Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Marriage and Divorce
Volume 3 No. 160 August 29, 2013

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Bride
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil All the days of her life...

Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
- Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-31

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

Christian marriage. Need for the church to provide support to families. Forum on Depression in the MASOC Family and Youth Conference at Dallas, TX.

Malankara World Supplement on Saint Mary, The Mother of God

To learn more about St. Mary, her life, and her role in the Church, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary.
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

Malankara World Journal Ettu Nombu (Eight Days Lent) Specials

Malankara World Journal will publish special editions for each day of the Eight Days Lent (Ettu Nombu) starting on September 1. Observe the lent with prayers and meditations. ...

Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 1)

Bible Readings for the Third Sunday after Shunoyo
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_3rd_sunday-after-shunoyo.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (September 1)

Sermons for the Third Sunday After Shunoyo
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_3rd-sunday-after-Shunoyo.htm

God Hates Divorce

This is the type of poem that breaks my heart because it represents so many children who are torn apart by divorce. No matter what you are experiencing in your marriage, and no matter how tough it is, just remember the impact that staying together will have on your children. ...

Featured: Marriage, Divorce And Remarriage in the Orthodox Church

The question is often asked what the Orthodox position is on marriage. The answer to this question should be sought in the Orthodox teaching on the "mystery or the sacrament" of marriage. We also know that the Roman Catholic Church considers marriage as a sacrament. There is however a very important difference which should be clarified here. ...

Divorce, Orthodox Style, Referenced by Pope Francis

Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as, in principle, lifelong and indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil. But while condemning the sin, the church still desires to help the sinners and to allow them a second chance. When, therefore, a marriage has entirely ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction. ...

Jesus On Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy

Points to ponder and detailed sermon outlines. ...

Orthodox Marriage

From time to time it is necessary for us to discuss topical matters such as marriage as candidly as possible from a Christian perspective, especially in a society that is assaulting marriage more openly than we have ever known or experienced in the past. ...

Family Special: Giving To Each Other Unconditionally in Marriage

John Powell describes different kinds of relationships, including one he calls "pan-scale love." A pan scale is what Lady Justice carries. .. Powell says that many of us enter courtship or marriage with a pan-scale commitment. In the exhilaration of first falling in love, we give 100 percent of ourselves to our mate, and our end of the pan scale hangs heavy with love's offerings. ...

Health: State of the Art Prostate Protection

Today I'm going to tell you how to get over prostate problems. If you're a man, you've either encountered them already or you're going to. You may have already found yourself standing over the urinal waiting for something to happen and nothing does. But I'm going to show you the best, state-of-the-art, natural way to improve your peeing power. ...

Humor: Men and Women

About Malankara World

Foreword
This is one of the busiest weeks in our church (except for the Holy Passion Week). On September 1, we start the 8-days Lent (popularly known as ettu nombu). This lent leads to the Nativity Feast of St. Mary on September 8. Many churches will offer Qurbana daily this week. There will be retreats and expanded sermons. If you go to Manarcad church, there is a huge rasa with thousands of ornamental umbrellas (Muthi koda) and then the much anticipated "nada thurakkal" on Saturday when the faithful gets a glimpse of the portrait of Mother Mary with Infant Jesus Christ. You really need to be there to experience it!

Malankara World is planning special editions for each day of the 8-day lent to help you grow spiritually. The specials will have carefully selected spiritual and meditative articles with emphasis on the redemption of mankind. We hope you will enjoy the specials.

A comment on the current issue. This Saturday evening's Gospel reading is from St. Matthew 19:1-12. The passage contains the discourse between Pharisees and Jesus about  Divorce. Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus for they knew that Jesus hated divorce. Moses in the Torah had given the Jews permission to divorce their wives for any reason simply by providing a certificate of divorce.

Jesus made it very clear that Christian marriages are life-time commitments. It is made in heaven. Except for adultery and other serious issues, a divorce should not be permitted. God created man and woman in his own image. He sanctified the marriage. He wanted the relationship between a married couple just like the relationship between Jesus and the Church. No question of divorce in this scenario.

Catholic church do not allow divorce. The Catholics have to get an annulment before they can remarry. The orthodox church allows divorce and remarriage in very limited circumstances. Recently Pope Francis praised the approach of Orthodox Church on divorce; he noted that the Orthodox Church incorporate mercy in its practice regarding marriage. (You can read about the comments of Pope in this issue.)

Malankara World was founded to provide support to our families. We feel that the church has an obligation to provide counseling and support to our families - something we don't do well. Many churches have started premarital courses; we need to have post marital support too. We will soon be publishing the notes from Rev. Fr. Thomas K Kurian, who conducted Pre Marital Counseling in Kottayam Diocese. This family support must extend into the other aspects of family life too.

In this regard, I want to congratulate Theethose Thirumeni and Kadavil achen in American Diocese for including special sessions themed for young adults in our annual family and youth convention. Thirumeni has told me that his vision is to enable the senior educated laity to help others. This can mean offer mentoring opportunities to young members and counseling help to the couples etc. It is a very good idea. Last month's Family and Youth Convention in Dallas, TX had a lively session on Depression and Mental Health organized by very rev. Abraham O. Kadavil Corepiscopa (Kadavil achen). The panelists included Fr. Dr. Zacharia Varghese, MD and Dr. Shila Mathew, MD, both psychiatrists and members of the Malankara World Board. I was also scheduled to be in the panel. Due to my emergency trip to India, my presentation was made by Dr. Seena Mathew, my daughter. There were two other members in the panel (one psychologist and another psychiatrist) along with Kadavil achen (himself a professional counselor), the moderator. The session went very well with a lively Q&A session that had to be cut short due to lack of time. (We will look into publishing transcripts of the presentations in Malankara World.) The church should do more of these type of support sessions taking advantage of the professional pool in our laity for the benefit of the members at large.

This issue of Malankara World Journal looks at the Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage from the Biblical and church perspectives. We wish everyone a blessed Ettu Nombu.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Malankara World Supplement on Saint Mary, The Mother of God
We celebrate the Nativity of Virgin Mary on September 8. To learn more about St. Mary, her life, and her role in the Church, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary.

This supplement includes an eBook on St. Mary written by our Holy Father, His Holiness our Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka 1, Iwas.

Visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary at:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

Malankara World Journal Ettu Nombu (Eight Days Lent) Specials

Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) is a lent that is observed exclusively by Malankara Christians all over the world. According to Archbishop Mor Chrisostomos Mosa Salama, author of 'Bhagya Nikshepam' published by Mor Adai Study Centre, this lent is not celebrated in any other churches except in Malankara. Malankara Christians (including the Catholics from Malankara), celebrate this lent with a passion not seen during any other lent. According to Moolel achen, more prayer meetings, retreats, and convention speeches are conducted during this week than during any other week in our church.

I still recall fondly going to Manarcadu St. Mary's Church, every day of the 8-day lent with my mother when I was young. She will not make any food in the house during the 8-day lent in the day time. (So, like it or not, everyone in the family are observing the fast!) In the old days, it appeared that this lent was observed mainly by women. But now, both men and women observe this lent and attend services in the church.

Malankara World Journal will publish special editions for each day of the lent so that you can observe the lent with prayers and meditations. Here is the tentative plan, God willing, for the publications:

  • Issue 161 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 1 - Sept 1 (To be released on Aug 31)
  • Issue 162 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 2 - Sept 2 (To be released on Sep 1)
  • Issue 163 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 3 - Sept 3 (To be released on Sep 2)
  • Issue 164 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 4 - Sept 4 (To be released on Sep 3)
  • Issue 165 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 5 - Sept 5 (To be released on Sep 4)
  • Issue 166 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 6 - Sept 6 (To be released on Sep 5)
  • Issue 167 Ettu Nomb Special - Day 7 - Sept 7 (To be released on Sep 6)
  • Issue 168 MWJ Regular Edition - Sept 8 (To be released on Sep 5)

Please pray for us.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (September 1)

Third Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Sermons for This Sunday (September 1)
This Week's Features

God Hates Divorce
"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel. MALACHI 2:16

This poem was written by Jen Abbas, then an 18-year-old child of divorce. I've arranged it a little differently on this page than it appears in her book, Generation EX, to make it fit. Its message is too important to allow form to quiet its voice.

"The Eruption"

Divorce is like a trembling earthquake,
The world shakes, rumbling with rage,
And all the anger, guilt, and frustrations
That have been festering for so long below the surface
Suddenly spew upward in an inferno of hate or apathy.

