… at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. (Matthew 25:6)
Behold, the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy the servant whom he shall find heedless. Take care then, O my soul, and be not weighed down by sleep that you will not be given over unto death and be excluded from the Kingdom. But rise up and call out: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou O God, by the Theotokos have mercy on us (Troparion of the First Three Days of Holy Week).
The notion that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church His bride formed very early on in Christian history. Catechumens, whether male or female, were told they are each Christ’s bride and by being baptized they were entering into a marital union with the Son of God. Thus, in Holy Week as catechumens neared the time of their baptism they were being prepared for their union with God. The Bridegroom matins of Holy Week focuses on the theme of Christians both individually and as members of the Church being the Bride of the Messiah.
…patristic citations, which presume that ‘males as well as females can be “married” to Christ. … despite the progressive asceticization of Christianity, patristic authors, even ascetic enthusiasts such as Jerome, did not wish to foreclose marriage to the Heavenly Bridegroom to those who were not women, not perpetual virgins, and not sinless. Here a near-universal message of redemption, construed as “marriage,” appears to trump the elitism of ascetic Christianity.” Recall that that the opening pages of the catechesis of both Cyril and Chrysostom have no problem describing new initiates—male and female—as virgin brides. (Michael Peppard, THE WORLD’S OLDEST CHURCH, p 139)
Chrysostom, again, speaks plainly to this question: the ‘new soldiers of Christ’ comprise ‘both men and women, for the army of Christ knows no distinction of sex.’ (THE WORLD’S OLDEST CHURCH, p 140)
All Christians, no matter which gender, were taught about God’s love for His people, which results in the mystical marriage of the believer to the Messiah. So, St Gregory Nazianzus says to the catechumens awaiting baptism in his day:
The place where you will soon stand, in front of the bema, after your baptism, is a pattern of the glory hereafter. The psalmody with which you will be received is a prelude to the hymnody hereafter. The torches that you kindle are a sacrament of the procession of light hereafter, with which our beaming and virginal souls will greet the bridegroom—beaming with the torches of faith, neither sleeping due to laziness, lest the anticipated one escape our notice when he arrives unexpectedly, nor nourished and unoiled and lacking good works, lest we be thrown out of the bridal chamber. (THE WORLD’S OLDEST CHURCH, pp 134-135)
The newly baptized were told they are like the wise virgins of Christ’s parable who were prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom Messiah with their lamps lit. But because the Christ was also the suffering Messiah, there became a merging of images, a mixing of metaphors if you will, in which the newly baptized are not only in a nuptial procession but also in a funeral procession.
Keep unextinguished in your hands the torches of faith you have kindled, so that here, on all holy Golgotha, the man who opened paradise to the thief on account of his faith may allow you to sing the bridal melody.’ When the wedding metaphor of Christian initiation combines with the Pauline ‘death mysticism’ of baptism, the resulting image is mysterious… Bridal entry becomes funeral procession, and wedding march becomes funeral dirge. (Michael Peppard, THE WORLD’S OLDEST CHURCH, p 151)
The church processions on Holy Friday and Pascha night represent both the wedding procession and the funeral march. One merges into the other as one dances into the Kingdom of God.