Posted this in another forum, but I thought I would get more responses here.
Why is it that when the church talks about marriage, the analogy is that men are Jesus and women are “the church”? I find that so bizarre. The church says the sexes are equal, but this analogy puts men above women. Men are God and women are merely human (not literally, but that’s the analogy). Can anyone explain this?
Ephesians 5: 22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Paul isn’t saying that men are God and women are humans; in Galatians 3:28, he states that there is no male or female, or any other distinction between believers, but we are all one in Christ. He is, however, outlining certain roles here–as Christ is the head of His church, so the man is the head of his wife. A most unpopular sentiment in the contemporary West, but it absolutely does not imply any degradation of the woman.
To the question, expanding a bit on what Heidi said (if she doesn’t mind):
The Ephesians 5 discourse on marriage is to illustrate the type of love that should exist in a Christian marriage. This love is not selfish; it is self-sacrificing, as Jesus gave His own life for the benefit of the body (His Church). This is the way that a husband is to love his wife—but also, how a wife is to love her husband. This same Paul also speaks in 1 Cor 7:14:
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy.”
(While this does not imply a perfect sanctification of the unbelieving husband, the woman’s faith can become a vehicle for conversion and proper holy family).
This is to say that Paul is not restricting human gender to any cause of sanctification for the other; however he is referring to the self-sacrificing quality of love within the marriage.
It terms of words, Church (Ekklesia) is grammatically a feminine word although not in the sense of human sex. In English, which doesn’t denote grammatical gender of nouns, we might say “church” is ‘she’ or ‘it’, but it cannot be ‘he’. So although the members of the assembly can be both male or female, ‘Ekklesia’ is still a feminine nominative noun. I don’t know if that plays into the discussion or not.
This analogy puts women well above men. Jesus died for His church and men are to die for their wives. But again, that is just an argument to use if someone wants to get into a gender debate which IMO is not charitable
The Church has intrinsically feminine qualities and embodies the Bride of Christ. This goes beyond grammatical gender and explains ontological reality. The Church cannot be described in English as “it”, this is a reprobated practice per Liturgiam Authenticam. Our authentic understanding of the Church demands that we refer to her in the feminine.
Hi Elizium. Thank you for pointing that out. I had intended my last thought to be confined more strictly to linguistical possibilities, not necessarily liturgical usage, but verbiage is important. The reference you left does peak my interest, but as it is rather lengthy, I can’t give it proper attention just now. Perhaps for a single point in question it would be helpful, if possible, to reference which of the 133 mostly multi-portioned sections I could read over so that I could more fully understand your point.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
At the Last Supper, Our Lord made it very clear that the bishops are not on a higher level than the laity, but are servants among servants. That is what it means to have the role of Jesus: that is to say, it is a role that uses whatever leadership comes one’s way to blow up the natural-plane idea that leaders are up here and the lead are down there. Likewise, when Jesus was under someone else’s authority, he allowed them their authority as something God had given them. Yes, he took on the prophets voice of speaking up when someone was failing to do what they ought–and this is a role that is appropriate for those who are in a position of being lead instead of in leadership–but he did not challenge the idea of some people having authority that others do not have.
It isn’t a one-up or one-down view of the roles of those leading and those lead, but a view based on mutual submission in charity and humility before the overarching authority of God, the Source of all true authority, even when the submission flows out of different roles taken on for a mutual good.
This still doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is the Church “female?” Why is it the “bride” of Christ instead of the “spouse”? I understand that men are supposed to lay down their lives for their wives, but why aren’t women supposed to also lay down their lives for their husbands? I have never understood what the true Catholic interpretation of Ephesians 5 is.
Because the man should be leading the family, and the wife following his lead. Again, it doesn’t imply any degradation of the woman; is Ginger Roberts considered inferior for following Fred Astaire’s lead on their dances?
This is true, by the way, even when the husband isn’t Christian–1 Peter 3:1 tells wives to submit themselves to their husbands so that the husbands may be won “without a word.” Obviously, if the husband tells the wife to sin, she mustn’t do so, but she is to respect her husband. In a good Biblical marriage, this leads to a loving, mutually supportive couple growing ever closer to God and to each other, free from the resentment that can plague marriages. Of course, there will be breakdowns because none of us is fully sanctified, so we can act in selfish ways that hurt our spouses (or ourselves).