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At the weekend, two articles promoting marriage appeared in the papers.

N.B.: Adult content follows.

Separately, two Britons — feminist Louise Perry and conservative columnist Peter Hitchens — say it is time to dump the sexual revolution from the 1960s and return to traditional marriage.

Louise Perry’s book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, is published this Friday, June 3, 2022.

The Sunday Times reported that it is a call to return to the centuries-old tradition of getting married (emphases mine):

She has a piece of simple advice for the young women reading her book: “Get married. And do your best to stay married.”

Perry, who read women’s studies at the left-wing School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was brought up to embrace sexual freedom and personal choice.

Then she began volunteering for the National Rape Crisis Helpline and was appalled by what she discovered, Times journalist Laura Hackett says:

“That was a turning point,” she tells me. All the feminist theory she was studying had “no relevancethere was nothing in there about sexual violence, it didn’t map on to reality.”

It turns out that society’s obsession with pornography has a lot to do with damaging and fractured relationships between men and women:

We are being exposed to more and more explicit content in our everyday lives — everything from lingerie and perfume adverts to Fifty Shades of Grey — and this deadens our responses to actual sex, she argues, destroying our romantic relationships.

Should we ban it, then? She pauses. “I’m not sure if I want to bring back the old classification board . . . but either you have centralised censorship or you have a free market, and the free market is producing this horror show.”

Perry is dismayed that the #MeToo movement has not put people off watching sex scenes. “I really feel for actors. Who would have thought 20 years ago that signing up to be an actor would mean basically signing up to be a porn star?” The difference, of course, is that the sex isn’t real, but Perry doesn’t back down. “From what I’ve heard it’s not far off. And it clearly is sometimes a source of distress for actors and an opportunity for sex pests.”

Rightly, Perry thinks that rough sex, which is prevalent in today’s pornography, is a form of domestic abuse:

The erotic bestsellers women are reading today — Fifty Shades of Grey for mums, and Sarah J Maas’s sexy fantasy fiction for their daughters — are heavily focused on BDSM, which Perry believes is little more than abuse. She helped to found the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, which aims to eradicate the use of “rough sex” defences to the killing or harming of women.

She also points out that one-night stands give little pleasure to the women pursuing them:

Perry is eloquent, empathetic — and very persuasive. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with her on most things: porn is clearly a dangerous, exploitative industry; prostitution isn’t just a normal job (or else why would we be so outraged by landlords asking for sex as payment?); and hook-up culture has practically no benefits for women (only 10 per cent of women orgasm during a one-night stand; no prizes for guessing that figure is much higher among men).

What is the solution, other than marriage?

“This idea that marriage is inherently oppressive to women I don’t think is true,” Perry says.

In her book she races through statistics highlighting the benefits of marriage: almost half of divorced people in the UK regret it, fatherless boys are more likely to go to prison, and fatherless girls are more likely to become pregnant in their teens. She even lauds the hidden benefits of shotgun marriages and the stigma around single motherhood. “In an era without contraception,” Perry writes, “a prohibition on sex before marriage served female, not male, interests.” I’m not sure how Ireland’s mother and baby homes, for example, which locked up unmarried mothers and removed their children, served female interests. Perry nods. “What haunts me is: do we have to choose between Magdalene laundries and PornHub?”

Perry also laments the ease of getting a divorce, made even simpler now because of a new law that Parliament passed earlier this year:

Perry argues that while it is important to have divorce as an option for people in terrible, abusive marriages, the easy availability of divorce under any circumstances has killed off the institution of marriage — and that’s bad news for women.

Interestingly, given her upbringing and university studies, Perry married a police officer.

She is adamant about tough sentencing for convicted rape:

prison — for life, if needs be.

She says that the male urge to dominate women is atavistic:

She links the crime back to biology, rejecting the prevailing view that our sexist culture encourages men to rape. Evolutionary theory, she explains, shows that rape confers a selection advantage on men, giving them more opportunities to pass on their genes. In other words sexual violence is rational. It’s no coincidence, she says, that women are most likely to be raped between the ages of 12 and 30 — their fertile years.

She believes that the education policy instructing students about mutual consent is wrong because it does not work:

When it comes to prevention, Perry thinks consent workshops, which teach young people how to check that their partner really wants to have sex, are useless. “If we think that the problem is young men being really horny and larger and more aggressive than young women, then things like gender-neutral bathrooms in school are the stupidest things ever.”

Her book also has a chapter on rules for young women, which sound very last century:

“In the earlier stages of writing I had that feeling of walking on eggshells and being worried I’d piss off everyone … But in the end I just wrote what I thought was true.”

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is explicitly directed towards young women who have grown up in a world of PornHub, OnlyFans and Tinder; 21st-century sexual freedom has not been liberating for them at all, but instead benefited men, Perry believes. She provides a list of 11 rules for young women in the epilogue, including: “Get drunk or high in private and with female friends rather than in public or in mixed company”; “Avoid being alone with men [you] don’t know”; “Hold off on having sex with a new boyfriend for at least a few months”; “Don’t use dating apps”; and “Only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children”.

It surprised me to read over the past two years — and this was true before lockdown — that young people are having fewer sexual encounters at a time when their hormones and fertility are in their prime. Is it because of pornography? I don’t know.

However, the Times journalist says that Perry could be tapping into something with her book:

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is unapologetically focused on improving women’s health and happiness. Will it work? The tide does seem to be turning in our attitudes. Young people are having less sex; they’re worried about age gaps and power imbalances in their relationships; and a recent BBC documentary on Mary Whitehouse [censorious campaigner of the late 20th century] even asked if she was ahead of her time. Perry may have predicted a new age of sexual puritanism, and perhaps it will make us happier.

Incidentally, Perry had her first child, a boy, while writing her book. She says that men are also harmed by our anything-goes lifestyle:

Has that altered her perspective? “Yes, to the extent that I had a baby boy. It made me think a bit more about the way that men are harmed by this culture.”

Speaking of children, Mail columnist Peter Hitchens says that broken homes harm their prospects as adults.

We always say that, in case of a relationship breakup, children are resilient, but is that actually true in the long term?

Hitchens says that it isn’t.

He points to the recent release of a report on children’s social care:

Last week great publicity was rightly given to a report on children’s social care. It predicted that the number of children in care, now 80,000, would rise to 100,000 by 2032, costing taxpayers a colossal £15 billion a year.

Of course many terrible things happen to children in so-called ‘care’ apart from actual violence and death. The general outcomes for children deprived of what we would once have called stable family life, and deprived of fathers, are just not very good

No doubt plenty of social workers, foster parents and others do all they can, and I am not trying to criticise these individuals but they just cannot do what a loving, stable home can do.

He, too, points indirectly to the sexual revolution which has seen a continuing decline in marriage and an increase in divorce:

The tragedy of care is a direct consequence of 50 years in which the law, and our culture, have encouraged the idea that lifelong marriage is dispensable – a cruel prison from which adults should be free to escape. The latest loosening of the marriage laws, effectively allowing divorce on demand, follows the same failed view.

I agree. I was appalled to see a Conservative government push that law through the statute books.

Hitchens also says that today’s marriage vows outside of church do not pledge fidelity over the years:

Should we not connect the number of children in care to the fact that, in England and Wales, the numbers getting married fell in 2019 to the lowest rate since records began? Less than 20 per cent of these weddings were in a religious building, where the idea that marriage is for life is still pretty much insisted upon.

Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.

He says there is a class divide when it comes to divorce and children:

the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.

Among the well-off, the damage is generally not so bad, though there is damage. But among the poor, and in the parts of the country where the schools are bad and the streets are grim, it is another story. And that story often ends in care, with all its miseries, loneliness, insecurity and disappointment.

It is not the same sort of hell as the workhouses and the orphanages of the past were, but it can be hell even so. We need a modern Charles Dickens to depict it. If more people realised how bad it was, we might start to wonder if the gradual dismantling of stable marriage was such a good idea after all.

I am delighted to read about two Britons championing traditional marriage. I hope the case they make for lifelong marital vows is heard far and wide. Marriage was instituted for our benefit. We can see that doing away with it has done us precious little good as a society.

Mothering Sunday is March 27, 2022, which is also Laetare Sunday, the joyful day in Lent:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

Some churches in the UK will be departing from the usual Lectionary lesson and read the latter part of 1 Samuel 1 instead.

Here is the whole chapter, the highly moving story of Hannah and her long-awaited son, Samuel (emphases mine below):

The Birth of Samuel

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

Hannah Dedicates Samuel

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Hannah vowed that Samuel would take a life-long Nazirite vow (verse 11):

… no razor will ever be used on his head …

The only other men in the Bible to do so were Samson and John the Baptist. Most Nazirite vows were short-term in nature.

John MacArthur explains the vow:

That last little part was a Nazarite vow, described in Numbers 6:3 to 6.  If a Jew wanted to take a vow of total consecration to God, he would not cut his hair, no concern for physical appearance, not drink the wine and the strong drink, abstaining from the banquetings and the celebrations and all of that, living an austere, consecrated, God-centered life. 

Commentary on Hannah’s story comes from John MacArthur’s 1987 sermon, ‘Hannah: A Godly Mother’.

Hannah truly had faith. Even though she was sterile, she believed the Lord would reverse her condition, which He did.

The name Hannah means ‘grace’. It befits this woman:

We meet her in 1 Samuel 1.  Hannah, her name speaks of her beauty; it means grace, and indeed she is the emblem of the grace of womanhood She became a mother by faith She first appears, as 1 Samuel opens, as a childless woman.  Then she becomes a mother, the mother of one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, Samuel.  And as you see the account of the birth of Samuel, you note the profile of a godly mother.

Incidentally, the name Anna is a form of Hannah.

This was not a propitious era for Israel, which was experiencing a time of turmoil:

As the book opens, it is the period of the Judges There is no king in Israel as yet It is a time of turmoil; it is a time of confusion It is a time when Israel is vulnerable to the Philistines It is a time when they are debauched morally It is a time when their religion has grown cold And it is a time for a great man to rise and take the leadership of the nation, a period of religious degeneracy, of political distress.  With the death of Samson the country was divided and leaderless The Philistines were hanging on the edge.  The priesthood was corrupt Moral scandals were rampant among the family of the priests The nation was weak.  The nation was impotent.  And the worst of all, chapter 3, verse 1 says, “word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were infrequent.”  God even had nothing to say.  The nation needed a great leader, a great man, and God needed a great woman to shape that great man.  And Samuel, one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, was not only the product of the work of God, but the product of a godly mother And she gave to her nation and the world the greatest legacy a woman can ever give, a godly child.

MacArthur gives us his perspective on what denotes a godly mother:

As we are introduced to this story, I want us to note three things that profile a godly mother She had a right husband relationship, she had a right heavenly relationship, and she had a right home relationship Those three things stand out and profile her for us.

First of all, let’s consider her right husband relationship And may I say that this is, at the very outset, essential for you to understand.  The most important relationship in a family in raising godly children is not the relationship between the parents and the children, it’s the relationship between the mother and the father What you communicate to your children by your relationship dominates their thinking They are learning about human relationships from the two of you They are learning about virtue, they are learning about sin.  They are learning about love.  They are learning about forgiveness.  They’re learning about sympathy.  They’re learning about understanding.  They’re learning about compassion.  They’re learning about virtue.  They’re learning about honesty and integrity.  They’re watching, and far more important than your relationship to your child in the long run is the relationship you have to your spouse, that’s projected to your child.  And so at the very outset, the Word of God is clear to tell us the relationship between Hannah and Elkanah.

Now, first of all, let me say that it wasn’t a perfect relationship; so ladies, you want to start out by realizing you’re not married to a perfect man.  That’s a given.  I want you to understand what the Scripture says.  Hannah was married to a polygamist Now, I don’t know how that would sit with you as a woman, but I can guess.  And I can also tell you that it didn’t sit any better with Hannah than it does with you, to have a rival in the house, to have another wife in the house And worst of all, she is producing boys and girls and Hannah has none, and so she is the unfruitful, unproductive wife who cannot give to her husband that which her heart most longs to give.

