One thing missing from our national conversation about marriage – Joel J. Miller – Ancient Faith Blogs



One thing missing from our national conversation about marriage


Joel J. Miller

Ancient Faith Blogs



Cristians have traditionally understood marriage as more than contract, partnership, or mutual agreement. Though it’s been buried under a million words about rights and equality, the church understands marriage to be a sacrament, a gift of God’s grace for the transformation of the recipients.

Look for a moment at two examples: baptism and eucharist. The first moves us into relationship with Christ and his church, while the second gives us the life of Christ so we can become more like him. Marriage is the same way. The endgame is union with God as we grow in Christ.

The apostle Paul actually speaks of marriage as a “mystery,” using the Greek term for sacraments. Our marriages have the power to transform us into the likeness of Christ. But “sacrament” is not a category many of us think about anymore, and the deleterious effect on our understanding of marriage is profound.

The rise of therapeutic marriage

Over the last several decades we’ve come to a different take on marriage, as part of a much larger cultural shift I discussed before. Marriage is now primarily a relationship for the betterment and self-fulfillment of two individuals. Two are stronger than one, after all. Together two individuals can better gratify each other’s desires and fulfill each others needs—right up until the moment they no longer seem able or willing, of course.

None of that is false, so far as it goes. But when you take this understanding of marriage and place it within the context of a self-indulgent culture like ours, you create marriages between two people looking to get the most out of the relationship for themselves. University of Virginia sociologist Sarah Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva, for instance, describe the rise of “therapeutic” marriage, which centers on the “happiness, equality, mutuality, and self-actualization of individuals.”

When the individuals involved think they can get more for themselves outside the marriage, they cheat or just “consciously uncouple,” to use Gwyneth Paltrow’s morally beatific euphemism for divorce. “[W]e don’t divorce—or have affairs—because we are unhappy but because we could be happier,” explains therapist Esther Perel.

The union exists, in other words, for the individual to maximize his or her bliss—and to hell with the rest. That’s not true in every marriage, but it sure seemed true in my first marriage, and let me underscore the word first. How could it last with all my self-seeking?

This is the exactly the cultural context in which the Supreme Court wrestled with the question of same-sex marriage. Hence Justice Kennedy’s ruling:

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.

That opinion makes sense in the context of therapeutic marriage. Who doesn’t like room for expression, intimacy, and spirituality? But the judgment doesn’t apply to sacramental marriage because those things—wonderful as they are—are not the governing purpose of marriage as traditionally understood by the church. We’re working toward something bigger.

The significance and safeguard of sacrament

Christians are affected by the “therapeutic” culture as much as anyone. Not only do many of us no longer regard marriage as a sacramental union, in which individual gratification and self-fulfillment are not the ultimate goal. But in the vacuum we have perpetuated the values of the wider culture (as in most everything else we do).

Compounding the problem, Christians approach marriage with expectations that seem appropriate on the surface but which are really just self-indulgence baptized and proof-texted. True love should wait, yes, but the point of marriage isn’t to have—as we often sell it to young people—the most amazing sex ever.

Others have written about the problems with this approach, but the obvious one is that it distorts the purpose of marriage before the pair even steps up to the altar. Everybody loves a good orgasm, but marriage is more about enabling another to grow in union with God. Not only does marriage help display the relationship between God and his church, it helps us actualize that relationship by the Holy Spirit.

Beyond these considerations, the category of sacrament could prove an important safeguard. When a couple comes to marry, the pastor must guard the sacrament as he would with baptism and the eucharist. Sacraments are exclusive by nature. The earliest Christians didn’t even let outsiders see the eucharist.

A minister would refuse baptism to someone not eligible, just as he would refuse the cup. The same is true for marriage. If it’s only a contract, that’s one thing. But if it is a sacrament, then what place do courts and legislatures have dictating practice? Will the government also determine who should get dunked, fed, absolved, and so on? It’s a small but perhaps significant distinction as we look to define the bounds of religious liberty.

Bottom line: If marriage is to survive as any meaningful sort of institution, I am convinced it will only survive to the extent that we recapture the vision for what a sacramental marriage can be. And that of course means those of us who are married must live up to that calling.

Lord, have mercy.


Teach your children love – Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints in Isle of Mull, Hebrides Islands, Scotland




“Build Christian values in them, not Christian knowledge.

Work with their hearts, rather than their minds, because the theology of the heart cannot be erased”

(Fr. Seraphim, Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints)


Teach your children love


Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints

in Isle of Mull, Hebrides Islands, Scotland

What exactly is there to teach a child (or a teenager, for that matter)? In what ways is it beneficial for a child to sit down and learn about the Holy Trinity or Christ’s two natures? Is that where we should start? Are dogmas the central focus?

To me, church school is an interesting, but completely alien concept. The idea that I may go to church for anything else except worship feels strange. The notion that I can be taught about worship – by any other means except worship itself – is also strange. I Continue reading “Teach your children love – Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints in Isle of Mull, Hebrides Islands, Scotland”

Let us accept another as he is – Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)


-Let us accept another as he is-

Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery,

Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)

Let us accept another as he is. One will insult me, of course. Another will praise me, certainly. Another will offer me half a glass of water, doubtlessly. Let us not meddle in the life of another. When they will ask for our love, let us give it as God gives it, “over both the righteous and the unrighteous.”



