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Re: [orthodox-synod] What is a true marriage? - part 2

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  • VladMoss@aol.com
    “This is also how the ancient Christian Church herself looked on thef orm of marriage. Her teaching on the form of marriage coincides with the eaching of the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2003
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      “This is also how the ancient Christian Church herself looked on thef orm
      of marriage. Her teaching on the form of marriage coincides with the eaching
      of the Bible and Roman law. Therefore the ancient Christians, who did not
      permit the slightest compromise with the State pagan religion and preferred a
      martyr’s death to participation in the smallest pagan rite, entered into
      marriage in the time of the persecutions and later in exactly the same way as
      the other citizens of the Roman State. ‘They, that is, the Christians,
      conclude marriage in the same way as everyone,’ says an ancient Christian
      writer of the 2nd century in the Epistle to Diognetus (V, 6). ‘Each of us
      recognizes as his wife the woman whom he took in accordance with the laws
      published by you (i.e. the pagans),’ says Athenagoras in his Apology( 33, P.G.
      6:965) submitted to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (166-177). St. Ambrose of
      Milan says that Christians take wives ‘in accordance with the tablets’, that
      is, in accordance with the Roman laws of the 12 tablets (On the Institution
      of Virginity, 6; P.L. 16:316). Chrysostom says definitively: ‘Marriage is
      concluded in no other way than by agreement according to the laws’ (Homily 56
      on Genesis, 29; P.G. 54:488).The first canon of the Council of Laodicea
      demands that marriage should be concluded only ‘freely and lawfully’, that
      is, in accordance with the Romanlaws. The ancient Church completely
      assimilated the basic teaching of Roman marital law, that marriage is
      concluded by the spouses themselves, that consensusf acit nuptias. This
      teaching is found among the most authoritative representatives of Church
      teaching both in the East and in the West, for example, in John Chrysostom,
      Balsamon, Ambrose of Milan, Blessed Augustine,Isidore, Pope Nicholas I, and

      “Finally, we find the same teaching in the official collections of
      Byzantine law which have been adopted by the Orthodox Church.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn1">[1]</A>

      Andyet for many centuries now, in both East and West, a marriage that
      has not been performed by a priest in Church is considered invalid by
      Christians. So why did the change take place, if it did indeed take place? Or
      perhaps Troitsky is overlooking certain points…

      The Role of the Church

      Let us return to the marriage in Cana. Troitsky asserts that Christ’s
      presence there signified no more than His recognition of the validity of Old
      Testament marriage.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn2">[2]</A> And yet the tradition of the Church, as we have seen,
      sees more in it than that:not a recognition merely, but a blessing, the
      addition of a Divine element that was not there before, the changing of the
      cold and watery element of pre-Christian marriage into the soberly
      intoxicating element of Christian marriage.

      Moreover, it is going beyond the evidence to suppose that Christ was
      merely a passive spectator at the marriage. We are told that He and His
      apostles were “invited”, which implies a certain desire for His presence on
      the part of the spouses, a desire which must have been the stronger in that
      the bridegroom was himself an apostle, St. Simon the Zealot. In response to
      this active desire on the part of man for the participation of God, is it
      likelyt hat God would not respond, would refuse to play any active role

      This was certainly not the view of, for example, St. Gregory the
      Theologian, who says to those preparing to be baptised: “Are you not yet
      married in the flesh? Fear not this consecration; you are pure even after
      marriage. I will take the risk of that. I will join you in marriage. I will
      lead in the bride. We do not dishonour marriage because we give a higher
      honour to virginity. I will imitate Christ, the pure Bridegroom and Leader of
      the Bride, as He both worked a miracle at a wedding, and honours marriage
      with His Presence.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn3">[3]</A>

      This passage, as well as attributing an active role to Christ as “Leader
      of the Bride”, attributes an analogous role to the Christian priest. Just as
      God led Eve to Adam in Paradise, thereby makingt hem man and wife, so did
      Christ at Cana and so does every Christian priest at every Christian
      marriage. That it is God Who is the initiator and consecrator of true
      marriage is confirmed by other patristic writings, some of which are quoted
      by Troitsky himself. Thus Tertullian writes: “Marriage takes place when God
      unites two into one flesh”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn4">[4]</A> And St. John Chrysostom writes: “God unites
      you with your wife”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn5">[5]</A> As it is expressed in a Novella of Emperor Alexis I,
      those being married “receive God”, Who “walks amidst those being united”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn6">[6]
      </A> Again, Metropolitan Cyprian of Kiev (1376-1406) writes in his service book
      that“husband and wife are united by Thee [God]”.