At times the earth calms and you think the turmoil is over,
Settled, stable, but then the cycle begins again,
Repeating, repeating, repeating.

You are weary, you want to rest,
And that is when you realize the shaking has stopped,
But there is an eerie feeling lurking in the air.

You are hesitant to believe anything anymore,
You are so tired after struggling for so long,
And so you rest on the one solid patch of land,
Only to watch it split in two,
Two separate, distinct parts that will never come together again.

Each new patch supports part of you,
And as you watch, they pull away.

This is the type of poem that breaks my heart because it represents so many children who are torn apart by divorce. No matter what you are experiencing in your marriage, and no matter how tough it is, just remember the impact that staying together will have on your children.

DISCUSS

Promise each other that this will never be the heart's cry of your children. Talk about who you should consider sending this poem to right now.

PRAY

Pray for the children of divorce today, who are struggling to be loved and to belong. Pray for a friend who is moving toward a split.

Source: Moments with You Devotional

Featured: Marriage, Divorce And Remarriage in the Orthodox Church

by Bishop Athenagoras (Peckstadt) of Sinope

1. INTRODUCTION

The question is often asked what the Orthodox position is on marriage. The answer to this question should be sought in the Orthodox teaching on the "mystery or the sacrament" of marriage. We also know that the Roman Catholic Church considers marriage as a sacrament. There is however a very important difference which should be clarified here. In the first place, the Roman Catholic Church holds that the bride and bridegroom execute the marriage themselves, in their vows to each other. In the Orthodox Church it is the priest or the bishop who consecrates the marriage, who calls upon God in the name of the community, and asks that the Holy Spirit be sent down (epiclesis) on the man and woman and in this way make them "into one flesh". In addition marriage is for the Orthodox Church rather a spiritual path, a seeking after God, the mystery of oneness and love, the preparatory portrayal of the Kingdom of God, than a necessity for reproduction.

2. THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE: MYSTERY - SACRAMENT [2]

Marriage is a mystery or sacrament that has been instituted with God's blessing during creation. The chosen people saw it then as a mystery that had its beginnings at the divine creation. This is confirmed by Christ who says: "But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female'. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and two will become one flesh". (Mark 10, 6-8).

According to the Holy Scriptures marriage is built on:

1. The distinction, at the first creation of man, between man and woman ("Also God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them", Gen. 1:27)

2. The creation of the woman out of Adam's rib (Gen 2:21-24);

3. The blessing of God on the first created with the words: "be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 1:27-28).

These three elements make marriage a spiritual praxis par excellence, not only due to the simple covenant between two people, but especially due to the fact that it is an expression of God's will. The natural covenant of marriage becomes as it were also a divine covenant, hence also its fully mystical character which the church emphasizes. The principal and therefore the most essential element of marriage is the joining of each person with one single person of the opposite sex. This element of one single person in marriage is maintained even after the fall of the first created creatures in the Old Testament, although this may not always have been adhered to in practice. [3] This element of marriage assumes a resemblance to the relationship between God and the chosen people. This element of one single person in marriage is confirmed by Christ's teaching on marriage.

Paul is the first to understand the essence of Christ's teaching on marriage and its sanctity. He describes it as "a great mystery in Christ and in the Church" (Eph. 5, 32) The definition "in Christ and in the Church" means, according to Paul, that the spiritual bond of love, of commitment, and of the reciprocal submission of the partners - which is the bond of their complete oneness - only exists when it conforms to the love of Christ for His Church (Eph. 5, 22-33). The relationship of the partners that grows out of marriage is, in other words, so essential, so intense and so spiritual, as the existing relationship between Christ and the Church. [4] The oneness of the Church - as community of the baptised - with Christ, and its maintenance, takes place through the sacrament of the Divine Eucharist. This is the centre of all the sacraments and puts mankind in an eschatological perspective. In this way marriage also "transfigures" the oneness of man and wife into a new reality, namely, seen in the perspective of life in Christ. [5] This is why the apostle Paul does not hesitate to call this decisive step in human existence "mystery" (or … sacrament) in the image of Christ and His Church. This is the only reason why a truly Christian marriage can be unique, "because it is a Mystery of God's Kingdom, that introduces mankind to eternal joy and eternal love". [6] This oneness - brought about with the sacrament of marriage - is no one-sided action of the Church. Man is not called after all to participate passively in the grace of God, but as God's co-worker. And even when man becomes a co-worker, he remains subject to the weakness and sinfulness of human existence.

In this light even reproduction (1 Tim. 2, 15) is seen as man's co-operation with creation. The mystery or sacrament of marriage becomes immediately related to the mystery of life, of the birth of human souls, of immortality and of their death.

3. THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

Here it becomes evident that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church differ in their understanding of the purpose of marriage. In orthodox theological thinking this is firstly the reciprocal love, the relationship and the help between the marriage partners with view to their completion in Christ. Only subsequently comes the restraining of their sexual passion [7] and the reproduction of the human race. [8] It is remarkable that in the New Testament we find no reference relating marriage to reproduction. In the Roman Catholic Church it is evident that the ultimate purpose of marriage is "procreation" or reproduction. To see reproduction as the principal purpose of marriage is a narrow perspective on the conjugal life of man and wife. What value does sexual intercourse have between man and wife in the case of sterility or after the menopause, or if the wife is medically unable to have any more children? It is certain that the married couple have precedence above the family, however praiseworthy the purpose of family is. [9] The story of the establishing of marriage is found in the second chapter of the book Genesis, which deals with the fact that "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2, 24), without mention of reproduction. The Holy John Chrysostom refers to this: "There are two reasons for which marriage was established …to cause the man to be satisfied with one single wife and to give him children, but it is the first which is the most important…As for reproduction, marriage does not necessarily include this…the proof is to be found in the many marriages for which having children is not possible. This is why the primary reason for marriage is to regulate the sexual life, especially now that the human race has already populated the whole world". [10]

4. MARRIAGE AS THE HOUSE CHURCH

The Church Fathers say it characteristically: "Where Christ is, there is the Church", which demonstrates that the marriage relationship has a church character. This is why Paul speaks of "the church that meets at their house" Rom. 16, 5) and John Chrysostom of the "small Church". [11] At Cana in Galilee Jesus "revealed his glory" (John 2, 11) in the womb of a "house church". Paul Evdokimov suggests, "this marriage, as it were, is the marriage of the bridal couple with Christ. He is the one who leads and – according to the Church Fathers does so in all Christian marriages".[12] The reciprocal love of man and wife is a communal love for God. Every moment of their lives becomes a glorifying of God. John Chrysostom says it this way: "Marriage is a mystical icon of the Church". [13]

5. HOLINESS AND INDISSOLUBILITY OF MARRIAGE

We have already said that marriage in its purest form is a natural order according to divine intention. It is the basis of the family, which is the community where man's noblest feelings are able to develop. Marriage is in its essence a holy institution and its holiness has been sealed through the Church, which views marriage as a divine institution and mystery. [14] It is not therefore the agreement and free will of the marriage partners that establishes the marriage, but it is the grace of God in particular which is essential, and this is given through the approval of the Church, in the person of the bishop. [15]

Doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage is based on its holiness. The holiness and indissolubility of marriage exalt monogamy. References are often made to the Old Testament in this regard (Mal. 2, 14).

But as mystery or sacrament the Christian marriage is undoubtedly confronted with the "fallen" state of mankind. It is presented as the unachievable ideal. But there is a distinct difference between a "sacrament" and an "ideal", for the first is "an experience involving not only man, but one in which he acts in communion with God", in this he becomes a partner of the Holy Spirit while remaining human with his weaknesses and faults. [16]

The theory of the indissolubility of marriage has a strong pedagogical significance. The motivation Christ gives is a command. Those who commit themselves to the covenant of marriage should do all they can not to separate, as they have God to thank for their oneness. But the additional motivation: "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10, 9; Math. 19, 6) does not signify a magical adherence. In every mystery or sacrament, excluding baptism, the exertion of man's free will is required. The "not separate" is a divine request, as is "do not kill". But man is free and can dissolve his marriage and kill his fellow man. In both cases he commits grievous sin. [17]

The Church has been faithful throughout the centuries to the principle referred to by Paul, that a second marriage is an aberration of the Christian statute. In this sense the orthodox doctrine confirms not only the "indissolubility" of marriage, but also its uniqueness. Every true marriage can be uniquely the "only" one.

6. DIVORCE

The problem of divorce is a very delicate question as it often touches on a painful human reality.

