Image from finer femininity
Image from finer femininity
“The husband and wife should be similar to the hand and the eye. When the hand hurts, the eyes should be crying. And when the eyes cry, the hand should wipe away the tears.”
— St. John Chrysostom
What more can I give you my love?
My body, children, life are yours!
I have but only my troth renewed
And even that is little forfeit,
For it is gross fruition
to relinquish all of me to you.
A volume of Anna Akhmatova’s poetry rests on my ironing board next to a few wrinkled sewing projects. I’m more likely to read than sew. Heck, I’m more likely to read than iron. But this peaceful still life exudes domestic leisure. My life is filled with such scenes. With no outside commitments, I am blessed with time at home.
My husband and I have sacrificed much for such a life. We manage with one car, my husband attends night school to advance his career, works long hours, often travels for work and we adhere to a strict budget to make ends meet, every penny counts.
But such domestic settings remind me of the leisure I have been given, unstructured time for me and my children to enjoy. Time that I must manage wisely. They are simple scenes: I look to my nightstand and see my rosary draping my journal and copy of Jane Keyon’s Constance with glass beads and atop my husband’s dresser rest his keys and monogrammed tie clip (I had engraved for his birthday) next to the unpaid bills. These details are home and all its pleasures and hardships. They encompass a much greater movement – they are microcosms and they relate the full truth of the macrocosm.
Such microcosms are seen in nature. When you look at a maple leaf, you see the tree in all its splendor. The tree’s glory is stamped on it right down to its tiny veins and stem.
In Literature, such details make a novel or poem. When you read a line of good poetry or a sentence in a great novel the details carry it, give life to the whole work. And I find such peace in these domesticities because they reveal a greater movement: my husband’s love for our family, my love for our children – God’s love for us.
When I was first married, I really didn’t think about obedience and submission as being pleasing to God. I believed that the man was the head of the family on a very basic level, but I didn’t view submission as virtuous exactly. I wouldn’t have described myself as submissive either, feisty, was more like it. Strong willed and stubborn certainly. I suppose I still am those things, I’m not afraid to speak my mind, I am quite talkative with my husband and rather opinionated. But I don’t submit because its my personality– its not. I submit because it makes sense to me.
When we were dating and during our engagement my husband really took the lead and I just reacted to his leadership; I never thought of obeying as a good.
And in marriage prep there was a lot of talk about mutual submission and deferring to one another’s wishes, compromising and seeing God through your spouse, inspiring each other (especially the woman inspiring the man) and absolutely no talk about the husband’s authority or the beauty of a wife’s obedience.
It wasn’t until being married and realizing on a personal level how much I needed him to take charge and how miserable I was when I took charge, that it clicked for me. Despite all the talk about mutual submission it is very simple, either the man leads or the woman. And I knew I didn’t want to lead. That is when I began to see obedience to my husband as rightly ordered and virtuous. That is when I began cultivating it- rejoicing in it! Now, I see my submission as pleasing to God! It is where graces flow!
Why keep these truths from me? Why wasn’t I properly taught to rejoice in this God-given order? Are we afraid of these truths? We still speak of obedience in religious orders why not marriage? If only these words were spoken to me years ago:
And do you, O brides, lift up your hearts? Do not be content merely to accept, and–one might almost say–to tolerate this authority of your husbands, to whom God has subjected you according to the dispositions of nature and of grace; in your sincere submission you must love that authority and love it with the same respectful love you bear towards the authority of Our Lord Himself from Whom all authority flows.” ~Pope Pius XII, Allocution to Newly-Weds.
Look, I made a meme!
I’ve written about spiritual headship before.
To disregard my husband’s decision would be breaking from his authority and in breaking from his authority I lose a certain peace and even spiritual protection:
If a wife refuses to submit to the authority of her husband, she loses the spiritual protection and providence of her husband. Whatever rises against an order or authority is deprived of that order and the principle of order. This means that when a wife volitinally rejects the authority of her husband as her spiritual head and head of the family, she takes herself out from underneath his spiritual protection and becomes vulnerable to the demonic since she has taken herself out from under the hierarchy of authority as established by God ( Fr Ripperger).
Either a wife is going to be under her husband’s domain or vulnerable to the demonic. When I view my husband’s decision in this way, as a protection, I dare not walk out from under it. I know he takes my opinions into account, regards them, so why fight against him? Ultimately to fight against his authority is to lose a spiritual grace. It is far better to defer to his decision.
I think of how many times I have been given grace through my husband! He has held me accountable for so many of my vices and guided me towards virtue.Not just once, but again and again. He is the first person I go to for spiritual guidance and I have never been led astray by it. Certainly God has granted him the grace to lead this family and in submitting to his authority I am also granted graces.
Marriage is hierarchical, that’s part of it’s appeal and the only way to achieve harmony within these vows is to live within it’s structure; under his God given authority. This is part of our Faith and our Faith is for all time- for our time.