Glancing Thoughts

Marriage

In the Gospel Reading Christ has a stern thing to say about all marriage: if a husband divorces his wife and marries again, he commits adultery, and so does his wife if she remarries.

Given that stern saying, why would anyone want to marry? Why would God want anyone to marry?

The First Reading describes the way God arranged the first marriage. When Adam is without Eve, God says that it isn’t good for Adam to be alone—and that’s the reason for God’s creating Eve and arranging Adam’s marriage to her.

But who made the man in such a way that it isn’t good for him to be alone? God did, didn’t he? God didn’t make the angels this way. Angels don’t get married. They don’t have children either. No angel is in himself the union of two other angels, who merged something of themselves to form him.

As far as that goes, angels have no gender either. An angel isn’t male or female. No angel can say to another angel, “You complete me.” It is perfectly fine for an angel to be alone.

Human beings have what angels lack: the glorious richness of embodied, gendered human life. But there is a fragility about this rich embodied life too. Those who do get married are open to each other and dependent on each other, and so they become terribly vulnerable to each other, too.

And here it is worth noticing that both the Readings focus on men. In the First Reading, God’s arrangements for Adam have the result Adam sketches: a man will leave his parents and cling to his wife. In the Gospel Reading, Christ is responding to the Pharisees’ question whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Most of the time, in the post-Fall world, the risks of marriage are unequally distributed between the genders. They tend to fall more on women than on men.

When God made human beings embodied and gendered, he gave them the great gift, lacking for the angels, that they could be joined together for life in marriage, with children. For us, who live in the post-Fall world Adam bequeathed us, this gift comes with beset with risks for heart-breaking suffering. The challenge for us is to preserve the promise and beauty of God’s gift. The perils of marriage for women—and also for men—is hedged in by Christ’s stern prohibition against divorce.


Eleonore Stump
 

**From Saint Louis University

Abby Upah