The tradition of the Church of the first centuries - which continues to have authority for the Orthodox Church - put the emphasis very strongly on two related points:

1. the "uniqueness" of the authentic Christian marriage,

2. the permanence of married conjugal life.

We may recall here the analogy that Paul makes between the unity of Christ and his Church and that of the bride and bridegroom. This analogy that is as it were at the root of the mystery assumes the real and continuing unity of the married couple, which therefore totally excludes a simultaneous polygamy and views one single marriage as the ideal.

Divorce does not heal the diseased marriage but kills it. It is not a positive action or intervention. It is about dissolving the "mini-Church" that has been formed through the marriage relationship. [18] The Holy Scripture attributes divorce to the callousness of man. [19] This is seen as a fall and sin. And yet the Orthodox Church can however permit divorce and remarriage on the grounds of interpretation of what the Lord says in Matt. 19:9: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." According to Bishop Kallistos Ware divorce is an action of "economia" and "expression of compassion" of the Church toward sinful man. "Since Christ, according to the Matthaean account, allowed an exception to His general ruling about the indissolubility of marriage, the Orthodox Church also is willing to allow an exception". [20]

A question we can ask ourselves is whether Christ considered marriage as being indissoluble? We need to be very clear in this as when Christ teaches that marriage may not be dissolved that does not mean that He is stating that it cannot occur. The completeness of the marriage relationship can be tainted by erroneous behavior. In other words, it is the offence that breaks the bond. The divorce is ultimately a result of this break. This is also the teaching of the Eastern Church fathers. A quotation from the testimony of Cyril of Alexandria will be sufficient to make our point here: "It is not the letters of divorce that dissolve the marriage in relation God but the errant behavior". [21]

The violation of a marriage relationship is divided into two groups:

1. those resulting from adultery (unfaithfulness and immoral behavior)

2. those proceeding from the absence of one of the partners (this absence must however have certain distinctives).

According to the spirit of Orthodoxy the unity of the married couple cannot be maintained through the virtue of juridical obligation alone; the formal unity must be consistent with an internal symphony. [22] The problem arises when it is no longer possible to salvage anything of this symphony, for "then the bond that was originally considered indissoluble is already dissolved and the law can offer nothing to replace grace and can neither heal nor resurrect, nor say: ‘Stand up and go'". [23]

The Church recognizes that there are cases in which marriage life has no content or may even lead to loss of the soul. The Holy John Chrysostom says in this regard that: "better to break the covenant than to lose one's soul". [24] Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church sees divorce as a tragedy due to human weakness and sin.

7. REMARRIAGE

Despite the fact that the Church condemns sin, she also desires to be an aid to those who suffer and for whom she may allow a second marriage. This is certainly the case when the marriage has ceased to be a reality. A possible second marriage is therefore only permitted because of "human weakness". As the apostle Paul says concerning the unmarried and widows: "If they can not control themselves, they should marry" (1 Cor. 7, 9). It is permitted as a pastoral concession in the context of "economia," to the human weakness and the corrupt world in which we live.

There is in other words a close relationship in every dimension between divorce and the possibility of remarriage. It is important here to explain a fundamental element of the Orthodox Church's doctrine, namely that the dissolving of a marriage relationship does not ipso facto grant the right to enter into another marriage. As we look back to the time of the primitive Church, the Church of the first centuries, then we will have to agree that the Church did not have any juridical authority with regard to marriage, and did not therefore, make any statement concerning their validity. The Holy Basil the Great, for example, referred not to a rule but to usage, as far as this problem was concerned. [25] Speaking concerning the man who had been cheated by his wife, he declares that the man is "pardonable" (to be excused) should he remarry. It is good to remember that the Orthodox Church has in general always had a sense of reluctance regarding second marriages. It would subsequently be completely wrong to assert that orthodox Christians may marry two or three times!

Orthodox canon law can permit a second and even a third marriage "in economia", but strictly forbids a fourth. In theory divorce is only recognized in the case of adultery, but in practice is also recognized in light of other reasons. There is a list of causes of divorce acceptable to the Orthodox Church. In practice the bishops sometimes apply "economia" in a liberal way. By the way, divorce and remarriage are only permitted in the context of "economia", that is, out of pastoral care, out of understanding for weakness. A second or third marriage will always be a deviation from the "ideal and unique marriage", but often a fresh opportunity [26] to correct a mistake". [27]

8. ECONOMIA

The question arises here, what is this "economia" [28] exactly? In a theological, scholarly contribution, the present Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos, while still the Metropolitan of Philadelphia, explained in a clear and concise way what "economia" is. He suggests that it is generally accepted that the ecclesiastical economia is an image of the divine economia and love and kindness. That the economia is as old as the Church itself is evident from a reading of the New Testament. This is very clear for example in Acts 16, 3 "so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek". However the economia in the Orthodox Church has never been systematically or officially defined. "It concerns a characteristic, a true privilege and precious treasure of the Church". [29] In the pan orthodox meetings of the 20th Century there have been attempts to give a definition to economia, but in the end this has been abandoned, "because economia is something that is rather experienced than described and defined…in the Orthodox Church, in which it is a characteristic and ancient privilege". [30]

But now the question remains, what is "economia"? Well, according to the canon law of the Orthodox Church economia is "the suspension of the absolute and strict applications of canon and church regulations in the governing and the life of the Church, without subsequently compromising the dogmatic limitations. The application of economia only takes place through the official church authorities and is only applicable for a particular case." [31] This is allowed for exceptional and severe reasons, but creates no precedent. The Church, which continues to extend Christ's redeeming work in the world, has on the basis of the Lord's commandments, and of the apostles, determined a number of canons. Through these the Church helps the believers to come to salvation. But it should be noticed that these rules are not applied on a juridical basis, for the Church always holds in mind what the Lord Himself has said: "The Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2, 27).

A canon is a "rule" or "guide" for the service of worship, the sacraments, and the governing of the Church. There are canons determined by the apostles, the Church Fathers, the local, regional and the general or ecumenical councils. Only the bishop, as head of the local Church, enforces them. He can enforce them rigidly ("akrivia"), or flexibly ("economia"), but "precision" is the norm. Once the particular circumstance has past - that demanded a conceding and accommodating judgement – "akrivia" assumes once again her full force. It cannot be that the "economia", which was necessary in a specific situation, should become an example and should be later be retained as the rule. [32] The "economia" is for the Orthodox Church a notion that cannot be compared to "dispensation" in the Roman Catholic Church. Dispensation is an anticipated exception, which provides a juridical norm parallel to the official regulation.

Economia is based on Christ's command to his apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven" (John 20, 22-23). This is the case when the human marriage experience becomes impossible, due to the spiritual death of love. It is then that the Church – as the Body of Christ – with understanding and compassion and out of personal concern, can apply the "economia" "by accepting the divorce and not rejecting the sinful humanly weak believers, or depriving them from God's mercy and further grace." [33] It is the precise goal of economia that the weak person not be irrevocably banned from the church communion, according to Christ's example, who came, after all, to save the lost.

9. PASTORAL COUNSELING

Before the church authorities acknowledge the divorce in the context of economia, pastoral counseling should be given in each and every case, through which attempt is made to reconcile the married partners. Only when this is no longer possible should permission for remarriage be referred to, provided a form of penance can be imposed, in light of each individual case. In this way the Orthodox Church should take a clear point of view regarding this problem, and priests should be more motivated to take a greater role regarding explanation, counselling and psychological healing. [34]

a. Preparation for marriage

In his book "Marriage: an orthodox perspective" Father John Meyendorff points out the danger of enforced marriages, where the couple themselves have no desire for a positive commitment. It may have been desired as a social happening or whatever. This, and many others, are problems that the priest needs to discuss when he meets the couple to help them prepare for their marriage. He has the responsibility of helping them to understand the meaning and significance of Christian marriage. This meeting may by no means be, or seem to be, an exclusively administrative matter, in which many documents are collected together with the intention of ascertaining the approval of the bishop for the marriage celebration. He also must be on the alert to ensure that no marriages are consecrated where the married couple does not accept its true significance. This is a problem that one frequently encounters with mixed marriages. Strictly speaking, the responsibility for the preparation of marriage lies not only with the priest, but also with the teachers, the parents, and certainly, first and foremost, with the young engaged couple themselves. [35]

For marriage to live, and possibly also to survive, there is need of spiritual life. This spirituality is experienced firstly in the school of the Church itself, where we can participate par excellence in the gifts of grace of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the sacraments. It is by the way in one of these sacraments, that man and wife become one, or "house-Church", through the grace of the Holy Spirit. "In the ecclesiological and spiritual perspective which we just referred to, marriage enters into a dynamic action". [36] The path taken is determined in particular by the married couple themselves, any yet they find themselves in a world "of surprises and miracles". The path becomes narrower and narrower as it is walked side-by-side, with 2 or 3 children following behind. The path of orthodox spiritual life is "a path of liturgy, mystique, asceticism, and eschatology". [37] It is the life of and in the Church and this life gives to the married couple and the whole family, another dimension, and another approach to life and to the problems one has to face.

