This guest post comes from Robert Basilious - a member of St Mark Coptic Orthodox church in London, England who has guest posted on my blog before. Robert works as a software engineer by profession, but his true passion is serving church communities across the UK with their software needs. You can check out his work on his website, Serving Jesus. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
How many of us enter into marriage truly believing that marriages are “made in heaven”, as the idiom goes? We approach courting thinking we are prepared.
Education? Check. Career? Check. House? Check.
We then proudly oversell ourselves thinking we can independently fulfill another, and conversely, we also seek fulfillment in another. Once we believe we have found that fulfillment, we pledge our forever-love. Then come the wedding, the confetti, and the bouquet toss. But sooner or later, if God isn’t at the center of the marriage, the honeymoon is over.
Bond Between Husband and Wife
Two people are bound together in marriage through Christ. Christ is, and must be, the central Person in every marriage, creating an all-encompassing physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental union. The core of Christ’s teaching on marriage reveals to us it’s sacramental significance in and for the life of the Church:
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:32)
The bond between husband and wife is complete once the love in the marriage imitates the love between Christ and the Church. That bond is both intense and spiritual – as a bond between husband and wife should be as well. It is this relationship that St. Paul calls, “a great mystery” in the image of “Christ and the Church”.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist maintains the Church’s oneness with Christ. Similarly, the Sacrament of Matrimony transforms the lives of husband and wife into a new life of oneness, allowing us to experience the kingdom of God today!
In terms of the Church’s oneness with Christ, we are not just docile partakers in God’s grace but rather “we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) . As the Church’s oneness with Christ is a two-way relationship, so too is the oneness in marriage.
In marriage, we take a spiritual path together with our spouse in pursuing eternal life with Christ. We achieve completion in Christ through a love reciprocated between husband and wife. This love is rooted in a communal love for God. It is only in God that we uncover the fulfillment of emptiness rather than in each other. God endows me to love another and it is through God that I know I am loved.
In completely submitting themselves to one another, husband and wife manifest God’s love to each other. Each one selflessly offers the love they receive from God rather than assume it for themselves. It is through this relationship that we encounter God in each other.
Husband as Head
St. Paul writes: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:23)
But what kind of head was Christ? A domineering one? One who flaunted His authority and bullied those who were subject to Him?
On the night before His greatest agony and suffering, we read that Jesus:
“rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that,He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (John 13:4-5)
To be head, a husband is to show the care and attention that Christ shows the Church. Christ died for the Church out of choice without being asked. Similarly, a husband also bears all for his wife.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)
Christ taught, healed, and resurrected the Church. For a husband, to be head means to sacrifice and serve out of love, to constantly show understanding, and have patience without keeping score.
‘… Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”’ (Matthew 20:26-28)
A Little Church
The attributes of the Church expose the attributes of husband and wife:
"… We believe …in one holy, Catholic [Universal] and Apostolic Church. …" - The Nicene Creed
Husband and wife echo this unity and sanctity, in turn creating “a little Church” (St. John Chrysostom), where they may worship God and save their souls.
Marriages certainly are “made in heaven”. Marriage is far from a contractual arrangement, sealed by the will of man. It is the grace of God that establishes a marriage, joining a man and woman in becoming one flesh. Only through following Christ’s example can a marriage truly flourish.