by Will Cohen
In a 2015 address at the University of Munich, Metropolitan John Zizioulas observed that “[t]he agenda of Theology is set by history.” By “history” he meant the concerns and questions particular to a given age, as he underscores in adding, “This was known to the Fathers of the Church who were in constant dialogue with their time.”
If the Church’s theology must accept the questions of history in order to be vital and serve humanity, the same is not true of the conclusions history may hurriedly reach. Christians have sometimes not readily enough accepted history’s questions and sometimes too readily accepted its answers. Of relevance to this dynamic is how Church teaching is understood—specifically, in relation to the place of dialogue in the Church.
When in the flow of history an issue erupts, becoming a real question for human beings, the fact that there is already Church teaching on it—if that is the case—can be taken to mean it is unnecessary and even impermissible for Christians to take it seriously as a question. Instead of rediscovering and deepening the teaching through the question, those who appeal to the teaching in order to beat the question back cannot really speak to the question the present age has posed, because they have not entered into it in a sufficiently real and searching way. Continue Reading…
by Rev. Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas and Rev. Dr. Philip Zymaris | ελληνικά | ру́сский
In modern times the appropriateness of the established Epistle Lesson (Ephes. 5:20-33) in the rite of marriage has been questioned. How is it perceived by the contemporary listener and what does it say about spousal relationships?
At a basic level this established passage can be understood within the context of the household code adapted to the Greco-Roman world in which the early Christians enacted their life of faith. This world was essentially patriarchal. Domestic codes were meant to guide household members, husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters in the pursuit of their duties and responsibilities. At the heart of the exhortations are ethical perspectives that flow from the new life in Christ acquired through faith and baptism. Such codes have been incorporated in other New Testament writings (Col. 3:1-4:5; 1 Tim. 2:8-15, 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; and 1 Peter 2:13-3:7).
The established Epistle lesson therefore defines the manner by which a husband and wife are expected to relate to one another. Husbands are told to love their wives (25), while wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands (22). There is nothing exceptional in the latter admonition. Ancient social morality assumed as a given the submission of wives to their husbands. The Ephesians Letter, however, gives us more. It provides us with an exalted view of marriage by introducing radically new concepts, including the previously unheard admonition, “husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” which transforms the natural nuptial bond into a sacrament.
Interestingly enough, a grammatical examination of the text indicates that the entire pericope should be understood as an explanation of verse 5:21: “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Continue Reading…
by Mark Arey
The recent visit of the President and First Lady to the Vatican raised again the question of head coverings for women in the Christian context. Many Christians perpetuate a theology of women’s submission to men that is symbolized by head coverings, based on a Scriptural text (First Corinthians 11:3-16).
In 11:5, Paul stresses the Jewish custom that married women should cover their head. Every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonors her own head. Indeed, it is the same thing as having a shaved head!
As pointed out by M.D. Hooker, “According to Jewish custom, a bride went bareheaded until her marriage, as a symbol of her freedom; when married, she wore a veil as a sign that she was under the authority of her husband” (Authority on Her Head: An Examination of I Cor. XI. 10, New Testament Studies, 10, 1964, pg. 413). As Paul progresses in his argument in verses 8 and 9, he relies on the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (Genesis 2:18-25) to create his logic. Thus, by the time we get to verse 10, we have a curious conclusion to his reasoning: That is why it is appropriate for a wife to have authority over her head, on account of the Angels. Continue Reading…
by Bryce E. Rich, Fr. Robert M. Arida, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David Dunn, Maria McDowell, and Teva Regule
The title of the working document “The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments” appears to promise a meaningful teaching on the spousal relationship. Instead, much of the document is devoted to a particular, modern vision of family. Beginning with the central claim of §I.1 regarding the dangers posed by secularization and moral relativism to the institution of the family, over half the paragraphs of Section I address relationships deemed incongruous with the purported Orthodox model of family, mixed with claims about the welfare of civil society. While much can be said, the following essay offers a cursory examination of the scripture passages supporting this view, along with an exploration of biblical passages that belie this facile model. Continue Reading…