Wives, Be Subordinate to Your Husbands?

John Paul II on Ephesians 5:21-33

Ephesians 5:21-33 isn’t a popular reading at weddings these days, and at first glance, it seems that it isn’t hard to see why. Aren’t St. Paul’s repeated exhortations for wives to be submissive to their husbands rather sexist and outdated? Hasn’t the Church moved beyond all this talk of the husband’s role as the head of his wife to a more balanced and equitable conception of marriage? Surely 1 John, or 1 Corinthians, for example, reflect married love more fittingly than this passage does. Ephesians 5 is difficult to reconcile with our modern sensibilities.

On the contrary, Ephesians 5 offers one of the most direct and profound expositions of the beauty of marriage in all of the New Testament. It is merely that the complexity of the passage, and the distance of St. Paul’s imagery from modern modes of thought, make the treasures of the passage more difficult to unearth. Fortunately, in his Theology of the Body, Pope Saint John Paul II offers reflections on the passage that help us to mine its truths. In this article, we will read Ephesians 5:21-33 with John Paul II as a guide. The mutual reverence of the spouses for each other, and the basis for this reverence will become clear, as will the distinct ways in which husband and wife are called to express the mutual reverence of Christian spouses for one another.

The Mutual Reverence of Spouses
The first point of clarification is that the submission called for in the epistle, though seemingly directed only to the woman, is, in fact, the mutual vocation of both spouses. John Paul II discovers in the letter to the Ephesians what may be called a “fear of Christ,” a “pietas,” or a “reverence for holiness, for the sacrum” with which the spouses revere Jesus.1 Their shared reverence for Christ must overflow into mutual reverence (of a different kind) for one another:

The reciprocal relations of husband and wife must spring from their common relation to Christ … pietas, which springs from the profound consciousness of the mystery of Christ, must constitute the basis of the reciprocal relations between the spouses.”2

The spouses revere Christ together, and revere each other reciprocally, as a natural consequence of their common reverence for their Lord. This reciprocal reverence, grounded in their common reverence for Christ, ought to be at the heart of every Christian marriage.

There are several reasons that common reverence for Christ should naturally overflow into reciprocal reverence of spouses. First, the human person is created in the image of God, with the ability to know and love her Creator. A human person is not a mere good to be used and enjoyed, but one capable of enjoying the good, and one to whom, and for whom, other goods are willed. Such a one belongs, first of all, to herself and to God, and belongs to her spouse only after choosing to make a free gift of herself to him. Thus, the first thing the spouses revere in each other is the dignity of the human person, created by God, and the greatness of his or her free gift of self.

Second, a common love of the good will lead all the just to revere each other’s virtue; for Christians, that principle is extended and deepened, as the spouses revere each other on account of their shared love for the same Lord. Third, each spouse, conscious of his own redemption in Christ, is, likewise, conscious of the redemption of the other. As John Paul notes, Ephesians also speaks of “the election of each of them from all eternity in Christ ‘to be adoptive sons’ of God.”3 Thus, the spouses revere each other on account of the great dignity that each possesses as one redeemed by Christ, adopted as a child of God, and called to participate in the very inner life of the Trinity.

The final reason is that marriage mystically images the union of Christ with his Church. Therefore, Christian spouses revere each other as fellow participants in this great mystery. Their love for each other, and for their Lord, leads to a reciprocal submission of the spouses to each other. As we shall see, this submission, though mutual, is not identical for each—it is shaped by each spouse’s participation in the image. Thus, the letter to the Ephesians exhorts wives to be submissive to their husbands, as the Church is to Christ, and husbands to love their wives, as Christ loved the Church.4 Either love or submission comes to the fore, corresponding to whether the individual spouse primarily images Christ or the Church in the analogy.

However, in his analysis of this text, John Paul makes clear that both love and submission are in fact mutual. The submission of the wife is an expression of her love for her husband and for Christ, in whom the wife “can and should find the motivation for her relationship with her husband.”5 Moreover, the character of her submission is revealed by the epistle’s description of the husband’s love. His love of his wife makes any kind of servitude, or one-sided submission impossible, for: “Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to his wife, and subject in this to the Lord himself, as the wife is to the husband.”6 Thus, both love, both express this love through submission to their spouse, and both do so as a consequence of their shared reverence for Christ. They submit to one another as to the Lord himself—for Christians are called to express their love for Jesus by serving his people, and this is all the more true for those that we are called to love most intimately as part of the fulfillment of our state in life.

