|This article forms part of the series|
|Baptism - Chrismation |
Confession - Eucharist
Marriage - Ordination
|Nepsis - Metanoia |
Hesychia - Phronema
Mysticism - Nous
|Chastity - Obedience |
Stability - Fasting
Poverty - Monasticism
|Humility - Generosity |
Chastity - Meekness
Temperance - Contentment
|Worship - Veneration |
Prayer Rule - Jesus Prayer
Relics - Sign of the Cross
|Apostolic Fathers |
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
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Marriage (also matrimony) is one of the holy mysteries (sacraments) in the Orthodox Church, as well as many other Christian traditions. It serves to unite a woman and a man in eternal union before God with the purpose of following Christ and His Gospel and, when possible, raising up a faithful, holy family through their holy union. It is referred to extensively in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ declared the essential indissolvibility of marriage in the Gospel.
Married life, no less than monastic life, is a special vocation, requiring a particular gift or charism from the Holy Spirit, a gift bestowed in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The same Trinitarian mystery of unity in diversity applies to the doctrine of marriage as it does to the Church. The family created by this sacrament is a small church.
The Orthodox Church teaches that man is made in the image of the Trinity, and he is not intended by God to live alone, but in a family, except in special cases. And just as God blessed the first family, commanding Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, so the Church now gives its blessing to the union of man and woman. The mystery of marriage, in the Church, gives a man and a woman the possibility to become one spirit and one flesh in a way which no human love can provide by itself. The Holy Spirit is given so that what has begun on earth is fulfilled and continues most perfectly in the Kingdom of God.
St John Chrysostom held that procreation is a normal feature of marriage, but not essential to it.
- Marriage does not always lead to child-bearing, although there is the word of God which says, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." We have as witnesses all those who are married but childless. So the purpose of chastity takes precedence, especially now, when the whole world is filled with our kind. At the beginning, the procreation of children was desirable, so that each person might leave a memorial of his life.... But now that resurrection is at our gates, and we do not speak of death, but advance toward another life better than the present, the desire for posterity is superfluous. If you desire children, you can get much better children now, a nobler childbirth and a better help in your old age, if you give birth by spiritual labor.
- So there remains only one reason for marriage, to avoid fornication, and the remedy is offering for this purpose.
For the Orthodox Christian, the marriage service (wedding) is the Church's formal recognition of the couple's unity, a created image of God's love which is eternal, unique, indivisible and unending. The early Church simply witnessed the couple's expression of mutual love in the Church, and their union was blessed by their mutual partaking of the Holy Eucharist.
When a marriage service developed in the Church, it was patterned after the service for baptism and chrismation. The couple is addressed in a way similar to that of the individual in baptism. They confess their faith and their love of God. They are led into the Church in procession. They are prayed over and blessed. They listen to God's Word.
The service contains no vows or oaths. It is, in essence, the "baptizing and confirming" of human love in God by Christ in the Holy Spirit. It is the deification of human love in the divine perfection and unity of the eternal Kingdom of God as revealed and given to man in the Church. There is no "legalism" in the Orthodox sacrament of marriage. It is not a juridical contract, it is a spiritual bond.
The marriage service is divided into two parts, in earlier times held separately, but now celebrated together.
Office of Betrothal
At the Betrothal service, the chief ceremony is the blessing and exchange of rings. The rings are blessed by the priest in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The couple then exchange the rings, taking the bride's ring and placing it on the groom's finger and vice-versa. Then they exchange them again, symbolizing that each spouse will constantly be complementing and enriching the other by the union. This is also an outward symbol that the two are joined in marriage of their own free will and consent. It is celebrated in the vestibule of the church building before their procession into the nave of the church.
Office of Crowning
The second part of the service is the ceremony of coronation, in which the heads of the bridegroom and bride are crowned by the priest. In the Russian tradition, the crowns are gold or silver, while the Greek tradition uses crowns of leaves and flowers.
The crowns are crowns of joy, but also crowns of martyrdom, since marriage involves a self-sacrifice on both sides.
