Orthodox America

More About Marriage  

Archbishop Theophan 

...True Christian marriage is a union of the wedded souls, sanctified by the grace of God. This union gives them happiness and serves as the basis for a Christian family, for "the church of the home." Thus it is in principle, but, unfortunately, at the present time marriage does not in most cases follow this model. The general decline in Christian spirituality is reflected in marriage as well. Lately people have completely forgotten about the grace of God and its fundamental role in Christian life, and in particular, they have forgotten about the Grace of God which is conferred in the sacrament of marriage. One must live in the spirit of this grace, always remembering it and keeping it warm. Then the love of a man for a woman and of a woman for a man is pure and deep and is a source of happiness for them. After all, this life is also a gift blessed by God. It is just that people do not know the right way to take advantage of this gift! And this is simply because they forget the grace of God! “The first priority in spiritual matters," said St. Macarius the Great, "is love for God, and the second is love for one's neighbor. When the first great labor is accomplished, then the second, a smaller, lighter burden, follows after the first. Without the first one the second cannot be pure. For is it possible for one who does not love God with all his heart and soul to properly and without adulation love his brothers?" (Epistle, Works, Moscow, 1854, p. 446). What he said about love in general is applicable to marital love as well. Of all types of earthly love, this is the strongest, and for that very reason the Holy Scriptures describe it as a model of the ideal love of a human soul for God. "The Song of Solomon," said Blessed Jerome, "is a wedding song of spiritual matrimony," i.e., the union of a human soul with God (Letter 87 to Leta, Works, pt. 3, 2nd ed., Kiev, 1903, p. 14). Nothing in heaven or on earth, however, can compare with the blessedness of virgins.

Sofia, 4/3/1929

From Selected Letters of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava; 79 pps., Available from the publisher: St. John of Kronstadt Press, Rt. 1, Box 205, Liberty, TN 37095.