January 10, 2022

Homilies on the Holy Mysteries - The Mystery of Marriage (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Mystery of Marriage

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
The Church, my beloved brethren, is interested in all the moments of human life and blesses all the actions of man and of course also marriage, through which the family develops and life is perpetuated, but also becomes the vestibule of the Kingdom of God.

Marriage, that is, the communion of a man and a woman which results in the birth of children, was blessed twice by God. The first time was immediately after the creation of Eve. The Old Testament says that God blessed them and said: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Of course, according to the interpretation of the Fathers, God blessed the couple at that time, gave the opportunity for children to come from the couple, but this took place after the fall of the couple. The way people are born today is the fruit and result of the fall. The second time God blesses marriage is during the mystery of marriage. Precisely because the fall of Adam and Eve preceded it, for this reason marriage must pass within the Church and be blessed, because the world outside the Church is the world of the fall and decay. After all, Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He blessed the water and turned it into wine, and this shows that Christ transforms biological union into a blessed relationship.

The purpose of marriage, as it is clearly seen in the mystery of marriage, is twofold, according to Saint John Chrysostom: "For moderation of life and to become a parent." The first purpose is moderation. If one cannot follow the path of virginity, as the Apostles and the ascetics did, one can acquire the virtue of moderation, through which sin and the passion of lust are cured in various ways. The second purpose of marriage is the birth of children, which is the result of the love of spouses and which children not only perpetuate life, but can become members of the Church and saints. That is why marriage is called the parent of saints. Parents do not aim only at the perpetuation of life, but at the emergence of saints.

The mystery of marriage has wonderful blessings, which show the purpose of marriage, as defined by the Church. It even has many symbolic events and acts, such as the ring, the crown, the wedding dress, the candles, the chalice, etc. Each of them has an exalted and deep symbolic meaning and great significance. I would like to dwell on one of them.

At the end of the ceremony, the so-called Dance of Isaiah takes place and along with other hymns, the following hymn is chanted: "O Holy Martyrs, who have contested well and have been crowned, intercede with the Lord, that mercy be granted to our souls." In fact, during the dance the priest precedes holding the holy Gospel. This means that the steps of the couple's life will be a martyrdom, which is why we refer to the intercessions of the holy martyrs. In order for the couple to walk this path successfully, it is necessary for the spiritual father to precede, who will guide them with the holy Gospel, that is, with the commandments of Christ. After all, in all things the existence of a specialist is required. For sports we need a coach and a referee, for the acquisition of human knowledge the scientist, the teacher, the professor is necessary. The medical physician is necessary for the treatment of physical ailments. In the same way, in marriage, the spiritual father is necessary, who will guide them with discernment, wisely, with a spirit of wisdom and discernment, without abolishing their freedom.

The help of the spiritual father is not limited or reduced to some details of the conjugal life, but mainly to how the marriage will be connected with the mystery of the Eucharist and will draw strength and illumination from it. After all, all the mysteries are intended to lead people to the divine Eucharist, to the divine Communion, since the mystery of the Eucharist is the center and purpose of all the mysteries. Without Christ nothing has value. With Christ, all things and all moments and aspects of human life take on meaning and purpose. The love of a couple must be inspired by Christ's love for the Church, and the difficulties and martyrdom of marriage must be strengthened by Christ's outpouring and sacrificial offering.

Also, the spiritual father tries to lead the love of the spouses and in general the whole family life towards spiritual love and the life of the spiritual marriage, of the Kingdom of God, as many parables that Christ said emphasize. Through the perspective of the Kingdom of God and in the spirit of the divine Eucharist, marriage acquires meaning and purpose. How this will be done is a matter of the disposition of the couple, but also of the spiritual father's wisdom.

Let us pray and strive for our lives to be sanctified by the mysteries of the Church, especially by the Kingdom of God itself.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.