature of marriage. How there is deep joy in being unveiled, naked before the Beloved, but only within the most intimate, free, and trusting setting.
Why is it I felt shy in front of friends and family after returning home from my honeymoon? Why do we struggle to hide our stupid, seemingly uncontainable grins from others after a moment of transcendence in prayer or in our relationship with our spouse?
It’s hard to re-enter the world right after those mountaintop experiences, still wearing that radiance. Part of my desire to do so, I’ve realized, is a wish to keep the experience sacred. Hidden. Not out of shame, but out of reverence for the gift.
On her wedding day, a bride veils herself, reserving the fullness of a face-to-face gaze for her bridegroom alone. At every Mass, the tabernacle is kept covered or closed until the Liturgy of the Eucharist--the holy union wherein time stops and heaven meets earth.
It is when these respective sacraments are complete--consummated--that an unveiling takes place, honoring the goodness of the body: those of husband and wife, speaking the language of their wedding vows in the flesh, and that of Christ himself, broken, poured out, and given to his bride the Church.
Just as Moses encountered the living God in a direct, personal way, so too do the sacraments draw us into his presence as closely as is possible on earth. And we are indelibly changed: Ven. Fulton Sheen reflected on the knowledge of another that is revealed to spouses in marriage. There is no return to how things were, he says, for “neither can live again as if nothing had ever happened.”
Whether you’re in the season of discernment, of preparing for marriage, or of living out married life, may all earthly joys reveal to you the love of our divine Beloved. May you be encouraged in freedom, unmasked, unveiled, and radiant with his love.