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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Christian Attitude towards Marriage

Christian Attitude towards Marriage

The Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to earth to restore the Divine moral foundation to human society, concerned himself also with restoring the marital union. By His presence at the marriage at s in Galilee the Lord blessed and sanctified the marriage and performed his first miracle there. Later, the Lord elucidated to the Jews the true significance of marriage. Referring to the Scriptures regarding the union between man and woman, the Lord reinforced the principle of indissoluble marriage in definite terms:“Thus they (man and woman) are no longer two, but one flesh. And thus whom God has joined together, let no man separate.” The Sadducees, however, continued to question the Savior, “How is it that Moses permitted that a man might divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal?” To which the Lord replied:“Moses permitted divorcing a wife because of your hardness of heart, but it was not like that in the beginning. But I tell you: he who divorces his wife for any cause other than adultery and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3-9). In other words, a person entering marriage is required to remain in it. The breaking of marital fidelity is disobeying God's will and, therefore, a grievous sin.
                These words of our Savior permit us to understand the complete value, seriousness and responsibility of marriage. But in the true Christian psychology of wedlock, the seeming burden of marriage becomes light and joyous. With God's help, granted during the Sacrament of Marriage, spouses can amicably, peacefully and cooperatively bear the joint burden of family life. And to the contrary, devoid of a Christian outlook on marriage, it at times becomes unbearably heavy and a mutual torment.
                Marriage is a great shrine and saving state of a person's life when it is properly regarded. Marriage is the foundation of a family, and a family is a small church of Christ. It is the family that is the meaning and purpose of marriage. Present-day fear of having a family with children is the result of faintheartedness, a source of both dissatisfaction and anguish in marriage. Christian upbringing of children is the goal and joy of the family; it gives meaning and justification to marriage.
                Yet even if the spouses are childless, the marriage does not lose its meaning. This makes it easier for the spouses by mutual love and mutual help to live a Christian life. The Apostle Peter in his first epistle directs the wives to imitate the lives of ancient righteous women and to be gentle. He directs the husbands to treat their wives with understanding, as a fragile vessel, to show them respect as co-heirs of the grace of eternal life (I Peter ch. 3).
                The Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians writes about the marriage vows:“Now to the married it is not I who commands, but the Lord: A wife is not to divorce her husband. But even if she does divorce, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled with her husband. And a husband is not to leave his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any man has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not leave her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (I Cor. 7:10-14). These words of the Apostle have special significance for our contemporary society, in which so often only one of the spouses is an Orthodox Christian or at least believes in God.
                The Apostles in their epistles speak of the dependent role of woman in marriage. They do not belittle her by this but have in mind her origin and nature, more complex and fragile, requiring special care:“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. It is not man who was created for the woman, but woman for the man (as his friend and helpmate). And for this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, for of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (I Cor. 11:8-12).
                In the above Apostolic teaching we see the early Christian attitude towards marriage: husbands and wives are co-workers in God. They are absolutely equal as members of the Kingdom of God and inheritors of eternal life. Nevertheless, the difference between them as determined by their nature, their origin and their guilt for the fall from grace is not lost. The wife was created to be a helpmate to the husband, but not the husband for the wife (although he is born of the wife). The wife, in human significance and God's plan, is equal in everything to the husband, but in practical aspects she is his helper and dependent on him, and the husband is the head of the wife; “So they will live by the will of God,” says one of the prayers of the Sacrament of Marriage.
                Further, the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians teaches Christian wives regarding their responsibilities to help their husbands:“Wives be subject to your husbands as though to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the Church. Christ is, indeed, the Savior of that body (i.e., the Church) but just as the Church is subject to Christ, so are the wives subject to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:22-24). It might seem that in obliging the wives to obey their husbands, the Apostle belittles their human worth. But that is absolutely not so. Here the Apostle describes the ideal marital relationships. The Church obeys Christ as its Savior and benefactor. This is not slavish subordination but an impulse of responsive love.
                Clarifying this, the Apostle also gives the husbands the necessary instruction regarding their responsibilities:“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself as a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself… For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be cleaved to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery” (Eph. 5:25-31).
                In his first epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul speaks about motherhood as a woman's primary mission in life. “Woman will be saved through motherhood” (I Tim. 2:15). Motherhood consists not only of giving birth to a child and caring about his welfare but also especially in planting in his soul the basis of faith and morality. It is necessary that a child learns the beginning of goodness along with his “mother's milk” so that it will penetrate into his subconscious and will become part of his nature. This is accomplished by the constant presence of mercy, forgiveness and mutual building up within the family. There should be every expression of true love as is generally found in those who are holy.
                Here is the Christian ideal of love:“Love is patient and kind, is never boastful, never conceited, never rude; love is never selfish, never quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs, takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance. Love will never come to an end” (I Cor. 13:4-8). Then the child, even though he might come under some bad influence later in his life, can, being directed by his spiritual impulse, return to God. Contemporary mothers need to understand the seriousness and responsibility of their mission: the future of human society and the Church depends on them.
                In his epistle to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes about the relations among members of a family in this way:“Wives be subordinate to your husbands; as is befitting to the Lord. Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for that is pleasing to God. Fathers do not exasperate your children, so they may not become discouraged” (Col. 3:18-21). By these words of the Apostle each member of the family is given proper instruction.
                Such is the natural and basic law of huan nature: the husband is the support of his wife and the head of the family, responsible for the material and spiritual welfare of all the members of the family. The wife is the husband's support, responsible for the upbringing of the children. Children are helpers to the parents and are as though “citizens” of their small kingdom. The established disparity in the family roles is dictated by nature itself and is necessary for harmonious existence and development of the family.
                Each person, as a member of a family, community, and the Church, performs in this temporary life specific service or “obedience” that is necessary for the common welfare. In the Kingdom of Heaven there will be no difference in the existing sexual, racial and social distinctions between people. Human responsibility to God is in proportion to ones duties, but the reward in heaven is determined not by the status or privilege that he had in the community but by the effort with which he carried out his service. Before God all people are equal; the access to God's benevolence and to eternal bliss is open to all.

                When both married spouses behave in a Christian manner towards their marital responsibilities, this behavior serves to strengthen their mutual respect and true love. Having this in mind, St. John of Kronstadt taught newlyweds:“Where there is love, there is God; and where there is God, there everything is good.” 

www.ocpak.compublish by: Fr. Cyril Amer