On Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life
- Parent Category: Articles Section
- Category: Orthodox Church
- Written by Holy Synod of Bishops OCA
- Hits: 8491
Table of contents
The Mystery of Marriage
The Mystery of Marriage God creates human beings in His own image and likeness, male and female. He declares human life, with all that He makes, to be "very good" (Genesis 1:27-31).
God wills that men and women marry, becoming husbands and wives. He commands them to increase and multiply in the procreation of children, being joined into "one flesh" by His divine grace and love. He wills that human beings live within families (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-24; Orthodox Marriage Service).
The Lord Jesus blessed marriage in which the "two become one flesh" when, by his presence with his mother Mary and his disciples at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, he revealed his messianic glory in his first public miracle, evoking for the first time the faith of his disciples (Genesis 2:24; John 2:1-11).
The Lord Jesus Christ abrogated the practice of divorce which was permitted in the old covenant due to the people’s "hardness of heart," insisting that one unique marriage between man and woman was God’s will from the beginning (Mark 10:2-9, Matthew 19:3-12). He stated clearly that "every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity [porneia, i.e. sexual immorality], makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).
The Lord went even further to declare that people who look at others in order to lust after them in their hearts have "committed adultery" (cf. Matthew 5:27-30).
Christ’s apostles repeat the teachings of their Master, likening the unique marriage between one man and one woman to the union between Christ and His Church which they experience as the Lord’s very body and His bride (Ephesians 5:21-33; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
While condemning those who forbid marriage as an unholy institution, along with those who defile marriage through unchastity (1 Timothy 4:3, Hebrews 13:4), the apostles commend as "the will of God" that Christians, as examples for all human beings, "abstain from unchastity [porneia]" and know how to marry "in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God." They insist that "whoever disregards this [teaching] disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit" to those who believe (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).
Husbands are commanded to be the heads of their wives as Christ is the head of the Church. They are called to love their wives as their very selves, as Christ loves the Church, giving themselves in sacrifice to their brides as to their own bodies. And wives are called to respect and reverence their husbands as the Church devotes itself to Christ with whom she too, like the wife with her husband, is "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:21-33; Orthodox Marriage Service).
The "great mystery" of marriage (Ephesians 5:32) is the most used image and symbol in the Bible for God’s relationship with His People in the old and new testaments where the Lord is the husband and His people are His wife -- so often unfaithful and adulterous (cf. Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Song of Songs, Corinthians, Ephesians, et. al.). And the ultimate union between the Lord and those saved by Christ for eternal life in God’s kingdom by the indwelling Holy Spirit is likened to the communion of marriage (Revelation 21-22).
Convinced of these God-revealed truths, we offer the following affirmations and admonitions for the guidance of the faithful:
Every human being of whatever religion, race, nationality or moral convictions is to be respected and valued as a creature of God with the potential for everlasting life in God’s coming kingdom.
No human being, whatever his or her religion, race, nationality or moral convictions, is to be treated in a wicked, evil or unjust manner.
Orthodox Christians are to make supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings (lit. eucharists) for all people. This, according to Christ and the saints, includes one’s enemies, cursers and abusers, as well as persecutors of the Church, heathens and heretics (Luke 6:27-49; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; St John Chrysostom, On First Timothy, Homilies 6 and 7; St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ).