A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF MARRIAGE
(H.G. Bishop Moussa)
Christian marriage is different. It has a perspective of
its own, which we need to get to know -if we want to get the
full picture, and see it in all its purity. For Christian
marriage is a sacrament: it is the Holy Spirit Who makes it
work. So we need to approach it in a different way, with
real spiritual depth. Then we will see it work out in
practice, in authentic Christian behavior.
The Apostle Paul gives us two significant insights into the
sanctity of marriage: "This is a great mystery" (Eph 5:32);
"Marriage is honorable among all" (Heb 13:4).
Christian marriage goes beyond the coupling of bodies: it
aspires to the coupling of souls. In the same way that the
Holy Spirit is active in baptismal water to create a new
person, so He is present in marriage. Just as He is at work
in Meeron oil (Holy Chrism) to consecrate a human body to
make it a temple of the Holy Spirit; just as He takes the
bread and wine and transubstantiate them into the Lord's
Holy body and blood; So he unites the bride and groom to
each other and to the Lord, through sincere prayers and
Yet, this unity is not accomplished in a magical way. The
bride and groom are aware of and participate in it by their
heartfelt prayers and positive response to the working of
grace. This means that the sacraments do not work in a
merely mechanical way: rather, they demand a spiritual
response from the person who is receiving the sacrament.
This is just as necessary as the involvement of an ordained
priest; the holding of formal prayers - and the presence of
the Spirit of God.
This divine work is the new thing in Christianity. For
since the beginning of the creation there have been marriage
rituals, agreement by both sides, and social aspects that
differ from one community to another. But the new thing in
Christianity is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes two
individuals into a couple and the couple into one entity.
The Christian understanding of marriage is seen through
specific characteristics some of which are:
1. One Partner
Christianity does not permit polygamy, i.e. getting married
to more than one partner, Monogamy, or the law of one wife,
is definite in Christianity and established in the Bible.
In this context St. Paul's words are enough:
+ "Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have
her own husband" (1 Cor 7:2).
+ "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but
the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Cor 7:4).
+ "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A
wife is not to depart from her husband" (1 Cor 7:10).
+ "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one
flesh" (Eph 5:31).
+ "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph 5:28).
This in fact is:
a. A restoration to the original state of affairs: "He who
made them at the beginning 'made them male and female'" (Mt
b. Keeping Christ's command: "So then they are no longer
tow but one flesh. Therefore what God had joined together,
let not man separate" (Mt 19:6).
There is no doubt that the law of one wife has many
important implications. It raises the status of the woman
from just a mere tool to a life-partner; changes the
significance of the children from sheer quantity to their
quality, and refines the instinct from sensuality to
spirituality. These three points we should consider deeply.
God has created only one Eve for Adam to make him realize
that she is a help-meet for him, i.e. a life-partner on an
equal footing. It is often said that God took Eve not from
Adam's head, so as to be superior to him, nor from his leg,
so as to be inferior. He took her from Adam's side to be an
equal counterpart to him.
Moreover, the law of one wife changes the significance of
children from their quantity to their quality. They are
limited in number and raised on the basis of a sound
Christian upbringing to become good citizens and faithful
witnesses to the Lord. This is much better than having a
big number of children who are badly brought up and have no
share either in church membership or in eternal life
The law of one wife also sublimates the instincts.
Spiritual love is the secret of satisfaction, contentment
and happiness, whereas uncontrolled, sensual love is a
regression from the human to the animal level.
Christian marriage is not jus a contract between two parties
whereby each person continues to follow his or her own ego.
Instead Christianity unifies the two parties or rather the
two partners in "one entity" for "the two shall become one
flesh" (Mt 19:5). The expression "one" here is very
precise, for the one flesh has many members but all are
linked and unified in love, sacrifice, self-giving, and
harmony. The one flesh is controlled by one network of
thoughts and feelings and one will. Therefore, the true Christian marriage turns the home into a
new heaven and the family into a sacred church. There is no
more duality but one entity integrated on the levels of:
Spirit: the two are united in God.
