I understand that there is a lot of temptation in living alone, and Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor 7:9), but what about our Lord's statement: "Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." If the Church allows a person to divorce and remarry for reasons other than unchastity, then wouldn't the person be living an adulterous life?
i) Taking for granted that our Lord's saying on divorce was as absolutist as say, the Roman Catholics interpret it, it's obvious the Church was practicing leniency in this matter early on - for there is no other way of explaining St.Paul's recommendation of economy
in this matter (the so called "Pauline privilege.") There is nothing inherent to our Lord's command, that allows for the "Pauline privilege" - certainly St.Paul himself would have viewed use of the privilege to be far less than the ideal laid out by the Saviour Himself. Yet, out of condescension, it is allowed. Viewing the matter this way, the "economy" allowed by the Orthodox Church throughout the ages is not a scandal, since it is something with roots in the ministry of the Apostles themselves.
ii) While Roman Catholics will often polemically beat Orthodox Christians over the head for their "laxity" on the divorce issue, it's worth pointing out that all "ancient churches" (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, etc.) practice various forms of "economy" on different subjects. For example, I can say quite certainly that the RCC accepts in most cases penances for grave offences which many ancient Christian pastors would have considered outright scandalous. However, it comes down to the question of just how much the Church can
tolerate, if the choice is between losing a soul to the world, or keeping them in the Church but allowing what is certainly below the ideal. The answer, depending on the subject, differs between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Given this, finger pointing is really out of the question.
iii) A worthwhile study is the relationship between the Mosaic "allowance" for divorce and remarriage, and the Christian "hardline" on the subject - a comparison of Deuteronomy 24, and St.Matthew 19. The two are actually not
as far apart as some may think. For example, the Torah only strictly allowed for divorce in the case of the husband finding something "idencent" (hebrew - ervah) in his wife after their marriage was consumated. This is probably the word "porneia" (used in the Greek of St.Matthew 19:9) was intended to translate. The issue between our Lord and the Pharisees, was actually in part
a dispute which was already going on in Judaism at the time. The more lax school of thought (embodied by the Pharisees, and which eventually won out and became normative in what we now know as "Orthodox Judaism") basically says that if a husband is displeased with his wife, he can write her a bill of divorce and send her off. This is a very loose (and quite disingenous) interpretation of ervah
, which clearly refers to "indencency" involving sexuality (since it has it's etymological roots in the idea of "nakedness"...and in Hebrew, to speak of someone seeing another's "nakedness" was euphemistic for sexual relations of some kind). OTOH, were more strict Jewish jurists, who understood "ervah" the way our Saviour taught - to refer to some kind of sexual indescretion, and this being the only just allowance for a divorce. Even the idea that the woman is made somehow impure by a divorce is not new to our Lord - in Deuteronomy 24:4, it says quite clearly that a man who divorces a woman cannot take her back after she's remarried, because she has become "defiled" (hebrew - taw-may). So our Lord was not teaching anything new, per se. The Tanakh (the Bible accepted by the Jews) itself says quite plainly that God "hates" divorce, which obviously means it's allowance (even without taking our Lord's saying on the subject into consideration) is purely a condescension to human weakness.
What has changed in the Christian context, is simply how "acceptable" this allowance for remarriage (which exists because of the "hardness of hearts") is. Christ robs us of any illusions that divorce is "ok", the simple breaking of a legal contract, that women are chattle that can be dismissed when we get sick of them.
What I would like to ask Catholics who have a problem with the Orthodox Church's allowance for ecclessiastical divorce and remarriage, is whether "hardness of heart" has disappeared? Just because we call ourselves Christians, does it mean that such no longer exists?Tom S,
I am a Southern Baptist convert to Orthoodoxy, and although I understand the Veneration of the Theotokos, I think that sometimes the words addressed to her border on Worship - which I have a problem accepting. Even now, I do not cross myself, like most Orthodox, when the Theotokos is mentioned in the Liturgy.
To borrow a saying from a Roman Catholic saint (I believe it was Louise de Montfort), "you cannot honour or love our Lady too much, for no honour or devotion you can show her will ever come close to that showered upon her by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I'm sure that's paraphrased, but it makes the same point.)
None of the Saints is revered just because we think they're "swell" - Orthodoxy is not some quasi-polytheistic cult, with a "supreme god" and plenty of lesser divinities of varying powers. Rather, we venerate the Saints, because they are tabernacles of God - their relics are divinized, their souls radiating the uncreated energies of God. The Saints are Saints, because they bear God. "God is glorified in
His Saints" as the saying goes.
The Mother of God enjoys a type of veneration then, which is incomparable even to that of other great Saints. Indeed, to a great extent Old Testament archetypes which can viewed as symbolical of the sacred humanity of our Lord, are just as apt types of the Blessed Virgin - whether it be the Temple/Tabernacle of the Israelites, or most particularly, the Ark of the Covenant. These physical objects were supremely reverenced by the Israelites, with the understanding they were unique bearers of the Divine Presence, the glory of God, known in Hebrew as "shekinah". If anything, the intimacy which the Blessed Virgin enjoys with God, is incomparably closer "to the source" than either of these physical edifaces ever was. Thus, far more worthy is She of our veneration and love.
Simply put, one cannot love and venerate the Holy Mother, and not glorify God at the same time. It's simply impossible. The only way to do such, would be to cease to venerate the Virgin, but some other being under the guise of our Lady (as some neo-pagans do, when they co-opt the image of the Blessed Virgin, but blaspheme it by using it as a guise by which they can worship their "goddess"). On the other hand, one cannot venerate the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the chosen vessel of our salvation, the Mother of all believers, the historical, real, Blessed Virgin, and err with "too much" love and devotion...unless you can laud Her with something better than the honours and titles God Almighty has bestowed on Her.