How are WE doing with marriage? An Orthodox Perspective

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Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

We need to start looking to our own housekeeping now. What is the average lifespan of a marriage in Canada? For the past 25 or so years, we have been told that it is 5 years. I do not have concrete statistics on that figure, but it has been mentioned by government agencies. Divorce is far too easy to obtain, without any form of counselling or attempts to save marriages. I have no idea what the stats are in America, or in the Commonwealth outside of Canada. However, it seems that we need to work very hard to teach our own Orthodox Christian youth far more about the meaning and mystery of marriage as a revelation of Christ and the Church, as revelation about the mystery of salvation.

Male and female exist in such a way that they can serve for this revelation, and if marriage is only about sex and procreation, then we have already lost the battle. Read the Crowning Service carefully and contemplate the meaning of it. Why do we bless the couple in the name of all the Old Testament prophetic couples? Are we not reminded that the promise was given to Abraham but could be fulfilled only through Sarah? It could not be fulfilled through Hagar the concubine; she existed only for the purpose of procreation, of providing an heir for Abraham. But Sarah was the wife whom he truly loved, and so the fulfilment of the promise, as a type of Christ who “loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” and the Church who is the bride of Christ, could take place only with sincere love. The Holy Nation was born of this deep and abiding love between Abraham and Sarah. Such is the meaning of the Crowning Service in which the martyrs crowns (not the imperial margarine crowns now used) are changed  back and forth between husband and wife to proclaim the equal value of their roles.

Note that the bride’s father does not “give his daughter away” in the Orthodox Church, because he does not own her. She is not a piece of chattel property to be given as property by one man to another, as if she was some kind of farm animal. She has an equality in life and role. We really need to be teaching these things to our children, rather than the cheap and unconvincing moralisms that they are usually taught: “sex is naughty without that piece of paper; it is not naughty if you have that piece of paper” from the State and the Church. This is not at all convincing, nor do very many people actually believe that God hates them if they do not have that piece of paper. Something deeper and more profound pertains here, and we should, at the very least, proclaim that . Above all, that marriage can be a vehicle for unselfish love, and that children are so much a part of our salvation, because they draw forth from us the greatest unselfish, sacrificing love. And the only way to defeat the power of Satan in our lives is by growing in unselfish love, as my beloved mentor Fr John Romanides so often said.

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