He wasn’t a perfect man.  The very fact that he was a polygamist indicates his imperfection.  But understand this, this is a primitive time, and polygamy was a part of human culture; never God’s design, never.  God always designed one man, one woman, leaving their parents, joining together for life, and becoming one flesh, from Genesis on.  But human society was rife with polygamy, and when the truth of God came into human society, it was so pervasive, polygamy, that it took time to root it out

And so Elkanah created for Hannah a very difficult situation.  We don’t know the details, but it may well have been that he went on to marry Peninnah because of Hannah’s barrenness, and in order to produce a generation who could then possess his inheritance.  And so that would even make the pain deeper, because Peninnah came to do in that union what Hannah could not do.  Not a perfect relationship, but nonetheless a good one, a right one.  Let me show you why.

First of all, they shared worship Now, “this man,” Elkanah, verse 3 says, “would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.”  It doesn’t mean he went once a year, it meant that every year he went.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 16, verse 16, it explains the prescription; three times a year – yes, it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths The man had to go to the place of worship.  In this particular time, in 1 Samuel, the place of worship was at Shiloh, because that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was located before it was transferred to Jerusalem

Starting out, then, they had a shared worship; so vital.  How you worship communicates volumes of information to your children Are you faithful?  Are you faithful to come and meet with God’s redeemed people, week in and week out?  Are you faithful to make the Word of God the priority in your life?  Are you faithful that prayer should have a high place in your experience spiritually?  Are you faithful to live what you affirm that you believe?  In other words, the attitude of your spiritual devotion is communicating a Christianity to your children that they will have a hard time overcoming, if it in fact is less than it ought to be.

Secondly, they not only had a right relationship in their marriage because of worshiping together, but secondly, they shared love Notice verse 4, “And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed” – one of those times when he took the trip to Shiloh – “he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and all her sons and her daughters, but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah.”  Stop at that point.  He didn’t love Peninnah That’s the implication.  Peninnah was there to produce the children that Hannah couldn’t have Peninnah was there to create a future for his family, his inheritance.  But Hannah was the one he loved, and he made no attempt to hide that And when they went to offer their sacrifices, I don’t know if you know how that worked, but they would go to offer peace offerings, and they would offer the offering on the altar there.  The priest would take a small part, then most of it would come back to the family, and they’d have a feast And when passing out the feast, he would give a double portion to Hannah, because she was the one he loved.  This was a gesture in the East to an honored guest She was the one who had his heart.  And it was not just the love of emotion, it was the love of kindness, and the love of thoughtfulness, and the love of sacrifice, the love of honor.  He loved herAnd this love was her security

Men, if you don’t know it yet, you ought to know it; a woman’s security is in your love for her, not in your bank account, not in a fancy house, not in new furniture, not in a retirement plan.  A woman finds her security in your love, and it needs to be demonstrated so frequently that there’s never a question about it People wonder often why women tend to be suspicious of their husbands, and wondering if they might have some other attraction or be fooling around with some other person, and the reason is because it’s so deeply rooted in a woman that her security is in the love of her man.  And that’s the way it was with Elkanah and Hannah And she was secure in his love, because he took the time to demonstrate his love to her in very public ways, such as he had done at this feast in front of everyoneThey shared love, and thus she was secure in that love; and she needed that, believe me, when he had another wife …

They shared love … There is the absence of anxiety and frustration, so that the woman can give herself to the children, and not always feel that she’s got to be a beauty queen to win the affection of her husband.  Once the husband with his love wraps that woman up and secures her, then she can give herself away to her children, and not have to feel that she must always fight the uphill battle to attract her husband.

Thirdly, they shared another thing.  They shared feelings Shared worship, their relationship to God was a common one.  They shared love, and they shared feelings.  Look at verse 6.  “Her rival, however,” – that’s Peninnah – “would provoke her bitterly to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb.”  It said that also at the end of verse 5, twice it says the Lord had closed her womb What it’s trying to say is this isn’t Hannah’s problem; the Lord did this The Lord closed her womb.  And this Peninnah would harass her, you know, that kind of thing, “Too bad you can’t have any children, Hannah,” just sticking the knife in And it happened year after year; “as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her so she wept and wouldn’t eat.” 

Here she goes to the big feast Elkanah is sympathetically, lovingly giving her a double portion She won’t eat anything, ’cause on the other side of the table, Peninnah’s really rubbing it in that she has no children The response – I would not want to be in Elkanah’s position, trying to pull these two women together.  But Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  They shared feelings.  Boy, he read her feelings and he didn’t pontificate, he asked a question.  Why are you doing this, Hannah?  Haven’t I been better than ten sons to you?He knew the conflict, and he knew the conflict was intensified from Peninnah’s side, and he knew that it was deep and painful and it was a hard, hard place for her to be And so he was tender, and sympathetic, and thoughtful, and he felt her feelings in his own heart.

She has a right husband relationshipThey share worship, the deepest dimension of human life They share love, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They share feelings, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They have a deep relationship.  They move together in the presence of God, with one another, and over the issues of life that involve other people.

As devestated as she was about her sterility — which God had given her — she believed that He could reverse her condition. She never lost her faith. Not only did she pray and pray for a child, she also made a vow to the Lord. Many women would have been bitter and turned away from God, but not Hannah:

The high priest is in the temple.  She goes there.  She came into the temple greatly distressed.  Her soul was bitter, it literally says And she prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly She is just crushed – crushed.  And she made a promise, a vow.  “O Lord,” and she goes on to make her vow.  But notice this about this godly woman: she was a woman of prayer.  It’s a beautiful characteristic.  She understood that God was the source of children.  She understood that God alone could alter her sterility.  Her distinctive virtue was her faith, constant faith.  Verse 12, “It came about as she continued praying before the Lord” – constant.  She remained there.  She stayed there.  Her heart was broken She was pouring out her prayersThis is the spirit of true prayer

So she promised God, “I’ll give You this child, I just want to be fulfilled as a mother, I just want to raise a godly son to give back to Your glory.  And if You give him to me I’ll give him back.”  This is her promise, to present her child to God.  That’s the essence of a godly mother.  While praying for a child, she prays for that child not for a wrong reason but a right reason, to turn that child back to God, from where the child came.  That’s the essence of a godly mother – to give the child to God, to give the child to God.  My mother only had one son, and I am that son Before I was born she dedicated me to the Lord from birth, and told my father that she wanted a son who would preach the gospel That’s a wonderful legacy And that may not be what every son is to do, it is not what every son is to do, but every godly mother will give that child to the Lord for whatever he has; the same with a daughterSo Hannah made her promise.

We also find out more about Eli and his sons. Wasn’t it awful for Eli to accuse Hannah in her brokenness of being drunk?

The next thing we see about Hannah was her purity.  Eli was the high priest, but I’ve got to tell you, he was really a lousy high priest And nothing could be said about his discernment, either.  “It came about when she was praying continually before the Lord, Eli was watching her mouth.”  Sitting off on a – he was a big, fat manIn fact, when his sons died, he was so shook he fell over, and landed on his neck and broke it and killed himself So Eli was sitting there watching her, and she was in there pouring out her heart and weeping and crying.  And she was speaking in her heart.  She wasn’t speaking out loud, it says in verse 13, only her lips were moving.  Have you ever had that experience where you’re really talking in your heart but your lips are moving, though not a sound was heard?  So Eli thought she was drunk Isn’t he discerning?  Now, I don’t know anything about my discernment as relative to other people, or to Eli’s, but I’ll tell you, I think I know the difference between a drunk and a woman broken in prayer

So Eli decided to play the spiritual role “How long will you make yourself drunk?  Put away your wine from you,” he says to her.  And Hannah is so gracious, and answered and said, “No, my lord, I’m a woman oppressed in spirit I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.  You misjudge me.  Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman.”  That tells us a little bit about drinking wine or strong drink and its relationship to worthlessness regarding women.  That’s an Old Testament attitude.  “Don’t consider me like that.  I have spoken until now out of my great concern and my provocation.”  Then Eli, hearing such a lucid answer, answered and said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you’ve asked of Him.”  It’s sort of a mild apology But he mistook her for being drunk.  “Don’t think your maidservant a worthless woman” – literally, a son of Belial, profitless.  A common term, by the way, in the Old Testament, associated with idolatry, Deuteronomy 13; rebellion, 1 Samuel 2; lewd, sensuous acts in Judges 19 and 20; a term used to speak of arrogance and stupidity in 1 Samuel 25, and even murder in 1 Kings 21 “Don’t think that I’m in that group.  I’m not that kind of person.”  She was a virtuous woman, like the woman of Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10, she was a woman of virtue.  She was a godly woman, she was a pure woman …

… the rest of chapter 2 into chapter 3 into chapter 4 is the sad, pathetic tragedy of the family of Eli His sons were fornicators They died, and he himself fell over, as I said, and died.  It was a tragic, ugly scene.  And the commentary of Scripture on Eli was that he could not restrain his sons from doing evil; and his wife is never mentioned I don’t know what part, if any, she had, but she was a long way from what Hannah was in producing godly Samuel

MacArthur explains why Hannah was able to enjoy eating after she was so upset in prayer:

I’ll tell you why: because she had patient faith.  She had patient faith She gave it to God, what else could she do?  She wasn’t about to remain frustrated.  This is true faith True faith doesn’t pray, “O God, here’s my problem, here’s my problem,” walk away in utter frustration.  That’s really doubt.  Faith says, “Here it is, God,” and walks away, and is no longer sad.  That’s trust.  “I trust You.”  Very much the mark of a godly mother, one who totally trusts God – she casts her burden on God, and that’s the end of it.  She walks away.  She eats.  She is no longer sad.

Samuel was a little boy — older than a toddler — when Hannah dedicated him to the Lord:

“For she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned.’”  Now wait a minute.  That’s a couple of years, Hannah.  Three years?  I don’t know exactly how long Hannah nursed little Samuel, but several years surely “I won’t go.”  It was only about a two or three week trip, at the longest, to go up there and be there for a week, traveling there, traveling back.  It’s less than 200 miles from one end of Palestine to the other.  She wouldn’t go, she wouldn’t go at all.  Why?  She was dedicated to the child.  When God gave the child, she was dedicated to the child

Samuel means heard by God And boy, once that child came, Hannah said, “This is the child of my passion, this is the child of my vow; I will not forsake my time with this child I won’t leave this child for several weeks.  I won’t take this little child along and make it uncomfortable,” because they would necessarily walk The child needs sleep, and the child needs the gentleness of home, the quietness of a nursing environment … 

And she dedicates the weaned child to God So verse 24, “When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year- old bull, and one ephah of flour, and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young.  They slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli, and she said, ‘O my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.’  And he worshiped the Lord there.”

Samuel’s story begins in 1 Samuel 2:

Look at chapter 2, verse 18:  “Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.”  In other words, he was girded like a priest would be, dressed as a little boy His whole life was ministering before the Lord.  “And his mother would make him a little robe,” verse 19, “and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, ‘May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord.’  And they went to their own home.  The Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord.”

She never really let go of her responsibility; every time she came, she came with a new little robe for her growing Samuel That’s the result of godly mothering And that’s the insight that you never stop being Mother, no matter how old they become God blessed her. To be a godly mother involves a right husband relationship, a right heavenly relationship, and a right home relationship Hannah had all of that.  God honored it, and she gives us a model to follow.

In closing, may I wish all mothers celebrating in a few days’ time a happy — and blessed — Mothering Sunday.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

The traditions behind this day go back millenia. During pagan times, it was called Lupercalia and took place on February 15. It is thought that Pope Gelasius I turned the event into a Christian feast day in the fifth century, assigning it to St Valentine. However, Gelasius is better known for giving the Church the feast of Candlemas, February 2, encouraging a devotion to Mary. Incidentally, the Latin word Febrare, from which we derive February, means ‘to purify’. Read more about the history of February 14 here.

There is also the question of which St Valentine is remembered. All three lived during Roman times and were connected with love and marriage. As such, in 1969, the Catholic Church dropped the feast day, but parts of the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church remember the saint on February 14. Read more about the three Valentines and romantic traditions that developed through the centuries here.

For many, February 14 is either a day of joy or one of dread.

For those who do not have someone special with whom to celebrate, this year, The Times has an article about the application of the Drake Formula, used in seeking alien life (!), to romance.

