I just got back to Kansas City for Christmas yesterday. While here, I mentioned to my dad the subject of yesterday’s post, that although most Bibles say that Mary was “engaged,” “pledged,” or “betrothed” to Joseph, She was in fact married to him, but that Jewish weddings consisted of two discrete steps, with about a year in between the legal marriage and the formal moving-in. My dad then reminded me of something I’d forgotten. The first of the two steps, what we inaccurately refer to as the “betrothal,” is a ceremony which involves wine symbolizing communion:
The Jewish wedding ceremony comprises two major sections: erusin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). When the bride and groom have reached the huppah [marriage canopy], the erusin ceremony begins. It is a simple ceremony, marked by two blessings recited by the presiding rabbi, who holds a cup of wine. The first blessing, over wine, is one said at almost all joyous occasions. The second blessing is unique to this occasion and reads as follows:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Master of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us regarding forbidden unions, and Who forbad betrothed women to us, and permitted to us those married to us by huppah and kiddushin. Praised are You, Lord, Who sanctifies His people Israel with huppah and kiddushin.”
After the completion of the second blessing, the rabbi gives the cup of wine to the groom, who drinks of it; the cup is then presented to the bride, who drinks from the same cup, symbolizing their commitment to sharing their lives from that moment on.
So the wine created a communion, and even a marriage, between the two parties. Now, that’s pretty clear foreshadowing of the Eucharist. And sure enough, at the Last Supper, Christ says in Matthew 26:29, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” This line stands out, since it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the flow of the Last Supper and Passion, which closely track the Jewish Passover. But when you tie in the Cup of Blessing from the Jewish wedding, it makes perfect sense.
Now, as I said yesterday, after the kiddushin, the Groom then goes and prepares a house for His Bride, just as Joseph was doing in Matthew 1 when he discovered his Virgin Bride was pregnant. Likewise, Christ calls Himself the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15; John 3:29), and we’re told that the Church, the New Jerusalem is His Bride (Ephesians 5:23; Revelation 21:9-10). And what does Christ tell us He’s going to do for His Bride? Well, in John 14:2-3, He says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” The saved are “betrothed” to Christ, as 2 Corinthians 11:2 says. In this way, the Eucharist isn’t just partaking in the Last Supper with Christ, but promising ourselves to Him in marriage, and He’s promised that the Eucharistic Wine is just a foretaste of the Communion of the Kingdom of Heaven in its full glory, where we will go from the kiddushin to the nisu’in, and enjoy the splendor of Christ forever.