“Husband, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church” You have heard how important obedience is; you have praised and marveled a Paul, how he welds our whole life together, as we would expect from an admirable and spiritual man. You have done well. But now listen to what else he requires from you; he has not finished with his example. “Husbands,” he says, “love your wives, as Christ loved the Church.” You have seen the amount of love necessary. Do you want your wife to be obedient to you, as the Church is to Christ? Then be responsible for the same providential care of her, as Christ is for the Church. And even if it becomes necessary for you to give your life for her, yes, and even to endure and undergo suffering of any kind, do not refuse. Even though you undergo all this, you will never have done anything equal to what Christ has done. You are sacrificing yourself for someone to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself up for one who turned her back on Him and hated Him. In the same way, then, as He honored her by putting at His feet one who turned her back on Him, who hated, rejected, and disdained Him, as He accomplished this not with threats, or violence, or terror, or anything else like that, but through His untiring love; so also you should behave toward your wife. Even if you see her belittling you, or despising and mocking you, still you will be able to subject her to yourself, through affection, kindness, and your great regard for her. There is no influence more powerful than the bond of love, especially for husband and wife. A servant can be taught submission through fear; but even he, if provoked too much, will soon seek his escape. But one’s partner for life, the mother of one’s children, the source of one’s every joy, should never be fettered with fear and threats, but with love and patience. What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of her husband? What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave, and not with a woman by her own free will? Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church.
He gave Himself up for her that “He might cleanse and sanctify her…” So the Church was not pure. She had blemishes, she was ugly and cheap. Whatever kind of wife you marry you will never take a bride like Christ did when He married the Church; you will never marry anyone estranged from you as the Church was from Christ. Despite all this, He did not abhor or hate her for her extraordinary corruption. Do you want her corruption described? Paul says, “For once you were in darkness” Do you see how black she was? Nothing is blacker than darkness.” Think of her shamelessness; she passed her day in foolish and disobedient. But what am I saying? She was foolish, her tongue was evil, but even though her wounds were so numerous, He sacrificed Himself for her in her corrupted state, as if she were in bloom of youth, as if she were dearly beloved, and a wonderful beauty. St Paul marveled at this, and said, “Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Though she was like this, Christ accepted her and made her beautiful. He washed her, and did not hesitate even to sacrifice Himself for her.
Excerpt from “On Marriage and Family Life”
St John Chrysostom
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