Famous Russian Saint Explains Why Christian Marriage Is Something Unique, Transcending Civil Marriage

"[Christian Marriage] becomes the instrument of spirituality, the lower goals are made means to achieve higher goals; enjoyment of sensual beauty raises the eyes to the beauty of heavenly, divine. Whereas civil marriage, being only a sensual union, pampers and corrupts man, makes his spirit sleepy, increases his voluptuousness and, at the same time, generates cruelty and many other vices and almost reduces man to an animal. . ."

Editor's Note: This article was generated by machine translation, so our staff cautions the reader about possible inaccuracies that may have resulted from this. However, it was deemed worthwhile to still publish such a piece because of the intrinsic value of the message - which remains evident even in its translated form. 

One day a noblewoman of advanced years came to the venerable Seraphim. She had loved God from her youth and had long wished to become a nun, but her parents would not give her a blessing.

The virgin sought the advice of the reverend, hoping that he would approve and bless her intention. On the contrary, the wise old man advised her to get married, saying: "Marriage is blessed by God Himself. In it you only need to observe marital fidelity, love and peace on both sides. In marriage you will be happy, but there is no way for you to go to monasticism. The monastic life is difficult, and not everyone can bear it."

Father Seraphim united the family members who lived apart in fulfillment of the scripture: "What God has joined together, let not man separate. The gentlemen of the T's, of Penza Province, from Taganrog, separated from each other because of their troubles, and separated their children. The husband resided in Penza and the wife in Taganrog. Fortunately for both of them, Mr. T was in Sarov. Father Seraphim just looked at him, began to rebuke him, and threatened him, saying, "Why do you not live with your wife? Go to her, go to her!" The old man's speech brought the deluded man to his senses: he left Sarov for Taganrog, took his wife, went with her to praying in Kiev, and they have lived together ever since in a village near Taganrog, safely and according to God's law. "I saw," writes the God-loving Mary to the hermit George, "their letters after the news of the elder's death: they were filled with sorrow that their father and benefactor had died."

Husbands and wives, do you hear this testament of the holy elder? Do you cherish matrimonial fidelity, love, and peace among yourselves? To strengthen these holy dispositions in you, meditate more often on your marital duties! We will briefly remind you of them.

Christian marriage, as the union of the two sexes, should first of all be the union of one husband with one wife. Everyone should have one wife and each one her husband (1 Cor. 7:2). "If God had wished," says St. John Chrysostom, "that a wife should be left and another taken, he would have created one man and many women. "The Wise Word," argues another saintly father (St. Gregory the Theologian), "has poured love into the bowels of both sexes, inducing them to strive for one another. But, so that not every woman lusted after every husband, He put a limit to lust - marriage, this is a restriction for this substance that does not know the measure, so that at its rapidity and unrestrained impulses, when people are attracted to each other in heaps, from illegal relations the sacred human race is not interrupted, and irrepressible madness of passion does not excite in all wars and troubles."

Truly Christian conjugal love can only truly be between one husband and one wife. As soon as husband and wife are one flesh, there is no need for them to share their love with a third or fourth person. Husband and wife are one living organism. A dissected organism dies, and so the matrimonial union, separated by polygamy or polygyny, loses its life and meaning. Existing only between husband and wife, the matrimonial union moderates sensual sexual hobbies and prevents all kinds of excess and disorder in them. Because of the close connection of the soul with the body, marital union of husband and wife leads to a close unity of their souls: sensuality becomes the instrument of spirituality, the lower goals are made means to achieve higher goals; enjoyment of sensual beauty raises the eyes to the beauty of heavenly, divine. Whereas civil marriage, being only a sensual union, pampers and corrupts man, makes his spirit sleepy, increases his voluptuousness and, at the same time, generates cruelty and many other vices and almost reduces man to an animal, while Christian marriage serves to elevate morality, to strengthen energy, to educate and develop love and pious feelings, produces the fullness and height of happiness.

 Another characteristic of Christian marriage is its indissolubility, by which the marriage union between husband and wife is not made for a short time, but for life. According to the teaching of God's word, marriage, by its very foundation, is indissoluble, for it is God Himself who unites husband and wife. When the Pharisees objected to Jesus Christ that Moses had commanded them to give a letter of divorce and to divorce their wives, He answered them, "Moses, because of your hard-heartedness, allowed you to divorce your wives; but at first it was not so" (Matt. 19:8), so that whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery; even he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11,12). If the wife does not even have true faith in God, this does not entitle the believing husband to leave her; likewise, the believing wife must not leave her unbelieving husband (1 Cor. 7:12-14). According to the teaching of Jesus, the only valid reason for divorce is the adultery of husband or wife (Mt 5:32; 19:9), but even in that case divorce is neither commanded nor imposed, but only permitted. Divorce, in general, is a deviation from the concept of marriage, from the general law, and is therefore itself evil. But this evil is permitted out of necessity, to avoid a greater evil. Divorce is permitted solely in respect for the violated rights of the victim, for the sake of restoring the justice that has been violated.

As an intimate, united and irrevocable union, Christian marriage imposes on husband and wife the obligation of the most sincere Christian love. Christian spouses, respecting their common human dignity, especially our redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ and our sonship to God, must mutually and equally respect and love one another; on the other hand, in accordance with their natural characteristics and their difference from the wife, the husband must protect, lead and rule the wife as his weakest. But this domination and supremacy of the husband over his wife is not at all the despotism and violence that the wife sometimes suffers from her husband, especially among ordinary people; the Christian husband should be the same head of his wife as Jesus Christ is the head in relation to His Church. But how does Jesus Christ present Himself as Head of the Church?

