Saturday, November 03, 2012

"That's What Works For Her."

The Grace of Subordination by Elizabeth Duffy

How many Catholic women would reject her understanding of St. Paul?
In the Mass readings, Saint Paul exhorted wives to be subordinate to their husbands, and for husbands to love their wives as themselves, for the two have become one flesh.
I’ve never found the idea of wifely subordination difficult to stomach.  I have found it difficult to practice at times. And I wonder if difficulty practicing it has less to do with understanding subordination, than with understanding the second part of Saint Paul’s mandate: “the two shall become one flesh.”
Saint Paul backs out of explaining what it means to be of one flesh, saying, “It’s a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and his Church.”
Considering my husband and mine’s recent sleeping arrangements, if the one flesh union is all about sex, we may have reason to panic. And yet sex, in and of itself is not a great mystery. Anyone can have sex. And not everyone who has sex with another becomes one flesh with them.
“One flesh” suggests a continuous union, which is problematic if it’s only about sex. I picture Francesca and Paolo in Dante’s Inferno, glued together forever in an embrace that becomes their torment. Speaking of never getting any sleep…
The reference to Christ and his Church implies that being of one flesh is more about the Kingdom of Christ becoming present on earth and in the family, than about the sex that always comes first to mind.
I imagine the two becoming one in the bodies of our children. If the Kingdom of God is like the yeast that leavens several measures of flour, making it all rise, then making babies requires a little of my DNA, a little of my husband’s, a bit of yeast, and poof, little dough-balls rising in corners all over your house, growing while you sleep.
And yet, strangers can make babies together without undergoing the mystery of one-flesh union. And some married couples never conceive, but it doesn’t mean they are not of one-flesh.
I imagine then, it’s the orientation of our family–the constant challenge of directing ourselves towards God– the prayers we say with the kids at night, before we all go our separate ways to sleep. It’s the one-mind we share in this sleepless, suffering night–that in the morning, we’ll dwell together in eternity.
Or perhaps, it’s the way surrendering my constant need to be the authority on all possible opinions that may affect our family creates peace between my husband and me.
I think it’s all these things.
What holds man and wife together in the flesh? Sometimes its the kids, sometimes the sex, sometimes the prayers, sometimes the community in which we live, sometimes it’s the bond of thinking alike. All of them work together like blood, bone, heart, and head to keep the flesh intact.
Maybe Catholic feminists would not object to the following of St. Paul; but they would not surrender the goal of having a career (in the name of living out one's vocation or "serving the community") nor leadership positions (especially within the Church). (It may even be that these are the views of the author of this piece.)

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