The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
30 – Matrimony
The sacrament of matrimony is also established by God. As a matter of fact, its establishment was announced in the Old Testament. God created Adam and from the side of Adam He created Eve. When Adam saw the woman, He said: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh"(Genesis 2:23-24). God blessed the first-created and said: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it"(Genesis 1:28).
This divine establishment of the sacrament was reaffirmed by Christ by His presence at the wedding at Cana, and through what He said to the Pharisees who tested Him. Christ said to them: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh" (Matthew 19:4-6). With these words of Christ two things are reaffirmed. First, the physical unity of male and female gender supports the sacrament of matrimony. Secondly, no one should separate those whom God has joined.
This sacrament is an icon and likeness of the mystical unity of the bridegroom, Christ, with the bride, the Church, and this is how St. Paul presents it to us when he says: "This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church"(Ephesians 5:32).
Therefore, the Old and the New Testaments directly tell us of the sacrament of matrimony. Regarding Holy Tradition, it suffices to refer to the words of St. Basil the Great: "The nature of the bondage is a bond based on a blessing" and St. Photios says that "what makes the betrothal a leading into marriage acceptable by God is not the coming together, but the ceremony based on prayers."
Our Church recognizes obstacles to marriage. In other words, it does not allow marriage between certain people. Specifically, it does not allow marriage between people related by blood and those related in spirit. Prohibited marriages are:
1. Parents with their own children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.
2. Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
3. Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
4. First cousins with each other.
5. Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
6. Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.
According to the teaching of Christ, the sacrament of matrimony is indissoluble. For only one reason is marriage dissolved and divorce granted. Let us listen to Christ: "But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress"(Matthew 5:32).
For the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony, two elements are required. First, it is required that there be free consent on the part of the groom and the bride. Secondly, a religious ceremony is required, performed by a bishop or priest with canonical, apostolic succession.
A civil marriage or one by common law is not recognized by the Church.
Christians should keep all the laws of our Church regarding the sacrament of marriage so that they do not sin, and so that they have the blessing of God for the betrothed to live honourably and happily, and to raise children in "the knowledge and teachings of the Lord."
LET US PRAY
Creator of all, Triune God, You Who commanded that people be joined through the sacrament of matrimony, and in this way mutually complement each other and multiply. You, Lord, protect the family, for it is the nucleus of society. On it are supported so many things. Do not allow the dissolution of any marriage. Bless, Lord, all couples. Make them be mystically united in the bond of sincere love and in the sacrament, just as Christ, the Bridegroom, is with His Bride, the Church.
We thank You, Lord.