Friday, March 5, 2010

Women, the Priesthood, Marriage, and the Body of Christ

To expand on and explain my last post.

Speaking of Women and the Priesthood:

Priests are married to the Church in as much as they act in the person of Christ, the bridegroom, who takes us as His Bride.  It is necessary, therefore, that priests be men, the male counterpart of the bride; priests represent the giver of love, the groom--Christ--while we, the Church, are receivers of His love, the Bride of Christ.

Okay, to break this down:  we need to take a look at what the Bible says about the role of men and women in their relationship and how it relates to Christ. Take a look at 1 Cor. 11:3-12. Saint Paul says in verse 3, “Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ.” Here we see how the relationship between a man and woman is symbolic of the relationship between Christ and his people, His Church. In fact, we the Church are the Bride of Christ.

If you look merely at the physical aspects of men and women, built into our bodies, we see an important sign. Men, physically, are the givers in the marital act while women are the receivers. In the act, both give and receive love completely and in unity, but the sign of the giver and receiver is written into our physical structure. In this way, men reflect the active role of Christ as the giver of love and salvation while women reflect the passive role of the Church in receiving Christ. We are the Bride of Christ.

In Eph. 5:21-32 we see this more clearly. Verses 21-23: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.” And verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” Wow! I don’t know about you, ladies, but that sounds pretty good to me—husband, love me as Christ loves His Church! That’s a pretty difficult standard to live up to. But there is something deeper here. It said “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” Don’t you remember in Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body”? We become one! A husband gives his body to his wife in the marital act; the woman receives it and in return gives her own body, and the two become one flesh. Husbands should love their wives as their own body because we are one.

But wait, there is even more beauty here (It’s endless, isn’t it?). Ephesians 5:29: “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” We are the Body of Christ. Christ married us in His sacrifice on the cross, and we became one flesh. He gave us his body at Calvary. In return, we give our whole selves to Him. The marital relationship of man and woman mirrors the perfect marriage between Christ and His Church. We are one body.

So I am sure by now you are wondering how this relates to Women and the Priesthood. It appears that I have gone off in a tangent. Well, just a minute, I am almost there.

Let’s look at the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. So, we know that we are the Bride of Christ and because of that, also the Body of Christ. (The bridegroom and bride become one body, remember?)  Well, at Mass, we receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. It is at the Mass, the wedding feast (Rev. 19:1-9), that our marriage with Christ is consummated and we receive His body and become one flesh, the Body of Christ. This is where we take Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity, inside of us. Christ gives himself wholly to us. It is the marital act between Christ and His Church! Man gives his body to woman in the martial embrace, just as Christ gives us His Body in the Eucharist. Man, the giver, and woman, the receiver, mirror this act between Christ, the giver, and we, the receivers, at Mass.

That being said, the one person on earth who must be present for this to take place is the priest. The priest at Mass acts in the person of Christ as he consecrates the host and brings it to the people. Christ works through the priest to give His Body to His Bride. So, therefore, the priest acts as the active giver in this Blessed Sacrament, this wedding feast. The priest, in the person of Christ, is marrying himself to the Bride, the Church.  The priest, therefore, plays the role of the man as the giver in the marital embrace. So, is it not fitting that the priest would be a man? God has built the sign of the giver into the male body; it is part of being masculine. Therefore, the priest, acting in the person of Christ, must be a man.

It has been this way for centuries. Iranaeus in AD 189 spoke about the improperness of women to play the role of priests, as did Turtullian in AD 200, Hippolytus in AD 215, and so on. If you want to read more about this, check out, or go here:

Women have beautiful roles in both the church and in a loving relationship. We just were not meant to be priests. That does not make us less than men or beneath them in any way. We are loved by God, and that is all that matters.

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