"Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home." - Sirach
There is so much to fathom in these words in praise of a good wife. What a revelatory simile/metaphor! Like the sun rising, so is the beauty of a good wife. In her home.
Far from minimizing the place of woman in society — as though what she does in the home were somehow remote from where life really happens, Ben Sira points to the archetype of womanly flourishing. And so he points to the household as a microcosm of the cosmos itself.
The key feature of God's rule of the cosmos is the order it establishes. "He arranged his works in an eternal order…" This order is for the sake of persons, "All these are good to the godly…", and it includes all the details of life, "and he will supply every need in its hour." The goodness of the arrangement of things is not always immediately apparent, but it will show itself for what it is. "For all things will prove good in their season."
What an incomparable charge it is, to rule in the household, as does God in the cosmos.
It is interesting that Ben Sira gives no like description of the good husband in the home. This could seem to imply the husband is not there, and that Ben Sira seeks to tie woman to that from which a man is somehow free.
Much more likely is that the husband's presence is given. Indeed, it is both implied and explicitly addressed, though not a length, throughout the book.
The good husband will not only join his wife but will take the lead in this profoundly mutual project. Making good order in the home will be what they do together, and so it will be his and hers at the same time, each in their own way.
To what in the natural world Ben Sira would compare the good husband is left to our surmising. But the good wife is like the sun rising in the heavens. A constant source of light and warmth, indeed she gives life itself. Her work marks the days, from beginning to end. Perhaps unnoticed, unappreciated, or unpraised — sometimes even criticized and blamed, she is always there. An indispensable condition, a pulsing dynamo. The brightness quietly, unselfishly lending brightness to any who will receive.
John A. Cuddeback. "A Wife in Her Well-Ordered Home." LifeCraft (July 7, 2021).
Reprinted with permission from the author, John A. Cuddeback. Image credit: François Boucher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
John A. Cuddeback is chairman and professor of Philosophy at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. He is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and Aristotle's Ethics: A Guide to Living the Good Life. He and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children — and a few pigs and sundry — in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. He blogs at life-craft.org.Copyright © 2021 John A. Cuddeback
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