The Essential Role of a Man
To father in God the Father’s image we must “husband” in Christ’s image. By uniting ourselves to our brides as Christ unites Himself to His Church, we will become capable of fathering the domestic church. Our families will be united to the level that our marriages are united. In fact, to the level that we are united to God we will be able to lead our family to be united to God. But to effectively unite ourselves to our brides we must understand our dignity and essential role as men. What is the role of a man? What is his essence? What differentiates man from woman?
The author of Ephesians, speaking of the analogy of marriage, states, “Wives be subject to husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.” (Eph 5:21-26) In the analogy, the man (husband) is an image of Christ, and His love for His Bride the Church. Christ’s love for His bride is radical, void of selfishness, attentive to building up His bride—even at the expense of self. If the mystery of the relationship between God and man is in some way revealed by the marital analogy, then also, the mystery of man and his essence is revealed by this analogy.
Man and woman are made of the same substance (body and soul). God, in the beginning created man and woman to give themselves away to the other—this was indicated by their bodies—their bodies only make sense by giving themselves to one another. The body expresses the deep, inner reality of the human person. A man’s body indicates that, though he is made of the same substance as the woman, he is fundamentally different. A man’s body indicates that he is an initiator—he goes forth from himself—he is called to set the pace for self-giving love, to set the pace for self-donation. He is principally, but not solely, responsible for the progress of this loving union between his wife and him.
Two of the most notable examples of man’s responsibility to set the pace of self-giving love within the context of the marital analogy are Adam, the first of all men, and the New Adam, Jesus Christ. The first Adam was given responsibility to “till and keep” the garden, which actually means to cherish (abad) and protect (shamar) the garden. The word “garden,” often used in the Sacred Scriptures, has both a literal and symbolic sense. The garden of Eden was a symbol of woman’s garden, that is her interior person, her purity and innocence. (See Songs 4) Adam was entrusted with the task to cherish and protect the garden of Eve. Adam however, allowed the serpent to enter her garden and have his way with her—while he watched. The result of Adam’s neglect to protect his bride—to protect the garden—was sin, shame, blame, disruption between the body and soul, and ruptured relationships between the sexes throughout the ages.
Jesus, the New Adam, on the night that He was betrayed, rather than fleeing from the serpent, entered the garden, accepted responsibility for His Bride, that is, all of humanity, and allowed her to escape the wrath that He endured on her behalf. Both Adam and the New Adam set the pace for self-giving love, or absence thereof. The former established the paradigm of neglect, selfishness and lust, while the latter set the paradigm of responsibility, self-giving love, complete self-donation.
From these two examples we discover the deepest truth of man’s essence: he has been created by God to sacrifice himself for his bride and for all women. This was his call in the beginning and it still remains his duty today. Without the experience, at some level, of such sacrifice, a husband has not achieved manhood, nor is he fully alive.
Jesus lived what Joseph taught, and Jesus taught what Joseph lived. St. Joseph refused to expose Mary to shame, the shame of man’s lusts—particularly his own. Yet, God called Joseph to love Mary, that is, the garden that bore the Fruit of life, purely—and God gave him the grace to do so because of Joseph’s faith in God. Joseph, by mastering his passions became the master of himself, and was capable of becoming the master of the Master. Like father, like Son—Jesus lived what Joseph taught. By following Joseph’s example, by not exposing woman to the shame of lust, we can become masters of ourselves and masters of our domestic church. Masters who lead by dying to themselves for the sake of the other.