Therefore, John Paul II concludes: “Husband and wife are, in fact, ‘subject to one another,’ mutually subordinated to one another. The source of this reciprocal submission lies in Christian pietas and its expression is love.”7 This statement is a terse summary of what we have tried to illustrate in this section. The submission of the spouses is mutual, and it springs from their pietas—from their sense of the sacred, and their reverence for it. Their shared reverence for Christ leads them to revere the mystery of their marriage, and the gift and dignity of one another in relation to him, and each serves the other as another Christ. This reciprocal submission finds its daily expression in the love of the spouses for one another.

Distinct Roles in the Image
Both spouses love, therefore, and both spouses submit. Nevertheless, it is not without reason that Ephesians highlights the submission of one, and the love of the other. Commenting on Genesis, John Paul notes that it is the woman who is, first of all, the gift—she is created second, and presented to the man as a gift from the Creator, that she may be a suitable partner for him.8 Consistent with this, in his reading of Ephesians, John Paul notes that it is, first of all, the man who loves, and the woman who is loved.9 This corresponds to the man’s role in the spousal analogy of Christ’s union with his Church, for it is, first of all, Christ who loves the Church, and her love for her Bridegroom is only a response to his initiative.

Moreover, Ephesians explains just how Christ loved the Church when it proposes this love for the husband’s imitation: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”10 It thus refers to Christ’s death on the cross, which was at once redemptive and spousal, in one act both saving us from our sin, and giving himself to his Bride irrevocably. In exhorting husbands to love their wives in this way, it is not merely the extent of love that is meant—though the completeness of loving unto death is surely included—but also the end for which the love is given. Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her sanctification. Similarly, authentic love leads the husband to work for the goodness and holiness of his wife. Love leads the husband to recognize her goodness and beauty (both visible and interior) and to be solicitous for its preservation and growth.11

On her part, the bride’s submission to her husband consists primarily in her experience of his love. If he is loving her so as to lead her to the good, it is only natural that she should welcome such influence. But even more, to do so corresponds to her place in the analogy, for her submission “refers to the image of the submission of the Church to Christ, which certainly consists in experiencing his love.”12 The Church’s submission to Christ is a response to his love for her, which precedes it, and calls it forth. Moreover, his love is for her good and sanctification. Therefore, her submission is not servile, but receptive—it consists in experiencing the love with which he fills her, and makes her better. As his love expresses itself in service for her good, her submission manifests itself in her reception of his riches. The wife’s submission to her husband follows this model.

As John Paul notes, the sacrament of marriage, and the mystery of Christ’s union with his Church, are mutually illuminating. On the one hand, the analogy of spousal love helps us to understand the mystery of Christ and the Church. We can describe the Lord’s love for us in many ways—it is fatherly, redemptive, generous, and constant—but to understand it as spousal captures a unique and profound truth. Spousal love means free and complete self-gift; it means unique and unparalleled intimacy; it means endless and unconditional fidelity. Such an analogy has been used to illuminate God’s tender love for mankind since the Old Testament prophets, and, in Ephesians, is applied specifically to the union of Christ with his Church. The marriage analogy helps us to understand Jesus’ free and complete gift of himself to us, on the cross and in the Eucharist. With the complementary analogy of Christ as the Head of his Body, it helps us to see also the intimate and irrevocable union that the Lord’s gift of himself to his Church effects.

The analogy that illuminates the mystery is also illuminated by the mystery. John Paul states:

While the analogy used in Ephesians clarifies the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church, at the same time, it reveals the essential truth about marriage, namely, that marriage corresponds to the vocation of Christians only when it mirrors the love that Christ, the Bridegroom, gives to the Church, his Bride, and which the Church (in likeness to the wife who is “subject,” and thus completely given) seeks to give back to Christ in return.13

Christ and his Church are, therefore, the model after which Christian marriages are to be patterned. For the husband, this means loving as Christ loves—with a love that impels him to give himself totally and irrevocably, a love that seeks the sanctification of his bride. For the wife, being “subject” as the Church is subject means being “completely given” in return—accepting his beneficent influence, and returning her love and her own gift of self just as completely.

