Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Truth of Christian Marriage: A woman's worth

Sometimes I have people asking me what gives me ideas to write my columns every week. As one who has over 180 columns on his website, this humble journalist is either very prolific, very verbose, or simply very opinionated who can't keep his mouth shut. (Or the more likely combination is a mix of the three.) Nonetheless, I do get ideas from a lot of people. Yet they normally come from a few people. Despite the largely male circle of friends and colleagues, most of my ideas come from women. Some people find this a little odd, yet I've always found that when it comes to insight and inspiration for ideas, I as a man naturally take these from women.

It is without a doubt true that us men have a fixation with women. Call it human nature or whatever you will, but it is a true fact. In a lot of ways, almost all we do is built around women. Whether it is serving as a husband, or a priest for the Church, which is viewed as our Mother. Now while many feminists might find this degrading and insulting, for the Christian this is without a doubt the way to virtue. When speaking of things we should do to increase virtue in Ephesians Chapter 5, St. Paul describes the way a husband should act towards his wife.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any; such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church: Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.

This passage will be continually returned to throughout our study, as typically the passage that causes much heartache for female culture today, no doubt influenced by feminism and egalitarianism. The idea of St. Paul is that the husband signifies Christ. Now while modern women take this to mean the husband is the one with all the authority and he should use such authority, I don't know if that's necessarily what St. Paul has in mind. No doubt the husband is the head of the household, but it is also equally true that it should not be looked at by the husband in an authoritarian way. I remember one time dealing with one of my traditionalist friends and he was arguing passionately against women wearing pants. (Another issue for another column but suffices it to say I am bucking the tide of a sizable amount in traditionalist thought by dissenting from this view.) He boldly proclaimed "I gladly invoked my authority as a husband to forbid my wife from wearing pants." I remember remarking to another person in the discussion "if he has to use his authority on such a trivial and stupid matter, there are far greater problems in that relationship than he realizes."

While the husband has the authority in the relationship as Christ, he also carries the responsibility of being the one who sacrifices representing Christ. I would refer to this principle as "God's sense of humor." God instructed man through Adam that he would be the one with authority between men and women. In using this authority, man spends his life chasing through hoops for the woman, giving up many things just to win her heart. Yet did not Christ do the same thing? Christ was of the royal lineage of David, a claim to royalty. His revolution could've been that of reclaiming the temporal throne of Israel, and living in luxury. As God in the flesh, the man could command and exert greatness if He chose to. Rather, out of a love for His bride the Church, Christ emptied himself in the form of a servant. He performed miracles so that His bride might recognize who He was. All His teaching was centered on doing everything for His bride. Ultimately, so that His bride may enjoy eternal happiness, He sacrifices Himself, putting the needs of the Church above His own. Putting machismo aside, do we men not do the same pursuing a woman? Do we not chase her? Do we not do things that at times defy reason and logic?

Even our materialistic world understands this concept. The woman is showered with gifts by the man; he does everything to make her appear high and lofty as is within his power of doing when she is in the presence of others. If the secular world takes this principle seriously, should not the Christian take this principle seriously in the spiritual as well as the temporal realm? Any authority exercised then should be exercised with a proper purpose. According to St. Paul, that purpose is for the sanctification of the spouse. That thought must sink in. If a husband is to utilize his authority as head of the household, it should be clear that the exercising of this authority would have an effect on the wife's sanctification. It is not for his comforts or his own reasons. He should not use that authority because he wants her to do this or that. That is using authority according to the world, where it is always about you. Rather, one uses authority because he loves the person and wants to see them reach heaven, preferably higher than himself.

However, today many take the issue of service just a bit too far. The very concept of the husband having such authority is frowned upon by people saying "well the spouses are equal in dignity; therefore they are equal in authority." Yet such is utter madness. It is egalitarianism, having nothing to do with the Gospel. It says that equality in one way necessarily equals equality in another. Anyone who works on a unit recognizes the absurdity of this position.

Imagine if you will for a moment a military. Those soldiers are equal in dignity. Yet there are ranks within that military. However, even amongst equals in the military, there is still a plan all must follow that they receive on high from command. If every soldier "did their own thing" would we see anything productive, or would not the army end up losing, normally badly? Likewise, man and woman might be equal in dignity, but they also must follow the plan from on high we receive from God in the Canonical Scriptures and the teaching of the Church.

No matter how equal people in that unit are, somebody has to be able to make the final decision, and others have to abide by it. Try as feminists might, they cannot do away with the fact that men by nature thrive on such decisions. Indeed he cannot become a man until put in such situations. One could attribute it to the fact Adam was created first and given dominion, to one's biological makeup, physical traits, whatever they wish, but any way you slice it this is a fact.

Yet possessing authority is not the same as using it wisely. For what leader would in his right mind make decisions apart from those he wills to lead? What leader would not consult those around him before acting? What leader worthy of the name cares for his needs and power, rather than the success of that unit together? A true leader rises above his petty natures. He recognizes that he is in command of something far greater than himself or any individual. The union of husband and wife is something that great. Any leader worthy of the name would then care not for his success, but the success of the marriage above all.

Permit me if I may to use a hockey analogy. Hockey is a very big sport down here in Detroit. The Red Wings won back to back championships, and it was done under the leadership of their captain Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was far from the best player on the team. There were at least 2 or 3 people better than him, age having taken its toll. Now some captains might be egocentric, demanding the spotlight. Yzerman knew that if the team was to succeed, this couldn't happen with Detroit. Despite the fact he was no longer the centerpiece of the team, he was without a doubt its leader. He gave up his person comforts for the greater good of the team, and that team went on to win the championship. Fellow players said that they would not have been able to win without Yzerman's understanding of what was best for the team, putting that good over that of him.

Such is how a husband is called to act in the Gospel. He is still no doubt the leader of that household, but every act he makes should have in mind the success of that marriage. Now granted, there will be slip ups. Nobody every said marriage was easy. It is a constant battle against the flesh, which shuns such sacrifice. This is why marriage is a sacrament, a means of grace so that people can fulfill these roles. Humanly speaking this is no doubt impossible. Did we not see such sacrifice in our recent Pontiff? One can say what they want about John Paul II, but those who praised him and those who criticized him alike recognized the sacrifices he made. It probably was not comforting to his ego to be as disabled as he was, suffering as highly as we was, and yet still continue on in doing what he felt best for the Church. At times the man mustered up all the strength in his body just to be able to say a few words. Normal people would've given up long ago. Yet John Paul II, for better or worse, was not an ordinary individual. He did love the Church, just as a husband should love his wife. He believed that those he was reaching out to in that disabled state, in that weakened state, would eventually be the people to bring the Church out of it's crisis into the "New Springtime" he so eagerly wanted. As a result, he places the needs of the Church and those he leads ahead of himself.

We may like to write off these concepts as hopeless idealism, never workable in reality. Yet one could cite example after example that shows this way of acting is not just possible, but obligatory. Yet in order for us men to assume this role, to speak bluntly, we need to start acting as men. That is something I will cover in my next column.