It says, in part (emphases mine):

The quest to find intelligent life out there can feel hopeless. You can search for years without any progress.

Yes, searching for a viable romantic date has a lot in common with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence …

As with rocky exoplanets, so with girlfriends. Love interests have to live close, be of the right gender, attractive to you and — crucially — attracted to you in turn. Drake calculated that perhaps 1 in 200,000 star systems contained contactable alien civilisations.

The adapted formula is based on an idea by Peter Backus, now at Manchester University. In a paper titled, Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK, Backus tweaked the original variables.

The rate of star formation became the birth rate, while the other variables sought to narrow down that number to women in his city and age range.

Backus concluded his odds of finding love were infinitesimal.

However, Steven Wooding, a member of the Institute of Physics who works for Omni Calculator, said:

… that there is hope. “The problem with the Drake equation and aliens is there is a lot of uncertainty in those numbers. Whereas we definitely know people fall in love.”

Incidentally, Backus himself is happily married. He told The Times:

My love life is actually great. I am married to the loveliest, smartest, most gorgeous person I know.

Good for him!

But what if someone has a sweetheart who doesn’t fit their ‘type’? Is that person Ms or Mr Right?

The Telegraph says that some seemingly improbable couples can — and do — truly love each other:

The flight of Cupid’s arrow is notoriously unpredictable. Sometimes people fall in love with the boy (or girl) next door. Sometimes mutual friends set us up, with varying degrees of subtlety and success. But sometimes people fall for another human being who seems to be not only not their “type”, but from a different planet altogether. The eyes meet, the arrow hits home. It will never last, friends say. But sometimes it does

Clearly, fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle or upbringing don’t need to stand in the way of happiness, even if dating algorithms would never match you. One in every 10 UK couples identifies as intercultural and, according to the 2001-11 Census, one to two per cent of all UK marriages are interfaith.

“We’re drawn towards certain individuals, almost as if we’ve known them our whole lives,” says psychotherapist Malcolm Stern, author of Slay Your Dragons with Compassion. “It’s that easy dialogue that happens between you the second you meet that creates an instant connection. Somehow you just click.”

Of course, where there are profound cultural and religious differences, or a large age gap, opposition from family members, or society in general can give a certain “us against the world” feeling. Research shows that the average age difference for UK couples is between three and five years. But there are long-term marriages where the divide is greater. Somehow these marriages do work …

If you make each other happy, who’s to say what’s right or wrong in love? …

As with all major choices in life, one has to be discerning as a potentially serious relationship develops:

If you have a similar outlook, there’s a good chance your love will endure. But if you have markedly different personalities, a recent study found that while opposites may attract at first, after a while they may well start attacking each other, with differences leading to frustration and animosity.

Psychologist Edward Waring found that self-disclosure is the way to build intimacy between couples who seem incompatible, in order to discover what values, beliefs, and personality traits they share and to reveal what really matters to them. According to the Association for Psychological Science, chemistry emerges from interactions and encompasses the feeling that a relationship is special and different from other ones.

The Telegraph‘s article gives us profiles of four successful couples who come from different backgrounds. I wish them well.

For those who got engaged at the most romantic time of the year, the question of what sort of wedding to have looms large.

This year, a few articles appeared in the British press advising against lavish ‘Bridezilla’ festivities. Personally, I find such displays rather vulgar.

The Telegraph has a cautionary article on the subject: ‘Marriage rests on shaky ground when the wedding itself is the big event’.

Columnist Jane Shilling warns against ostentation:

the influence of celebrity, both in selling product and framing modern mores, has led to a steady normalisation of weddings as extravagant displays of that most perishable of commodities, romance, rather than the solemnisation of a relationship intended to last a lifetime.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, can the type of wedding one has predict success or failure in marriage?

Not really.

Things can go either way.

Celebrity-type weddings can sometimes be ill-fated:

… the Marriage Foundation, a charity dedicated to promoting the advantages of marriage, sounds a cautionary note. A survey commissioned by the Foundation found that weddings costing more than £20,000 were twice as likely to end in divorce than more modest ceremonies.

On the other hand, a modest celebration does not guarantee success in marriage:

Frugality apparently offers no sounder footing for a durable partnership: the survey found that almost a third of weddings attended by fewer than 10 guests ended in divorce.

My advice for those who are single? First, don’t give up on love. Secondly, marry your best friend. Thirdly, be sensible: make sure one of you can cook from scratch. As the old American saying goes: kissin’ don’t last; cookin’ do.

The Second Sunday after Epiphany is January 16, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 2:1-11

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2:2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

2:6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

2:9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom

2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

2:11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

By way of introduction, John MacArthur tells us that John’s Gospel is an apologetic and an evangelic purpose set to prove that Jesus is the Son of God:

John has written his gospel for one purpose, really. These have been written, he says–the words of this gospel–that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. John writes to give evidence for the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and is the Son of God, that you may believe that, and that believing you may have life, eternal life, in His name. So we’ve been saying he has an apologetic purpose to give evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and he has an evangelistic purpose that you might believe that, and then believing have eternal life in His name. John’s gospel is a collection of evidences, of evidences concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, to prove His deity and His humanity. The whole purpose of this gospel is just to line up supporting proofs for the deity of Jesus Christ.

We already know that from our experience in chapter 1. There is the first eighteen verses, which is the testimony of John the apostle himself. In the opening eighteen verses that some call the prologue, John gives his own testimony that the Word, who is Jesus Christ, is God, with God, created everything, is the Light, is the life, all of those things are part of that. “The Word,” verse 14, “became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory. The glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

We heard the first 14 verses read on Christmas Day and the remainder of the Prologue on the Second Sunday after Christmas Day.

John writes about eight miracles that Jesus performed:

He turns water into wine in chapter 2. He heals a dying man in chapter 4. He cures a paralyzed man in chapter 5. He creates food for thousands of people in chapter 6. He walks on water at the end of chapter 6. He gives sight to the blind in chapter 9. He raises a man dead for days in chapter 11. He creates a meal in chapter 21, breakfast for His disciples. And then the culminating miracle beyond the eight, He is raised from the dead. So those are the miracle signs that John records.

However, there were many more that John did not include:

I would just remind you that in chapter 20, verse 30, it says this: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book.” So I don’t want you to think that these are the only miracles Jesus did, far from it. There are many others. They were a daily experience of those who followed Jesus.

And then in chapter 21, verse 25, the last verse in the gospel of John, John writes “there were also many other things which Jesus did which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” Jesus did so many signs and so many miracles that the books of the world wouldn’t be able to contain the details of all of them. Many other things; John is merely giving us samples of these miraculous evidences that Jesus is in fact God because He does what only God can do. In chapter 1, verse 14, the Word, the divine Word, the eternal Word became flesh and manifested His divine glory. That’s John’s point. He shows His glory as God through these signs.

This is how John wrote of our Lord’s ministry, both public and private:

Now as we come to chapter 2, it is also in chapter 2 that we have the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. His ministry to the crowds, His ministry to the people of Israel, and His public ministry goes from chapter 2, verse 1 to the end of chapter 12. When you come to the end of chapter 12, that’s the end of His public ministry. Chapter 13 through 17 is His private ministry in the Upper Room to the apostles. And that is right before His death and resurrection, which then become the subject of chapters 18 to 21. So the book is divided then into those sections: chapter 1, verbal testimony; chapter 2 to 12, public ministry; 13 to 17, private ministry; 18 to the end, His death, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. That helps locate you in the big scheme of things in the gospel of John.

John tells us that, on the third day, a wedding took place in Cana and that the mother of Jesus — Mary — was invited (verse 1).

The ‘third day’ refers to the previous chapter, in which He began calling His apostles:

The third day after the previous meeting with Philip and Nathanael, which was concluded when Philip brought Nathanael, and Nathanael said in verse 49 concerning Jesus, “After we’ve examined You, we see You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel.” That’s what John the apostle said in the opening, that’s what John the Baptist says, that’s what these men all say, and now it is going to be proven to us in the miracle that happens in the wedding at Cana. It’s the third day after that meeting. What that tells us is that from the time that John the Baptist said “Behold the Lamb of God” and turned his disciples away from him to follow Jesus–those five men to follow Jesus–from that day to this day everything happens in a week. They have gone from being across the Jordan and Judah, all the way back to Galilee to the village of Cana, which is about nine miles, the ruins of it are about nine miles north of Nazareth. All of this happens in a very power-packed week. Jesus being declared, these men being called to follow Him, and they do so and end up in the town of Cana.

Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding (verse 2).

MacArthur tells us more about Cana and Nazareth, both in Galilee:

we’re talking about Andrew and Peter and Philip and Nathanael and John and just incidentally Nathanael’s hometown, according to John 21:2, was Cana. This is a very small place. Nazareth, for example, the highest number we read about in terms of the population of Nazareth at the time of Jesus would be 500. That would be the max. Small place.

Cana is a village nine miles away, even smaller; maybe a few dozen people, a sort of a gathering place for the agricultural folks in that region; very, very small place. That would make this wedding a huge event. And obviously people from Nazareth would know those people because they lived nearby, they farmed together, the people in the outlying areas would come to Nazareth when they needed things that could only be gained in Nazareth.

It would also be true that if a town of Nazareth has five hundred or less people, they know each other. They’ve been there for generations; they aren’t mobile. They’re not only friends, many are family, and that would be extended into Cana. So we’re not surprised that Nathanael would be there because that’s his village. We’re not surprised that Mary would be there, she had lived in Nazareth for a long time. And we’re not also surprised that the rest of these folks from Galilee, the other men who came with Jesus, would also be there. Surely they would know people in that wedding as well.

Matthew Henry’s commentary mentions the biblical significance of Cana as the place for our Lord’s first miracle:

The place: it was at Cana in Galilee, in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:28), of which, before, it was said that he shall yield royal dainties, Genesis 49:20 Christ began to work miracles in an obscure corner of the country, remote from Jerusalem, which was the public scene of action, to show that he sought not honour from men (John 5:41; John 5:41), but would put honour upon the lowly. His doctrine and miracles would not be so much opposed by the plain and honest Galileans as they would be by the proud and prejudiced rabbies, politicians, and grandees, at Jerusalem.

Both commentators point out the significance of this first miracle occurring at a wedding.

Henry says:

The occasion itself was a marriage; probably one or both of the parties were akin to our Lord Jesus. The mother of Jesus is said to be there, and not to be called, as Jesus and his disciples were, which intimates that she was there as one at home. Observe the honour which Christ hereby put upon the ordinance of marriage, that he graced the solemnity of it, not only with his presence, but with his first miracle; because it was instituted and blessed in innocency, because by it he would still seek a godly seed, because it resembles the mystical union between him and his church

MacArthur says that by virtue of the fact that marriage is open to all cultures signifies its importance to humanity through common grace, ordained by God for an orderly society:

The fact that our Lord did His first miracle at a wedding emphasizes the sanctity of that covenant. Weddings matter. Public covenant matters. The ceremony matters; it always has, it always has. People are not married who just live together. People are married who make public covenant before God and before people.

Marriage is a condition of life designed by God, ordained by God, and authenticated in an open, public covenant. It is the highest and noblest and best of all human relationships. No other human relationship is as wonderful as marriage. It is called in the Bible “the grace of life.” It is the most wonderful and most blessed of all common graces. And we talk about common grace. What we mean by that is a grace gift from God to all people without regard to whether they believe in Him. That’s a common grace. And of all the common graces–the beauty of the world, a sunset, sleep, health, a good meal, falling in love–of all the common graces, the epitome of common graces is marriage. It is the best gift that God can give to humanity in general without regard to whether they know Him at all. Any society that honors marriage, any society that elevates marriage–a life-long commitment openly; a covenant made and kept between a man and a woman who rear children in the bond of that love–any society that honors marriage will be blessed temporally. It will prosper. It will be safe. It will be secure. It will know peace. It will have a minimum of crime.