In the analogy that both clarifies and is illuminated by the mystery of Christ and his Church, husband and wife play different roles. Ephesians emphasizes the love of the husband, who is called to imitate the salvific and original love of Christ; and the submission of the wife, who is called to image the Church who receives this love and strives to return it. Their roles in the analogy highlight only one aspect of what both are called to do in daily life. Though he is called to be an image of Christ in the analogy, of course, the husband is also a fellow member of the Church, seeking to grow in holiness along with his wife. Therefore, in practice, she will love him so as to work for his sanctification as well, and he will receive and return her love and aid. However, the distinct roles emphasized in Ephesians are crucial in building the analogy, which clarifies for us both the mystery of Christ and his Church, and what John Paul calls “the essential truth about marriage.”14

Conclusion
Much more could certainly be said about the respective roles of husband and wife, especially with regard to the “head of the body” analogy. Grace builds upon nature, and it was surely not arbitrarily, but for reasons corresponding to the natural differences between men and women, that St. Paul was inspired to assign the roles of the analogy as he did. To attribute such a decision to the cultural conditioning of his time, alone, would seem to misunderstand both the perennial relevance of Scripture, and our own gender-differentiated human nature. One might explore, for example, the typically masculine tendency to lead the family in its interactions with the outside world, and the predominantly feminine proclivity for supporting a warm and happy home life, and how such gender specific inclinations might correspond to the head and body analogy. We have left such investigations to those with more psychological and sociological expertise, and have limited ourselves to what seems to us to be the main theological points brought out by John Paul II. In our emphasis on the mutuality of spousal reverence, however, we do not intend to obscure natural differences which exist in the respective roles of the spouses.

The submission which is spoken of in Ephesians is very far from any misogynistic oppression which our modern ears might suspect in it. The wife is called to subordinate herself to her husband, not because of any inferiority, but because of a great dignity and privilege—by their participation in the sacrament of marriage, she and her husband are called to mystically image Christ’s intimate and indissoluble union with his Bride. The submission to which both spouses are called is primarily attributed to the woman because she represents the Church in the analogy. The husband is exhorted to love his wife and to give himself up for her sanctification, corresponding to his role as the image of Christ in the analogy. The image enables us to see more clearly Christ’s spousal love for his Church—his total gift of self, his work for her sanctification, his irrevocable union with her. She, for her part, receives his gifts and adornments, and returns his love.

Being the image of Christ in the analogy certainly does not exempt the husband from the call to submission. The husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the Church—he is called to imitate the love of the one who gave himself to his Bride completely, who sacrificed himself for her sanctification, and who died so that she might have life. The Lord came “not to be served, but to serve” his Bride; he bore her ridicule, and stooped to wash her feet.15 Loving as Christ loves can manifest itself in no other way than self-sacrifice and humble service.

Moreover, both spouses are members of the Church, and in that sense find themselves on the same side of the analogy. What distinguishes the spouses in the letter to the Ephesians relates to their different roles in the model, corresponding to their natural differences as male and female; what the spouses have in common, however, stems from their common humanity and its relation to Christ. In this sense, both spouses are equally called to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, and both are equally called to imitate their Head by loving their spouse so as to seek his or her good and sanctification. Thus, submission is called for from both sides—for to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ is to imitate their Lord’s humble service to his Bride.

This mutual submission of married persons to each other out of love for the Lord is a specification of the submission to Christ to which we are all called. As the analogy teaches us, such submission is not servile, but receptive—it consists in receiving his love, and the gifts and riches that that love impels him to lavish upon us for our sanctification. It is a happy servitude that leads to true Christian freedom and joy, for “{his} yoke is easy, and {his} burden is light.”16

  1. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, Trans. Michael Waldstein, (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006), 89:1. Hereafter abbreviated TOB.
  2. Ibid. Emphasis original.
  3. TOB 89:2; Eph 1.
  4. Eph 5:24-27.
  5. TOB 89:3.
  6. TOB 89:4. Emphasis original.
  7. TOB 89:3. Emphasis original.
  8. TOB 9:1-5; Gen 2:18.
  9. TOB 92:6.
  10. Eph 5:25-26a.
  11. TOB 92:4: “Love binds the bridegroom (husband) to be concerned for the good of the bride (wife); it commits him to desire her beauty and at the same time to sense this beauty and care for it. What is at stake here is also visible beauty, physical beauty. The bridegroom examines his bride attentively, as though in a creative loving restlessness, whether he will find the good and beauty he desires in her and for her. The good that the one who loves creates with his love in the beloved is like a test of that same love and its measure.”
  12. TOB 92:6.
  13. TOB 90:2. Emphasis original.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Mt 20:28, Mk 10:45; e.g., Mt 27:27-44; Jn 13:1-17.
  16. Mt 11:29-30.
Katie Froula About Katie Froula

Katie Froula is a doctoral student studying systematic theology at Ave Maria University. She and her husband reside in Ave Maria, Florida, and Ephesians 5:21-33 was read at their recent wedding.

