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ReligionChristianityThe sacrament of Marriage in the canon law of the Orthodox Church

The sacrament of Marriage in the canon law of the Orthodox Church

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Petar Gramatikov
Petar Gramatikovhttps://europeantimes.news
Dr. Petar Gramatikov is the Editor in Chief and Director of The European Times. He is a member of the Union of Bulgarian Reporters. Dr. Gramatikov has more than 20 years of Academic experience in different institutions for higher education in Bulgaria. He also examined lectures, related to theoretical problems involved in the application of international law in religious law where a special focus has been given to the legal framework of New Religious Movements, freedom of religion and self-determination, and State-Church relations for plural-ethnic states. In addition to his professional and academic experience, Dr. Gramatikov has more than 10 years Media experience where he hold a positions as Editor of a tourism quarterly periodical “Club Orpheus” magazine – “ORPHEUS CLUB Wellness” PLC, Plovdiv; Consultant and author of religious lectures for the specialized rubric for deaf people at the Bulgarian National Television and has been Accredited as a journalist from “Help the Needy” Public Newspaper at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The canon law of the Orthodox Church adopts the Roman definition of marriage given by the Roman jurist Modestin – “union of man and woman, union for life, communion in divine and human rights.”

This definition contains four main elements:

– Marriage as a union, which has its basis in human nature – this is the natural element of attraction (natural or physical element of marriage);

– The second element is the moral (or ethical), which is contained in the concept of inseparable communication between spouses throughout their lives (“lifelong union”) and consists in a complete and inseparable community of all life relationships of married persons. Such a natural and ethical union can only be between one man and one woman;

– Religious element – The church requires from the spouses a complete promise in religious terms. Hence the ban on marriage of Christians with non-Christians and heretics (later in the positive marriage law in our country this ban is limited, as the vital necessity of the so-called “mixed marriages”).

– Legal element – is related to the rights and obligations of spouses concerning their personal relationship, but not property. For example, the Church obligates husbands to marital fidelity, extends the rights of women as mothers and gives them the same rights over their children as fathers.

It is said that the Church views marriage as a sacrament in which, through a priestly blessing, the union of two persons of different sexes and their mutual promise to share happiness and unhappiness together until the last hour of their earthly life is sanctified. Therefore, the Church sees marriage as an institution in which the religious and legal aspects are fully united.

It has already become clear that the sacrament of marriage dates back to Old Testament times and that the purpose of marriage is not so much the birth of children as the attainment of spiritual and physical unity, complementarity, mutual aid (cf. Gen. 2:18). Christianity, marriage becomes an image of the mystical union between Christ and the Church, which is why it is called the “great mystery” (cf. Eph. 5:32). St. Ignatius of Antioch (+ 107) was the first to testify to the church’s blessing of marriage.

On a common basis for marital jurisdiction, laid down by the joint decree of the Patriarch of Constantinople Athanasius (Patriarch of Constantinople from 1289 to 1293 and from 1303 to 1309) and Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282 – 1328), according to which no marriage it could be concluded without the knowledge and blessing of the proper parish priest, especially private legislation developed in some countries.

In order to have a marriage, both in the civil sense and in the sense of sacrament, the first and basic condition is mutual consent, ie. the man and the woman, in a manner recognized by law, to freely express their will to enter into a marriage. Therefore, the marriage is considered concluded at the moment when the will of the man and the woman receives an external expression and mutual consent is reached. And in order for this mutual consent to be an essential basis of the marital union, it must comply with all the provisions of the law existing in general for any legal contract, and above all, the contracting parties must have all the necessary moral qualities, and then according to the purpose of marriage, to have all physical qualities. When all these moral and physical qualities are present and mutual consent is expressed in the form prescribed by law, only then does this mutual consent serve as the basis of marriage, and meet its first internal condition. Related to this first condition (mutual consent) is the second, namely the complete absence of any obstacles to marriage – such obstacles, the legality of which could be recognized by both church and civil authorities. These are the so-called marital obstacles (impedimenta matrimonili). They can occur either due to the absence of conditions without which marriage is not possible, or due to the existence of an obstacle that prevents its implementation.

In summary of the above, it should be noted that, as far as marriage is concerned, the New Testament introduces a completely new idea, which is directly related to the “Good News” of the Resurrection brought by Christ. The Christian is called – even during this life – to experience the new life and become a subject of the Kingdom of God: and this he can achieve in marriage. In this case, however, marriage ceases to be merely the gratification of temporary natural desires or a means of securing some illusory survival through posterity. It is a unique (divine) union of two lovers who are able to transcend their own human nature and thus unite not only “with each other” but also “in Christ”. This is because in the sacrament of Matrimony, God’s grace is given, which unites and sanctifies the man and the woman, whose conjugal union is considered a high example of the union between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). A new Christian family is created in the marriage. Children are born and raised in the family in the Christian spirit. The family of true Christian spouses must form something like a small church and a school for spiritual life. A good Christian marriage is inherently inseparable. For, as has already been said, the Lord has commanded, “That which God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19: 6). Not all Christians are required to marry. Virginity for the sake of God is higher than marriage (1 Cor. 7: 8-9, 32-38), but only those to whom God has given it can abide in celibacy (Matt. 19:11).

Every human being is part of earthly society, a citizen of his country and a member of his family. He cannot avoid the needs of material existence and is obliged to fulfill his public duties. The gospel does not deny man’s responsibilities in the world and in society. True Christianity has never called for the denial of the world. Even monks bring a specific service to the world, denying not its existence and its importance, but its claims to control over man and to restrict his freedom. Man’s vocation – “God’s image and likeness” in him – is above all an unlimited, “divine”, free use of his creative potential, the pursuit of absolute good, the highest forms of beauty, true love, the possibility of real experience. of this good – because God Himself is this Good, this Beauty, this Love; for He Himself loves man. And man can call on Him, hear His answers, test His love. For the Christian, God is not some abstract idea that needs to be understood, but a Person who can be met: “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). In God man discovers his own human nature, because he was created precisely as “the image of God.” Christ, being the true God, at the same time showed a true human nature – not in spite of his divinity, but precisely because He was the true God: in Him we see the divine nature as the true standard of human nature.

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