Mind: the two now have the mind of Christ.
Emotions: since the spiritual self-sacrificing love is their
motto. "It is more blessed to give than to
Will: the Holy Spirit is the leader of each of their wills and unifies the two into one.
Therefore we call the individual a couple and the couple
one. This is true as they are united in God. Each partner
bears the other in the depths of his or her being. He or
she is no longer one individual but a couple. Each thinks,
moves or acts with the other partner hidden deep in the
heart. At the same time, the couple becomes one, i.e. their
behavior flows from a spring of profound unity created by
the Holy Spirit.
That is why it is very important for the bride and groom to
pay attention to the prayers and commandments recited in the
celebration of the sacrament of matrimony. They need to
rise to that Christian level where their marriage goes
beyond social and physical coupling to a sacred spiritual
This is a third important characteristic of the Christian
marriage. In fact, it is - as the Lord Jesus said - the
principle on which Adam and Eve originally lived.
Therefore, when the Jews tested the Lord on divorce saying:
'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any
reason?' He replied: 'Have you not read that He Who made
them at the beginning 'made them male and female' .... For
this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be
joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.'
When they asked him: 'Why then did Moses command to give a
certificate of divorce, and to put her away?' He answered:
'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted
you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not
so' (Mt 19:3-8).
From this text we can clearly see two facts:
a. Marriage was originally based on continuity, i.e. the
idea of divorce is completely rejected.
b. Moses allowed the Jews to trespass over this boundary -
with God's permission - because of the hardness of their
But Christ Who marked a new covenant of salvation and
restored us to our original image and first nature, also
restored marriage to its original state, i.e. continuity and
prohibition of divorce. God has not allowed divorce except
for adultery because the guilty partner - by the nature of
his or her sin - breaks the original marriage bond by
uniting himself or herself by a new partner. However, if
the innocent partner is willing to go on with the marriage
and accepts the other partner's return, marriage can
continue on the basis of the sinful partner's sincere
repentance and rededication to the first marriage covenant.
The second reason for divorce is spiritual adultery, that is
to say denial of faith and giving up Christianity. In this
case the Christian partner is no longer bound by the
marriage covenant and has the right to divorce the other
As for the kind of reasons Christians are now putting
forward to divorce, such as ill-treatment, separation,
frequent absence and chronic diseases, they cannot set one's
conscience at peace. For they are a mere veneer, to cover
up for a basic selfishness and lack of love.
On the other side, the nullity of marriage is allowed in
cases of cheating, impotence, and some other cases specified
by the church. The nullity of marriage is a sound principle
as there has to be basic elements to guarantee a sound
marriage, such as full physical and mental maturity ... etc.
An overall view of the reasons for divorce today shows us
how shallow the spiritual life is and how rare genuine love
has become. It shows us the extent of selfishness and selfcenteredness,
and disobedience to Christ's commandments.
May the Lord restore to the Christian family its ideal
cohesion and unity; the cohesion and unity with which the
Christian family has so long testified to Christ, its
4. Bearing Fruits
The Christian family - by the work of the Holy Spirit -
bears the following fruits:
a. Christian Virtue: reflected in the life of its
b. Children: when God grants - they are blessed and
raised in the fear of God and firmly at one
with the church.
c. Services: the family offers to everyone it deals
with, in a true Christian love which knows
neither discrimination, hatred, nor
The family is a small, lively, active church that testifies
to its Lord Jesus Christ. Children are not an end but just
fruits. How wonderful it is when the parents' hearts are
enlarged to include a wider circle of love instead of
confining their emotions to their children. How wonderful it is when the couple, whom God has not granted children by
the flesh, enlarge their hearts to adopt by the spirit a
bigger number of children. At the same time, within God's
church they look after thousands of children in true
parental love. These are some characteristics of the Christian marriage. May God give us the joy of seeing more marriages that
witness to Christ.
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