Comments

  1. Avatar bill bannon says:

    The essay greatly follows one Pope on this matter and his over emphasis on mutual submission found only in Ephesians. John Paul II saw the mutual submission passage as the gospel innovation in Mulieris Dignitatem, section 24. Next to it, he saw other concepts like wifely obedience as “old” and a creature of that time:
    ” In relation to the “old” this is evidently something “new”: it is an innovation of the Gospel. We find various passages in which the apostolic writings express this innovation, even though they also communicate what is “old”: what is rooted in the religious tradition of Israel, in its way of understanding and explaining the sacred texts, as for example the second chapter of the Book of Genesis.[49]”
    I liked the above essay by Katie Froula because it actually struggled better toward the truth than the TOB piece. St. John Paul II on several topics felt free to not quote other biblical passages that went against him. To my knowledge, he did this on submission in marriage and on the death penalty in which latter topic, he actually cites Gen.9:5-6 in section 39 of Evangelium Vitae but only after removing the God given death penalty mandate from the middle of the couplet…nor does he ever mention Rom.13:4, the classic New Testament endorsement for that penalty in Aquinas’ view of that matter.
    Likewise on the submission in marriage topic, St. John Paul II quotes Ephesians only and actually refers to other New Testament verses ( see above ) he is not quoting as they’re being in part…the “old” way of looking at the matter. He means e.g. Collosians 3:18 onward…
    “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.
    Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.
    Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.”

    Titus 2:3 onward is another he is skipping: ” similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children,
    5 to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.”
    But there was a recent Pope, Pius XI, who took all the Bible passages under his wing and thus tried to harmonize all of them…a much healthier approach to the Bible.
    Here are his words in section 74 of the encyclical Casti Connubii: ” The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man.”
    Earlier though Pius XI broadens this concept in section 27 onward:
    “27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband’s every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.
    28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact .
    29. With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church.”[30]
    St. John Paul II failed to cite those two Popes on this precise matter of wives actually obeying. I suspect the Amish whose divorce rate is a decimal of ours would
    be more inclined to honor the quotes from Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI.

  2. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. says:

    The question mark in the title of Katie Froula’s essay really says it all. While St. Paul simply affirms this subordination as a duty of wives, Pope St. John Paul II (whose teaching Mrs. Froula is expounding), in effect questions it. I have to agree with Bill Bannon’s comment: Pius XI’s exposition in the Encyclical Casti Connubii of this key passage from Ephesians 5 is more faithful to Scripture and Tradition than the observations (in less weighty interventions) of John Paul II, who in this matter, as in his reversal of the Church’s bimillennial prohibition of female altar service, showed a tendency to bend somewhat before the furious gales of modern Western feminist outrage against patriarchy – and indeed, against hierarchy as such.
    Since Paul’s instruction on domestic relationships extends into chapter 6, exhorting children and slaves as well as wives and husbands, his general admonition in 5: 21 to “be subject to one another” can be seen as a kind of heading to introduce three sets of relationships which he then lists and explains. In that context, the Greek word “allelois” (“to one another”) in v. 21 is to be taken rather loosely, implying not that each of the four household groups Paul mentions is to be reciprocally subordinate to all the other groups, but simply that some groups are to be subordinate to others. The Apostle’s train of thought is basically this: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ: wives to husbands (5: 22-24); children to parents (6: 1); and slaves to masters (6: 5).”
    If John Paul II’s exegesis of 5: 22-32 were correct (i.e., that husbands should be subordinate to wives as well as wives to husbands), then in consistency he would also have to read 6: 1 and 6: 5 as enjoining a similar relationship between the other groups: parents would also have to be reciprocally “subordinate” to their children, and masters to their slaves. But it would be absurd to ascribe such socially chaotic teaching to St. Paul. Ergo.
    Paul never suggests anywhere – in either Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3: 18-21 – that husbands should be “subordinate” to their wives in anything – much less “in everything” (5: 24). Indeed, his very analogy with Christ and his Bride, the Church, rules that out. Christ’s loving and sacrificing himself for the Church was not an act of “subordination” to her. Nor is it true to say, as Mrs. Froula does, that in St. Paul’s thinking, “the bride’s submission to her husband consists primarily in her experience of his love”. For in the New Testament, being in submission, subordination or subjection (the verb hypotasso) consists primarily in a relationship requiring obedience to a higher authority. And the Church, as the Bride of Christ, never has, and never will, issued precepts to Christ which he is then obliged to obey.