      Troitsky asserts that the early Church did no more than recognize the
      validity of marriages performed according to Roman law. And yet the very
      earliest witness we have to the early Church’s practice implies rather more
      than that. Thus St. Ignatius the Godbearer writes:“ It is right for men and
      women who marry to be united with the knowledge of the bishop (meta gnwmhV
      tou Episkopou), that the marriage may be according to the Lord and not
      according tolust (kata Kurion kai mh kat’ epiqumian).<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn7">[7]</A> This shows that
      “marriage as a sacramental action has an apostolic origin, or, as Stavrinos
      indicates, ‘marriage from the beginning was sanctified by the Church, being
      accomplished by her prayers and blessing’”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn8">[8]</A>

      It may be that in the early Christian centuries there was no specific
      rite of marriage carried out in the Church, and that Christians continued to
      be married according to the non-Christian procedures of the pagan Roman
      empire. But this is in no way implies that the Church was merely a passive
      spectator, any more than Christ was a passive spectator at Cana. If the
      marriage had to be “in the Lord”, in the words of the Apostle Paul (I
      Corinthians 7.39), and “with the knowledge of the bishop”, as St. Ignatius
      says, then it is clear that some Episcopal screening was carried out
      beforehand to ensure that the marriage would not be contrary to the Church’s
      ethical and canonical norms. Moreover, the Church then added hero wn seal and
      blessing to the marriage performed outside her walls, if only by
      communicating the married couple as a couple in the Body and Blood of Christ.
      In a somewhat similar way, an emperor was proclaimed emperor for the first
      time outside the walls of the Church, butt hen received the blessing and
      anointing of the Church within them.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn9">[9]</A>

      Do the early sources betray any embryonic elements of a specifically
      Christian rite of marriage? Some have seen a marital blessing in the
      following remark of Clement of Alexandria: “On whom does the presbyter lay
      his hand? Whom does he bless? Not the woman decked out, but another’s hair
      [i.e. a wig], and through it another head.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn10">[10]</A> Less ambiguous are the words
      of Tertullian: “[The happy marriage is the one that the Church joins, which
      the offering [oblatio, i.e. the Eucharist] strengthens, which the blessing [
      benedictio] seals, which the angels proclaim and which the heavenly Father
      confirms”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn11">[11]</A>“Hidden unions [occultae conjunctiones], that is, ones that
      have not been professed beforehand in the Church, are judged to be equivalent
      to fornication and adultery”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn12">[12]</A>

      As Troitsky himself points out, bothboth Roman pagan and Christian
      Byzantine law considered secret marriages to be fornication.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn13">[13]</A> This is
      enough in itself to refute his suggestion (which is in agreement with the
      teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, but not of the Orthodox) that marriage
      is concluded by the spouses themselves. For marriage is a public event with
      public consequences, and as such has to be sealed by society as a whole
      –which, for a Christian, must include the society of the Church.

      The Church in her wisdom did not reject the secular rite of the Roman
      state, but vetted who should participate in it beforehand and sealed it
      afterwards through her own grace-filled rites, which included, as a minimum,
      the Divine Liturgy insofar as the latter is, in the words of St. Symeon of
      Thessalonica, “the end of every rite and divine mystery”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn14">[14]</A> This fact
      becomes more and more indisputable as we turn from the pre-Nicene to the
      post-Nicene sources. Thus St. Basil the Great calls marriage “a yoke through
      a blessing”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn15">[15]</A> Again, St.Gregory the Theologian asks Olympiada to forgive
      him for not being present at her wedding, but says that in spirit he, as a
      priest, places the right hands oft he couple on each other and both in the
      hand of God.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn16">[16]</A>Again, St. Timothy of Alexandria in his 11th canon answers a
      question relating to a priest being invited to perform a wedding by “making
      an offering [prosforan]”.Again, Synesius of Ptolemais, a married bishop of
      the early 5th century, tells us that he took his wife from the hand of Bishop
      Theophilus of Alexandria.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn17">[17]</A> Again, St. Augustine calls marriage, not simply
      a marital bond, but an indissoluble sacrament”.<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn18">[18]</A> From the above examples
      it is clear that “in the first years of Christianity the dominant position
      was held by political marriage with the thought that it was recognized by the
      Roman State, but the Church blessed the faithful newly weds in parallel with
      some form of priestly act.”<A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftn19">[19]</A>