It is very important that the Church provides the correct reflection of everything related to marriage and the family, and their value from the perspective of faith, especially to the youth and future bridal couples and their parents. There are for example, in many diocese of the Orthodox Church in Greece, "schools for parents", where attention is given specifically to the preparation of their children for marriage. This is also possible through a lecture on this subject. [38]

b. What is the best way to respond to those who are living together and are not yet married?

This problem was cited in a discussion that Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and all Estonia had with Olivier Clément concerning this subject, which has been published in the book "Office and charismas in the Orthodox Church": "it is true that many young people no longer have this Christian identity to be able to say: "We love each other, therefore we will marry". They have not as yet committed themselves completely enough to say: "We are going to get married because we as a couple, as a future family, will be a core-group of the Church, and will give an example of evangelical commitment. (…) It happens that young people in this sense experience something worthwhile, something that prepares them for lasting love. For a true love demands that one does not compromise. Each needs to be able to retain his own identity, have his own structure, to be able to truly meet the other. Whatever is at hand, it happens that young people who find themselves in a similar situation, convert and in the end seek a closer relationship with the Church", so speaks Olivier Clément. And the renown French orthodox theologian continues, saying that the role of the priest is of infinite importance here, immensely in explaining the meaning of love and marriage, immensely in explaining that love is possible, immensely in explaining that the sacrament of marriage can give them great strength, "this will be a strength in receiving the other, in forgiving the other, and therefore of permanence with the other." [39] What is certain is that one should not be moralising or too severe in these situations with regard to the youth, otherwise one will certainly not be heard.

c. Pastoral approach to the problem of divorce

The church community needs to be vigilant and give sufficient attention to married couples and families that have been affected and disabled by divorce. The married partner who has been abandoned by the other partner finds subsequently in a situation of discouragement and loneliness. The fate of the children is often much worse. From pastoral experience we know that the social and psychological assistance is insufficient. They especially need strengthening through a "spiritual and pastoral" approach, which will hopefully again give meaning and significance to their lives.

The Church, as community, can continue to involve them in the liturgical gatherings. It is clear that a discrete commission of love [40] is reserved for every Christian towards those who are divorced. This too is consistent with what the Holy John Chrysostom has called "the sacrament of the brother". One must certainly avoid judging or condemning one's brother or sister.

10. CONCLUSION

From what has been said, we bear in mind that marriage is a sacrament or mystery, because it is a living experience of the Kingdom of God. It is an entry into a new life, a communal growth in the Holy Spirit. This new life enters as a gift, not as an obligation. Man is free to enter into this new life through this door or not. But this new life only has meaning if it actually leads to entry into the sacramental life of the Church. Marriage gains perfection when the married couple regularly share in the Eucharist, in the Body of Christ. In this way marriage gains a sanctifying character. This holiness of marriage should however be protected by certain canons, not because this is the spirit of the Church, but in order to demonstrate the ideal for Christians. The Christian doctrine of marriage is a "joyful responsibility". [41] It demonstrates what it means to be truly human, through which one receives the joy of giving life, in the image of the Creator.

Concerning on the other hand the orthodox perspective on the subtle problem area of divorce and possible remarriage, one needs to say that this is steeped in wisdom. It confirms the primary value of the steadfast and unique Christian marriage, which does not mean that this steadfastness should be seen, in all of life's circumstances, as the downright irrevocable preservation of a juridical affirmation. The Orthodox Church does not want to shut the door of mercy inexorably, but holds still, to the teaching of the New Testament. [42]

Source: Presented at the International Congress on Economia and Pastoral Guidance, at the Catholic University of Leuven (18-20 April 2005)

About The Author:

Mgr Athenagoras Peckstadt is the assistant Bishop of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium and Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople). HG studied theology at the Aristoteles University of Thessalonica and at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Geneva.

NOTES:

[2] In Greek mystery has the meaning of sacrament.

[3] It is good to be reminded here of the fact that, in the story of creation, monogamy is assumed to be the norm.

[4] The apostle Paul sees therefore the parallel between the marriage relationship of man and wife and the oneness between the bride the Church and the bridegroom Christ. This is not only as descriptive picture, but also an explanation of the real and essential oneness in the sacrament of marriage. See N. Matsoukas, Dogmatic and symbolic theology, Thessalonica, 1988, pp. 496-497 (in Greek).

[5] G. Mantzaridis, Christian Ethics, Thessalonica, 1995, p. 321 (In Greek).

[6] J. Meyendorff, Marriage: an orthodox perspective, New York, 1975, p.21.

[7] The physical unity - of which the apostle Paul says that they are "temples of the Holy Spirit - is a great deal more than simple pleasure or a remedy for the sexual urge! See Ign. Peckstadt, in Het orthodox huwelijk in Een open venster op de Orthodoxe Kerk, (The orthodox marriage in An open window on the Orthodox Church), Averbode, 2005.

[8] Ch. Catzopoulos, The holy sacrament of marriage - mixed marriages, Athens, 1990, p.39 (in Greek). See also Ch. Vantsos, Marriage and her preparation from an orthodox pastoral point of view, Athens, 1977, pp.83-99 (in Greek).

[9] Ign. Peckstadt, Het orthodox huwelijk in Een open venster op de Orthodoxe Kerk, (The orthodox marriage in An open window on the Orthodox Church), Averbode, 2005.

[10] Speech on marriage. See P. Evdokimov, Le sacerdoce conjugal - essai de théologie orthodoxe du mariage, in Le mariage – églises en dialogue, (The conjugal priesthood – essay on the orthodox theology of marriage, in The marriage – churches and dialogue), Paris, 1966, p. 94.

[11] Homilie 20 on Ephesians; P.G., 62, 143.

[12] P. Evdokimov, Sacrement de l'amour - le mystère conjugal à la manière de la tradition orthodoxe, (Sacrament of love – the conjugal mystery according to the orthodox tradition), Paris, 1962, p. 170.

[13] P.G. 62, 387.

[14] P. Rodopoulos (Metropolitan), Lessons in canon law, Thessalonica, 1993, p. 216 (in Greek).

[15] The Holy Ignatius of Antioch said in his letter to Polycarp: "The men and women who marry, should enter into their unity with the approval of the bishop", see Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrne, Letters, in coll. Sources Chrétiennes, (Christian Sources) Paris, 1958, p. 177 (A Polycarpe V, 2).

[16] J. Meyendorff, Marriage: an orthodox perspective, New York, 1975, p. 21.

[17] N. Matsoukas, Dogmatic and symbolic theology, Thessalonica, 1988, p. 497 (in Greek).

[18] G. Patronos, Marriage in theology and in life, Athens, 1981, p.119 (in Greek).

[19] "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Matt. 19, 8).

[20] T. Ware (Bishop Kallistos), L'Orthodoxie - l'Eglise des septs conciles, (Orthodoxy – The Church of seven councils), Paris 1997, pp. 380-381.

[21] P.G. 72, 380 D.

[22] See P. L'Huillier (Archbishop), Le divorce selon la théologie et le droit canonique de l'Eglise orthodoxe, in Messager de l'Exarchat du Patriarcat Russe en Europe occidentale, (Divorce according to theology and cannon law in the Orthodox Church in Messenger of the Exarch of the Patriarch of Russia and Western Europe) (no 65), Paris, 1969, pp. 25-36.

[23] P. Evdokimov, Sacrement de l'amour - le mystère conjugal à la manière de la tradition orthodoxe, (Sacrament of love – the conjugal mystery according to the orthodox tradition), Paris, 1962, p. 264.

[24] P.G. 61, 155.

[25] P. L'Huillier (Archbishop), Les sources canoniques de saint Basile, in Messager de l'Exarchat du Patriarcat Russe en Europe occidentale (no 44), (The canon origins of saint Basil, in Messenger of the Exarchat of the Patriarch of Russia and Western Europe), Paris, 1963, pp. 210-217.