On the other hand, any society that fails to honor marriage as a covenant, open covenant between a man and a woman for life, in which children are reared and cared for; any society that diminishes marriage, that fails to honor marriage, is corrupt, is doomed to chaos, turmoil, evil and judgment. Where marriage for life is not honored, where the covenant vows between a man and a woman are not kept, immorality abounds. Immorality overruns the culture, delinquency overruns the culture. The fabric of society is shredded and even escalates. Our Lord honored marriage by attending and doing His first miracle at a wedding.

When the wine ran out, Mary told Jesus that there was no more (verse 3).

How did she know? She was no doubt sensitive to and interested in everything that was going on.

Henry says that Mary and Jesus were the principal guests:

Christ and his mother and disciples were principal guests at this entertainment. The mother of Jesus (that was her most honourable title) was there; no mention being made of Joseph, we conclude him dead before this.

On the other hand, MacArthur thinks that Mary helped serve rather than be served:

Maybe Mary was there because she, of course, would have been who served, just her character as a godly woman demonstrated in her Magnificat at the time of our Lord’s birth. She would have been a wonderful woman, a loved woman, a beloved woman. She probably had some role to play in the wedding to serve as indicated by the fact that she sees the problem and brings it to Jesus.

MacArthur says that running out of wine was a big deal that would have reflected badly on the groom, who would have been preparing for the feast and married life since betrothal, likely to have been a year before. To run out of wine during a days-long wedding feast was a sign of trouble. Note that the couple did not consummate their marriage until the feast had ended:

this is a major event going on, it lasted for days. Some writers say they usually would start in the middle of the week and go on for many days. Sometimes they would start early in the week and go all week long, as long as seven days. When people came to this celebration, they came because there had been a betrothal, an engagement period. About a year earlier, the couple had been engaged. That’s a legal, binding, covenantal contract that could only be broken by divorce. But the marriage wasn’t consummated; it wasn’t consummated till the end of this party.

What was going on all that year? The husband was preparing a place for his bride. That’s what he did. He built a house for his bride. He may be extended on the father’s house, the family house. The bridegroom had full responsibility for all the cost of the wedding. And his job was to get everything ready, and then when everything was ready and the house was built and the house was furnished and all preparations were made and he had demonstrated that he had what it took to care for this girl and to provide for this girl, the party began. It was a great celebration because he had been working hard for a year

Well, a wedding, as I said, is the greatest occasion. No occasion like it. And the celebration is in full swing. Everybody’s having a wonderful time. That’s the party. And then comes the predicament, verse 3, when the wine ran out, that’s a problem. When the wine ran out, this is a major catastrophe. This is a colossal social embarrassment because if there was anything that the bridegroom had spent a year trying to prove is that he could take care of his bride. He had to build her a house; he had to acquire everything that was necessary. He had to demonstrate his ability to take care of her for the rest of her life. Her father was handing her over to him. This is a problem. Maybe he can’t plan. This is what all of you fathers who marry off your daughters fear. Is this guy going to be able to make a living? Is this guy going to be able to take care of you? Is this guy smoke ’n mirrors here? Is there substance there? This is the same issue. They ran out of wine at the greatest celebration that they would have had. Remember, life was tough, life was hard, labor was extreme. It was a difficult world to just survive and a celebration like this meant so much as a relief and then to run out of wine.

Jesus addresses Mary as ‘woman’ and asks what the lack of wine has to do with them; He then tells her that His hour has not yet come (verse 4).

In other words, with regard to miracles, He takes orders from His Heavenly Father, not a human being.

Henry says:

Now this was intended to be, First, A check to his mother for interposing in a matter which was the act of his Godhead, which had no dependence on her, and which she was not the mother of. Though, as man, he was David’s Son and hers; yet, as God, he was David’s Lord and hers, and he would have her know it. The greatest advancements must not make us forget ourselves and our place, nor the familiarity to which the covenant of grace admits us breed contempt, irreverence, or any kind or degree of presumption. Secondly, It was an instruction to others of his relations (many of whom were present here) that they must never expect him to have any regard to his kindred according to the flesh, in his working miracles, or that therein he should gratify them, who in this matter were no more to him than other people.

As for Jesus saying His hour had not yet come, He meant that God would direct His actions at the proper time.

Henry interprets this in a practical way, saying that Jesus wanted to make sure all the wine had been consumed first:

His mother moved him to help them when the wine began to fail (so it may be read, John 2:3; John 2:3), but his hour was not yet come till it was quite spent, and there was a total want; not only to prevent any suspicion of mixing some of the wine that was left with the water, but to teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity to appear for the help and relief of his people. Then his hour is come when we are reduced to the utmost strait, and know not what to do. This encouraged those that waited for him to believe that though his hour was not yet come it would come. Note, The delays of mercy are not to be construed the denials of prayer.

MacArthur sees it as a mild rebuke:

It’s not harsh to say “Woman.” Some say it’s kind of the southern expression, “ma’am.” It’s not harsh, but it’s not intimate. It’s not mother. It’s courteous. By the way, it’s the same word that He used on the cross in John 19 when He said to her, “Woman, behold your son,” and handed her over to John. He called her “woman” there as well. Why? Because He is telling her we don’t any longer have the relationship we’ve had up till now. It’s over. She is no longer in a position to act as an authority in His life. She is no longer in a position to tell Him what to do, to make suggestions to Him. This would be a big change because I’m pretty confident that everything she ever asked of Him, everything she ever desired of Him, He gave out of His love. But she could no longer demand anything from Him. She played no role in His ministry.

Recall that the Gospel reading a few weeks ago for the First Sunday after Christmas Day was when Jesus stayed behind after Passover at the age of 12 to listen to the teachers at the temple.

MacArthur says:

When He was twelve years old, He gave her a preview of this moment, and He was in the temple talking to the officials, and He said, “I must be about My Father’s business.” And this day His Father’s business started and His mother’s business ended. From here on He was saying, “I don’t do your business; I do My Father’s business. I’m done with My mother’s business, fully engaged in My Father’s business.”

Can I even extend that? He never asked for suggestions from anybody…from anybody. In fact, when people gave Him suggestions, He normally rebuked them such as “Get behind Me, Satan.” Here His rebuke is a little milder. He says, “What does that have to do with us?” “What does that have to do with us?” This is so critically important. The years of compliance, the years of submission, the years of obedience are over. He is finished with His mother’s business and He is now doing His Father’s business. He says from here on, as we’ll see in John, “I only do what the Father tells Me to do. I only do what the Father wills that I do. I only do what I see the Father do. It is the Father who gives Me His Word, and it is what the Father speaks that I do.”

Mary lets the matter drop and tells the servants to obey Jesus in any instruction (verse 5).

Henry observes that Mary wanted the servants to adopt the same obedience that she would now adopt:

She directed them punctually to observe his orders, without disputing, or asking questions. Being conscious to herself of a fault in prescribing to him, she cautions the servants to take heed of the same fault, and to attend both his time and his way for supply: Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it, though you may think it ever so improper. If he saith, Give the guests water, when they call for wine, do it. If he saith, Pour out from the bottoms of the vessels that are spent, do it. He can make a few drops of wine multiply to so many draughts.” Note, Those that expect Christ’s favours must with an implicit obedience observe his orders. The way of duty is the way to mercy; and Christ’s methods must not be objected against.

John tells us that there were six stone water jars for purification purposes; each could hold 20 or 30 gallons of water (verse 6).

Henry explains that the purification rituals under Mosaic law were seen as a means to win favour with God:

Observe, 1. For what use these water-pots were intended: for the legal purifications from ceremonial pollutions enjoined by the law of God, and many more by the tradition of the elders. The Jews eat not, except they wash often (Mark 7:3), and they used much water in their washing, for which reason here were six large water-pots provided. It was a saying among them, Qui multâ utitur aquâ in lavando, multas consequetur in hoc mundo divitias–He who uses much water in washing will gain much wealth in this world.

At that time — and until relatively recently, in historical terms — water was unsafe to drink unless it had been purified. Wine (or beer) could purify it, which was why alcohol was added to water. One could drink it without becoming inebriated because of the small quantity of alcohol used.

Jesus told the servants to fill the vessels to the brim with water (verse 7).

MacArthur explains why He wanted them completely filled:

If they weren’t filled to the brim, somebody would just say He added wine to the water. But if the water goes all the way to the brim, there’s nothing left to…no room left. That was the point. And by the way, you have people who are completely disinterested parties now who are going to give testimony to this miracle. They don’t have any stake in this issue. They’re not trying to prove anything about Jesus. These are servants, whoever they were, the people who were serving there. They might not have been full-time servants. They might just have been friends and folks who were willing to do this. But they don’t have any issue. They are disinterested parties who are going to witness and give testimony to this miracle. So they filled the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

Jesus then instructed the servants to give some of the wine to the chief steward, which they did (verse 8).

MacArthur points out that the miracle occurred between verses 7 and 8:

it actually happened in the white space between verses 7 and 8. They filled it to the brim and all of a sudden they drew some out, took it to the head waiter, they took it to him and the head waiter tasted water which had become wine. This is so understated. This is like in the backdoor. Where’s the miracle? I mean, this is massive.

The chief steward tasted the wine; he was unaware of its origin, although the servants knew, and he called over the bridegroom (verse 9).

The chief steward told the bridegroom that the best wine was about to be served, rather than before (verse 10). The implication is that the host begins with the best wine first when people can experience it most: with clean tastebuds and the accompaniment of good food.

A good host serves the best of everything first and the lesser quality items later.

John concludes by saying that this was the first of our Lord’s signs, performed in Cana in Galilee, thereby revealing His glory; His disciples believed in him (verse 11).

Henry reminds us that they believed, although their faith at that stage would have been imperfect, as borne out by the Gospels:

Those whom he had called (John 1:35-43.1.51; John 1:35-43.1.51), who had seen no miracle, and yet followed him, now saw this, shared in it, and had their faith strengthened by it. Note, (1.) Even the faith that is true is at first but weak. The strongest men were once babes, so were the strongest Christians. (2.) The manifesting of the glory of Christ is the great confirmation of the faith of Christians.

This wine would have been the most perfect ever created, better than the best Petrus. Those wedding guests experienced a gustatorial blessing that no one since ever has.

In closing, this is what Matthew Henry’s commentary says about drink, putting paid to any abstemious notions — everything in moderation:

Temperance per force is a thankless virtue; but if divine providence gives us abundance of the delights of sense, and divine grace enables us to use them moderately, this is self-denial that is praiseworthy. He also intended that some should be left for the confirmation of the truth of the miracle to the faith of others. And we have reason to think that the guests at this table were so well taught, or at least were now so well awed by the presence of Christ, that none of them abused this wine to excess. These two considerations, drawn from this story, may be sufficient at any time to fortify us against temptations to intemperance: First, That our meat and drink are the gifts of God’s bounty to us, and we owe our liberty to use them, and our comfort in the use of them, to the mediation of Christ; it is therefore ungrateful and impious to abuse them.

This goodness of God’s creation presages the pleasure and perfection of the life to come:

Secondly, That, wherever we are, Christ has his eye upon us; we should eat bread before God (Exodus 18:12), and then we should not feed ourselves without fear. [2.] He has given us a specimen of the method he takes in dealing with those that deal with him, which is, to reserve the best for the last, and therefore they must deal upon trust. The recompence of their services and sufferings is reserved for the other world; it is a glory to be revealed. The pleasures of sin give their colour in the cup, but at the last bite; but the pleasures of religion will be pleasures for evermore.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity — Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost — is October 3, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:2-16

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

10:3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”

10:5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.

10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

10:8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10:10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

10:11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;

10:12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

10:13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

10:16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

There is a lot to discuss here, so grab yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit.

We pick up where we left off last Sunday.

It is unclear why the Lectionary editors left out Mark 10:1, so here it is:

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

John MacArthur explains:

… we find Him, according to verse 1, having concluded His Galilean ministry. And actually, by the time we get into this chapter in Mark, He has also concluded His Judean ministry, which lasted quite a number of months. Mark gives us no record of that at all. If you want the record of that period of ministry, look at Luke 10 through 18, and those months are covered in a summary fashion by Luke.

So we jump from the Galilean ministry right over the top of the Judean ministry, and here we find our Lord beyond the Jordan in the area called Peraea, often referred to, then, as His Peraean ministry. This is the last little bit of ministry He does before He goes down to Jericho and in chapter 11 enters Jerusalem for the final week of His life. So we’re at the end of His earthly ministry here, virtually at the end of it. And He is teaching His disciples some very, very important lessons, and this one happens to be about the subject of divorce.

