By Brian Pizzalato
“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” (Philippians 2:5-8).
When the Second Person of the Trinity took on our frail human nature, he demonstrated divine humility. He stooped down into the muck and mire of human existence in order to raise us up and empower us to live a life in imitation of him. He did not come with thunder, lightening and a storm cloud. He came as a human embryo, fetus, infant, young child, adolescent and poor young man of
In the previous column we looked at how Jesus led us back to the beginning in order to understand that the man and the woman who have given the sacrament of matrimony to one another are called to imitate the life-giving, self-donating love of the Trinity.
All right, just take a minute and shake out your 21st century willies after hearing this first-century verse about wives being subordinate to their husbands. Now, calm down and let’s look at what exactly
First, we must notice verse 21, “Be subordinate to one another...,” before getting worked up about verse 22. Notice that it is also “out of reverence for Christ” that there is to be this mutual submission, not male dominance. Pope John Paul II tells us, “This relationship is a revelation and a realization in time of the mystery of salvation, of the election of love, hidden from eternity in God” (Wednesday audience, Aug. 18, 1982).
Second, we must consider all of the words of the above passage in order to fully grasp its meaning. There are two groups being referred to: husband and wife, and Christ and the church. The majority of verses are dealing with the husband, not the wife.
Notice that the husband is called to be like Christ and the wife is called to be like the church. Now if the husband is actually living out this calling to be Christ-like, then the verse about wives submitting themselves to their husbands is beautiful.
This passage specifies, for the husband, what he is called to in relation to his beloved. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her…” The husband is called to lay down his life for his bride, giving completely of himself, being selfless, not selfish. What bride would not want to submit to such a husband?
Further, the word submission means to be under the mission. In particular the church/bride is meant follow the mission of Christ/bridegroom.
However, it is also true to say that Christ/bridegroom is meant to follow the mission of the church/bride. How can this be? The two are one body. They are two ways of saying the same thing. Christ and his church form one body through the washing of the members of the church with water, i.e. baptism, and through the consummation of that one flesh union, i.e. the Eucharist.
He is also saying to wives: do not settle for anything less than a Christ-like husband.
Printed with permission from the Northern Cross, Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.
Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate for the Diocese of
Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville,