Summer is sweet and blossoming and is a perfect time for weddings. We have prepared some information about the Sacrament of Matrimony for you to read and enjoy during these sunny days. You will learn what the Holy Fathers have to say about it, how you can prepare for it, and find answers to many family-related questions.
Holy Fathers on Marriage and Family
“Where a husband, a wife and their children are united with the bonds of virtue, agreement, and love, there is Christ among them.” St John Chrysostom
“It is a true treasure and great happiness when the husband and wife live in unity, being one flesh with one another. Even if they are poor and not noble, they can be happier than everybody else because they enjoy real happiness and are always at peace. Those who abide in such a family union are not disturbed by anything; nothing can interfere with their peaceful happiness. If the husband and wife are unanimous, peaceful, and united in love, all good comes to them. Evil slander doesn’t hurt them because they are guarded by their unanimity in God, like a high wall… It multiplies their wealth and prosperity; it promotes them to the highest level of good honor; it attracts great God’s benevolence.” St John Chrysostom
“Father, what unites a husband and a wife most of all? — “Appreciation”, I replied. One person loves the other for what that other gives him or her. The wife gives her husband trust, loyalty, and obedience. The husband gives his wife confidence and protection. The wife is the host of the house, and at the same time she is the main servant at the house. The husband is the sovereign ruler of the household but he carries its burdens, too.” Elder Paisius of Mt Athos.
“He who lives in a family, will be saved thanks to family virtues.” St Theophan the Recluse
“Because they are one flesh, (spouses) also have one soul and motivate one another to become more pious by mutual love. Family life does not alienate a person from God. On the contrary, it makes one more attached to him because that person has more instances when he needs God’s help. A small ship moves forward by a soft wind; a big ship won’t move at the light breath of air. Likewise, people who have few things to care about, need less help of the great God; however, a man who has to care for his beloved spouse, property, and children, travels across a vast sea of life, so he needs more help from God, and he in turn loves God more. Bound by marriage, we are hands and feet and ears of one another. Family life makes even a weak one two times stronger. Common cares make sorrows easier to bear, and common joys make both sides happier. Wealth is more pleasant if the husband and wife are unanimous; if they are poor, their unanimity is more pleasant than wealth. Bonds of marriage serve as a key to chastity and desires, a seal of vital attachment.” St Gregory the Theologian
FAQ on Church Wedding and Family Life
How can I get ready for family life?
The Lord blesses people to be together, and the Church blesses their marriage through the Sacrament of Matrimony. You should be ready to bear the burdens of your partner. This effort to serve one’s spouse, to sacrifice your apparent freedom, and to give everything up because you love that person, is huge. Nowadays people can hardly do it on their own: they need God’s help. And God helps them. Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7). We should pray that the Lord send us our second half.
What do I need to do in order to get married in church?
You should come to a church and talk with a priest. Generally, the life of a couple should be not too far from the life of the Church. The Church will help and bless your family through the Sacraments of Matrimony and Baptism of their children. It would be great if your family started going to church on a regular basis, because you will need God’s help and blessing for the struggle to become a good family and to build good relationships in your family, i.e. being able to carry one another’s burdens with humility and love.
Is it allowed to marry, if less than a year has passed since the death of my grandmother?
People should marry if they have decided to make their relationship legally binding and fully accept their obligations to one another. There are many people today who do not want to do it, who don’t want their relationship to be binding, and hesitate to take this step because they give in to their egotism and lack of responsibility. Your grandmother will be happy to see that her grandchild has a wife under the law, and your relationship with your wife will be very different: you may even have children, God willing. So you won’t be breaking any law if you marry; on the contrary, it is a great idea.
Is it important to get married in church if one of the spouses is a believer and the other isn’t? Is a family who only had a civil ceremony guilty of fornication?
The Church accepts civil marriage as valid but it isn’t consecrated yet. Today one of you is a believer while the other is not. Your task is to help your partner to turn to God so that you could consecrate your marriage in church and go on to build your home church. You will need lots of love, patience, humility, and fervent prayer – and the miracle will happen. If you coerce your partner to go and get married in church while he or she opposes it, the result may be devastating. You cannot make a person believe. He or she has to have a personal encounter with God, thanks to your prayer and love, by seeing your life. If it is important for you and you are a practising Orthodox Christian, this will incite you to begin praying seriously. Keep calm and work hard.
Can an Orthodox wife marry a Catholic husband?
Yes, she can, but she will need a blessing from the diocesan office. What will suffice for a wedding? Two hearts that want God to unite them forever. You will need to trust God and be ready to fight, to carry one another’s burdens so as to fulfil the law of Christ. Naturally, you will have to help one another, support one another in difficult life situations, and not allow the sin to soil your family life.
Is keeping oneself chaste before wedding essential?
If possible, try to abstain from intimacy before marriage. Take care of your love and grow it and struggle for it. This is an immense task. Support one another, help one another, bear the burdens of your partner. You have to struggle to make your relationship pure and beautiful. May the Lord help you to create a good Christian family.
What should a married couple do during the Great Lent?
A person who starts an Orthodox family receives a blessing for this from God in the Holy Church, effectively becoming a warrior for Christ. We must help each other in the struggle against sin, in the fight for our love, which is a gift from God that we have to keep. What should a married couple do? They should help one another, serve one another and support one another. Of course, this is impossible without God’s help. We go to church, confess, and take communion. During the Lent, we do it more often. We limit our requirements, we abandon the pleasures of this world so as to make sure our soul could grow and develop and become more mature. Everyone has their own measure of spiritual growth. We should start by looking at our neighbor and asking ourselves how we can help him, what we can do to support him in a difficult situation, and not by what we have heard or read.
What should I do if I no longer love my partner?
Love is a gift. There are several types of love: one that you fall into; one that is dominated by passion; and one out of habit, among others. You have come to God, you have found your road to the church; in fact, it is the Lord who is the source of love. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7). Today you don’t notice how beautiful your partner is, and you don’t love him or her because, in general, that person does not love anyone, too. Everyone is beautiful. Look at your partner not as you usually do but trying to discover his or her real beauty. Ask God to help you to love this person. And maybe you will see a totally different person. Maybe, if you notice his or her inner depth, you will be able to perceive him or her in a different light. You have Someone to pray to, Someone who has come to save man, Someone who has come to teach us to love. You need to have a dialogue with your partner. You need to try to understand him: what he lives for and how he lives. You can find in everyone something to pity them for. You can accept your partner as he is. Your effort will certainly come to fruition. God’s blessing of your marriage is extremely important, too: through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of Matrimony gives a new feeling, helps to see things differently and perceive the beauty that you will have to struggle for throughout your life. However, if we spare ourselves and keep dreaming about people who would love us with zeal and passion, these dreams will prevent us from living in today, from the real life; they will isolate us from the people who are around us.
It was Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of St Elisabeth Convent, who kindly provided answers to your questions.