    • Hello Fr. Harrison,
      I think you may be misreading the text, and thus misunderstanding, the word submission. You interpret submission as that of “obedience to a higher authority”, and you seem to prove that therefore the husband cannot rightly be submitted to the wife – even as Christ cannot be submitted to the Church. And yet Christ was sent by the Father under “submission” in a sense to Truth – that is, specifically, to the Truth of Love. Truth and Love are inseparable qualities of the divine essence. And while neither the Son nor the Father are “submitted” to Truth nor to Love in the sense of “obedience to a higher authority,” yet they are “submitted” to Truth, and to Love because these are qualities of their very being and essence. God is Truth; God is Love. Truth and Love are not “higher authorities” than God, but they are qualities of the divine authority. God cannot lie; He cannot deny Himself. (2Tim 2:13) He “must” be true; He “must” love.

      So in this sense, Christ must love; He must be true to love. And so He loves His Bride, the Church. And “likewise” the husband ought to be submitted to love his wife – and in this sense, submitted to her. Not to her whims, or to her “commands”, but he ought to be submitted to her sanctification, to present her without spot or wrinkle and in holiness, on that Day of accounting. Under this true submission, he ought to be her head – and under this true submission to love, his headship is righteous and worthy of the submission of his wife to his headship in their marriage.

      In this way the husband and the wife are to be mutually submitted to one another – not in the same way, but each in the way appropriate to his and to her part in the covenant, in the union as God made it.

      • Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. says:

        Mr. Richard, I think your argument here depends on trying to give the word “submit” a sense which “hypotasso” simply doesn’t have in the New Testament. There is nothing in Scripture that talks about a husband being “submitted to love his wife”, or “submitted to her sanctification”. Indeed, such expressions are not even correct English. We would say, rather, that a husband should be “committed” to loving his wife, and to her sanctification.

        Moreover, given that, as you say, Truth and Love are “inseparable qualities of the divine essence”, it follows that the divine Persons are NOT “submitted” to Truth and Love (or to anything else, for that matter). The idea of being “submitted”, “subject” or “subordinate” to oneself doesn’t make sense, for these “sub-” words are all essentially ‘other-directed’: they express a relationship between two or more selves, not something pertaining to a single self. (“Sub” means “under” in Latin, and nothing can be located “under” itself.) In fact, our Lord presents himself not as “submitted” or “subordinate” to the Truth, but as the very Source of Truth: “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
        While Scripture makes clear that the human will of Christ is ‘subject’ to the will of his Father (“Not my will, but yours, be done”), the relevant point in this discussion is (for the reasons given in my original posting) that Scripture never says Christ is “submitted” or “subject” to his Church – in either his human will or his divine will.

    • Avatar bill bannon says:

      Fr. Harrison,
      The unfortunate upshot of St. John Paul II’s commentary is that the catechism writers at the CDF knew something was odd in his writing on this but they then chose to not mention the topic at all in the catechism in a generation that could sorely use seeing the difference between modern marriage and Catholic marriage in the area of ultimate authority at least in major decisions where there is a pronounced difference of view.

    • I don’t see at all that it’s absurd OR ‘chaotic’ for masters and slaves to be subject to one another in Christ, to take the most extreme case. Even if there remains a natural order in terms of human service, Christian service takes on another role altogether. Paul is certainly calling for Christians to be satisfied with their place in life, but it’s stretching the point–his point and your grammatical points–to limit him to it entirely. This is where we need to turn to the rest of the Scriptures.

