The Spouse of Christ in the Hereafter: A Historical Exploration of Nuptial Imagery and the Eschatology of Celibate Chastity in Religious Life

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Sandra Yocum


This thesis is a narrative of how nuptial imagery has been used in monastic and religious life by men and women as an expression of their unique love relationship with God. It begins with a close look at how the Song of Songs was used by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and other mystics as symbolic of their mystical marriage with Christ and their eschatological longing for heaven. The focus then turns towards examining shifts in the twelfth century regarding the practice of celibacy and the understanding of gender, shifts that contributed to the "bride of Christ" being solely identified-in a concrete and literal way -with the nun. This thesis shows how the nun as the bride of Christ was enacted in ritual, particularly habit and profession ceremonies, before this imagery was abandoned by many women religious in the United States after Vatican II. Finally, the author examines whether nuptial allegory can be re-appropriated by men and women religious in a non-patriarchal way as a helpful expression of the eschatological nature of religious life.


Theology, Bride of Christ, Religious Life, Vow of Chastity, Celibacy, nuns, women religious, Song of Songs, nuptial imagery, habit ceremonies, eschatology and religious life, Vatican II and religious life

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Copyright © 2019, author