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Re: [orthodox-synod] What is a true marriage? - part 1

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  • VladMoss@aol.com
    What is a True Marriage? Vladimir Moss May Christ thetrue Bridegroom seal your marriage in the truth of His love. The Syrian rite of marriage. Metropolitan
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2003
      What is a True Marriage?
      Vladimir Moss
      May Christ thetrue Bridegroom seal your marriage in the truth of His love.
      The Syrian rite of marriage.

      Metropolitan Philaret’s Expanded Christian Catechism defines marriage thus:
      “Marriage is the mystery in which conjugal union is blessed, as the image of
      the spiritual union of Christ with the Church, and in which is asked the
      grace of a pure unity of soul, blessed child-bearing and the Christian
      upbringing of children.”

      This is a somewhat paradoxical definition,because while every element in it
      is essential, it leaves out the definitive element according to the Gospel:
      the union in one flesh. For the Lord does not say: “they are no longer two,
      but one spirit”, but: “they areno longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19.5).
      This is by no means to demean the spiritual element in marriage: on the
      contrary, a Christian marriage must be a union in spirit as well as flesh:
      “Join them in one mind; crown them into one flesh”, as the priest prays
      during the marriage service. Nevertheless, if we seek to define the
      difference between marriage and other unions between human beings, we are
      forced to return to that which the Gospel places, without any false shame, in
      the forefront: marriage is the union of two human beings of different sexes
      into one flesh, into one physical unit.

      It is necessary to emphasise that marriage is defined in physical terms in
      orderto preclude the view that would see in sexual union an at best
      unnecessary and at worse sinful element in the marriage bond. Marriage is not
      marriage if it is not a physical union “into one flesh”, according to the
      words of the Lord Himself. This conception of marriage, writes S.V. Troitsky,
      “was included into the official canonical collections of the East. The
      Eclogue ofthe year 740 defines marriage as the union of two people in one
      flesh, in one substance. Together with the Eclogue, this definition entered
      into theSlavonic Kormchaia Kniga. Balsamon defines marriage as ‘the union of
      husbandand wife into one substance, into one man with [almost] one soul, but
      in two hypostases”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn1">[1]</A> To the Manichaeans it may seem that the definition of
      marriage as a one-flesh union isthe clearest proof of its lowliness, even its
      sinfulness. However, it is precisely because marriage is a one-flesh union
      that divorce, adultery and fornication are seen as the truly sinful phenomena
      that they are, insofar ast hey tear apart what God has united.

      The Permanence of Marriage

      Let us look more closely at the difference between marriage and fornication.
      Clearly not every one-flesh union between a man and a woman constitutes a
      marriage. Thus St. John Chrysostom, commenting on the words: “It is by the
      Lord that a man is matched with a woman” (Proverbs 19.14), writes: “He means
      that God made marriage, and not that it is He that joins together every man
      that comes to be with a woman. For we see many that come to be with one
      another for evil, even by the law of marriage, and this we should not ascribe
      to God”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn2">[2]</A> Again, ArchpriestSergei Shukin writes: “Let us recall the words
      of the Savior to the Samaritan woman: ‘Thou hast well said, ‘I have no
      husband;’ for thou hast had fivehusbands, and he whom thou now hast is not
      thy husband’ (John 4.17-18).This shows that from a spiritual viewpoint, not
      every marriage is a Christian marriage; it becomes Christian only when it has
      been entered into for the goals defined and established by God.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn3">[3]</A> The
      words of Fr. Sergei need to be qualified here: since the Samaritan woman was
      not, at the time of this conversation, a Christian, and did not even belong
      to the Old Testament People of God, the distinction made here by the Lord was
      not between Christian and non-Christian marriage, but between marriage and
      fornication. In other words, even among those who are not Christians, there
      is a real difference, recognized by God, between a lawful union in one flesh,
      which He calls marriage, and an unlawful union, which we call fornication.

      In what does this difference consist? St. John Chrysostom writes: “When we
      speak of marriage we do not mean carnal union – on that basis, fornication
      would also be marriage. Marriage consists in the fact that the married woman
      contents herself with a single husband; this is what distinguishes
      thecourtisan from the free and wise woman. When a woman contents herself
      during her life with a single husband, this union merits the name of
      marriage. But ifs he opens her house not to one man only, but to several
      bridegrooms, I do not dare to call this behaviour fornication, but I will say
      of this woman that she is very far behind the woman who has known only one
      husband. The latter has in effect heard the word of the Lord: ‘For that a man
      will leave his father and his mother and will cleave to his wife, and they
      will be two in one flesh’; she has cleaved to her husband as if he was really
      her flesh and she has not forgotten the master who has been given her once
      and for all; the other woman has considered neither her first husband nor the
      second marriage as her own flesh; the first has been dispossessed by the
      second who is in his turn dispossessed by the first; she would not be able to
      preserve a faithful memory of her first husband while attaching herself after
      him to another; as for the second, she will not look at him with the
      appropriate tenderness, since a part of her thought is distributed in favour
      of the one who has gone. The consequence?… Both of them, the first as well as
      the second, are frustrated of the esteem and affection which a wife owes to
      her husband.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn4">[4]</A>