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref1">[1]</A> Troitsky, op. cit., pp. 174-181.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref2">[2]</A> He quotesthe following texts in his favour: (i) “He brings a gift in
      order to honour thework” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 4 on Isaiah 6.1; P.G.
      56:246);(ii) “to confirm that He Himself established marriage (in
      Paradise)” (Bl.Augustine, On John, 9.2); (iii) “He is present here as one
      invited tothe wedding feast, which took place already after the celebration
      of themarriage, and by His presence He witnesses that marriage concluded
      inaccordance with the laws and customs of the Hebrew people is a
      true,God-pleasing marriage.” (Pavlov, 50-aia glava Kormchej Knigi,
      Moscow,1887, p. 58).

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref3">[3]</A> St. Gregorythe Theologian, Oration on Holy Baptism, 18.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref4">[4]</A> Tertullian, OnMonogamy, 9.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref5">[5]</A> St. JohnChrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians, 4; P.G. 62:135.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref6">[6]</A> AthenianSyntagma, V, 286-291; quoted in Trotsky, op. cit., p. 49.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref7">[7]</A> St.Ignatius, To Polycarp, 5.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref8">[8]</A> Ioannis Kogkoulis, KhristosOikonomos, Panagiotis Skaltstis, O Gamos,
      Thessalonica, 1996, p. 187 (inGreek).

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref9">[9]</A> “It is notin vain,” writes Pavel Kuzmenko, “that marriage crowning
      involves the laying ofwreaths similar to royal crowns on the heads of the
      newly married. Itsymbolizes that the family is a small kingdom in the earthly
      sense and a smallchurch in the spiritual sense” (Nashi Traditsii: Kreschenie,
      Venchanie,Pogrebenie, Posty, Moscow: Bukmen, 1996, p. 106 (in Russian).)
      During the coronationof the Russian Tsars, the bystanders were showered with
      gold and silver,symbolizing the betrothal of the Tsar with the State. See Fr.
      Nikita Chakorov(ed.), Tsarskie Koronatsii na Rusi, Russian Orthodox Youth
      Committee,1971, p. 22 (in Russian).

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref10">[10]</A> Clement ofAlexandria, The Instructor, III, 11; Kogkoulis et al., op. cit.
      ,p. 188.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref11">[11]</A> Tertullian,To his Wife, II, 9; P.L. 1:1302A; Kogkoulis et al., op. cit.
      ,p. 189.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref12">[12]</A> Tertullian,On Chastity, 4; P.L. 2:1038-1039; Kogkoulis et al., op. cit.
      ,p. 189.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref13">[13]</A> Referencesin Troitsky, op. cit., p. 182.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref14">[14]</A> St. Symeonof Thessalonica, Peri tou timiou nomimou gamou, P.G.155: 512D.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref15">[15]</A> St. Basilthe Great, On the Hexaemeron, P.G. 29:160B; Kogkoulis et al.,
      op.cit. p. 190.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref16">[16]</A> St. Gregorythe Theologian, Letter 183, P.G. 37:313; Kogkoulis et al.,
      op. cit.p. 190.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref17">[17]</A> Synesius, Letter 105, P.G.66:1485A; Kogkoulis et al., op. cit. p. 190.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref18">[18]</A> St. Augustine, On Marriage andConcupiscence, I, 10, 11; P.L. 44: 419;
      Kogkoulis et al., op.cit. p. 191.

      <A HREF="file://C:\My%20Documents\Marriage\%23_ftnref19">[19]</A> Kogkoulis et al., op. cit., p.192.

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