[26] Father Meyendorff explained concerning this that: "the Church neither ‘recognised' nor ‘granted' divorce. It is seen as a great sin, but the Church has never ceased to offer sinners a ‘new opportunity' and she was always prepared to receive them again, as long as they were penitent". See J. Meyendorff, Marriage: an orthodox perspective, New York, 1975, p. 64.

[27] Ign. Peckstadt, Het orthodox huwelijk in Een open venster op de Orthodoxe Kerk, (The orthodox marriage in An open window on the Orthodox Church), Averbode, 2005.

[28] One finds the term "economia" or "oikonomia" - as it is here understood – in the New Testament and in the texts of the Church Fathers and church authors. Even although one does not find a systematic writing concerning this subject by the Church Fathers, it was used by them frequently all the same in the sense of deviating from the precision of the rule. See P. Rodopoulos (Metropolitan), Introduction to the topics of the fifth international congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches - I. Oikonomia, II Mixed marriages, in Studies I - canon, pastoral, liturgical and various (in Greek), Thessalonica, 1993, p.244. It is a theological concept unique to the Orthodox Church.

[29] B. Archondonis (Ecumenical Patriarch), The problem of oikonomia today, in Kanon, Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft fur das recht der Ostkirchen, (Yearbook of the Society for the law of the Eastern Churches) Vienna, 1987, p. 42.

[30] Ibid., p.40.

[31] P. Rodopoulos (Metropolitan), Oikonomia nach orthodoxem Kirchenricht, (Economia according to the Orthodox Church law), in Studies I - canon, pastoral, liturgical, ecumenical and various (in Greek), Thessalonica, 1993, p. 231.

[32] P. Trembelas, Dogmatique de l"Eglise orthodox catholique, (Dogmatics of the catholic orthodox Church, part III), deel III, Chevetogne 1968, p. 61.

[33] Ign. Peckstadt, Het orthodox huwelijk in Een open venster op de Orthodoxe Kerk, (The orthodox marriage in An open window on the Orthodox Church), Averbode, 2005. See also: Ign. Peckstadt, De economia in de Orthodoxe Kerk, in 25 jaar Orthodoxe Communauteit Heilige Apostel Andreas Gent (1972-1997), (The economia in the Orthodox Church, in 25 years Orthodox Community Holy Apostle Andreas Gent (1972-1997), Gent 1975, p. 65.

[34] J. Meyendorff, Marriage: an orthodox perspective, New York, 1975, p. 65.

[35] Ibid., p. 54-56.

[36] A. Stavropoulos, Concerning marriage and the family, in Snapshots and excursions on paths of pastoral service, part 3, Athens, 1985, p. 116 (in Greek).

[37] Ibid., p. 117.

[38] Ibid., p.118.

[39] S. Charalambidis (Metropolite), Ministères et charismes dans l‘Eglise orthodoxe, (Office and Charismas in the Orthodox Church), Paris, 1988, p. 129-130.

[40] Ign. Peckstadt, Het orthodox huwelijk in Een open venster op de Orthodoxe Kerk, (The orthodox marriage in An open window on the Orthodox Church), Averbode, 2005.

[41] J. Meyendorff, Marriage: an orthodox perspective, New York, 1975, p. 84.

[42] P. L'Huillier (Archbishop), Le divorce selon la théologie et le droit canonique de l'Eglise orthodox, in Messager de l'Exarchat du Patriarcat Russe en Europe occidentale (Divorce according to theology and cannon law in the Orthodox Church in Messenger of the Exarch of the Patriach of Russia and Western Europe) (no 65), Paris, 1969, p. 36.

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Divorce, Orthodox Style, Referenced by Pope Francis

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

When Pope Francis spoke to journalists about the need for a stronger Catholic pastoral approach to marriage and to divorced people, he made a parenthetical reference to how the Orthodox churches handle the breakup of marriages differently.

"The Orthodox have a different practice," he told reporters July 28 during his flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro. The Orthodox "follow the theology of 'oikonomia' (economy or stewardship), as they call it, and give a second possibility; they permit" a second marriage.

While the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain both use the English term "ecclesiastical divorce" when referring to the use of "oikonomia" to permit a second marriage, Orthodox scholars and the websites of both archdiocese make clear that the Orthodox practice differs from both a Catholic annulment and a civil divorce.

Unlike an annulment, which declares that a union was invalid from the beginning, the Orthodox decree does not question the initial validity of a sacramental marriage and unlike a civil divorce it does not dissolve a marriage. Rather, the Orthodox describe it as a recognition that a marriage has ended because of the failure or sin of one or both spouses.

As quoted on the British church's website, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, an Orthodox scholar and retired professor at Britain's Oxford University, wrote in his book, "The Orthodox Church," that the Orthodox permit divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances because Jesus himself, in upholding the indissolubility of marriage in Matthew 19:9, makes room for an exception. In the translation he quoted, Jesus says: "If a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than unchastity, and marries another, he commits adultery."

The revised New American Bible, used at Mass by U.S. Catholics, translates the sentence as: "Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." However, most translations use "unfaithfulness," "fornication" or something similar to "unchastity" for the exception.

Still, Metropolitan Kallistos wrote, "Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as, in principle, lifelong and indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil. But while condemning the sin, the church still desires to help the sinners and to allow them a second chance. When, therefore, a marriage has entirely ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction."

"Divorce is seen as an exceptional but necessary concession to human sin," he wrote. "It is an act of 'oikonomia' ('economy' or dispensation) and of 'philanthropia' (loving kindness). Yet although assisting men and women to rise again after a fall, the Orthodox Church knows that a second alliance can never be the same as the first; and so in the service for a second marriage several of the joyful ceremonies are omitted, and replaced by penitential prayers."

Editor's Note:

This news was given wide publicity in the media and it created a firestorm of discussion among Catholics. The traditionalists want the rules regarding marriage strengthened. Others welcome the opportunity to bring the divorced and remarried Catholics back to the church. Here is the actual conversation of Pope Francis  with Journalists in full context so we can get an idea what his thoughts were:

This is an issue which frequently comes up. Mercy is something much larger than the one case you raised. I believe that this is the season of mercy. This new era we have entered, and the many problems in the Church - like the poor witness given by some priests, problems of corruption in the Church, the problem of clericalism for example - have left so many people hurt, left so much hurt.

The Church is a mother: she has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy. If the Lord never tires of forgiving, we have no other choice than this: first of all, to care for those who are hurting.

The Church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy. And find a form of mercy for all. When the prodigal son returned home, I don't think his father told him: "You, sit down and listen: what did you do with the money?" No! He celebrated! Then, perhaps, when the son was ready to speak, he spoke. The Church has to do this, when there is someone… not only wait for them, but go out and find them! That is what mercy is. And I believe that this is a kairos: this time is a kairos of mercy.

But John Paul II had the first intuition of this, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy… He had something, he had intuited that this was a need in our time.

With reference to the issue of giving communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can't…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage.

And so it is a problem. But also - a parenthesis - the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem - and here I close the parenthesis - must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.

And so, two things:

First, one of the themes to be examined with the eight members of the Council of Cardinals with whom I will meet on 1-3 October is how to move forward in the pastoral care of marriage, and this problem will come up there.

And a second thing: two weeks ago the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops met with me about the theme of the next Synod. It was an anthropological theme, but talking it over, going back and forth, we saw this anthropological theme: how does the faith help with one's personal life-project, but in the family, and so pointing towards the pastoral care of marriage.

We are moving towards a somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage. And this is a problem for everyone, because there are so many of them, no?

For example, I will only mention one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null. But why did he say this? Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married. And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in.

And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this.

It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage. Thank you.

It seems to me that we still have problem accepting Jesus' advice that law should be tempered with mercy. Pastoral Care of Marriage is something our church should take seriously in implementing. Premarital and post marital counseling should be provided to strengthen marriages. Family is a microcosm of the church; it is the backbone of the church - the body of Christ.

