It has been a while since I posted, I know, but in my defense I have been very busy. And traveling. And dealing with family matters. Typical stuff. Today’s scripture selections are chosen because they were the readings at a recent wedding I attended. The bride and groom are some former commenters here, who went by the names FeminineButNotFeminist/Cassie and (among others) Uberdeplorable Psychedlic Cat Grass. So they seem like fitting choices. The first is from the Book of Sirach:
Happy is the husband of a good wife;
the number of his days will be doubled.
2 A loyal wife rejoices her husband,
and he will complete his years in peace.
3 A good wife is a great blessing;
she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.
4 Whether rich or poor, his heart is glad,
and at all times his face is cheerful.
13 A wife’s charm delights her husband,
and her skill puts fat on his bones.
14 A silent wife is a gift of the Lord,
and there is nothing so precious as a disciplined soul.
15 A modest wife adds charm to charm,
and no balance can weigh the value of a chaste soul.
16 Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord,
so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.
17 Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand,
so is a beautiful face on a stately figure.
18 Like pillars of gold on a base of silver,
so are beautiful feet with a steadfast heart.
(Sirach 26:1-4, 13-18)
There are a lot of valuable points in this passage. We see first, that a good wife is a valuable thing. In fact, elsewhere in this same book the author declares that a good wife is the greatest treasure a man can have. Second, we see some of the blessing that a good wife can bring: a longer life, a happier life, a healthier life, and a more peaceful life among other things. Third, we can see some of the virtues that make for a good wife (and woman): self-discipline, modesty, loyalty being some examples.
We can also see that a woman’s beauty is in fact a good thing. It is compared to the Temple of God, a place frequently considered beautiful in the OT. And a place that should be beautiful. Contra those who say that beauty is only skin deep, it does have value as well, and men are not shallow for considering it. Of course, those who read Proverbs and further in this book will know that beauty alone is no virtue, and can be quite deadly to a man.
Then we have St. Paul’s well known (and infamous in some circles) Epistle to the Ephesians:
[A]ddressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Few passages are more seemingly controversial than this passage from the New Testament. And yet, when you truly read it, few passages are as beautiful. St. Paul eloquently paints out the love that Christ for all of us, and explains that same level of love is expected of a Christian husband towards his wife. Of course obedience on the part of the wife is the part of this passage which is decried. But what can I say? I think most of my readers here already know that we live in an age of ugliness.
Finally, on to the Gospel of Matthew:
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?[a] 6 So they are no longer two but one.What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”
Unfortunately this particular translation carries with it the error of many other translations of Scripture. Contra the popular understanding outside the Catholic Church, Jesus did not provide for an exception clause here. For those curious about this, blogfriend Deep Strength has an excellent analysis and summary located here.
But to get back on topic, here we see Jesus firmly lay out how marriage is: it is a permanent affair as long as two people are on Earth. God is what brings man and woman together (just as He did in the beginning), and man cannot undo this. Any attempt along these lines is inherently disordered, and thus, sinful. At the same time when one is not caught up in sin, one can see the beauty of it all. A man and a woman are no longer separate after marriage. They are bound up, in a mysterious way, into something new altogether. This is why the Catholic Church refers to it as a Sacrament, which is a translation of Mystery, which is how matrimony is referred to in the East. It is a beautiful and mysterious thing, just like God Himself.
God grant them both many blessed and happy years.