One flesh

Posted on September 4, 2011 by

A valid sacramental marriage, once consummated, cannot be dissolved. In extraordinary situations spouses are allowed to separate or even get a civil divorce:

“2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offence.”, Catechism of the Catholic Church.

However, even in these extreme cases, the couple remain married in the eyes of the Lord and neither person may remarry before the death of the other.

This break with the easy divorce culture of contemporary society causes confusion and difficulty for many. They see all those around them accepting divorce and struggle to understand why they must stay true to their vows. Thus, despite knowing that Genesis 2:24 teaches that:

“Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.”

and Luke 16:18 that:

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”

many Christians in the face of marital difficulties come to the conclusion that they are not one flesh with their spouse and that they are entitled to leave for pastures new.

Thus, many Christians abandon Christ’s teachings and instead follow the ‘culture of me’ that reassures them that self-satisfaction is more important than dutifully doing that which is right. Traditional Christian culture, however, gives us a different view of how to react to difficult challenges:

“TO MANY the saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” (Matt. 16:24) seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt 25:41) Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Christ, the judge.”, The Imitation of Christ, Book 2, Chapter 12.

Christ Carrying the Cross

So, while people have always looked for an easy way out in times of hardship, Christians of yore had clear instruction that following Christ meant taking up the cross so they could enter through the “narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Further, a comparison with the burdens on ancient Christians can help put everything in perspective: they got ripped limb from limb by lions, while we just have to eschew the divorce culture of the modern world. It is not hard to see who has it easiest.

Faithful Unto Death – Christianæ ad Leones

The heart goes out to those who have been abandoned and thereby forced into a life of celibacy, but what is right is not determined by our circumstances. So, these most unfortunate of souls must carry forth the great weight of the cross placed upon them. The rewards in heaven for witnessing to the faith will be immense, while the alternative is both sinful and a step along the, well trod, consequentialist path that leads to the loss of anything resembling traditional Christian values.

Everyone, not just the unlucky in love, must follow this call to carry the cross as changing the divorce culture requires the efforts of the many rather than the few. Everybody needs to help change the divorce laws and counsel those who have sinfully remarried or left their spouse. The first of these can cause tensions with those of the political left, but the latter can break friendships: rarely do people take kindly to being told either that they must go back to their spouse or that their new marriage is adulterous. Taking action can be hard, as the contempt can be great; so, never forget: “you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”, Matthew 10:22.

Posted in: Religion