Jesus On Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy

by Mark A. Copeland

Gospel: Matthew 19:1-12

INTRODUCTION

1. A serious problem in the world today is that of divorce and remarriage

2. As described by God, divorce is a treacherous, violent act - cf. Mal 2:16

a. Its affect on children has been well documented by Judith Wallerstein, author of Second Chance (Ticknor & Fields, 1988)

1) Almost half of children of divorces enter adulthood as worried, under-achieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry young men and women

2) Half grew up in settings in which the parents were warring with each other even after the divorce
-- Reported in Time, 2/6/89

b. Parents who divorce are not left unhurt either

1) "A divorce is like an amputation: You survive, but there's less of you."
- Margaret Atwood (Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, No. 4)

2) Average percentage change in a woman's standard of living the year following a divorce: minus 73%
- Daniel Evan Weiss, (The Great Divide, Poseidon Press, 1991)

3. Remarriage after divorce is not without it problems also...

a. It does not always heal the wounds inflicted by the divorce: "I'm lucky my parents have stayed together. Unlike so many of my friends, I've never had to cry on a holiday." - Tales Out of High School. Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 6

b. Many remarriages are unlawful in God's eyes, constituting what Jesus called "adultery"

4. While I am concerned about the social and psychological effects of divorce and remarriage, it is the spiritual effects that concern me most...

a. Too many people are ignorant of what the Bible teaches on this subject

b. Such ignorance leads to quick and easy divorces, and to adulterous marriages that are unlawful

5. In Mt 19:3-12, we find Jesus discussing divorce, remarriage and celibacy...

a. His teaching was occasioned by a challenge from the Pharisees

b. But He used the opportunity to teach His disciples what people today need to know!

[As we consider this passage carefully, we find that Matthew first records...]

I. THE PHARISEES' QUESTION (3)

A. TO TEST HIM, NOT TO BE TAUGHT BY HIM...

1. Divorce was a touchy issue then, even as it is today

2. Divorce was not uncommon (e.g., King Herod)

3. The scribes were divided over the proper grounds for divorce

a. The school of Hillel taught that a man could divorce for just about any reason

b. The school of Shammai permitted divorce only in the case of fornication

B. ANY ANSWER JESUS GAVE WOULD OFFEND SOMEONE...

1. If He took the popular lax view, the Pharisees could deride His claim as a teacher of superior morality - cf. Mt 5:20

2. If He upheld the stricter view, He would be unpopular with the majority (which the Pharisees could use against Him)

[Of course, Jesus was not concerned with what man thought, but in pleasing His Father in heaven. This becomes evident as we next consider...]

II. JESUS' ANSWER (4-6)

A. HE APPEALS TO THE WORD OF GOD...

1. "Have you not read...?" - Mt 19:4; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24

2. He does not place stock in the opinions of religious leaders of the day

-- Is there not something for us to learn here? Where should we go to find the answer concerning the issue of divorce?

B. HE REMINDS THEM OF THEIR GENESIS...

1. "He who made them at the beginning `made them male and female'..." - Mt 19:4

2. It is helpful to keep in mind:

a. Where we came from

b. Who created us

c. What we are

3. For our views on divorce and remarriage will be influenced by our views of ourselves!

a. Are we simply animals?

1) Compelled by instinct?

2) Unable to control fleshly desires?

-- Then divorce and remarriage ought to be free and easy

b. Or God's highest creation?

1) Made in His image?

2) Able to control fleshly lusts to the glory of God?

-- Then divorce and remarriage ought to reflect God's desire for man's holiness!

C. HE ATTRIBUTES THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE TO GOD, NOT MAN...

1. Notice, it was GOD who said "For this reason..." - Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24

2. Therefore questions about marriage (such as divorce and remarriage) must be answered by God, not by man (nor by man's laws)!

D. HE EMPHASIZES THAT IN MARRIAGE GOD CREATES A UNION...

1. The two become one flesh - Mt 19:5-6; cf. Gen 2:24

2. They are joined by none other than God Himself!

E. HIS CONCLUSION: LET NOT MAN SEPARATE WHAT GOD JOINED...

1. What GOD has joined together, let not MAN separate - Mt 19:6

2. Man has no right to separate what God Himself has joined

[It is clear that God's intention is that marriage is to be for life!

It is God who joins the couple, and no one has the right to rend asunder what God has joined together!

Are there any exceptions to this rule? The Pharisees thought so, as we now notice...]

III. THE PHARISEES' REBUTTAL (7)

A. THEIR REBUTTAL APPEARS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD...

1. Jesus had urged scriptural reasons against divorce - Mt 19:4-6

2. They allege scriptural authority for divorce - Mt 19:7

B. THEIR APPEAL TO SCRIPTURE WAS ON SHAKY GROUNDS...

1. They appealed to Moses' statement in Deut 24:1-4

2. Which they took to permit divorce as long as a "certificate of divorce" was given to the wife - cf. Mt 5:31

3. Yet a careful reading of that passage reveals:

a. Moses was forbidding the remarriage of a spouse who marries someone else

b. The reason was despite the "certificate" the woman became "defiled" when she remarried
- Deut 24:4

c. The word "defiled" is used elsewhere to describe adultery
- Lev 18:20; Num 5:13-14

d. She actually became an adulteress by the remarriage!
- cf. Ro 7:1-3

4. While they appealed to this passage in divorce (and presumably, remarriage), it actually described the treachery of divorce: defilement of the spouse - cf. Mt 5:32

[The shakiness of their rebuttal is seen further as we consider...]

IV. JESUS' RESPONSE (8-9)

A. MOSES "PERMITTED" DIVORCE DUE TO THEIR HARD HEARTS...

1. The Jews at that time were a hardened people - cf. Deut 9:6; 31:27

2. Is this not a commentary on the state of one's heart when they desire to divorce their spouse?

a. It takes a hard-hearted person to want to divorce their spouse

1) Either to divorce arbitrarily (for no scriptural ground)

2) Or to divorce when the guilty person is pleading for forgiveness and reconciliation

b. Of course, that is exactly the condition of those in the world (or those in the church who are of the world)
- cf. Ep 4:17-19

B. IT WAS NOT WHAT GOD HAD IN MIND FROM THE BEGINNING...

1. The permission to divorce was only temporary

2. Note carefully:

a. The Law of Moses (which was temporary) considered the hardness of men's hearts, and permitted hard-hearted actions

b. The gospel of Christ cures the hardness of one's heart!

1) His grace removes the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of love!

2) I.e., a heart able to abide by God's original design for marriage

3. Paul would later make it clear that under normal conditions divorce is not an option
- 1Co 7:10-11

C. JESUS SETTLED THE POINT WITH AN AUTHORITATIVE "SAYING"...

1. "And I say unto you..." - Mt 19:9

a. His sayings were with authority - cf. Mt 7:28-29

b. Upon which He expected people to base their lives - cf. Mt 7:24-25; 28:20

2. Divorce is allowed only in the case of fornication - Mt 19:9

a. Divorce for any other reason results in adultery when there is remarriage

b. Which is what Jesus taught in Mt 5:32

3. To marry a divorced (put away) person results in adultery

a. Does this apply only to a person put away for a cause other than fornication?

b. Or to the one who is guilty of fornication?

c. The lack of the definite article would suggest any "put away" person

1) Either an innocent person wrongly "put away"

2) Or a guilty person rightly "put away" for fornication

D. OBSERVATIONS...

1. Any divorce must be on those grounds specified by Jesus...

a. For marriage is an institution ordained by God
- Mt 19:5

b. And we must not separate what God has joined
- Mt 19:6

2. A divorce for any other grounds...

a. Is an attempt to separate what God has joined together

b. Results in a remarriage where people commit adultery
- Mt 19:9; cf. Mk 10:11-12

3. Jesus' teaching was contrary to two views held by the Jews of His day...

a. That as long as a "bill of divorcement" was given, they were free to divorce and remarry for any reason

1) Consider Mt 5:31 as an example of their belief

2) Yet Jesus taught:

a) To divorce for any reason other than fornication causes the spouse to commit adultery - Mt 5:32

b) To divorce and remarry for any reason other than fornication is to commit adultery - Mt 19:9

b. That they could marry a woman who was divorced (with the exception of the priests - cf. Lev 21:7,14)

1) Yet Jesus taught that to marry a divorced woman was to commit adultery!

2) Again, the lack of the definite article in both Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 indicates:

a) Whether the woman was put away for the right reason or not

b) In either case, the end result is adultery!

4. Jesus defined the meaning of adultery...

a. It was not uncommon at that time for some Jews to believe:

1) That a man was guilty of adultery only if he violated another man's wife

2) That he could be married, have relations with a single woman, and still not be guilty of adultery

b. But Jesus defined adultery to include:

1) Sex with the spouse of another (the standard definition)

2) Looking at a woman to lust for her (certainly this would include either a married or single woman)
- Mt 5:27-28

3) Marrying a person who was divorced by his or her spouse
- Mt 5:32; 19:9

4) Remarrying when one did not divorce for fornication
- Mt 19:9

[As one might expect, what Jesus said prompted strong reactions. While we do not know how the Pharisees reacted, we do know...]

