For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.
Marriage is obviously the mystery Paul refers to in this verse and proves how intentional God was when he patterned marriage after the relationship between his Son and the Church.
But how exactly?
We were uniquely + individually created to represent God’s love…through the Spirit within us and the body given to us. This is why our bodies—individually as male and female AND through the union of the two—reflect God. Particularly: (1) His participation in an eternal exchange of love (the spousal analogy) and (2) His bodily sacrifice as a perfect gift of self. When they become “one flesh” man and woman (1) fulfill their purpose and (2) foreshadow the eternal union of Christ and His Church.
“[Therefore] be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
In Ephesians, the spousal analogy takes on another dimension: the wife is a symbol of the Church and the husband is a symbol of Christ. We can clearly see that this biblical calling of a wife’s submission to her husband isn’t blind passivity or weakness. God intended it to be unabashed love–much like He offers us.
And the man, taking on Christ’s persona, should not take his wife’s submission in a self-serving manner. For Christ came not to be served, but to serve—to lay down his life for His Bride.
This holy, sacrificial love is what John Paul II calls, “The Sacrament.” Marriage, like every other sacrament, has both a divine and human dimension. We’ll look at the divine dimension now. The Sacrament of Marriage, right from the beginning, “prepared the way for God’s wedding himself to US in ‘one flesh’.” In the beginning, God’s mystery became visible through mans union with woman. At the end of time—at the eternal “Supper of the Lamb”— the mystery becomes visible through Christ’s union with the Church.
These two signs form one great sacrament (The Sacrament). The great mystery comes full circle…in that we see the purpose of our creation. Not just as man and woman, but in the relationship between God + mankind and it’s being brought to fulfillment through Christ.
Christopher West poses a great question: If the union of spouses in “one flesh” truly reveals Christ love for the church, why, then, are we so prone to think of sexual union as something unholy and defiling? How can we reclaim a true sense of the holiness of sexual union in God’s plan?
Let us know below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!
As always, thanks for reading!
The FRP Team