family is the basic unit or 'cell' of society, and the
Christian family is also a major building block of the
Orthodox Church. The Church places greet importance on the
family to fulfil its role as a small church, as expressed by
the Apostle Paul. When St. Paul greeted Priscilla and
Aquila, his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" he also greeted
"the church that is in their house" (Romans 16:3, 5). He
also greeted "Nymphas and the church that is in his house"
Monasticism is also another major Christian social unit.
The Church places this unit above married life as
monasticism has played an important role as the guiding
element in Her history. Monasticism supports the Church,
preserves Her dogmas and keeps the Divine Liturgy Orthodox.
While the Church blesses the monastic life, She also blesses
marriage knowing that not all can take on the responsibility
and commitment that comes with celibacy and living a
monastic life. This blessing is acknowledged as a Mystery
(Sacrament) of the Church.
The Sacrament (Mystery) of
In the Mystery of Marriage the Church asks God to help
the couple being married understand, fulfil and establish a
'church' at home, i.e. to establish Christian relationships
within the family, to raise children in the faith and life
according to the Scriptures, to be an example of humility
and patience for your children to follow.
The Christian family begins with the Mystery of Marriage,
and specifically with the exchange of rings and placing of
the wedding crowns (wreaths) upon those being married. This
is accompanied with the words, "The servant of God N____ is
married to the servant of God N____ in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", and then, "O
Lord our God, crown them with glory and honour". The rings
have a deep symbolic meaning. This symbolism is indicated
with the words, from the Service of Betrothal, "Through a
ring the authority was given to Joseph in Egypt; through a
ring Daniel was glorified in the land of Babylon; through a
ring the true identity of Thamar was discovered; through a
ring our heavenly Father showed mercy on the prodigal son;
for he said, Put a ring on his fingerÉ". The crowns
and their exchange symbolise the couple's citizenship in the
Kingdom of God, where "there is neither male nor female"
(Gal. 3:28), and of their dying to each other (c.f. Rev.
The Holy Scriptures tell us that God "blessed" marriage
from the beginning of time saying "Be fruitful and increase
in number; fill the earth" (Gen. 1:27-28), showing that
marriage is part of God's eternal purpose for humanity.
Further on, in Genesis 2:24, we read, "Therefore a man will
leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and
they will become one flesh". Our Lord Jesus Christ
reiterated these words when asked if it is lawful for a man
to divorce his wife. He continued, "So then, they are no
longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined
together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:4-6).
Christ forever sanctified marriage by His presence at the
marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). This was the
first time Christ performed a miracle, and the first time
the Theotokos interceded with Christ on behalf of others
saying, "They have no wine", and then instructs all
humanity, "Whatever He say to you, do it".
The Apostle Paul compares the Mystery of Marriage with
the Church in these words, recited during the Crowning
Service, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also
loved the Church and gave Himself for her", and "for this
reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a
great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church"
(Eph. 5:25, 31-32). In 1 Corinthians 7, St. Paul gives
detailed guidance on virginity and marriage. He also
commands that marriage should be preserved.
Thus, marriage is holy, blessed and everlasting sacrament
in the sight of God and His Church.
Finally, history closes with marriage of the Bride to the
Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), thus fulfilling the earthly marriage in
the heavenly, showing the eternal nature of marriage.
Reference - The Orthodox Study Bible,
Copyright © 1993 by St. Athanasius Orthodox Academy,
Nelson ISBN 0-8407-8391-4