V. THE DISCIPLES' REACTION (10)

A. IF DIVORCE IS ALLOWED FOR ONLY ONE REASON...

1. It is better not to marry! - Mt 19:10

2. The single life would be preferable to being so bound to one's wife!

B. CONTRAST THIS WITH THE REACTION OF MANY TODAY...

1. The disciples of Jesus:

a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be single!"

b. With them, there was no question about obeying Christ's law on this subject

c. Only that in view of His teaching, the preferable option is celibacy

2. Many people today:

a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be lost!"

b. Rather than submit to scriptural marriage or celibacy, many people are more likely to opt for eternal damnation!

c. Choosing to prefer a few years of adultery over an eternity of bliss!

[With the disciples' mention of celibacy as a viable option, Jesus used the opportunity to speak on the subject as it related to His previous "saying" or teaching...]

VI. JESUS' REPLY REGARDING CELIBACY (11-12)

A. NOT EVERY ONE CAN ACCEPT THIS "SAYING"...

1. I.e., the saying of Mt 19:9

2. The saying of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage

B. WHO CAN ACCEPT IT?

1. "those to whom it has been given" - Mt 19:11

2. "he who is able to receive it" - Mt 19:12

C. WHO MIGHT THESE BE?

1. Those willing to accept it "FOR the kingdom of heaven's sake" - Mt 19:12

a. The kingdom of heaven means that much to them

b. They are willing to do whatever necessary to enter it

2. Even it means making themselves "eunuchs" - Mt 19:12

a. I.e., remaining single, even though they were not "born thus from their mother's womb"

b. In order to remain true to the teaching of Jesus

3. That such sacrifices might occur is implied in Mk 10:29-30; Lk 14:26

a. One must put Christ before all others, including one's spouse

b. Doing so may even cause one to leave their spouse

c. Yet the only situation in which one would be justified in doing so...

1) Would be if their marriage was unscriptural

2) For otherwise one is not to leave their spouse
- cf. 1Co 7:10-11

4. For those willing to live the celibate life if necessary...

a. They will receive the ability to live by His Will
- cf. Php 4:13; Ep 3:20

b. They can provide more service to the Lord being single
- cf. 1Co 7:32-35

...just as many single and widowed serve the Lord faithfully in celibacy!

CONCLUSION

1. Any view of divorce and remarriage must take into consideration...

a. The Word of God

b. The nature of man and woman

c. The sanctity of the union between man and woman created by God

d. The consequences of rebelling against God, trying to separate what He has joined

e. The value of entering "the kingdom of heaven"

2. The only course for faithful Christians is to comply with the teachings of Jesus...

a. That divorce:

1) Is an indication of one's hardness of heart

2) Puts the spouse in a position to commit adultery when they remarry

3) Causes one who has divorced their spouse to commit adultery when they remarry

b. That there is only one ground for divorce and remarriage:

1) Which is fornication

2) In which the innocent person has the right to divorce and remarry

c. That celibacy is a viable option:

1) For those who desire to enter the kingdom of heaven

2) Who may find it necessary to "make themselves eunuchs" (remain celibate) in order to do so

3. For those who find themselves in "unlawful" (i.e., adulterous marriages - cf. Mk 6:17-18), there is forgiveness through the blood of Jesus...

a. But as with any sin, forgiveness in conditioned upon repentance

b. Just as the Jews who had married foreign wives needed to repent by putting them away (cf. Ezra 9-10)

c. So one repents by leaving any relationship described as adultery

May the Lord bless those with the faith to live according to His word, and may we be diligent in teaching our children what the Bible teaches regarding divorce and remarriage!

Source: Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

Orthodox Marriage

by Archpriest James C. Meena

From time to time it is necessary for us to discuss topical matters such as marriage as candidly as possible from a Christian perspective, especially in a society that is assaulting marriage more openly than we have ever known or experienced in the past.

The detractors from the Christian norms of marriage claim that marriage is a social imposition, that it is no longer relevant, that it is not necessary for a man and a woman to be "legally" committed to each other for the rest of their lives, that it is quite alright for them to live together without any commitment whatsoever. We of the Church consider this to be a most detrimental and spiritually degenerating outlook.

Scripture is filled with injunction after injunction against this kind of attitude and states that marriage is consecrated by God. I know of no monotheistic religion that does not exalt marriage as being a divinely instituted relationship. If mankind in its weakness corrupts that relationship or makes it less than what it is meant to be, that is not the fault of God or His Church. It is our fault because we enter into marriage without understanding fully what we ought and can do to make this relationship a happy, meaningful and successful one.

Many young people are "turned off" by the idea of marriage. One hears all sorts of excuses from them. Some, in their late twenties or early thirties, think that it is too early for them to get married. They are reluctant to enter into a responsible relationship.

Consider the alternatives: The Lord says, through St. Paul, that unmarried Christians have three alternatives; either to live a totally celibate life, dedicating their chastity and virtue to God as Paul did, to be married or, and here he emphasizes the last alternative when he says: "It is better to marry than to burn." (I Cor. 7:9) The alternatives to a consecrated marital relationship then is one of two things, either to live in chastity or, failing that, to risk damnation.

Christians must evaluate with great care these modish ideas about marriage being outdated and not relevant. God states that a man must be committed to one woman, a woman committed to one man in a lifetime relationship for specific purposes. (See Chapter 1 & 2-Genesis) Some Theologians will tell you that the purpose is to raise children to the glory of God. Others will teach that fulfillment in spiritual and physical relationships is paramount. While these things are true, it is most important, in my perspective, that a Christ-centered relationship, based on mutual faith in God that revolves around an active life in Christ Jesus is actually a living image, a microcosm of that Divine Family which God has revealed as being His creation intent.

God created man and woman and out of them issued children. Then consider that God is alluded to as Father, His Church as Mother and the members of that marriage between God and His earthly body, as spiritual children. Our human family is a mirror-image of that Divine Creation. The human father is the image of God in his family. The mother is the image of the Church in her family. The children are the image of discipleship, that loyalty of love and devotion that we are called upon to render to God.

We learn of God's love as it is reflected by loving parents. We learn to love God as we respond to the unselfish way our parents love us. So the whole purpose of marriage is to manifest the Will of God, the compassion of God, the loving dispensation of God in our relationship with one another: husband to wife, wife to husband, parents to children, children to parents.

I get a little choked up when I hear some young men referring sarcastically to decent, God loving, well behaved and well bred young women as being "the marrying kind." All Christians should be the marrying kind or they should choose to be totally celibate. We have the freedom to choose. But when we choose the ungodly choice we are in danger of hell fire.

The Church has never condoned the idea that there is any difference in the sexual freedom of men and women, the idea that men have the right to "sow their wild oats" before they are married but women have not. No one has that right! Scriptural teachings call upon all of us to preserve ourselves intact, in chastity, in perfect holiness for the person to whom we are going to commit ourselves. And if we succumb, we fall from God.

If we parents, through our permissiveness, wink our eyes at our young men because we feel that it's natural for men but sinful for women, and we let them go their own way without admonishing them to virtue, to chastity and to integrity, then we fail in our responsibility as parents to be the mirror-image of God's love to our children.

No one has the right to give his or her body away prior to marriage! No one has the right to enter into marriage with the idea that somehow or other if it doesn't work one can always cop out and get a divorce, because that's a betrayal of God's dispensation and God's will. As a man who has been a counselor for 25 years, I state unhesitatingly that there is no marriage in the world that cannot succeed if both husband and wife are willing to work at making that marriage happy and successful. It requires on the part of each a willingness to give unselfishly, to always consider the welfare of the other person, the happiness of the other person, always putting your spouse first and foremost in your thoughtfulness and consideration. Historically, God has desired His creation to be happy in perfection, and the requirement of His creation has always been to bring praise and glory to God.

I thank God that I have had a good and happy relationship with my wife. But that relationship did not come about by accident. My wife is a believer and I am also. Because of our active faith, I can testify to you in her behalf and in mine that over the past 30 years our love has grown stronger and more mature from year to year. This is what comes of a good Christian marriage where two people manifest their love in their actions everyday.

Then young people may grow up to say, "That's good! That looks so good I want to try it. If my parents have enjoyed marriage so much and if my parents have made marriage such a good thing to the glory of God, then man, that's for me."

Consider why my generation was much more willing to get married than are our children. Is it because we saw in our parents the joy our children do not see in us? Think about it!

