What is understood by submission in marriage? – Part 2

February 14, 2017

What is understood by submission in marriage? – Part 2

In the previous video we have discussed what submission means by looking at what happened in the fall of humanity.  We looked at the impact sin had as it entered our daily life and how it changed the relationship between Adam and Eve, turning it upside down.

Our focus now is to try to understand what submission means in today’s ceremony of matrimony.

In St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians chapter 5 verse 21 (the exact same reading in the ceremony of matrimony in the Orthodox Church) St Paul says: “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” 

Many of us have the misconception that the commandment of submission is only given to the woman which is false because if we look at the reading of St Paul it clearly says: “submitting to one another in the fear of God”. 

This is highlighted in the crowning ceremony of the Coptic Orthodox Church when we give the commandment to the newlywed couple.  The priest says: “So you should know each other’s rights and submit yourselves to one another, and let each of you be faithful to the other according to our teacher Paul the Apostle: ‘The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does.  And likewise the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does.’”

Here we see that the Church understands what it means to offer ourselves to each other.  We see a concept of reciprocity and not a notion of authority where one is greater than the other.  We see two persons who are united in God and offer themselves to one another.  They submit to one another out of love and humility.  Ultimately now that they are united they can fulfill the image of God in the relationship.

What does it mean to fulfill an image of God in a relationship between husband and wife? To understand this we should turn back to St John Chrysostom as he describes this mystery of marriage where he says: “When a husband and wife are united in marriage, they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself”.  This means that if we are to live out a proper Christian marriage, people will see this beautiful union people as something that reflects the image of God (in other words they will see something Godly).

With regards to the role of man and woman in marriage, is the role given to man the same as given to the woman?  Clearly as we saw in the previous video that is not the caseHowever we need to understand who we are called to be in marriage and not spend time reflecting on what we ought to do. 

Marriage is a calling where our identity is called to be something reflective of God not a series of tasks to accomplish.

If we start with the man, it is very clear from St Paul’s teachings that the man is called to be Christ like.  Christ came and took on flesh and He submitted Himself entirely to the will of the Father.  He was in complete obedience even up to the point of death.  Not only did He submit Himself in obedience but He also poured Himself out to His bride, the Church (even though the people at that time didn’t accept Him).  Therefore any man who is called to the mystery of matrimony he has to understand that he is called to be like Christ in perfect submission to God and also in submission to his bride, despite her weaknesses or flaws.

Out of love and humility the man has to be willing to put on a crown of thorns and offer himself like Christ did. 

The woman called to the mystery of matrimony will reflect the image of God by recognizing the Godliness and Christ likeness in her husband.   She sees in him a person who is willing to love and sacrifice and pour himself out for the sake of his family and his bride.  When the woman is called to submit (like the Church), she submits because she sees the beauty that is found in her husband.  Like the church, she elevates all that she loves to a level where she can offer it to God.  She gathers all her children and raises them to be Godly and she offers herself not only as one who gathers the believers but she holds together the home.  This is the Church we believe in, the bride of the perfect Bridegroom.

So as we can see we see different roles for the husband and wife (one of that of Christ and one of the Church) and we should never compare and contrast between both roles or make one greater than the other.  The husband is called like Christ because he offers the sacrifice and the wife is called to be like the Church who nourishes and cherishes that love and raises a household to a level of Godliness.

From the homely of St John Chrysostom he finalizes in his sermon the beautiful concept of marriage by saying: “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 fears and threats, but with love and patience.  What kind of marriage can there be if a 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.”

In conclusion we understand that my submission to the person that I have been united to is out of love and in an attempt to fulfill that image of God that should be portrayed as a light of the world.  Every husband is called to be like Christ and every wife is called to be like the Church.


Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith


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