Sunday, August 29, 2010

The spousal analogy and the cross

The first time I ever heard about the spousal analogy was in a talk by Bishop Sheen. I was only a teenager at the time, and Bishop Sheen was speaking about Christ's union with the Church. He said that it was on the marriage bed of the cross that Christ consummated his union with the Church. I specifically remember he used the words "marriage bed" and "consummated" because it shocked my pious young ears. Yet as Bishop Sheen went on to explain his point, it became clear to me what he was talking about. He was basing himself on Ephesians 5, where St Paul speaks about Christ giving himself up for the Church. And he did this on the cross--giving up his life for the sake of his bride, the Church.

The connection between the spousal analogy and the cross is an important point. Christopher West brings this out in his Theology of the Body Explained, page 390: "The cross of Christ is planted in the ground under the feet of this spousal analogy. Here we witness the totality of Christ's spousal love for the Church." Then he quotes John Paul, "That gift of self to the Father through obedience to the point of death (see Phil 2:8) is at the same time, according to Ephesians, an act of 'giving himself for the Church."

West also brings this out in an article on the basic theology of marriage:

"If men and women are to experience marriage as God intended it “in the beginning,” they must consciously renounce all that is contrary to God’s plan and continually surrender themselves to the grace of redemption. The cross of Christ, therefore, lies at the center of the Church’s theology of marriage.
Since it was man and woman’s turning away from God that distorted their relationship in the first place, it makes sense that restoring marriage requires a radical return to God. Thus, an authentic theology of marriage is not only informational but, above all, transformational. It calls couples to a life of ongoing personal conversion. Only as spouses renounce themselves and take up their crosses to follow Christ can they experience the true joys of marriage that God ardently wishes to shower upon them."

I would like to draw attention to the words, "The cross of Christ, therefore, lies at the center of the Church’s theology of marriage." That's an important statement. I am bringing it out here because in the current controversy over West's presentation of TOB, I believe some of his critics are overlooking statements such as this in order to accuse him of a pan-sexualism.

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