      • Avatar bill bannon says:

        DN,
        Anyone who is married knows there is always a mutual subjection in daily things e.g. wife: Dear, did you put out the recycling barrel like I asked? husband: no…I’ll do it now.
        The trouble starts at higher levels of ethical choices wherein there are two sincere consciences arriving at two different decisions…one wanting home schooling e.g. and one wanting the local Catholic school for the children…both zealous for their choice. God gives the steering wheel to one person on such cases in six NT places. There is no other scripture that nullifies those six verses. Honestly…many men don’t want to lead many times because they fear emotional rejection from their wives. They would love not having the duty of the steering wheel in larger decisions.
        St. John Paul II effectively not consciously has both fighting for the steering wheel. Now the children of the tussling couple have run off and joined the Cirque du Soleil. Search the catechism…not a word I found about wives obeying despite God Providentially placing it six times in the NT.

      • Well-said, DN. Indeed Christ is the model for such an up-ending of the (fallen) natural order of authority and power. There is a sense in which parents do and must “subordinate” their individualistic (and more powerful) selves for the good of their children. The natural law shows this, when the natural law itself is not totally overwhelmed by the power-driven culture of death. The relationship between slaves and masters – when guided by the Spirit, when understood in the Spirit – shows this mutual submission as well.

        I find this passage especially illuminating, in this matter of “submission”, or “subordination”:

        Phil 2:3 Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
        4 each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.
        5 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
        6 Who, though he was in the form of God,
        did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
        7 Rather, he emptied himself,
        taking the form of a slave,
        coming in human likeness;
        and found human in appearance,
        8 he humbled himself,
        becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
        9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him
        and bestowed on him the name
        that is above every name,
        10 that at the name of Jesus
        every knee should bend,
        of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
        11 and every tongue confess that
        Jesus Christ is Lord,
        to the glory of God the Father.
        (NAB)

        Jesus did not cling to His due, but “emptied himself, … he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, ….” Each of us is to “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Is this not a call for mutual submission in holy charity? Indeed “Because of this, God greatly exalted him”! All is made right, in the end, when we follow Him here and now in all things.

  3. Avatar Juho Östman says:

    The marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, and similarly, the Church is the family of God. In fact, a family is called ecclesia domestica, the Domestic Church, because the mystery of the Church is realized on the scale of one family.

    The family and the Church are thus images of each other. In one sense, the Church is superior, since it is the supernatural community, whereas the family is natural. On the other hand, the natural reality forms the foundation for understanding the supernatural: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12) I think there is evidence that if children do not have a responsible father, it is more difficult for them to believe in God, who is the heavenly Father.

    In the family, the position of the husband corresponds to the office of the bishop in the Church. When the bishop is being consecrated, a ring is given to him and a mission is pronounced: “Take this ring, the seal of your fidely. With faith and love protect the bride of God, his holy Church.” This is a reference to the rite of marriage, and we can see that the marriage is the type, whereas the consecration of the bishop is the antitype, the supernatural reality prefigured by the natural reality. According to this figure, priests are also called Fathers.

    As is the case for bishops, the husband is not some overlord who can demand service: “not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3)

  4. Avatar Brian Miles says:

    Mr. Richard:

    As Fr. Harrison has already demonstrated linguistically, you are emphasizing certain lesser aspects submission and subordinate to the exclusion of their principle definitions. Parents certainly sacrifice their needs and desires for the sake of their children – and are called to serve them in charity – but they do not subordinate themselves to their children. While it is clear that submission and subordination involve the service and sacrifice of one party on behalf of the other, those are simply accidental characteristics which you have confused for the substance of the matter. The substance of submission and subordination has to do with being subject to an authority. This is made manifest by the term insubordination which at once calls to mind the image of a lesser authority inappropriately challenging a superior. Certainly, both parties have equal dignity ontologically speaking, yet one party nevertheless holds greater positional authority over the other. As such, the hallmark of those who hold lesser positional authority is obedience.

    I may regard my wife and my son as more important than myself (per Phillippians 2), and choose to sacrifice for the sake of their needs, but that does not mean that I divest myself of my authority over them.

    • Hello Brian,
      Maybe you misunderstand my thought and intention. I am concerned about the heart of a true leader, in the Kingdom of God, as opposed to the heart of one who loves “ruling”. Augustine says it well:

      “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. … In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. ….”

      The last sentence describes the radically different, and beautiful, truth of “authority” in the City of God: “princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all.” Rulers ought not be driven by the love of ruling – as so many in the secular world are – but for the love of God, they serve. Thus “princes and subjects serve one another in love,” – both are obedient to Love, and thus become “servants” in this sense to one another.