      “Marriage consists in the fact that the married woman contents herself with a
      single husband”. Clearly this constancy is a necessary part of true marriage.
      But is it sufficient? Is it not possible for a man and a woman to live
      together permanently, “forsaking all other”, but outside lawful wedlock? Is
      not the rite of marriage also a necessary element? And if so, what kind of
      rite? What about the elements of consent of the marrying parties, consent of
      the parents or guardians, consent of the Church, the element of love?

      Troitsky’s Thesis
      One answer to this series of questions is provided by the canonist S.V.
      Troitsky, who concludes, on the basis of his study of Roman and Byzantine
      law, that no religious rite is necessary to conclude a true Christian
      marriage. As I shall argue later, such a conclusion does not take into
      account several important facts and is unacceptable from a Christian point of
      view. However, I shall first quote his answer at some length because of the
      important and relevant information it does contain:

      “From the sovereign character of the family Roman law drew the conclusion
      that it was not the state that made a marriage a marriage, and not a mutual
      love, their will, their agreement. Nuptiae solo affectu fiunt, nuptiae
      consensu contrahentium fiunt, consensus facit nuptias – such was the basic
      position of Roman and Byzantine, ecclesiastical and civil law in the first 8
      centuries of Christian history. Moreover, in more ancient times the religious
      form of marriage, confarreatio,was necessary not to make marriage valid, but
      for manus, that is, for the acquisition by the husband of authority over the
      wife. “But if marriage is concluded by the marrying parties themselves,
      then in what does the task of the State in relation to marriage consist? Only
      in verifying its existence for itself, only in registering the marriage, to
      theextent that this was necessary for the resolution of various questions of
      amily and inheritance law. And Roman law left it to the will of the marrying
      parties to choose any form of marriage they liked, contenting itself with the
      minimum for its own verification.

      “In ancient Rome there existed a view with regard to marriage that was the
      opposite of our own. We have a presumption that those living together are not
      married. In our time a married couple must itself prove with documents,
      witnesses, etc.,that it is in lawful wedlock. In Rome, by contrast, the
      presumption was thatt hose living together were married.

      “Every permanent sexual relationship of a fully entitled man and woman was
      seen as a marriage. ‘We must see living together with a free woman as
      marriage, and not concubinage,’ writes the noted Roman jurist Modestinus.
      Therefore it was not the marrying parties that had to prove that they were in
      wedlock, but a third interested party had to prove that there existed some
      kindof impediment which did not allow one to see this living together as
      marriage.To put it more briefly, onus probandi lay not on the spouses, but on
      thet hird parties. Only when there was a basis for thinking that it was in
      the family or property interests of the parties to present a temporary
      relationshipas marriage was the question of the formal criteria of marriage
      raised. But even in this case Roman law contented itself with the minimum.
      For this it was sufficient, for example, to show that there had been de facto
      living together for a year, the testimonies of witnesses that the parties had
      indeed agreed to marry or to call each other Mr. and Mrs., that some kind of
      marital rite had been performed, the presentation of documents with regard to
      thedowry, etc. In a word, speaking in legal terms, in Rome the participation
      of the State in the conclusion of a marriage did not have a constitutive, but
      only a declarative character.

