Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey


A rabbi recently commented that the most interesting facet of Jewish/Christian dialogue was learning about the personal relationship people had with Jesus.  It was the aspect of  intimate encounter that fascinated him.   Christians do not commonly perceive their religion as mystical, but much of what Jesus said can be viewed with two eyes – the eye of exterior action and the eye of interior perspective.  He always seemed to point out the distortion in vision, frequently caused by a lack of balance between the outer and inner.   One example was, when referring to the Jewish law of unclean food, Jesus emphasized that what came out of the heart counted far more than what went in to the stomach. (Mark7:18-23) Another is his comment about those who fast in public having received their reward, instructing his followers to “pray in secret in your room” (Matthew 6:5-6) and to fast in private (Matthew 6: 6-18).  What he was intimating was that laws upheld without humility of heart had limited spiritual effect.

 Jesus introduced the mystical concepts of visible and invisible realities, the harmony that connects heaven with earth, the hidden with the revealed.  And from such a position, he unclothed an ever-abiding loving God, who was as intimate as a father with a son.  Established as a boy in the Temple at Jerusalem (“My Father’s house” Luke 2:49)), confirmed at his baptism in the Jordan when God called him “My son, the Beloved,”  (Mark 1: 11) and another time at his transfiguration atop Mount Tabor, Jesus, himself, never excluded others from the possibility of such a Divine relationship.  He simply invited his disciples to a similar intimacy, to accept their rightful place in the family of God.  It was bringing the idea of the Chosen People of God’s covenant further.  It was revealing the depths of what could only be termed “beatific intimacy.” *  But, aware that such a soul relationship was hard for an initiate, Jesus offered himself as the Bridegroom, the Beloved of God, to be custodian of a soul in the covenant of spiritual marriage.    (ref. Matthew 9:15 & Mark 2.20))


“I am a rose of sharon

  a lily of the valleys”  (Song of Songs 2:1)

The longing and searching and finding of the Beloved Other in the ancient Biblical poem, Song of Songs, has been interpreted to be a love poem by King Solomon, or a metaphoric dance of love between God and Israel.  For Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) the biblical poem was a vital guide to the process of intimacy and unity between the Christian soul (the bride) and Jesus, the Bridegroom and King.  The floral fragrances that infuse the stanzas become the very perfume of Divine grace and fulfillment.  Breathtakingly sensuous, the descriptions in the Song of Songs surpass intellectual comprehension.  They provide, instead, profound nourishment to a mystic’s sensibilities and hungry heart. 

 Jesus as Bridegroom has also been interpreted to be his marriage to the Church as his bride.  Therein his exterior eye.   But when Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home in them”  (John 14: 23) he extended a personal, intimate, sensual, everyday indwelling.

* ref. Edith Stein The Science of The Cross.

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