He loved His Church to the point of given Himself for it. The Church was once unclean, corrupt, and ugly. And Christ did not turn away from her ugliness, but recreated her, corrected her, forgave her sins. He not only washed away her uncleanness, but He also wiped out her old age and destroyed the old sinful man. He did not resort to violence, censure, and threats for this purpose, but achieved this with great care and self-sacrificing love for her. To purify her, He found for this purpose a proper washing in the sacrament of Holy Baptism (1 Cor. 6:11; Acts 2:38; 22:16); to sanctify her, He gave her His Gospel divine word of truth and faith (John 17:17; Rom. 10:8; Eph. 6:17 and others). His concern for the purity, holiness and purity of the Church He extended to the point of sacrificing His own life for it.

 This is an example of the Christian relationship between husband and wife. Having sincerely loved her with all his heart, he does everything for her glory and exaltation; there can be no shadow of violence or humiliation in his relationship with her. The wife is weaker than her husband, and her weakness is only a great incentive for him to help, support and protect her; to use this weakness as an excuse to oppress his wife in any way is unthinkable for him. All of his wife's needs and wants, both physical and moral, he prudently endeavors to meet them. All even the smallest disadvantages of his wife are an object of concern to him, the strongest concern and self-sacrifice. The wife is naturally and inwardly united to the husband; she is his own body. Hence not to love his wife is not to love himself.

 In the same way, the duties prescribed for a wife contain nothing against her interests and dignity. She must love her husband as the Church loves the Lord. The Church, in turn, is holy and God-fearing in doing His will, and so should the Christian wife do with respect to her husband. She must obey him as the Lord God (Eph. 6:6, 7). The husband is to her as a representative of Jesus Christ, and therefore cannot offer her any unlawful demands. But the wife, honoring her husband's high dignity, treats his demands with perfect trustworthiness, submission, and respect. She fears her husband (Eph. 5:33) in the sense that she recognizes his high dignity as the Lord's representative and appreciates his love, just as we fear God or the good and courteous leaders we love. Tertullian [an ancient christian writer] portrays the marriage cohabitation of Christian spouses this way:

 "How to describe the happiness of marriage, defined by the Church, sanctified by her prayers, recorded by angels in heaven, blessed by God the Father. It is known that God's children do not marry without their Father's consent. How pleasing should be the bond that unites two hearts in one hope, in one faith, in one law! They are as children of one Father, as servants of one Lord: there is no discord or division between them, neither in soul nor in body. They are two in one flesh: where the flesh is one, the soul is one. They pray together, kneel together, fast together, encourage and guide one another.

And that is how Christian spouses really are. Here is a true story from ancient times:

A merchant loaded his ship with rich merchandise and sailed to Africa. But soon there was a storm, the ship broke up, all the treasures sank, and the rescued merchant returned home empty-handed... But another misfortune awaited him there: the lenders stole the rest of the estate, and since there was still a debt on it, the unhappy man was thrown into prison. In this state of grief, the unhappy man's wife used women's handicrafts to get her daily bread and so nourished herself and her husband. She was young and beautiful, and this was the cause of the following incident.

One day, while she was dining with her husband in the prison, a rich man came to give alms to the poor prisoners. When he saw the young woman in such a wretched place, he was so moved by her beauty that he felt in his heart an irresistible passion for her. The rich man immediately left the prison and sent his servant to fetch her. The poor wife hurried to see him, thinking that he would take pity on their fortune and give her something for Christ's sake.

 - What crime have you done to be in prison? - The rich man asked her, and when the unhappy wife told him all that had happened to her husband, he went on: - I will pay all your husband's debt, if you will agree to be my wife. Thou art innocent: why shouldst thou be partaker of his misfortune?

 - I have sworn before the altar of the Lord to be faithful to my husband unto death," replied the virtuous woman, "and therefore I cannot dispose myself; if it pleases you, wait here, and in the meantime I will ask him.

 The rich man agreed to her reply, firmly hoping that the poor man would sacrifice his honor to freedom.

 The disturbed woman goes to her husband and recounts the rich man's offer.

 When the poor man hears it, he sighs and weeps and then answers her:

 - Beloved spouse, tell the criminal benefactor that we, no matter what extremity we are in, by the crime of God's law we do not want to buy liberty; tell him that God, who tests the abysses, sees also those who are cast into prison; that this God knows by what fates to deliver us. Tell him that we have no hope "in the prince and in the sons of men, for there is no salvation in them."

The wife again went out to the rich man and told him everything from word to word. The virtuous couple was not deceived by the fact that God has a thousand means to deliver man from his misfortune... A robber was imprisoned beside them behind a partition. He heard the conversation between husband and wife, and as hardened as he was, he was moved to the depths of his heart by their virtue. He beckoned them to come closer, and through the wall he said to them:

- I am an outlaw; I have done many evils and murders, and I am quite certain that I shall soon be punished with death. Therefore, I beg you, go after my death to such and such a place; when you have dug in the ground, you will find a great deal of gold there. It is stolen, but I do not know from whom. If I report it to the judges, they will keep it. Take it for yourselves, as virtuous people, and pray to God for me.

The robber was indeed deprived of life a few days later. The virtuous woman, with her husband's permission, goes late at night to the place shown by the robber, digs the ground... and how she was surprised to see an uncountable treasure! It was the boxes of gold. With the utmost care she took them home, began to pay the debt from time to time, and soon she freed her husband from prison.

From the book "The Testament of the Most Reverend Seraphim to Christian spouses, parents, and children"

Source: 3rm.info (Russian)

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