Excerpt from Discourse 37

25 January 2019

V. But, as I was saying, to return to my argument: great multitudes followed Him because He deigned to take on our infirmities. Then what? It says that the Pharisees also came to Him, tempting Him, and saying: ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason?’ Again the Pharisees tempt Him, again those who read the law don’t know the law, again those who expound the Law are in need of others to teach them. It wasn’t enough that the Sadducees should tempt Him concerning the Resurrection, and that the Lawyers should question Him about perfection, the Herodians about the poll-tax, and others about authority. Someone had to ask Him, about marriage. Though He was unmarried [or ‘unable to be tempted’], He was still the creator of wedlock, Who had made this whole race of mankind from the first cause. He answered them: ‘Haven’t you read that He Who made them in the beginning made them male and female?’ He knows how with certain of their questions, to reply, while with others to clamp down . When He’s asked: ‘By what authority do you do these things?’, because of the utter ignorance of those putting the question, He replies with another question: ‘The baptism of John, was it from Heaven or of men?’. He entangles His questioners by both methods, so that if we follow Christ’s example, we, too, can sometimes rein in those who put really strange arguments to us and can resolve the absurdity of their questions by asking even more absurd ones. For we, too, are so wise as regards pointless things at times, that I might boast about nonsensical things. But when He sees a question that calls for reasoning, then He doesn’t feel it’s beneath Him to supply His questioners with a sensible answer.

VI. The question which you’ve put seems to me to be a very judicious one and to demand a courteous reply. Soundness of mind is something that the majority of men are sorely indifferent towards, and so their laws are unequal and irregular. What was the reason why they restrained women, but indulged men? A woman who defiles her husband’s bed is an adulteress, and the penalties of the law for this are very severe; but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he doesn’t need to give any account. I don’t accept this legislation; I don’t approve of this custom. Those who made the law were men, and therefore their legislation is against women. Moreover, they’ve placed children under the authority of their fathers, while leaving the weaker [sex] uncared for. God doesn’t do this. He says: ‘Honour your father and your mother’, which is the first commandment and includes the promise ‘that it may be well with you’; and, ‘He that curses father or mother, let him die the death’. Similarly, He gave honour to good and punishment to evil. And, ‘The blessing of a father strengthens the houses of children, but the curse of a mother uproots the foundations’[Sirach 3,11]. Look at the equality of the legislation. There’s one Maker for men and women; the same debt is owed by children to both their parents.

VII. How then do you require soundness of mind, when you yourself don’t practice it? How can you demand what you don’t give? How, though the bodies are equal, do you legislate unfairly? If you look at the worst case: the woman sinned- but so did the man [Genesis 3, 6]. The serpent deceived them both: one wasn’t found to be the stronger and the other the weaker. But think about the best case: Christ saves both by His Passion. He was made flesh for men. And also for women. Did He die for men? Woman are also saved by His death. He [Christ] is called ‘of the seed of David’ [Romans 1, 3] and so perhaps you think men are honoured; but He was also born of a Virgin, which is in favour of women. The two, He says, shall be one flesh; so let this one flesh have equal honour. And Paul legislates for self-restraint through example. How, and in what way? ‘This mystery is great’, he says, ‘but I speak concerning Christ and the Church’ [Ephesians 5, 32]. It’s a good thing for the wife to reverence Christ through her husband; and it’s similarly a good thing for the husband not to dishonour the Church through his wife. Let the wife respect her husband, for then she reverences Christ, as well. And the husband should cherish his wife, as Christ does the Church.