Is It Lawful For Man To Divorce For Any Reason?

Written By: on Sep 18th, 2009 and filed under Columns.

Two shall become one: Jesus then said it is God’s purpose that man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one. It is very difficult to grasp this verse without spiritual discernment. Some scholars interpret that ‘becoming one’ is fulfilled only when a child is born to the couple. But it has a spiritual dimension that is when a spouse wholeheartedly accepts the other as an integral part his/her being and meets in unity of purpose they become one flesh even without sexual contact. Carnal man/woman would never comprehend this divine mystery. St Makrina, daughter in a wealthy family and sister of St Basil the Great, lived lifelong celibate at the same time considering herself married. She was betrothed to marry a handsome prosperous young man. The bridegroom died before marriage could be solemnized. Her parents brought many proposals insisting her to marry. They persuaded her to consider that marriage never took place because of bridegroom’s death and that there was no point in wasting the rest of life. She replied, “No, human being has only one birth; one death; and therefore must have only one marriage. He is not dead but not here; he will come to life on the Resurrection day; therefore it is sin to be infidel.” She said the marriage was over when she was betrothed to marry. Saint Makrina, never again thought of pleasure of flesh, became a nun and founded nunnery.

A friend of mine in Air Force went to Kerala and betrothed to a girl who worked in North India. The marriage was to take place after a few months. The would-be bride and bridegroom left for workplaces and the families started preparations. My friend traveled towards Bangalore in a train. When train stopped at a station he got down for platform shopping. After a while the train blew whistle and started moving. Those who were in the platform rushed in; some people made it but my friend could not. He put his feet on the step when the train picked up speed. He slipped and fell in the track and one leg caught under the wheel severing it below knee. He was treated at the Air Force hospital and then sent to artificial limb centre, Poona and got it fixed. He was assigned to light duty for the rest of his service. The news of accident met with great distress to all, especially, bride’s family. Parents and relatives tried their level-best to dissuade her out and cancel the marriage. My friend was also very skeptical for sometime, thinking she might decline to marry him. To everyone’s surprise, the bride made an emphatic resolve and declared that if she ever married that would be the same man to whom she was betrothed to. She said, “I wedded him the day I betrothed to him. I cannot now change. If it is my fate to nurse him for the rest of life, I would do so with pleasure.” Friends and relatives were in fact enthralled at her extraordinary courage and yielded to her. Marriage was conducted with slight changes in date and venue. I learned a great lesson from this; that holy women are not a thing of the past; there are holy women even today in our midst and we must honor them wholeheartedly. “One and one are not two but one,” one thinker said. “Consciously get away from external beauty, it is just. Do not get attracted to the beauty of a wicked woman,” Hudaya Canon 8:1. But this is an alien thought in a Western society where men and women change spouse faster than they change costume; there cannot be a greater travesty in the whole human history.

“Leave thy father and mother:” God added this condition in order to cleave unto wife. It implies a practical application relevant for all times, especially in the ancient times when marriages were conducted at very early age. Cleaving unto the wife is often difficult when husband is under the control of father and mother as was until marriage. A shifting of allegiance is imperative. Parents, especially mothers, develop even without own knowledge and store in their sub-conscious mind that ‘he is my child, I have the right to direct him what to do and not, he must always obey me, he must not love anyone more than me,’ etc. Most parents develop an insecurity feeling and fear ‘if our son will go out of our life, or love his wife more,’ etc. This concealed thought will in turn come out in the form of controls and at times hate the newcomer. He will be drawn in between the devil and the deep sea. God set limits to everyone. So the man ought to be fully independent with the marriage capable enough to take care of his wife and children, to teach them and nurture them in the manner pleasing to God. I suggest man should not get into marriage until he reaches maturity to discern the situation pragmatically. Hudaya Canon 8:3 asks, “Who else do have more relationship and intimacy to a husband than his wife, because they are not two but one?” That means neither father, nor mother, nor sibling, is more intimate than the wife. Church fathers understood this principle and teach us that at the marriage ceremony the bridegroom is elevated to the kingly status and the bride to the queenly status as Adam and Eve, in paradise, before fall. He is going to be the head of the household and hence needs his undivided loyalty to wife. Relationship of a man after his marriage with his parents or sibling is not the one of submission at the cost of wife but the one of affection and duty. He should not be under the influence of parents or siblings so far as his duties and obligations to his wife. And also should not be overtly influenced by wife so far as his obligations to his parents and siblings. Patents, wife and siblings should not exert undue pressure nor should he yield which prevents him from what is obligatory to each relationship. Wife submits to husband, husband loves wife as himself, nothing less, and son honors/cares parents. This is what apostle St Paul says in chapter 5 and 6 of Ephesians. Family life will be smoother if one obeys this advice.

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