Human Relationships in the Light of Christ – Q&A – Father Zacharias of Essex Monastery, England



Human Relationships in the Light of Christ

Q&A – Father Zacharias of Essex Monastery, England

“Human Relationships in the Light of Christ”, talk given by Archimandrite Zacharias in the Orthodox Christian Church in Edinburgh, on 8th of November 2012.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

St. John The Baptist, the Orthodox Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, England

Marriage: The Great Sacrament – Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece





Marriage: The Great Sacrament


Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery,

Holy Mount Athos, Greece



On (June 25 / July 8), the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Saints Peter and Febronius, and the nation celebrates an official “Day of “Family, Love, and Faithfulness.” To honor the day, we have posted a classic homily on this theme by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos from the website, Orthodox Christian Information Center. Fr. Aimilianos gives excellent advice not only to young people thinking about marriage, but also to married couples, who are carrying their saving cross in life, travelling together as one body to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Bride and groom during an orthodox wedding

Nobody would dispute that the most important day in a person’s life, after his birth and baptism, is that of his marriage. It is no surprise, then, that the aim of contemporary worldly and institutional upheavals is precisely to crush the most honorable and sacred mystery of marriage. For many people, marriage is an opportunity for pleasures and amusements. Life, however, is a serious affair. It is a spiritual struggle, a progression toward a goal—heaven. The most crucial juncture, and the most important means, of this progression is marriage. It is not permissible for anyone to avoid the bonds of marriage, whether he concludes a mystical marriage by devoting himself to God, or whether he concludes a sacramental one with a spouse.

Today we will concern ourselves primarily with sacramental marriage. We will consider how marriage can contribute to our spiritual life, in order to continue the theme of our previous talk.[1] We know that marriage is an institution established by God. It is “honorable” (Heb 13.4). It is a “great mystery” (Eph 5.32). An unmarried person passes through life and leaves it; but a married person lives and experiences life to the full.

One wonders what people today think about the sacred institution of marriage, this “great mystery”, blessed by our Church. They marry, and it’s as if two checking accounts or two business interests were being merged. Two people are united without ideals, two zeros, you could say. Because people without ideals, without quests, are nothing more than zeros. “I married in order to live my life”, you hear people say, “and not to be shut inside four walls”. “I married to enjoy my life”, they say, and then they hand over their children—if they have children—to some strange woman so they can run off to the theater, the movies, or to some other worldly gathering. And so their houses become hotels to which they return in the evening, or, rather, after midnight, after they’ve had their fun and need to rest. Such people are empty inside, and so in their homes they feel a real void. They find no gratification there, and thus they rush and slide from here to there, in order to find their happiness.

They marry without knowledge, without a sense of responsibility, or simply because they wish to get married, or because they think they must in order to be good members of society. But what is the result? We see it every day. The shipwrecks of marriage are familiar to all of us. A worldly marriage, as it is Continue reading “Marriage: The Great Sacrament – Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece”

How to preserve a relationship? – Fr. Andrew Konanos, Greece


How to preserve a relationship?

Fr. Andrew Konanos, Greece

Your life has become a routine. You feel that a person close to you has become boring. You have studied him or her for so many years. You are used to them, but you are tired of them. This is what you think. What is this person really like? You know them well for sure. Just as usual, they reveal something new to you. Something that you did not know, some beautiful part of their soul. If you understand this, you will see they have many more capabilities. Then your interest in them will be awakened in the depths of your soul. Your relationship will become new and fresh again. Any relationship can be pleasant: with your spouse, your children, and your co-workers.

As holy fathers suggested, it is enough for everyone to look at oneself philosophically. That is, to examine oneself, wonder, if Christ reflects in one, then say: «Why was Jesus like that, and I am completely different? What do I have? What do I lack? Why am I so fussy? Why is everyone around me to blame? Why are my wings broken? After all, I am still so young! Future is ahead! I cannot go on like this!”

So, find your calling. Search. Pay attention to your charisma. Listen closely to Continue reading “How to preserve a relationship? – Fr. Andrew Konanos, Greece”

Why children lose their faith in God? – Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, Washington, USA


Why children lose their faith in God?

Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, Washington, USA



Before answering that question, I want to say a few words to those who assert that one should not “impose” religious beliefs on children.

Religious faith cannot be imposed upon a person. It is not something extraneous to a person, but rather an essential, necessary requirement of human nature, the principal content of a person’s inner life.

When we take care to see that a child should grow up truthful, kind, when we nurture within him a proper understanding of beauty, taste for excellence, we do not impose upon him something alien or contrary to his nature; we merely help him to extricate him from himself, as it were to take him out of diapers and allow him to perceive for himself those attributes and impulses that are entirely characteristic of the human soul.

The same must be said about apprehension of God.

Following the principle of not imposing anything on the child’s soul, we would have to entirely refuse to participate in the child’s development and strengthening of his spiritual powers and abilities. We would leave him entirely to himself until he grows up and distinguishes between what he should and Continue reading “Why children lose their faith in God? – Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, Washington, USA”