      “Byzantine legislation adopted the same point of view until the end of the
      9th century. The constitution of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian in
      428 says that for the validity of marriage neither a wedding feast is
      necessary, nor documents on a dowry, nor any festivity, since no law hindered
      the marriage of fully entitled people. Marriage acquired validity by means of
      agreement and the testimony of witnesses. Although Justinian, in his novella
      74 of December, 537, prescribed that middle-class people should go tochurch
      to conclude their marriage, this demand was based on considerations, not of a
      religious, but only of an economic character, which is indicated by the fact
      that the very separation of this class of people was in accordance with their
      property census. And indeed, Justinian demanded that middle-class people
      should go to church not in order to be crowned, but only in order to draw up
      a documenton marriage in front of an ecclesiastical lawyer and three or four
      clergy as witnesses. But even this formality did not last long, and on
      December 11, 542,novella 117 (ch. 4) freed even middle-class people from this
      obligation. Only upper-class people (illustres et senatores), again for
      reasons having todo with property, had to write documents on the dowry, while
      the lower classes were not obliged to write any documents at all. In the same
      novella 74 (chapter5), Justinian gave the significance of an optional form of
      marriage, not to crowning, but to the oath ‘to take as my wife’ while
      touching the Bible. Only in a legislative collection of the 8th century, more
      precisely: int he collection of 741 of the iconoclast emperors Leo the
      Isaurian and Constantine Copronymus known as the Eclogue, was a blessing as a
      juridical form of concluding a marriage mentioned for the first time. But
      even here a blessing is not an obligatory form for the conclusion of a
      marriage, but only one of fourf orms of marriage, the choice of which depends
      on external circumstances andt he will of the marrying parties; in other
      words, here a Church blessing is only an optional form of marriage, and even
      then not always, but only in caseof necessity, and it is precisely the Eclogue
      that prescribes that marriage must be concluded by means of the drawing up
      of a document of a definite form, and when, as a consequence of the poverty
      of the spouses, it is mpossible to draw up the document, the marriage can be
      concluded either throught he agreement of the parents, or through a Church
      blessing, or through the witness of friends (Eclogue, II, 1,3,8). It is
      exactly the same with crowning; it is an optional form of marriage, say also
      the later laws of the Byzantine emperors – the Prochiron of 878 (IV,
      6,14,17,27), the Epanagoge of 886 (XVI, 1) and the collection known as
      Blastaris’ Syntagma of 1335(G., 2, translation of Ilyinsky, p. 103).
      ‘Marriage,’ we read in Blastaris, ‘is concluded by means of a blessing, or
      crowning, or an agreement’.

      “That is how the ancient Church, too, looked on the form of marriage.The
      basic source of the Church’s teaching on marriage, the Bible, does not
      saythat the institution of marriage arose some time later as something
      established by the State or the Church. Here we find another teaching on
      marriage. Neitherthe Church nor the State is the source of marriage. On the
      contrary: marriage is the source of both the Church and the State. Marriage
      precedes all the social and religious organizations. It was established
      already in Paradise, itwas established by God Himself. God brings the woman
      to Adam, and Adam himself proclaims his marital union independently of any
      earthly authority, even the authority of parents (Genesis 2.24; cf. Matthew
      19.6). Thus the first marriage was concluded ‘by the mercy of God’. In the
      first marriage the husband and wife are the bearers of the highest earthly
      authority, they are sovereigns to whom the whole of the rest of the world is
      subject (Genesis 1.28).The family is the first form of the Church, it is the
      ‘little Church’, as Chrysostom calls it, and at the same time it is the
      source also of the State as an organization of power, since according to the
      Bible the basis of every authority of man over man is to be found in the
      words of God on the authority of the husband over the wife: ‘he will be your
      lord’ (Genesis 3.16).Thus the family is not only a little Church, but also a
      little State. And if that is so, then the relationship of the family with the
      Church and the State must have a character of equality, the character of
      international and inter-Church relations. Therefore the performers of
      marriage are considered int he sources of the Church’s teaching to be the
      spouses themselves, and the participation of a representative of authority,
      whether of the Church or of the State, is not an essential element of
      marriage, is not a condition of its validity. In the whole Bible, both in the
      Old and in the New Testaments, we donot find a single word on any kind of
      obligatory form of marriage, although here we do find many prescriptions of a
      ritual character. The relationship ofthe Church and the State to marriage is
      expressed not in its conclusion, but only in its verification, in its
      recognition as an already accomplished fact.Just as the recognition of
      authority in a State on the part of another State does not give this
      authority new rights, but is only the condition of normal relations between
      these States, so the participation of a representative of society, whether of
      the Church or of the State, is the condition of normal relations between them
      and the new family. “Therefore the relationship of the Church to marriage
      was one of recognition. This idea is well expressed in the Gospel account of
      the marriagein Cana of Galilee (John 1.1-11). Reference is sometimes made to
      this account as a proof of the teaching that the accomplisher of marriage is
      thepriest. In fact, the Gospel account is not in agreement with this point of
      view. The Gospel makes no mention whatsoever of the participation of Christ
      int he rite of the conclusion of the marriage. Christ came with His apostles
      as aguest; he was invited to the wedding feast. But participation in the
      weddingf east was, generally speaking, an expression of the recognition of
      marriage on the part of society, and the presence of Christ and the apostles
      had the significance of a recognition of the Old Testament institution of
      marriage on the part of the new Church.
      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref1">[</A>

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