Also:

There were lots of people there. He was ministering there at the very end. Why? Because when He left Galilee, He left the hostility of Galilee. Six months in Judea has escalated the hostility of Judea, so He spent the last brief time before His death crossing the Jordan into Peraea.

So in chapter 10, you really have His Peraean ministry. It’s just one chapter. As I say, Mark doesn’t even tell us about the six months, we just have one chapter, and then in chapter 11, verse 1, He enters Jerusalem. The Galilean Jews who went down to Jerusalem, which they would start doing now because Passover would be coming – that’s why Jesus went there, to be the Passover – Galilean Jews would travel south on the east side of Jordan because if they were on the west side, they’d be going through Samaria, and they hated the Samaritans because they were inter-married half-breeds.

And so they would all go down the east side, all the way down to Jericho, and from Jericho up to Jerusalem, and so our Lord would find crowds there at the last time of His ministry, crowds of people, because there were many Jews who had moved there during the reign of Herod the Great, and they lived there but there would also be many pilgrims, traversing on their way to Jerusalem.

It had a large Jewish population, as I said, that developed during the reign of Herod the Great, the father of the current ruler, Herod Antipas. So we read here there were crowds gathered around Him. Those would be the Jews that lived in that area, as well as the pilgrims headed to Jerusalem, as the migration would have begun toward the coming feasts.

The Pharisees were on hand to test him with a question about divorce (verse 2).

MacArthur says that the question being posed and where the Pharisees posed it was no accident, but part of a plan to put Jesus in danger:

They were putting Him to the test with the purpose of discrediting Him. They wanted Him to say things that would alienate Him from the people. Since divorce was popular among the leaders, it was popular among the people, the men especially. And they wanted Jesus to say what they knew He believed because they had heard it before.

They wanted Him to say that divorce was wrong, and they wanted Him to condemn everybody that was divorced, and that would set Him against the leaders and against the people, irritate the people, and thus Jesus would not be nearly so popular. But even more than that, it happened to be that they confront Him on the subject in Peraea because they’re in the territory under Herod Antipas, and Herod had divorced his wife and married the divorced wife of his own brother and committed incest with her because she was his relative.

And John the Baptist had confronted this divorce and Herod chopped his head off. They were hoping that if Jesus took John’s position on divorce, Herod might rise again and destroy Jesus the way he had destroyed John the Baptist. So they had some plans to discredit Jesus and even to have Him killed by bringing up the question.

We do not normally think of the ancient Jews as favouring divorce, but they did in the Old Testament.

MacArthur tells us of the books of Nehemiah and Malachi where Jewish men divorced their Jewish wives in order to marry pagan women. In the time of Jesus, Jewish men were divorcing their wives under petty claims of indecency, which could be anything trivial, to marry other Jewish women:

What they were doing was divorcing their Jewish wives to marry pagan Gentile women. That’s how, essentially, the Old Testament history ends. Nehemiah and Malachi give us the last word, and the last word of the Old Testament to the priests and the people is, “Do not divorce your wives, I hate divorce.” Four hundred years later, we arrive in Mark’s gospel in the New Testament period, and you can go back to chapter 10. Divorce now has been reestablished as a noble alternative, a righteous behavior.

The Jews of our Lord’s day have a rationalized framework to make divorce acceptable. They’re engaged in it. It was rampant through the culture of Israel and including the priests who were the ones indicted originally four hundred years earlier by Malachi and Nehemiah. This issue of pervasive divorce in the land of Israel becomes the subject of the opening verses of this chapter.

Jesus responds by asking them what Moses commanded (verse 3).

They responded by saying that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce a wife (verse 4).

Jesus replied that Moses allowed that provision because of their hardness of heart (verse 5).

Matthew Henry says that some men would have killed their wives just to be rid of them:

That the reason why Moses, in his law, permitted divorce, was such, as that they ought not to make use of that permission; for it was only for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 10:5; Mark 10:5), lest, if they were not permitted to divorce their wives, they should murder them; so that none must put away their wives but such as are willing to own that their hearts were so hard as to need this permission.

Jesus referred to Genesis 1:27: Adam and Eve, male and female (verse 6). There were no other humans in the Garden of Eden.

MacArthur discusses God’s plan for a union between a man and a woman:

Now, what’s important about that is there is no provision for polygamy. There isn’t Adam and Eve and Sally and Alice. And there is no provision for divorce because there are not a few single women hanging around as options or alternatives. In the order of creation, there was one man and one woman. There are no spare parts. There are no spare people. They were created for each other and for no one else. Their union was complete, their union was unique, and they are a pattern for all to follow. Every marriage is no less an indissoluble union between one man and one woman.

And there were no provisions for any other people. The argument is clear. In the case of Adam and Eve, divorce is not only inadvisable, it is not only wrong, it is impossible where there isn’t anybody else for either of them to marry.

Jesus went on to cite Genesis 2:24: a man shall leave his mother and father to be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh (verses 7, 8).

Matthew 19:5 uses the word ‘cleave’ or ‘cling’, as in sticking to each other as one:

Verse 7, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother,” and Matthew adds, “and shall cling to his wife.” This is Genesis 2:24. This is the God-ordained view of marriage. It is an independent, strong union. You leave father and mother. You break the prior family bond. And in the language of Matthew 19:5, which is taken from Genesis 2:24, “You cling” or cleave “to your wife.” The idea of that word is glue – glue. You’re literally stuck together.

It is not a – arm’s-length relationship, it is not a look-and-see trial. You are glued together. And it also, that word, carries the idea – cleaving carries the idea of pursuing hard after. It is two people unbreakably connected together, glued together, and pursuing hard after each other to be united in mind and will and spirit and body and emotion. The Jewish term for marriage is kiddushin. It means sanctification or consecration. Both of those words mean something completely set apart for special use. It was used to describe something dedicated to God as His exclusive possession, His personal possession.

Jesus said what God has joined together, no man must separate (verse 9).

MacArthur explains:

You can’t divide one. One is the indivisible number – one is the indivisible number.

That oneness, that indivisibility is seen in the product of those two, isn’t it? Children. The child is the one that comes out of the two. It is an indivisible oneness that manifests itself in the offspring that are the ones that come from the two. Family plays into this, then, by implication. We all understand the destructiveness of the family in divorce.

Later, once they were in the house where they were staying, the disciples asked Jesus again about divorce (verse 10).

He responded, saying that a man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her (verse 11) and that a woman who divorces her husband to marry another man commits adultery (verse 12).

Henry says:

No more is here related of this private conference, that the law Christ laid down in this case–That it is adultery for a man to put away his wife, and marry another; it is adultery against the wife he puts away, it is a wrong to her, a breach of his contract with her, Mark 10:11; Mark 10:11. He adds, If a woman shall put away her husband, that is, elope from him, leave him by consent, and be married to another, she commits adultery (Mark 10:12; Mark 10:12), and it will be no excuse at all for her to say that it was with the consent of her husband. Wisdom and grace, holiness and love, reigning in the heart, will make those commands easy which to the carnal mind may be as a heavy yoke.

Children feature in Mark 10, just as they did in Mark 9.

People were bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them (verse 13).

We would find that a strange response, but the disciples, still thinking of works-based salvation, disregarded small children because they did not understand Mosaic law nor could they accomplish what was involved in keeping those laws.

MacArthur explains:

So while they had come to salvation by grace, they had imbibed so much of their former system (salvation by works) that they didn’t think children fit in anywhere. And, of course, the Lord hadn’t apparently said anything to this point about the children, so this is their teaching moment. They strongly protest this group of parents who desired the Lord to bless their babies and pray for their babies, convinced that this would just be an unnecessary, trivial interruption.

And, again, if you just took a Greek New Testament, took the word epitimaō and started in Mark 3 and traced it through Mark 10, you would see that every time it’s used, it’s a very intense reprimand. So the disciples really let those parents have it

And that is a very strong word, epitimaō, a compound word intensified again by a preposition as verbs tend to be in the Greek language. Literally, it means they censured them or they reprimanded them. In a noun form, it means punishment. They turned on these parents. Their worldview, their religious worldview, was such that children had no place in the system of religion, no place before God, not until they arrived at the point where they could do the things they needed to do to gain God’s favor.

The practice of a Jewish blessing either by a patriarch or a religious elder was widespread throughout history:

There are Old Testament illustrations of how fathers blessed their children. There are a number of them. All through the patriarchal period, fathers blessed their children, Noah blessed Shem and Japheth, and we see that through the patriarchs, through Jacob and passed down to the next generation and the next, Isaac blessing his sons and Jacob blessing his sons, and this was a typical fatherly benediction pronounced on the heads of children.

What was it about? It was a desire, including a prayer, for their spiritual blessing. It was that God would show favor to them. In fact, it was even more specific. The elders used to say that when you pray for your child and you pray blessing on your child, you pray this, that the child would be famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works. Famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works. The father would lay his hands on the child’s head, the elders of the synagogue would come together and they would do the same and bless the child, and they would pray for the child.

The Talmud tells us that it was a very customary thing for parents to bring their children, their little children, to be blessed by the elders of the synagogue, and in Judaism, there was a special day set aside for this, the day before the Day of Atonement, the day before Yom Kippur. In fact, they would bring their children that day before praying that, of course, the atonement the next day would be applied to those children.

The children in today’s reading were toddlers, little innocents.

Jesus was indignant with the disciples, telling them that they should not stop the children coming to Him because they were part of the kingdom of God (verse 14).

MacArthur tells us:

“He was indignant” – again, a very strong verb, to be angry, to be irate. This is not an insignificant issue, not a minor issue. Jesus doesn’t pass over this lightly. He is very angry that they would treat children this way. The parents were not wrong. He did not rebuke the parents. Only the disciples were rebuked for their wrong assumptions and their bad understanding of Scripture.

MacArthur says this is an unconditional promise for children and is not dependent on baptism. This is important for parents who have lost their little ones:

The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. There are no qualifiers there. Okay? There are no caveats there. There are no conditions there. This is so very important. He doesn’t say the kingdom of God belongs to these as if somehow these particular babies were in the kingdom. He says the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, meaning the whole category or the whole class of beings to which these babies belong. Literally, the kingdom of God belongs to these kind, babies, infants, little children.

Matthew calls it the kingdom of heaven and says the same thing, it belongs to such as these. Not just to these but to the whole category to which these belong. The kingdom of God belongs to babies. They have a place in the kingdom. They have a part in the kingdom.

What is He talking about, the kingdom? He’s talking about the sphere of salvation – the sphere of salvation – same thing He was always talking about. The sphere in which God rules over those who belong to Him, the spiritual domain in which souls exist under His special care.

Now, what’s important here is He just said that babies, as a category, have a part in the kingdom. They belong to it, it belongs to them, same thing. Nothing is said about the parents’ faith, nothing is said about a covenant as if there was some family covenant. Nothing is said about baptism. Nothing is said about circumcision. Nothing is said about any rite, any ritual, any parental promise, parental covenant, or any national covenant. His words simply and completely engulf all babies. They belong to the kingdom; the kingdom belongs to them.

And if our Lord was ever going to teach infant baptism, this would have been the perfect spot. All He would have to have said was, “These children will possess the kingdom if you baptize them.” But He doesn’t say that. This was His golden opportunity, but He said nothing, and neither does anybody else in the Bible say anything about infant baptism. This is not about personal faith, either. He doesn’t commend the parents’ faith. He doesn’t commend the babies’ faith, which would be nonexistent. He simply says babies belong in the kingdom and the kingdom belongs to them, as a category

This is not salvation, but this is His special care. And in the event that the child dies, I think the testimony of Scripture is that child receives salvation at the point of death because of God’s sovereign grace. Another way to look at it is to understand that all babies that die are elect. They’re all saved. Christ’s sacrifice is applied to them all.

Jesus was emphatic — ‘Truly, I tell you’ — that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it (verse 15).

That means that we need to be as little innocents when approaching the Gospel and our Lord.

MacArthur says:

You have to come the way children come – simple, open, trusting, unpretentious, dependent, weak, lacking achievement, humbly. And if you don’t come like that, you’ll never enter the kingdom.

Henry has an eloquent commentary on that verse:

We must receive the kingdom of God as little children (Mark 10:15; Mark 10:15); that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe, Oportet discentem credere–A learner must believe. The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rasa–a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.

Jesus took the children in His arms, laid His hands on them and blessed them (verse 16).

Henry says this was a fulfilment of prophecy:

See how he out-did the desires of these parents; they begged he would touch them, but he did more. (1.) He took them in his arms. Now the scripture was fulfilled (Isaiah 40:11), He shall gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. Time was, when Christ himself was taken up in old Simeon’s arms, Luke 2:28. And now he took up these children, not complaining of the burthen (as Moses did, when he was bid to carry Israel, that peevish child, in his bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child,Numbers 11:12), but pleased with it. If we in a right manner bring our children to Christ, he will take them up, not only in the arms of his power and providence, but in the arms of his pity and grace (as Ezekiel 16:8); underneath them are the everlasting arms. (2.) He put his hands upon them, denoting the bestowing of his Spirit upon them (for that is the hand of the Lord), and his setting them apart for himself. (3.) He blessed them with the spiritual blessings he came to give. Our children are happy, if they have but the Mediator’s blessing for their portion. It is true, we do not read that he baptized these children, baptism was not fully settled as the door of admission into the church until after Christ’s resurrection; but he asserted their visible church-membership, and by another sign bestowed those blessings upon them, which are now appointed to be conveyed and conferred by baptism, the seal of the promise, which is to us and to our children.

In closing, I wanted to share with you John MacArthur‘s views on marriage. Like him, I would like to see as many people married as possible.

He says not to wait too long or be too fussy:

… by the way, marriage is the grace of life. And here’s a verse all you ladies know, “A man who finds a good wife finds a good thing. A wife is a gift from the Lord,” Proverbs 19:14. A wife is the best gift that God can ever give a man; a husband is the best gift that God could ever give a woman. It’s the best thing in life. It’s the greatest joy in life. It’s the greatest fulfillment in life.

The disciples were talking on a very theoretical and pragmatic level. It’s not good for man to be what? Alone. It is the grace of life. It is the joy of all joys, the blessing of all blessings. It is the path to fruitfulness, to children, the blessing of children, the blessing of grandchildren, the blessing of family. So He says it’s a nice sentiment, but you’re made to be married. Find somebody. Don’t look for the Messiah, just find somebody.

I keep saying that to girls, you know, the Messiah came and went, you’ve got to settle for somebody else. Not everybody can receive it. He means not everybody can be fulfilled in a single state. Not everybody – literally, the word means have space or room for that. You need to be married. We say, “Well, if marriage is so hard….”

Well, look, let me tell you how to make a marriage work. Two people perfectly related to Jesus Christ will be perfectly related to each other. Two people who seek to honor Christ will have no problem honoring each other. How do you treat your spouse? You treat your spouse the way you would treat Christ because when you receive that person, you receive Christ. You treat that person the way Christ would treat that person.

People sometimes say to me, “You seem to have a good marriage.” I do have a good marriage. I’m ecstatic about the marriage that God has given to me. I love my wife more now than I’ve ever loved her. I can’t even – I don’t even know where I stop and she starts. That’s the way it is. She has not been married to a perfect man, but she has been married to a man who pursues the things in her life that I believe Christ would want for her. And the same for me. She pursues in my life the things that Christ would want for me. And it’s the joy of all joys, it’s supreme joy.

And I’ll tell you young people, I know some of you are hanging around, waiting for the perfect person to come up. Look, just find somebody in whom Christ lives who desires to serve Christ and don’t postpone marriage needlessly. Get married. This is the grace of life. We need more kids in the nursery. The kingdom grows that way.

You know, hanging around until you’re 30 years of age, just checking everybody out, guess what – they’re checking you out, and they’re not thrilled, either, so just find somebody. You’re wasting great years, do you understand that? You’re wasting great, great years. If I could wish anything for myself, I wish that I had gotten married younger because it’s such a wonderful thing, a blessed thing, God-honoring thing. In Christ, your marriage can be anything that Christ wants it to be, if you walk with Him.

You’re in the best of circumstances here to have a sanctifying influence. Let me tell you something: It’s not good to be single. It’s good to have a sanctifying influence in your life right next to you 24 hours a day. And you want a strong believer. Just find one and let that person be a spiritual influence on you.

I could not agree more.

Let us pray for singletons seeking a suitable partner for life’s journey.

Marriage is an amazing blessing! I am most grateful for mine; it is a tremendous gift from God.

Britain’s veteran television presenter Richard Madeley has a weekly agony uncle column in The Telegraph.

Recently, a 76-year-old lady from Argyll and Bute in Scotland wrote to him complaining about her 73-year-old husband’s smoking and drinking.

Excerpts of the letter and Madeley’s wise reply follow, emphases mine.

Anon writes:

I am 76 and I don’t smoke or drink. My husband is 73: he drinks strong lager every day, he smokes and he takes no exercise whatsoever.

All of this is making me increasingly worried and angry. He is a good man, but I fear that he has deliberately set himself on a path to self-destruction. (Certainly he seems to take no evident pleasure from his habits.) He knows my views on the matter but we have never argued about it.

Richard Madeley begins by asking where the harm is in her husband’s habits, as he is in his eighth decade. He tells the woman that she is:

over-worrying a bit about this.

It’s not as if your husband is shooting up on class-A drugs every night or downing a whole bottle of whisky before sunset; he is indulging in some pretty mild vices. Yes, smoking is especially harmful, but if he hasn’t managed to kick the habit by now I think it’s probably a lost cause.

You say that he knows your views on the matter but quietly carries on puffing away and snapping open those tinnies anyway. You also say that you don’t argue about it and he doesn’t behave objectionably after he has sunk a few.

So my advice? Leave him be. It is not a perfect situation and you are quite right to be concerned about what his habits are doing to his liver and his lungs, but ultimately that is his responsibility, isn’t it? Carry on enjoying your own retirement in your own way and let him enjoy his on his terms.

Live and let live. Or, rather, live and let smoke and drink. There are worse things in a marriage, you know.

I couldn’t agree more.

This lady should be thanking God for a lasting marriage — and enjoying her husband’s company more often. No doubt he was smoking and drinking lager when she married him. If it wasn’t a problem then, it shouldn’t be one now.

Several years ago, I watched a documentary about Queen Victoria, which included a few little-known facts about her life.

Apparently, Prince Albert was so in love with her during their early years of marriage that he used to put her silk stockings on her in the mornings and remove them at night. How sexy is that? What a splendid marital experience for both.

He also wrote her letters following their quarrels between 1841 and 1861.

They show he was a loving, wise husband. He was also a bit of a psychologist, decades before psychology existed.

The couple’s daughter Princess Beatrice destroyed these letters, but not before an unknown person photographed them for the Royal Archives.

They are supposed to be available on a section dedicated to Prince Albert on the Royal Collections Trust website, but I’ll be darned if I can find them. If anyone has found them, please do send me the link. Thanks in advance.

On Wednesday, September 22, the Daily Mail had an article about the letters, including a photo of one of them. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Queen Victoria was harsh with her children and beat them often when they were young. The Mail summarises one of Albert’s letters criticising her lack of love for them:

Albert even lectures Victoria – who bore him nine children during their 21-year marriage – about motherhood and says it is a ‘shame’ she does not relax and enjoy their company more.

‘It is indeed a pity that you find no consolation in the company of your children,’ he says.

The man was a genius:

The root of the difficulty lies in the mistaken notion that the function of a mother is to be always correcting, scolding, ordering them about and organising their activities… 

It is not possible to be on happy, friendly terms with people you have just been scolding, for it upsets scolder and scolded alike.’

I couldn’t agree more.

He wrote telling letters about their relationship, revealing quite a bit about their marriage, even though he loved her dearly.

After one row, Victoria continued following Albert around, venting her vexation with him:

In one letter, in his native German, Albert angrily chides feisty Victoria that she has again ‘lost her self-control’ and revealed how she followed him ‘from room to room’ rowing and refusing to back down.

He says: ‘You have again lost your self-control quite unnecessarily. I did not say a word which could wound you and I did not begin the conversation, but you have followed me about and continued it from room to room.

There is no need for me to promise to trust you for it was not a question of trust, but of your fidgety nature, which makes you insist on entering, with feverish eagerness, into details about orders and wishes which, in the case of a Queen, are commands to whomever they may be given.’

He adds angrily: ‘I do my duty towards you even though it means that life is embittered by “scenes” when it should be governed by love and harmony.

I look upon this with patience as a test which has to be undergone, but you hurt me desperately and at the same time do not help yourself.’ 

This third one is my favourite and reveals more of his deep human insight:

He writes: ‘We cannot, unhappily, bear your bodily sufferings for you – you must struggle with them alone. The moral ones are probably caused by them, but if you were rather less occupied with yourself (if that is possible) and your feelings (if that is possible) and took more interest in the outside world you would find that the greatest help of all.’

The two were first cousins, both born in 1819.

Sadly, Prince Albert died of typhoid fever at the age of 42.

Victoria withdrew from public life such that the press ridiculed her on the year of her Golden Jubilee, 1887. However, it could be that, as Empress of India, a title she requested of Parliament, she preferred spending time with her young servant Abdul Karim, who taught her how to read, speak and write Urdu.

The Telegraph discusses other letters that Prince Albert wrote and their digitisation:

A total of 22,000 documents, prints and photographs from the Royal Archives, the Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 have now been digitised for the public to read.

The Prince Albert Digitisation Project was supported by Sir Hugh and Lady Stevenson in honour of Sir Hugh’s sister, the late Dame Anne Griffiths, a former librarian and archivist to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Other items of interest include Albert’s list of suggested candidate for the vacant role of Master of the Household, annotated by him with the reasons why he considered each man unsuitable: “Too old”, “too useful in the Navy”, “bad temper” and “French mistress”.

Thank goodness these have been preserved for posterity.

And thank goodness for Prince Albert.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I hope that all dads reading had a good day with their children, communicating in some sort of significant way, either in person or by phone.

As ours is a childless household, I was interested to follow coverage of the day on GB News.

Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart got a pleasant surprise on his afternoon show, as his daughter, a headmistress, rang in with her good wishes and thanks on behalf of herself and her siblings as well as Mrs Stewart:

Stewart said that he has good relationships with all of his children, but that he and they relate to each other in a very individualised way, making fatherhood that much more special.

He said that he was taken aback that his daughter rang in to the show, at the suggestion of the production team. He wiped away a little tear after the call ended.

Neil Oliver

Archaeologist and television presenter Neil Oliver, also a member of the GB News team, appeared in the studio on Stewart’s show and the one that followed, where Father’s Day was the main topic.

Riding lessons for a young daughter

Oliver told Stewart that some children have an instinctive attraction to loving certain animals. He told Stewart how his daughter wanted riding lessons because she loved horses. Oliver and his wife thought the girl was too young. One day when the three of them were out, the girl saw horses in a field and spontaneously ran towards them. Oliver and his wife were worried for her safety, but the horses lowered their heads as she approached so that she could hug them. Riding lessons followed shortly afterwards.

His daughter will be entering Edinburgh University this autumn.

The awe of holding a newborn

On the show that followed Alastair Stewart’s, Oliver said that holding his children as newborns was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences he could have. He said that holding his tiny babies turned him to jelly. He said that he felt as if his ribcage were floating around in his body, it was such a tremendous experience.

Celebrating together

As Oliver was in London in the studio and his children at home in Scotland, he told them they could celebrate Father’s Day together once he returned to Stirling.

He said that he enjoys all the days that most of us regard as greeting card holidays, saying that any day that brings families closer together is worth celebrating.

Proudest accomplishments

Oliver said that his proudest accomplishments in life are being a husband and a father.

He said he knew from a young age that he wanted a wife and children. They make his life complete.

—————————–

I did search on Twitter to see if GB News had posted any of these clips. Alas, no.

Furthermore, Neil Oliver no longer has a Twitter feed.

