The word of the day is “harmony.” In today’s reading of Ephesians 5:25-33, St. Paul discusses the duties of husband and wife in marriage. As a camera focuses on one object to make the picture clear, so we will put the focal point on one thought to shed light on the whole passage.
St. Paul suggests our focus when he gives the reason for the wife’s role in marriage. He states, “And Paul would never without a reason and without an object have spent so much pains on this subject” (NFPF1 13 143. What is that purpose? It is concord as Chrysostom states, “because when they are in harmony, the children are well brought up, and the domestics are in good order, and the neighbors, and friends, and relations enjoy the fragrance” (NFPF1 13 , 143).
If we look closely behind St. Paul’s list of duties, his promotion of harmony comes into sharper focus. For example, we find that Chrysostom quotes the Deuterocanonical writing of Ecclesiasticus to begin his discussion. The writer of this book of wisdom states that among the greatest blessings is “that a woman should dwell in harmony with her husband” (Ecclus 25:1).
Male and Female Share the Same Nature
As Genesis says and the Lord Jesus repeats, God the Creator established and blessed the union of marriage (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). Chrysostom further notes that God created the female to share the same nature as the male. The preacher observed that the woman was made from Adam’s side so that she would not be alien to him but “bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Therefore, for the man and women there was not higher or lower but the equality of the same nature. In the words of Chrysostom “women sprang from man and afterward from man and woman spring both man and women” (NFPF1 13 143).
Thus, woman and man were created to share the “close bond” and “connection” with one another. To that end, there is “certain love deeply seated in our nature, which imperceptibly to ourselves knots together these bodies of ours” (NFPF1 13, 143).
Harmony, the Crown of Marriage
It follows that mutual affection and harmony should crown the union of marriage. And so it was in the Garden of Paradise. But when Adam and Eve submitted to temptation, their sin turned their primordial concord into disharmony: Adam blamed Eve and Eve the Serpent. Yet in the love of Christ, a marriage can recover the harmonious unity that God intended. It is possible for the baptized. Thus, Chrysostom notes in his day, “There is nothing that welds our life together [in this world] as the love of man and wife (NFPF1 143).
The Home, a “Little Church”
When each partner fulfills his or her role for the sake of Christ (Col. 3:23) and for the benefit of the other, the home can become a “little church” (NFPF1 13, 148) (NFPF1 13, 146). The marriage can be like Abraham and Sarah whose “whole house was harmoniously knit together… and the whole house was filled with piety…” (NFPF1 13, 148).
If we keep our focus on the harmony of marriage, we can interpret the passage and the instruction that the husband should love his wife as himself and the wife be sure that she “respects” her husband (Eph. 5:33). These roles are only instrumental. St. Paul advises them for the sake of harmony and not to make one gender higher than the other (NFP1 13, 146). The Orthodox Study Bible puts it, “Within the bonds of marriage, there is both a fullness of equality between husband and wife, and a clarity of order with the husband as the icon of Christ, the wife as the icon of the Church (OSB “Marriage”).