At the end of the service the newly married couple drink from the same cup of wine. This common cup is a symbol of the fact that after this they will share a common life with one another. This also recalls the miracle at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee.
|Services of the Orthodox Church|
|Eucharist: Divine Liturgy | When the Eucharist cannot be served: Typika|
|Daily Cycle (Divine Office)|
|Vespers | Compline | Midnight Office | Matins|
|Little Hours (Prime,Terce,Sext,None) | Royal Hours | Mesorion|
|Akathist Hymn | Paraklesis | Moleben|
|Great Blessing of Water | Artoklasia|
|Baptism-Chrismation Service | Holy Unction|
|Ordination Service | Marriage Service|
|Funeral Service | Memorial Service|
The mystery of marriage can only be available to those who belong to the Church, i.e., to communicants. Dispensation may be sought from one's diocesan bishop in cases on mixed marriages between an Orthodox Christian and a Christian of a non-Orthodox but Trinitarian church (e.g., Roman Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) but the wedding must take place in the Orthodox church.
Widows and widowers
The Orthodox Christian tradition encourages widows and widowers to remain faithful to their spouses who are dead to this world but alive in Christ. Yet Dumitru Staniloae says, "However, in the case of the death of one of the two spouses, the other is admitted to a second marriage without any ecclesiastical process of divorce, because the marriage is considered to no longer exist (Rom 7:2)."
Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil. The Orthodox Church does permit remarriage after divorce in some cases, as an exception, a necessary concession to human sin. While condemning sin, the Church desires to help the sinners and to allow them another chance, with an act of economy. When a marriage has ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church faces the reality with philanthropia (loving kindness).
Second and third marriage
The Orthodox Church teaches that a second union "is tolerated only by condescension to human weakness (1 Corinthians 7:9). It may also be recognized as a second chance, given to a man or a woman, to enter into a real marriage in Christ when a first union was a mistake (for even Church blessing cannot always magically repair a human mistake!)." In the service for a second marriage, some of the joyful ceremonies are omitted and replaced by penitential prayers, althoughh the penitential prayers might be omitted if it is a first marriage for one of the spouses.
The Church can also "allow a third marriage, but formally forbids a fourth."
- Raising Children With Christ, Compassion, and Commitment by Fr. Peter E. Gillquist (Again Magazine and Beliefnet)
- The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, vol. 5: The Sanctifying Mysteries by Dumitru Staniloae (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2012.) ISBN 978-1-935317-29-6
- The Sacrament of Love by Paul Evdokimov. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2011.) ISBN 9780881413977
- Attending to Your Marriage: A Resource for Christian Couples by Fr. Charles Joanides. (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing Company, 2006.) ISBN 1880971992
- Christianity and Eros: Essays on the Theme of Sexual Love by Philip Sherrard. (Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2002.) ISBN 9607120108
- Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective by Fr. John Meyendorff. (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000.) ISBN 9780913836057
- After the Honeymoon: How to Maintain a Happy Marriage by Dr. Peter M. Kalellis. (Pittsburgh: Syndesmos, 1999.)
- On Marriage and Family Life by St. John Chrysostom. (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997.) ISBN 9780913836866
- Preserve Them, O Lord by Fr. John Mack. (Ben Lomond, California: Conciliar Press, 1996.) ISBN 1888212012
- Preparing for Marriage (Marriage in the Orthodox Church, v. 1) by Dr. Peter M. Kalellis. (Westfield, New Jersey: Ecumenical Publications, 1984.)
- Holy Matrimony (Marriage in the Orthodox Church, v. 2) by Dr. Peter M. Kalellis. (Westfield, New Jersey: Ecumenical Publications, 1984.)
- Full text of the Rite of Betrothal and Crowning
- The Right of Betrothal and Crowning - Holy Ghost Orthodox Church, Ambridge, Pennsylvania
- The Service of Betrothal and The Service of the Crowning (The Service of Marriage) (GOARCH)
- Marriage (sacramental) - The Orthodox Faith by Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Seminary, Crestwood, NY.
- Marriage (Christian life) - The Orthodox Faith
- Marriage: The Great Sacrament by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos
- Encyclical Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on Marriage
- Chrysostom, pp. 85-86.
- Staniloae, p. 175.
- Meyendorff, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective, pp. 44.
- Meyendorff, p. 46.
- Meyendorff, p. 46.