He deleted his Twitter account in 2016, after harassment from people who want Scottish independence. The Express carried the story in August that year (emphases mine):

The archaeologist, writer and broadcaster, who presents BBC’s Coast, said he was forced off social media by the so-called cybernats, disappointing his 40,000 followers.

Mr Oliver says he became a target for abuse and received scores of hate-filled messages after deciding to speak out in favour of the Union

The Renfrewshire-born broadcaster said: “A great chunk of the response was not just negative but very personal and filled with bile and vicious loathing.

“People made it clear they wished the worst for me. They wished that I would develop cancer and said I deserved to be burnt as a traitor. It was one or two positive comments accompanied by hundreds of hate-fuelled messages” …

I realised that by having a Twitter identity I had opened a door into my personal life in which strangers could pass at will. The minute I deactivated my account I felt like I had brought my head out of deep water and could breathe easily. It was an almost instantaneous fix.”

Mr Oliver said that he was now worried about his three young children being targeted.

In an earlier article from January 2016, Oliver revealed his favourite personal photo to The Express, one of him and his wife as students at Glasgow University.

He told the reporter:

This is a picture of me and my wife Trudi at Glasgow University. l graduated with an MA in archaeology in 1988, and this was at Trudi’s graduation in 1990. We were together for a long time, then broke up in our twenties.

It was nothing particularly dramatic, but we were apart for eight years and met again by chance in 2002 after I bumped into her brother. It was as if we’d never been apart and we’ve been together ever since.

Our daughter Evie and sons Archie and Teddy were all present when we married in Solsgirth, Kinross-shire, on October 10, 2009, exactly 23 years after we first met.

We’re very similar people from similar backgrounds. We each had a happy and normal working-class childhood. Trudi grew up in Falkirk mostly, and I was raised in Ayr and Dumfries where my family still live. After several years working as an archaeologist, then I became a newspaper journalist – like Trudi.

Oliver is known for his shoulder-length hair, which he has had since he was 15.

He doesn’t dare get it cut:

I’ve basically had the same haircut since I was 15. When I was at university, quite a lot of men were scruffy with long hair, and I fell into that and fossilised. But Trudi was taken with my long hair. She is my number one fan and likes the way I look.

We’d end up in the divorce courts if I got my hair cut short now! But I’ve always had people telling me I should get it cut. A TV reviewer from The Guardian recently wrote that whenever I appear on screen she wants to scream, “Get your hair cut, laddie!” Any review I get for a TV show always starts with something like “the Scottish archaeologist with the long flowing locks…”

He missed his family when he was away filming his series:

I miss Trudi and the children when I’m away from our home in Stirling. My job is not onerous in any way, and I enjoy it thoroughly, but being away is the hardest part by far. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays, school concerts… just family time. I try and minimise how long I’m away. When I’m home I do the school run and I go in from time to time to talk about history.

Although I’m away for long chunks of time, the kids have always had their mum with them 24/7. She has the toughest gig, operating as a single mum for half the year. But, when I am home, it’s often for periods of about two months.

He wrote books when at home:

I spent five months of the last year writing my first novel Master Of Shadows in the spare bedroom at home. I had previously had eight non-fiction works published, but I was more nervous about the reaction to this.

Now Neil Oliver has a weekly show on GB News. He told Alastair Stewart that this was a career move he had not anticipated but feels that now is the time, because he has much to say about British society today.

He added that doing a show live is much different from doing a television series, where something can be redone, if necessary. He said he is always nervous before filming. He and Stewart agreed that any presenter who isn’t nervous beforehand should probably stop broadcasting.

In closing, it was fascinating to hear Oliver’s thoughts on fatherhood, especially as his children are teenagers now.

And who doesn’t like a good love story?

Yesterday’s post discussed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s third marriage and Catholic Canon Law.

Today’s post looks at the way Boris and Carrie Symonds — now Carrie Johnson — were able to keep their plans secret, which is not easy in No. 10, well known for its leaks.

Although his former special adviser Dominic Cummings gave scathing testimony about Boris and Carrie to a parliamentary Select Committee on Wednesday, May 26, by the end of the week, the Prime Minister’s fortunes had improved.

Although we are not that happy with aspects of Boris’s handling of the pandemic, more of us trust him than we do Cummings:

On Friday, the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests Lord Geidt concluded that Boris’s renovations on his Downing Street flat did not break the ministerial code:

That day, he was also photographed running for a train. When was the last time any Prime Minister in living memory ran for a train? Scenes like these endear Boris to the British public:

He even waved to a woman who called out, ‘Hi, Boris’:

Guido Fawkes posted the video. One of Guido’s readers responded with a lyric from My Fair Lady:

“Girls come and kiss me, say that you’ll miss me

But get me to the church on time

Little did anyone know how true that was.

Saturday, May 29, began with a good poll, in spite of Cummings’s testimony:

Downing Street confirmed wedding day after it happened

There were no announcements from Downing Street of the wedding on Saturday, May 29.

On Sunday, the BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley wrote (emphases mine):

It can’t have been easy to keep yesterday’s wedding – between a former journalist and someone who works in public relations – under wraps.

But it seems to have taken almost everyone in Westminster by surprise.

Such was the desire to keep it quiet, Downing Street only officially confirmed it had happened on Sunday morning – the day after the wedding.

The accompanying article stated:

The marriage took place in a “small ceremony” on Saturday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the couple would celebrate again with family and friends next summer, with their honeymoon also delayed until then …

Downing Street did not reveal any details of who was invited and whether any of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet colleagues were among the guests …

Musicians were pictured leaving No 10 on Saturday night.

At Westminster Cathedral that day, visitors were asked to leave in the early afternoon:

Members of the public were asked to leave Westminster Cathedral just after 13:30 BST, the Sun reported.

The Telegraph reported:

shortly after 1.30pm, confused tourists were ushered out of the building on the basis that it was going into lockdown.

This is a photo of the Johnsons at Downing Street afterwards (another made the front page of The Telegraph). Look at Boris’s tie:

Guido Fawkes wrote ‘Amoris Laetitia‘ in his post. This is Latin for ‘The Joy of Love’ and the title of Pope Francis’s exhortation on love in family life.

How events unfolded at Westminster Cathedral

The Telegraph reported that, around 2 p.m. on Saturday:

Miss Symonds, who has since taken her husband’s name, swept into the piazza in front of the cathedral in a limousine, wearing a £2,870 embroidered tulle gown but no veil.

Close friends and family and the couple’s one-year-old son, Wilfred, were in attendance as they were married by Father Daniel Humphreys, the head of the cathedral.

He was the priest who had baptised their son six months earlier in the same Lady Chapel, an ornately decorated room which hosts morning and evening prayer.

The couple had been instructed by him to ensure that they were both prepared for the marriage “over many months”, sources told the Telegraph.

After the ceremony, the guests – understood to include Mr Johnson’s siblings Rachel, Jo and Leo Johnson, his father, Stanley, and half-sister Julia – were whisked back to Downing Street.

The first official photograph was released on Sunday morning and showed the couple embracing in the garden. Mr Johnson even appeared to have brushed his famously unruly hair for the occasion, though his tie remained askew.

They opted to hire an external photographer, Rebecca Fulton, rather than using Andrew Parsons, a special adviser who takes pictures of Mr Johnson on official visits. Her prices begin at around £2,300 for a day’s wedding shoot – although it is possible the Prime Minister received a bargain rate as the ceremony was so short.

Downing Street reception

The same Telegraph article says that a marquee was already in the Downing Street garden for a prior event:

It had been used days earlier to host a meeting between the Prime Minister and small businesses that had made a net zero commitment.

The atmosphere was relaxed:

the garden decked out with lanterns, bunting and hay bales, which it appeared were being used as seats as well as table legs to hold up a tray of drinks.

Also:

After much speculation about their nuptials, and a save-the-date for July 30, 2022 card sent just six days before they married, people were expecting an elaborate affair. But in the end Mr Johnson’s third marriage was a low-key celebration which saw guests dancing to Don McLean’s American Pie played by a wandering acoustic fiddle band.

Top secret

The article says that Saturday’s wedding took six months of secret planning:

The event was planned in secret over the last six months, and even the small number of guests allowed under Covid restrictions were only told at the last moment, it is understood.

The Daily Mail reported:

The premier is understood to have picked his closest brother Leo – co-presenter of Radio 4 series Future Proofing –to stand by his side as his best man and provide moral support on his big day. 

Fellow Johnson siblings Jo, Julia and Rachel were also in attendance at the small wedding, the premier’s third.

Both the bride and groom’s mothers joined the summer festival-themed party in the Downing Street garden, but Carrie’s father Matthew Symonds was not presentIt is not known if he was invited by the couple.

It is also thought that none of Mr Johnson’s four grown-up children from his second marriage to the QC Marina Wheeler were there to see their father remarry.

No Cabinet ministers or Tory MPs were thought to have been invited to the top-secret wedding either, the Sun reports.

The couple were expected to spend the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire.

They have chosen to delay their honeymoon until summer 2022, when they will also hold a bigger wedding celebration, according to the Telegraph.

The article says that Carrie rented her dress:

The bride, who hired her £2,870 wedding dress by designer Christos Costarellos for just £45 from MyWardrobeHQ for the day, said she was ‘very, very happy’.

In order to keep arrangements low-key, she hired three decoy dresses. The Daily Mail describes her plan:

Carrie Symonds hired three decoy dresses to throw snoops off the scent before her secret marriage to Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new blushing bride hired the dresses from eco fashion business My Wardrobe HQ and returned the one she settled on for £45 today from Greek designer Christos Costarellos …  

The new Mrs Johnson, 33, often orders clothes to the couple’s Downing Street home so wanted to throw snoops off the scent by hiring three other bridal frocks.   

The company she ordered the dresses from only found out they had supplied the wedding dress for the UK’s first lady when they saw pictures of the secret wedding

Co-founder Sacha Newall told The Times: ‘We didn’t know what it was for. We were just asked to supply some items. Then we saw what happened this weekend. It was all a bit of a surprise.’

They revealed that Mrs Johnson has asked for four dresses in a variety of shades.  

And it’s not the first time Mrs Johnson has worked with the company – she used their services when she was finding a dress to meet the Queen at Balmoral in 2019

Ms Newall added that while Carrie isn’t particularly into fashion she is making an effort to take an interest. 

She said: ‘There is an awareness that as the prime minister’s wife she needs to be dressed in a certain way… She doesn’t want to feel that she is letting the side down.’  

And the first time Carrie was spotted standing next to Mr Johnson on the steps of Downing Street in her iconic pink Ghost dress, she had rented the frock from My Wardrobe HQ.  

My Wardrobe HQ’s business will be going through the roof now. I wish them every success.

How Boris met Carrie

It wasn’t only the wedding that was kept under wraps. Even the development of their relationship is rather private.

The first the public had heard of Carrie Symonds was in the summer of 2019, when she and Boris had a row at her home in London, more about which below.

The Telegraph reported that the two have known each other since 2012:

For a relationship that began under the shroud of rumour and has been conducted largely in private, it was only fitting that the marriage of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds included the element of secrecy.

The world now knows that the Johnsons’ wedding anniversary will forever be May 29 2021. But precisely when their relationship started is a little harder to pin down.

Miss Symonds, a Warwick University graduate who instantly progressed through the ranks of the Conservative Party, is thought to have got to know Mr Johnson when she worked on the 2012 Back Boris campaign for his re-election to become mayor of London. After that experience, she developed a habit of praising his speeches on social media.

It was six years later, in 2018, when Mr Johnson was serving as foreign secretary and Miss Symonds as the party’s head of communications, when whispers about their escalating friendship emerged. In February of that year, a ruddy-faced Mr Johnson, then 51, was photographed chatting playfully with a glamorous-looking Miss Symonds, then 29, outside the Tories’ Black and White Ball at the Natural History Museum.

A week later, it was reported that the pair enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal at one of Mr Johnson’s favourite haunts, Rules, in Covent Garden. The next month there were cocked eyebrows all around Westminster when social media chatter revealed that Mr Johnson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, at that time all Cabinet heavyweights, were spotted gyrating to Abba in a room full of drunk millennials at Miss Symonds’s 30th birthday party in north London.

