“Christ and Oedipus” – Rev. Dr. Stany Antony OMI

(To Understand Presbyteral Oedipal Complex )                    

Like us in all but sin, the fully human Jesus of Nasareth’s psyche bore the template of oedipal conflict. As a boy like other boys he was predisposed for the awakening of the drama that shapes the character  of the male children.  But Jesus, graced as no other human ever before or over after,  overcomes the Oedipal envy or jealousy. His divinity did not exempt him from the patterns and stages of human development. From this perspective Jesus was his own man as no one has over been his own man, or her own woman. Nothing could dissuade him from following his destiny as saviour of the world; nothing could shakle his freedom as God’s beloved son. Jesus’ fidelity to his truth as the Word made flesh and his freedom from all envy and jealousypoint to the new order, the new being to which he calls each and every human being. The priests are  specially called to this inner freedom in the presbyteral circle.

The temple drama at Passover in Luke 2   is the earliest evidence the scriptures provide of Jesus’ unwavering commitment to his truth and to the fulfillment of his messianic mission the essence of oedipal trasformation. We see here an exquisite tension in the conversation between Mary and Jesus. “Son, why have you done this to us?” Jesus responds by declaring that he must be true to his own truth. For Jesus to be his “own man” was to couragously accomplish his mission. Yes, he was a loyal member of his family, but he would not let even the anxiety and worry of his parents deter him from obedience to his father.

The great lesson contained in these few verses in luke is that the priest’s fidelity to the Church (being a man of the Church) and the courageoous guarding of his own integrity ( being his own man) are resolved in his personal commitmant to the Word and person of Jesus Christ. In Christ he becomes a true man of the Church and his true self. Still other New Testament passsages capture both Jesus’ Odeipal courage to assert his mission and his prophetic indipendence to be the Word made flesh. On the surface, Jesus appears to be insentive to his mother and family. In the third chapter of Mark’s Gospel we read, At the wedding in Canna, Jesus resolves a moment of ambivalence his own sense of timing and his desire to honor the request of his mother by uttering a direct, almost harsh word to her. To Mary’s, they have no more wine,” Jesus responds, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.” The exchange is critical for it provided a glimpse into the loving yet adult and mature relationship between the two.

Our iconic Oedipal reading provides an arresting hermenutic for the Priest mother relationship so fundamental to family dynamics that include a priest – son. Often the definitive resoultion to oedipal  tension occurs when a young man leaves the security of his parents home to become his ownman. The celibate priest, however, is not only the unmarried son, but the son commited to remain unmarried, and as such often enjoys being the “mother of a priest” still conveys considerable social status in Catholic circles. Clearly, the close relationship  between mother and her priest – son is understandable and can be quite healthy .Both mother and son, however, need to make their relationship exemplify that of two emotionally mature adults, relationship that reflects the same absence of sentimentality and unconscious control which can become  a boost for his commitment.

Certain  Oedipal  echoes  can be noted in the relationship of the priest and his brothers, usually taking the form of envy and jealousy.  A priest brother enjoys a pattenly unfair advantage in both the unconscious  and  consicious  ways  sibling  rivalries that mark all but the healthiest of families. Even Jesus’ chosen apostles wrestled with this lurking dynamic. James and John appproach Jesus and ask to sit at his right and left  when  he  sits  in His kingdom.  It is Jesus himself and the Gospel the priest is called to preach that uncover the paradoxical path to that inner freedom which follows upon oedipal resolution. Free from the burden of striving to be special, to be first in the eyes of his mother and father, his Bishop  or Superior and brother priests, the priest surrenders to the mystery of God’s love for him, unearned, unmerited. Freeded from the negative pull of oedipal drives, he tastes the freedom of spritual liberation. He walks now a man “at God’s hand,” supported and sustained by the peace of Christ.


Fr. Stany Antony OMI