That Word "Submission"
Aug 30, 2018
Perhaps no Scripture passage raises the eyebrows of listeners higher than today’s Second Reading from Saint Paul. Once this verse enters into our heads whatever follows next is tuned out. Yet if we dare strain our attention to the entirety of the text, we will begin to recognize that Saint Paul is drawing out the implications of the comparison between the marriage of husband and wife with Christ and His Bride the Church.
Perhaps no other words in the proud American mindset illicit more disdain than submission and hierarchy. Contrary to American understandings, the concept of hierarchy does not mean besting or dominating someone, rather it signifies sacred order and harmony, in other words it is the Divine Signature upon Creation and Human Nature.
Unless something or someone is ordered toward a particular goal and purpose, that thing or person is said to be in a state of chaos; in fact the opposite of hierarchy is anarchy, the total lack of order.
When Adam and Eve were created, they were ordered to God, not because God desired them to be under His domination, but because He desired them to participate and cooperate in His Love and power forever. But when Adam and Eve chose against God to instead follow their own inclinations, a terrible disruption of order was introduced not only into human nature but all created nature as well.
All of Salvation History is the story of the reordering of fallen man and nature to the Father through Jesus Christ. As the God Man, Christ is the quintessential model of order and submission. The word submission means “to be under one sent forth with the authority to perform a specific service.” What is the specific service with which Christ is authorized? Redemption and Salvation. This is the mission given to him by the Father, but does this submission in any way indicate His being beneath the Father? Absolutely not because as the Son of God, His equality with the Father is forever maintained in their shared Divinity and common purpose of loving and saving you and me.
We have to keep in mind the goal and purpose of submission, and that is to insure that the mission is successfully completed. The origin of the word in Greek is of a military use meaning to arrange troops in a military fashion under the command of a leader…for a common purpose and goal. In other words each person or troop assumes a particular responsibility and cooperates toward achieving the goal of victory. The goal of the Incarnation was to win the world back from Satan and return it redeemed to the Father in and through Christ. Therefore, there was never a more submissive person than the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose submission Saint Paul describes in stunning fashion:
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*
7Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;*
8he humbled himself,f
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*
This drama of cooperative Redemption is nowhere more apparent than in the home. The particular mission of the husband Saint Paul reminds us is to Love his wife as Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for her, the same Christ who says I have come to serve and not be served. There is no greater mission to participate in than redemption and salvation, this is what we are about in this world, getting each other to the next. If there is a sacred order established within the home, then husbands and wives participate in the mutual sanctification of each other and the children upon whom they focus their love. Once this goal has been established by a husband and wife, thinking in political terms of inequality or servility begins to fade because the husband and wife are committed to a purpose infinitely more important than their individual hang ups and desires.
So as one begins to see, the onus of this passage really falls upon the shoulders of the husband, especially if he is to be or already is a father. There is a school of thought that suggests that the faith of the Father usually determines how strong or weak the faith of the children will be. For whatever reason, instilling faith into a Child has been seen as the sole responsibility of the mother. When the father takes a vested interest right alongside his wife in the goal of educating his child in the way of faith, then the home of a family truly becomes a domestic church mirroring the marital relationship of Christ and His Bride.
Doing so not only ensures the child will have a strong faith, but it is also a continuing source of strength and deepening of love and faith of Husband and Wife. An excellent image of this submission is a wedding day. The bride enters from the back of the Church walks down the long aisle and before the altar joins arms with her husband to be and together they approach the altar of Christ and join themselves to Him and His mission. They have both sacrificed their individual desires and independence to a greater purpose and that is assisting his or her spouse into Heaven and together helping their children into Heaven.
When next we hear this passage, rather than have the hairs of a woman’s neck stand on end, husbands, fathers and all men be fully aware: “Love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her…that she might be holy and without blemish…”