“The feeling inside Number 10 at the time was very much along the lines of: ‘What on earth were they doing there?’” one former Downing Street aide told The Telegraph later that year …

Another source cattily remarked that, “Carrie is not what you’d describe as a girly girl. She’s more of a man’s woman. And by that I mean an older man’s woman.” Yet of the three older, married Cabinet ministers at the party, the rumour mill was only concerned with one.

By September, both Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds moved on from their respective roles – she took up a role with a conservation organisation, while he resigned from the Cabinet in protest at Theresa May’s handling of Brexit – and Mr Johnson had announced his divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler, after 25 years of marriage.

By now, that rumour mill was churning wildly, and given grist in the form of one particularly juicy morsel of Westminster chatter suggesting Mr Johnson sent a car to collect Miss Symonds from a colleague’s wedding when he was still foreign secretary.

The car, it was said, brought her to his grace-and-favour residence, Chevening, and to top it off, the wedding was held at Penshurst Place, Kent, which used to play host to King Henry VIII while he secretly courted his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

Despite an almost 24-year age gap, the burgeoning relationship appeared to make some sense: both were metropolitan and sociable, both had backgrounds in the media (in Miss Symonds’s case it was in the family – her estranged father is Matthew Symonds, the co-founder of The Independent; her mother is Josephine Mcaffee, once one of the paper’s lawyers), both were on the green side of the Tory party with their mutual friend Zac Goldsmith, and both were undeniably ambitious.

Just how they managed – and still manage – to keep their relationship so private puzzled some observers. But Miss Symonds was well-positioned to ensure discretion: she has friends and connections all over Fleet Street, as well as countless powerful Tory allies.

In 2019, Symonds began getting closer to Boris and his father:

The drip-feed of gossip continued to find its way into the public domain, however. That Miss Symonds had been showing friends mischievous texts she’d received from Mr Johnson. That she called him “Bozzie Bear”, and he called her his “otter”. That his photograph was her phone screensaver. That Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, joining Miss Symonds on an anti-whaling march in January 2019 was proof things were serious. That Mr Johnson was losing weight and keeping his hair trim not for the electorate but for her. That he and Miss Symonds were “very much in love”, and had moved in together in her flat in Camberwell, south London

Locals in Camberwell, who weren’t overcome with joy at the news, remember seeing “the unmistakable, hunched blonde figure of Boris” cycling to and from Miss Symonds’ home each day.

They were rarely seen together at public events, however:

The closest thing to an official confirmation, in fact, was Miss Symonds’ appearance at Mr Johnson’s campaign launch for Conservative leader in June 2019. In a deep red Karen Millen dress, Miss Symonds entered the public eye just months before her partner was favourite to become prime minister.

I read at the time that the dress sold out immediately.

Then came the row:

The pressure clearly told. A few weeks later, police were called to the Camberwell flat after neighbours heard an argument taking place. Helpfully, they had recorded the row and told a newspaper that Miss Symonds could be heard telling Mr Johnson: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.”

However, that blew over quickly.

Shortly afterwards, she moved into Downing Street with him. I have no objection to people living together except when it involves a high-profile person in a high-profile setting. Call me old-fashioned, but it is just wrong. Unfortunately, Boris has now set a precedent:

When Mr Johnson secured the keys to 10 Downing Street, Miss Symonds joined him. Not literally – she stood watching his victory speech on the other side of the camera, rather than just behind him, as Philip May and most other prime ministers’ spouses had – but she moved in, and quickly gained a reputation as an influential figure in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

As if to mark the start of a new family, Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds adopted Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross, shortly after taking residence in Downing Street.

Carrie became pregnant. Weeks before she was due to deliver, Boris was hospitalised with coronavirus. He was close to death:

It was to prove not only a national crisis for the Prime Minister, but also a terrifying personal battle. After testing positive for Covid-19, Mr Johnson was taken to intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, in April 2020.

Afterwards, stories circulated about Boris’s affair with an American during the 2010 Olympics held in London. Then came Wallpaper-gate. And, now, the couple have married. Carrie Symonds is now officially Carrie Johnson.

History in the making

The last Prime Minister to get married while in office was also a Conservative: Robert Banks Jenkinson — Lord Liverpool. He remarried in 1822.

The Daily Mail stated:

Mr Johnson is the first premier to marry in office in 199 years. He follows in the footsteps of Lord Liverpool, who married Mary Chester in 1822 and was prime minister for 15 years.

Mary Chester was a close friend of his wife Louisa, who died at the age of 54.

One wonders if Boris’s original date of July 30, 2022 was planned to deliberately coincide with this 200-year anniversary.

On Saturday, May 29, Prime Minister Boris Johnson married for the third time, on a date kept secret, largely away from the prying eyes of the media.

He and his fiancée — some would say concubine — Carrie Symonds were married in a Catholic ceremony at Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) in central London.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, only 30 people were in attendance.

The happy couple are pictured here at their reception in the garden of No. 10. James Cleverly MP was not in attendance, by the way:

The wedding provoked controversy regarding Canon Law.

It turns out that Boris was baptised a Catholic in his infancy but was confirmed as an Anglican during his schooldays at Eton.

Carrie Symonds has been a lifelong Catholic. Their son, Wilfred, was baptised a Catholic in 2020.

Catholics in Britain wonder how the couple could be married under Canon Law at Britain’s most famous Catholic cathedral.

On Sunday, May 30, a Telegraph article discussed the consternation expressed by British Catholics (emphases mine):

Disgruntled congregants at Westminster Cathedral have asked the resident priest to clarify how the twice-divorced Prime Minister was able to remarry in Catholic church.

Speaking outside the cathedral on Sunday, churchgoers said that they were “confused” over Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’s wedding on Saturday and said that “doesn’t look very well for us” given his history.

One member of the congregation, named only as Maria, who was baptised in the cathedral and has been attending for 70 years, said that she asked the priest for clarification on the rules surrounding divorcees.

Catholic canon law does not permit the marriage of a divorcee whose former spouse is still alive.

Both of Boris’s ex-wives are still alive.

This was the response the Telegraph received:

the church confirmed that as neither his six-year first marriage to Allegra Mostyn-Owen, nor his second 27-year marriage to Marina Wheeler were Catholic ceremonies they are not recognised in the eyes of the church

A spokesman for Westminster Cathedral said: “The bride and groom are both parishioners of the Westminster Cathedral parish and baptised Catholics.

All necessary steps were taken, in both Church and civil law, and all formalities completed before the wedding.

“We wish them every happiness.”

Hmm.

The article discussed the couple’s relationship with the Revd Daniel Humphreys, one of the priests at the cathedral and the officiant at their marriage:

Father Humphreys also baptised their son Wilfred in the chapel where they wed (the Lady Chapel) just six months ago.

The couple were both baptised Catholics, though the Prime Minister renounced his mother’s Catholicism when he was confirmed in the Anglican faith whilst at Eton.

It is understood that the couple had been “under instruction” with the priest for “many months” before the ceremony.

On Monday, May 31, the Daily Mail carried the cathedral’s statement on the wedding and reported more dissatisfaction among British Catholics, including the following:

On Twitter another user asked: ‘If Boris marrying is Westminster Cathedral is true then, as a Catholic, I would like to know why a twice divorced adulterer was able to and my practising Catholic friend who divorced a husband who battered hell out of her had to re-marry in a registry office.’

Conservative Woman had a good article on Canon Law and Boris’s wedding written by Roger Watson, a professor of nursing and practising Catholic: ‘Johnson’s Catholic marriage: How to have your wedding cake and eat it’.

He says:

The unexpected timing was one thing, but when I recognised the portal from which he and his bride emerged after the wedding as that of Westminster Cathedral, I uttered a few words that will extend my time in Purgatory.

I had read a report and was sure that the journalist made a mistake and meant Westminster Abbey. But no, it really was the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Diocese of Westminster. The newlyweds are both Roman Catholics, apparently. Who knew?

As a Roman Catholic, I was taken aback. Boris, no stranger to matrimony, is twice divorced, and my Church famously and uniquely forbids the remarriage of divorcees in the Church.

I am genuinely surprised that this marriage was permitted under Canon Law. It seems to have nothing to do, as some commentators have said, with ‘changing times’, ‘the need for Catholics to move on’ – the ‘conservative’ Catholics that is – and how, under the populist Pope Francis, we are becoming a different church.

I sense a great deal of sacramental sophistry in arriving at the conclusion that it was acceptable for two adulterers to marry according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

The bottom of the canonical barrel must have been scraped clean. By whatever loophole this marriage is deemed legal, I have known of no another example.

Of course, forgiveness is a significant pillar of the Christian faith. But forgiveness is an aspect of God’s justice, and justice is possible only following judgement.

It is largely none of my business but, while a decision has clearly been taken to permit the marriage of Johnson and Symonds, to what extent were they judged suitable candidates to proceed to matrimony under the auspices of the Church of Rome, and what amends did they make for their sins? Sin, of course is not a popular word these days, but sin they did. The facts speak for themselves.

Having ‘renounced’ his Catholic faith at school, Johnson has sinned by marrying outside the Church, he has sinned by committing adultery and having sex outside marriage. The Church does not formally recognise renouncement of faith, and this was, in fact, his ecclesiastical get-out clause.

It transpires that Ms Symonds often spoke about her Catholic faith. If so, she has sinned by having sex outside marriage and persisting in that relationship.

If the couple were to marry legitimately under Church law, they would both have had to make a confession of these sins and promised to sin no more. That would have meant them living ‘as brother and sister’ until they were married. Maybe that happened. Who knows?

Watson says there is a larger issue here, one with the Catholic Church in general:

Notwithstanding the legality of the Prime Ministerial wedding, I worry about the marital message this sends to young Catholic men, and men are always the winners where infidelity is concerned.

It suggests to me that they are being given permission to sow their wild oats at liberty; even to try out a few marriages outside the auspices of the Church first. Have some kids, see how that goes. If these fail and you fancy a return to the fold, no impediments will be put in your way.

Ultimately:

There is always great rejoicing at the return of sinners to the fold. I wish the Johnsons well and pray they bring up their son in the Catholic Church.

Agreed.

The comments to the article included several anecdotes about people being unable to marry in the Catholic Church. I have a distant relative who was unable to marry his fiancée in a Catholic ceremony. She was divorced, he was a bachelor and the priest refused them because her ex-husband was still alive. As she was an Episcopalian — who was willing to become Catholic — they married in the Episcopal Church.

As for Canon Law and the rather unorthodox relationship of Symonds living with Johnson at No. 10, one commenter wrote:

I agree and disagree with this article.

With respect to the legality and the question of the divorces; there is not a problem here. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Catholic Church values its own marriages and its own laws. It would be a major concession to the secular order if it started giving too much credence to Johnson’s previous “marriages”. The fact is that marriage – Catholic and non-Catholic – involve a legal form and Johnson’s previous marriages simply did not comply with it from a Catholic perspective. The Catholic Church should no more consider them valid than the British courts should have considered Mick Jagger’s wedding on the Bali beach valid (which they didn’t). We wouldn’t expect wedding vows exchanged on a door step in front of a postman to be valid and so there is no reason for the Catholic Church to consider marriages that break its laws to be valid.

Two points should be made clear – the Catholic church does consider Church of England marriages to be valid when they involve non Catholics. The problem is that when Johnson was baptised a Catholic it meant that legal responsibilities came with it from the point of view of the Catholic Church including the need to follow its marriage laws.

I do agree with the article when it states that the wrong marital message is being sent out. Johnson has created scandal by installing a concubine in Downing Street. I am pleased he has now married her and brought this to an end. But the nation has been left with the impression that he simply tumbled out of their shared bed into a taxi to the most prestigious Catholic Church in England and married her just like that. Even if this was not so (who knows), it should have been seen to not have been so with Symonds moving out for a period of time, a public statement or similar. Even now the Catholic Church should be using the opportunity as a teaching moment. Cheating on women, breaking church law are all sins

The Johnson-Symonds union in a Catholic ceremony seems to be a matter of the Church kowtowing to the powerful.

There can be no other explanation.

I’ll have more tomorrow on how the Johnsons kept their wedding plans a secret.

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