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  The Sacrament of Marriage

The Purpose of the Christian Family The family, as is well known, comprises the fundamental cell of the organism of society, being the nucleus and foundation of society. Thus also in the militant Church of Christ it is a basic unit of the Church body. Therefore the Christian family in itself is called in the writings of the Apostles a "church": Greet Priscilla and Aquila. my helpers in Christ Jesus... and the church that is in their house (Rom. 16:3, 5); Salute Nymphas and the church which is in his house (Col. 4:15). From this it is understandable what great attention should be given to the family from the point of view of the Church, so that the family might fulfill its purpose of being a small "church."

       There is yet another way of personal life which is blessed in Christianity: virginity or celibacy. Celibacy for the sake of Christ has created another kind of Christian social unit: monasticism. The Church places it above married life, and in actuality, in the history of the Church, it has been a leading, guiding element, a support of the Church, bringing into realization to the greatest degree the moral law of the Gospel, and preserving the dogmas, the Divine services, and other foundations of the Church,

      However, not all can take upon themselves the vow of virginity in the name of Christ and the Church. Therefore, while blessing virginity as a chosen and a perfect form of life, the Church blesses also married life for the sake of those exalted, and at the same time difficult aims which are placed before the Christian family, and this blessing is acknowledged as a Mystery.

The Significance of the Mystery

      In the Mystery of Marriage the Church invokes the help of God on those being married, that they might understand, fulfill and attain the aims set before them, namely: to be a "house church," to establish within the family truly Christian relationships, to raise child r e n in faith and life according to the Gospel, to be an example of piety for those around one, to bear with patience and humility the unavoidable sorrows and, often, sufferings which visit family life.

The Central Moment of the Mystery

     The beginning moment in the existenceof the Christian family is the sacred action of Marriage. The chief part in the rite of the Mystery of Marriage is the placing of the crowns upon those being married with the words: "The servant of God (name) is married to the handmaid of God (name) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," and then the common blessing of both with the thrice repeated short prayer, "O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor."

Marriage as a Divine Institution

     That marriage has the blessing of God upon it is said many times in the Holy Scripture.

Thus, in Genesis 1:27-28 we read: So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Likewise, in Genesis 2:18-24, the writer of Genesis, having spoken of the creation of the woman from the rib of Adam and of how she was led to thereon, adds, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

    The Saviour Himself, commanding that faithfulness be preserved in marriage and forbidding divorce, mentions these words of the book of Genesis and instructs: What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (Matt. 19:/,-6). These words of the Lord clearly testify to the moral dignity of marriage. The Lord Jesus Christ sanctified marriage by His presence at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and here He performed His first miracle.

     The Apostle Paul compares the mystical character of the Church with marriage in these words: Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it and further: For this cause shall a man leave his father and and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the  two shall be one flesh, This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:25, 31-32). The Apostle Paul speaks more in detail about marriage and virginity in I Corinthians, the seventh chapter. Placing virginity above marriage, he does not condemn marriage, commanding that it be preserved and advising that one not be divorced even from an unbeliever, in hope of converting the other one to the faith. Having indicated the highest impulses for remaining in virginity, in conclusion he says the following: Such (those who marry) shall have trouble in. the flesh; but I spare you (I Cor. 7:28).

    Having in mind the Christian purpose of marriage, the Church forbids entering into marriage with heretics (canons of the Fourth and Sixth Councils), and likewise with those of other religions.

The Indissolubility of Marriage

The Church only in exceptional circumstances agrees to the dissolving of a marriage, chiefly when it has been defiled by adultery, or when it has been destroyed by conditions of life (for example, long absence of one spouse, without word). The entrance into a second marriage after the death of a husband or wife, or in general the loss of one spouse by the other, is allowed by the Church, although in the prayers for those being married the second time, forgiveness is asked for the sin of a second marriage. A third marriage is tolerated only as a lesser evil to avoid a greater evil—immoral life (as St. Basil the Great explains). 

(An excerpt from Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomazansky…)

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