Monday, January 27, 2003

Marriage as Happiness???

Well, it's been a while, but this is something appropriate, as I am preparing to be married. Today I was reading a great article called The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch by John Romanides. Now perhaps you're wondering what ecclesiology has to do with marriage. Well, it came up in the article in order to set up further points by way of example, but I liked the example nonetheless.

John writes: Love in Christ differs sharply from the "kata sarka" eudaimonistic and utilitarian love of so-called natural humanity. Christian love "seeks not its own." (Rom. 14,7:15, 1-3; I Cor. 13,5:5, 15:10, 24, 29-11, 1:12, 25-26:13, 1ff: II Cor. 5,14-15; Gal. 5, 13:6, 1; Eph. 4,2; I Thes. 5,11.) "...exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church." (Ign. Pol. 5.) This love is such that Christ "pleased not himself" (Rom. 15:3) but "He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves." (II Cor. 5:15.) For this reason a Christian wedding which has as its motive selfless love in Christ "is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." (Eph. 5:32.) That is, it is a great mystery for Christians only, not because those outside the Church are not married, but because a Christian wedding takes place in another dimension. Therefore, "it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage be according to God, and not after their own lust." (Ign. Pol. 5.)

Now at first, we all may be thinking, "Yeah, so??" Well, this continued the thought I've been contemplating for a while that began with the idea of Christian marriage as martyrdom, or a unique asceticism. James wrote something about the martyrdom of the family (the natural result of marriage) a while back, that related as well. But Ignatius here really seemed to nail down the difference here. In the Christian marriage, life is no longer about our own wants and needs. For that matter, neither is the Christian life. But that last sentence really nailed it for me. Our marriage has nothing to do with whether we want or need to be married, not within the Christian life. We may want to, but that isn't the point of it. The point of it is that it is what God desires for us. If it isn't, then God help us if we do anyway.

This kind of thinking is apparent in the Orthodox wedding ceremony, of which I have been fortunate to finally see. In the Orthodox ceremony, there are no vows. Why, because it doesn't matter whether we want to or not, or rather, it's not our desires that are the point of this Sacramental service. It is that God is conferring grace upon us in this special endeavor, a sort of "ordination if you will". I once heard someone say that to become a priest without knowing it is God's desire is the easiest path to damnation. I think the same can be said of marriage. I'll soon be the priest of my home. May God grant me Grace and Mercy to fulfill that priesthood faithfully, lest I drag my family down with me? These are the times it is good to know that the Church, within which the Grace of God flows freely and without limit, recognizes God's design for my life to, "...that [my] marriage be according to God, and not after [my] own lust.” (Ign. Pol. 5.)

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