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Father Cantalamessa on Marital Submission

Pontifical Household Preacher on This Sunday's Gospel

ROME, AUG. 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of a commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical Household, on this Sunday's second reading.

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Husbands, Love Your Wives

This time I would like to focus attention on the second reading of the day (Ephesians 5:21-32) because it has a theme of great interest for the family.

Reading Paul's words with modern eyes, one immediately sees a difficulty. Paul recommends to husband that they "love" their wives (and this is good), but he also recommends to women that they be submissive to their husbands, and this -- in a society strongly (and justly) conscious of the equality of the sexes -- seems unacceptable.

In fact, it's true. On this point St. Paul is conditioned in part by the mentality of his age. However, the solution is not in eliminating from relations between husbands and wives the word "submission," but, perhaps, in making it mutual, as love must also be mutual.

In other words, not only must husbands love their wives, but wives must also love their husbands. Not only must wives be subject to their husbands, but also husbands to their wives, in mutual love and mutual submission.

In this case, to be subject means to take into account the wishes, opinion and sensitivity of one's spouse; to discuss, not to decide on one's own; to be able to give up one's own point of view. In short, to remember that both are "spouses," that is, literally, persons who are under "the same yoke," freely chosen.

The Apostle gives Christian spouses as model the relationship of love that exists between Christ and the Church, but he explains immediately in what such love consisted: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." True love is manifested in "giving" oneself to the other.

There are two ways of expressing one's love for the beloved. The first is to give presents, to fill the other with gifts; the second, much more demanding, consists in suffering for one's spouse.

God loved us in the first way when he created us and filled us with goods: Heaven, earth, flowers, our bodies, everything is a gift of his. But then, in the fullness of time, in Christ, he came to us and suffered for us, unto death on the cross.

This is also true in human love. At the beginning, the newly married express their love with gifts. But the time comes for all when presents are not enough. It is necessary to be able to suffer with and for the beloved. One must love despite the limitations one discovers in the other, and despite the moments of poverty and illnesses.

This is true love which is like Christ's.

In general, the first kind of love is called "seeking love" (with a Greek word, eros); the second kind, "giving love" (with the Greek word agape).

The sign that a couple is passing from seeking to giving love, from eros to agape, is this: Instead of saying "What more could my husband do for me (respectively, my wife) which he still does not do?" one begins to ask: "What more could I do for my husband (or my wife) which I still have not done?"

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