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What is a Christian Marriage?

Jennifer

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Okay everyone forgive me for obsessing about this today but this whole ordeal got me to thinking about what it takes to make a good marriage. 

My opinion (worth about $0.02) is that modern people expect too much out of marriage.  They expect their marriage partner to be their best friend and their spouse.  I don't think marriages used to be like that.  Are men and women really made to be best friends?  My gut tells me no. 

I also think that we expect some kind of 'fireworks' when we met someone and that stuff is all chemical and doesn't last. 

I think unfortunately that those of us who like to think of ourselves as traditional Christians have adopted modern ideas about marriage.  I read something about divorce about conservative Catholics.  Apparently it's commonplace.  Maybe we should be more practical about what we want in a spouse. 

But maybe I just don't understand because I've never been married. 

I can't but think that modern people expect too much out of a marriage and potential marriage partners thus leading to a lot of unhappiness. 

So any thoughts on what we should be looking for in a spouse? 

 

Cephas

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†Irini nem ehmot â€Â

I found this interesting article on marriage in my Orthodox Study Bible, and thought you might be interested.

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Marriage

The Bible and human history begin and end with weddings.  Adam and Eve come together in marital union in Paradise, before the Fall, revealing marriage as a part of God's eternal purpose for humanity in the midst of creation (Genesis 2:22-25).  History closes with the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9), earthly marriage being fulfilled in the heavenly, showing the eternal nature of the sacrament.

Between these bookend events of history are the accounts of numerous other unions of man and wife.  In the centuries-old Christian wedding ceremony used to this day in the Orthodox Church, several of these historical marriages are remembered: Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 11:29-23:20); Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24); Joachim and Anna, the parents of Virgin Mary; and Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-58).

The marriage most prominently featured in the wedding ceremony, however, is the one of Cana of Galilee, described in the Gospel passage read at every Orthodox wedding (John 2:1-11).  In attending this wedding and performing His first miracle there, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, forever sanctifies marriage.  As with all the Christian sacraments, marriage is sacramental because it is blessed by God.

Parenthetically, it is at this wedding at Cana that Mary first intercedes with Christ on behalf of others: "They have no wine" (John 2:3).  Then she calls all humanity to obey Him: "Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5).

In modern society, as well as in Christendom, a recurring debate is going on.  It deals with the tension between equality of the partners in marriage and office or order in marriage.  Often, this tension has turned into a polarity between men and women, and sometimes even breeds hostility.  There are two elements in the Orthodox service of marriage which serve to heal such tension, while making clear the teaching of the Church on the twin themes of equality and order concerning husband and wife.

As to equality, during the ceremony crowns are placed on the heads of the bride and groom.  This act is symbolic of their citizenship in the Kingdom of God, where "there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28) and of their dying to each other (the crown is often a symbol of martyrdom; see Revelation 2:10).  The words of St. Paul are clear on marital equality: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Corinthians 7:4).  Husband and wife belong to each other as martyrs, they belong to God as royalty, and they are called to treat each other accordingly.

But within marital equality there is also order.  The epistle passage read at the Sacrament of Marriage is Ephesians 5:20-33, the exhortation to husbands and wives which begins with a call to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21).  The husband is to serve God as head of his wife, as Christ is head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23).  The wife is to be subject to her husband as the Church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24).  There is nothing here to suggest that the wife is oppressed in marriage, anymore than one would call the Church oppressed in relationship to Christ.  He who calls us "brethren" (Hebrews 2:11) and "friends" (John 15:15) exhorts the husband to love his wife, to nourish and cherish her as He Himself does the Church (Ephesians 5:28,29).

Thus, marriage is a sacrament -- holy, blessed, and everlasting in the sight of God and His Church.  Within the bonds of marriage, husband and wife experience a union with one another in love, and hopefully the fruit of children and one day the joy of grandchildren.  And within the bonds of marriage there is both a fullness of equality between husband and wife, and a clarity of order with the husband as the icon of Christ, the wife as the icon of the Church.

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Prayers please.
 

aserb

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Jennifer:

I have been married for eight years and I agree with you that too high an expectation has been put on marriage. Then people get married and their high expectations are not met and are let down. At this point, in my opinion, some couples will part ways others, will wise up in marriage and realize that hey so its not "all that" My wife and I both met while evangelical Christians and I think that evangelicals are guilty in many ways of placing too much emphasis on marriage being the be all and end all. Conversely, I do not want to diminish its importance in God's grand design. Abyout best friends. Well, how do ou define this. A man has another male best friend, but that friendship meets different needs for camaraderie. My wife is my best friend in that I enjoy her company and love doing things with her. She has a great sense of humor. We like old movies and music from the Sinatra era and Italian food. We clash at times, it's not all sweetness and light. If I had to think why we're still together or what binds us, I believe it is our common history of sorts. Both of us come from modest means and grew up in families that emphasized education and hard work as a means to get ahead. We worked hard to get where we are and we shouldered one another's burdens of saving to buy a home, having a child and walking through scary moments together. That last one is important. I use to always say that I could always find someone to party with, but a true friend sticks with you through hard times.  She's my best friend.

Hope this helps

Prayers for you sister. :)
 

Jennifer

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In some class I took during law school (can't remember which class) we talked about a study that had been done of a working class neighborhood. The researchers had visited in the 1920's, the 1950's and the 1990's.  One thing they found was in the 1920's most of the husbands and wives said their "best friends" were not their spouse but rather someone in the neighborhood who was of the same sex. Things had changed by the 1990's. 

I look at my parents who have a very happy marriage.  They've been married for almost 45 years.  They're to the stage in their lives where they literally do everything together.  But they're not completely in sync about everything.  They agree on all of the important stuff and get into little 'snits' about stupid things like whether Harry Potter is a children's book or an adult book.  Seriously, they argued about that for hours one day.  But they couldn't imagine not being married. 

They knew each for a year before marrying.  They probably dated about 6 months before getting engaged.  When they were engaged, my mom lived in a women's dorm and could hardly spend any time with my father. 

This reminds me of something I read about how people are changing wedding vows to get rid of the "death til us part" thing and replacing it with things like "until we're no longer in love." 

It seems to me that Christians are just as suspectible to this kind of 'modernism' as the secular world.  And I find it disappointing that priests so rarely talk about this very important issue.  I firmly believe that churches could do a much better job at matching up parishioners. 

 

Cephas

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Jennifer said:
  I firmly believe that churches could do a much better job at matching up parishioners. 
This part caught my eye... I didn't realize the church was supposed to play matchmaker.  :-\
 

Jennifer

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Cephas said:
This part caught my eye... I didn't realize the church was supposed to play matchmaker.  :-\
Actually I think that priests are in a very good position to play matchmaker.  That's traditionally a role they've played.  I also think the Church can provide opportunities for single people to meet each other.  I don't see why people disapprove of this.  It sounds worldly but the majority of us are called to be married. 

Actually I think I read about staretz 'matching' up their spiritual children. 

 
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