Source: Word Magazine, May 1976. Published by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Family Special: Giving To Each Other Unconditionally in Marriage

by Wayne Brouwer

Scripture: Philippians 2:1–11

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3–4

John Powell describes different kinds of relationships, including one he calls "pan-scale love." A pan scale is what Lady Justice carries. She stands blindfolded atop a courthouse with pans held by chains at both ends of a balance beam.

Powell says that many of us enter courtship or marriage with a pan-scale commitment. In the exhilaration of first falling in love, we give 100 percent of ourselves to our mate, and our end of the pan scale hangs heavy with love's offerings. For a week or a month or even a year, we don't check to see whether the pan scale is balanced because we assume our partner is also devoting 100 percent to the relationship.

But, says Powell, there comes a time when we begin to analyze which way the pan-scale balance beam is tipping. Invariably, as much as we love our spouse, we begin to recognize that he or she isn't investing quite as much as we are.

So we pull back a little. Maybe she doesn't pick up the clothes that he carelessly leaves in corners of the bedroom. Perhaps he doesn't offer a cheery "hello" and warm kiss when she walks in the door. Maybe she doesn't stop to pick up the dry cleaning or he forgets to gas up the car. This gradual lessening of giving doesn't usually mean coming up short on the scale of big things; rather, it's little cuts that over time begin adding up to the message: "I've been giving 100 percent to this relationship, and you're only offering 87 percent. If you won't put your full load of love on your end of the pan scale, I'm going to pull some of mine back to even things up."

The trouble is, such efforts at balancing the pan scale of love only backfire. Typically, when partners begin to notice that the scales aren't even, they each begin to think they are giving more than the other. The response is a subtle but progressive retaliatory cutback on a full deposit.

It may take a while, but if left unchecked, pan-scale love will eventually bankrupt a relationship. As I view my investments as overmatching my partner's, my mate, from another vantage point, feels similarly cheated. If we check the nuptial agreements and try to reclaim what we believe is rightfully ours, Lady Justice is left with empty scales.

How much better to be known, as the Philippians were, for their generosity. People in that church sensed Paul's needs and, without being asked, sent him gifts time after time. Paul regarded those surprises, their over-the-top giving, as "a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). God asks each of us to bring him an offering according to what our heart prompts us to give, not one that matches what God gives us - that's impossible and we know it.

Likewise, we are to give to our partner in marriage - without weighing it against what's being offered on the other side, with humble thanks for each other, with sincere appreciation for each other, with gratitude for the opportunity to meet each other's needs without being asked. Then our giving will be an off-the-scale fragrant offering to each other, an acceptable sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Let's Talk

In what ways do we treat our giving in marriage as pan-scale love? When have we felt cheated?

How can we increase the level of generosity in our relationship? What gifts do each of us bring? How might they be used to strengthen our marriage?

How can each of us invest more in our marriage without worrying about whether we're getting a good deal?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples

Health Tip: State of the Art Prostate Protection

by Al Sears MD

Today I'm going to tell you how to get over prostate problems.

If you're a man, you'ved them already or you're going to. You may have already found yourself standing over the urinal waiting for something to happen and nothing does.

But I'm going to show you the best, state-of-the-art, natural way to improve your peeing power.

It's called beta-sitosterol, and it can help in a big way. Beta-sitosterol is a particular kind of plant sterol, which means it's a fancy, organic chemistry name for a plant fat. It's where the word "steroid" comes from.

In a review of 63 other clinical trials, beta-sitosterol was among the top three most effective treatments to improve urinary flow and prostate health. (1)

Weak "pee power" is one of the most common parts of aging I see in my male patients. Sixty percent of men over 60 have weak stream when urinating. That number shoots up to nearly 80% ten years later. (2)

This is one of the oldest health issues in the world. We know from ancient scrolls that the Egyptians developed their own formulas for treating it as far back as 2000 BC. (3)

The use of simple plant formulas to promote health goes back to the beginning of civilization. It's called phytotherapy ("phyto" is the Greek word for plant). And that's what you get with beta-sitosterol.

One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study – the gold standard in clinical trials – looked at 200 men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, which can make you have trouble peeing. Half the group received 180 mg of beta-sitosterol daily, while the other half received placebo.

After six months, the beta-sitosterol group saw improvement in the International Prostate Symptom Score, the measurement of urine flow (QMax), and the amount of residual urine remaining in the bladder (PUR). (4)

British researchers gave 177 patients with benign prostate enlargement 130 mg of beta-sitosterol each day and were monitored for over six months. Measurements of the International Prostate Symptom Score, urinary flow, and residual urine in the bladder after voiding were recorded. (5)

On average, urinary flow values increased significantly while the amount of urine left in the bladder decreased by a huge amount. In terms of the International Prostate Symptom Score scale, that's big news. (6)

I always have faith that something works when I see the same tradition of use spring up in totally unrelated places around the world.

In Bali, healers use the herb beluntas in men with a loss of urinary flow. Science has since discovered that beluntas is full of beta-sitosterol.

When I visited South America, I found that traditional herbal healers use sacha inchi seeds to help restore urinary flow in men. Turns out, every 100 grams of sacha inchi seed has over 75 mg of beta-sitosterol. The cold-pressed sacha inchi oil has an even higher concentration. (7)

In Africa, my friend Dr. Josiah Kizito showed me how they use the African potato, called hypoxis, to treat urinary tract infections and prostate problems like BPH.

One of the reasons hypoxis is so good at healing the prostate is that it's full of beta-sitosterol. Hypoxis is so powerful it's traditionally used as a tonic in African medicine known as "muthi," which simply means medicine.

To get more beta-sitosterol for better "pee power" as you age, here's what I recommend:

1) Get it from your food: Food is always my number one way to get nutrients. The good news is, there are plenty of plants besides the ones I just mentioned that have beta-sitosterol, like:

  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Lentils
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • African plum (Pygeum africanum)
  • Maca root
  • French lavender

Maybe the best source is the good old avocado. Besides being full of healthy fats, every 200-calorie serving of avocado (about 4/5 of a medium avocado) is going to give you around 90 mg of beta-sitosterol.

When I found that out, I was surprised, because that's a pretty good dose. That's more than what's in most prostate formulas.

2) Get a full dose: As good as avocados and nuts like pistachios are, you'd have to eat a lot to get the dose I recommend for you every day, which is a full 300 mg.

That's not so easy. I've seen some that only have a few milligrams in each capsule, and you have to take a few pills to get a small amount.

For full relief of BPH and for total prostate health, look for a prostate formula that has a full 300 mg of beta-sitosterol in each capsule. You'll be able to restore function to your prostate, and you won't have to take a handful of pills every day.

References:

1. "Randomized clinical trial of an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms." Asian Journal of Andrology. 2008. 10(5):777-85.
2. Homma et al. "Urinary symptoms and urodynamics in a normal elderly population." Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology [Supplement]. 1994. 157:27-30. PMID 7939451
3. Shokeir & Hussein. "The Urology of Pharaonic Egypt." BJU International. 2001. 84(7):755-761.
4. Berges R, et. al. "Treatment ... with b-sitosterol: an 18-month follow-up." BJU International 2000;85, 842±84.
5. Berges R, et. al. "Treatment ... with b-sitosterol: an 18-month follow-up." BJU International 2000;85, 842±84.
6. Klippel K, Hiltl D, Schipp B. "A multicentric, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol (phytosterol) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. German BPH-Phyto Study group." Br J Urol. 1997 Sep;80(3):427-32.
7. Gorritti A. "Updating the Monograph - Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L.)." Perúbiodiverso Project II, 2013.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Humor: Men and Women
Men:

1. All men are extremely busy.

2. Although they are so busy, they still have time for women.

3. Although they have time for women, they don't really care for them.

4. Although they don't really care for them, they always have one Around.

5. Although they always have one around them, they always try their Luck with others.

6. Although they try their luck with others, they get really pissed off If the women leaves them.

7. Although the women leaves them they still don't learn from their Mistakes and still try their luck with others.

---

Women:

1. The most important thing for a woman is financial security.

2. Although this is so important, they still go out and buy expensive Clothes.

3. Although they always buy expensive clothes, they never have something To wear.

4. Although they never have something to wear, they always dress Beautifully.

5. Although they always dress beautifully, their clothes are always just 'An old rag'.

6. Although their clothes are always 'just an old rag', they still Expect you to compliment them.

7. Although they expect you to compliment them, when you do, they don't Believe you.

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