Recent Ruling by SCOTUS Concerning the definition of Marriage
Almost two weeks have passed since the recent ruling of the “highest court in the land” concerning the definition of Marriage.
According to this court and now the law of this nation, it is legal for a man to marry a man or for a woman to marry another woman.
This is deeply confusing for many of us. We have always understood marriage was between a man and a woman – a bride and a groom. Everything we understood, everything that we were taught is now challenged. Does this mean our parents and teachers were wrong all of this time? What should we believe?
Fortunately, we have the eternal source for answers that we can call upon – the Church. What does the Church teach? Why does it matter what the Church teaches? Well quite simply, the Church is the pillar of Truth. These are the words of Saint Paul to St. Timothy in the First Epistle to Timothy. Today there are many gatherings and congregations that call themselves churches but they are not THE ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLIC CHURCH! This Church, our Church was given to us from our Lord and the Holy Spirit. Our Fathers are part of a long lineage, a long inheritance from the Lord’s saving Grace, Which He gave to the Apostles, Which they gave to their Disciples, and so on until today. Our Church is filled with Saints, who confirm this is THE Church.
Trusting in the refuge of the Church, we can now look to her teachings on this difficult question or any other question! In the Orthodox Church, Marriage is a sacred act, listed as one of the Seven Sacraments. We understand the Sacraments are given to us to aid us with our salvation. Marriage is a gift from our loving God. It has a purpose and is blessed. Are all “marriages” blessed? Does God view all unions as marriage?
To answer these questions, we must set aside our own personal views and look clearly at the teaching of the Church. The Church’s teachings are meant for life and blessings and are timeless, free from the winds of change and the whims of what is fashionable in society. The Church seeks to change these very whims, deifying man. Where is the deification if man changes what God has ordained?
When we are posed with a difficult question and want to know the position of the Church, the best place is to start with the Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and the Church’s Divine Services. For many of us, we might not know where to look in the Bible or which of the Church Fathers wrote on a particular topic. We do not need to worry but look to the Sacred Services as they pull right from both of these sources – the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers.
Let us look closer at the Marriage service. From the start, we see in the petitions of the Deacon the purpose of Marriage:
Deacon: For the servant of God…Name…and for the handmaid of God…Name…, and that their wedded life may be sheltered by God, let us pray to the Lord.
Deacon: That there may be granted unto them children for the continuation of the race, and all their petitions which are unto salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
Deacon: That He will send down upon them perfect and peaceful love, and assistance, let us pray to the Lord.
Deacon: That He will preserve them in oneness of mind, and in steadfastness of faith, let us pray to the Lord.
Deacon: That He will bless them with blamelessness of life and conduct, let us pray to the Lord.
Deacon: That the Lord our God will grant unto them an honourable marriage, and an undefiled bed, let us pray to the Lord.
Marriage is set forth for the continuation of our race, for perfect and peaceful love, steadfastness of faith, and blameless life and conduct.
The first exclamation of the Priest is a beautiful prayer, reminding us that this Mystery restores us from our fallen state, from the imperfection into which we have fallen, and for a part of the inheritance promised to our forfathers in the faith, the Saints of the Old Testament, who are called out by name in the Betrothal and Marriage Service.
O eternal God, Who hast brought into unity those who were sundered, and hast ordained for them an indissoluble bond of unanimity; Who didst bless Isaac and Rebecca, and didst make them heirs of Thy promise: do Thou Thyself bless also these Thy servants…Name…and…Name…, guiding them unto every good work.
The great blessing in the service of the Bethrothal reaffirms the very nature of humanity. For in the very beginning our God did make them male and female, and by our God is the woman joined unto the man as a helpmeet, and for the procreation of the human race. The full text of this prayer is nothing short of amazing. For those of us who have been married, each witness of this Mystery is a blessing for us to renew our vows to the Lord and remember the great blessings bestowed upon us.
O Lord our God, Who didst accompany the servant of the patriarch Abraham into Mesopotamia, when he was sent to espouse a wife for his lord Isaac; and Who, by means of the drawing of water didst reveal unto him that he should betroth Rebecca: Do Thou, the same Lord, bless also the betrothal of these Thy servants…Name…and…Name…, and confirm the word which they have spoken. Establish them in the holy union that is from Thee. For Thou, in the beginning, didst make them male and female, and by Thee is the woman joined unto the man as a helpmeet, and for the procreation of the human race. Wherefore, O Lord our God, Who hast sent forth Thy truth upon Thy inheritance, and Thy covenant unto Thy servants our fathers, even Thine elect, from generation to generation: Look Thou upon Thy servant…Name…and Thy handmaid…Name… and establish their betrothal in faith and oneness of mind, in truth and in love. For Thou, O Lord, hast declared that a pledge be given and confirmed in all things. By a ring was authority given unto Joseph in Egypt; by a ring was Daniel glorified in the land of Babylon; by a ring was the uprightness of Tamar revealed; by a ring did our heavenly Father show forth His bounty upon His son; for He saith: Put a ring on his hand, and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and eat, and make merry. Thine own right hand, O Lord, armed Moses in the Red Sea; by Thy true Word were the heavens established, and the foundations of the earth were made firm; and the right hands of Thy servants shall be blessed also by Thy mighty word, and by Thine upraised arm. Wherefore, O Lord, do Thou Thyself now bless this putting-on of rings with a heavenly blessing and may the Angel of the Lord go before them all the days of their life.
For Thou art He Who blesseth and sanctifieth all things, and unto Thee do we send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
Sadly, within world Orthodoxy there are some voices calling to re-evaluate the Church’s understanding of Marriage. In the opinion of this author, the thought seems unimaginable as the Canons, the Services, and the teaching of the Church is quite clear concerning this.
A very popular argument against the Church’s teaching is to assert that Marriage between man and woman was only designed to increase the race of humanity. They further stress that this is no longer valid, warranted, or needed.
To answer this, we need to take a closer look at the writings of Saint Paul to the Christian Church in the Greek city of Corinth. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, he is very direct in his teachings concerning marriage. Why did he write this Epistle? What was going on in Corinth?
Saint John Chrysostom paints a vivid picture for us:
As Corinth is now the first city of Greece, so of old it prided itself on many temporal advantages, and more than all the rest, on excess of wealth. And on this account one of the heathen writers entitled the place “the rich.” …Now these things we have mentioned, not for ostentation’s sake, nor to make, a display of great learning: (for indeed what is there in knowing these things?) but they are of use to us in the argument of the Epistle.
Saint John goes further to tell us that Saint Paul also himself suffered many things in this city; and Christ, too, in this city appears to him and says, (Act. xviii. 10), “Be not silent, but speak; for I have much people in this city:” and he remained there two years.” It is important to add that some of the faithful in Corinth were falling back into a pagan lifestyle, one in which unholy relations likely occurred.
It is for this reason that we see one of the central teachings of the First Epistle to the Corinthians concerns virtuous life. Virtuous life necessary for salvation. Let us look more closely at the words of Saint Paul:
“Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate . . . nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, . . . shall possess the kingdom of God” (vi, 9, 10). This, like a dominant note, rings clear through all the Epistles of St. Paul as in the teaching of his Divine Master. “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (ix, 27). “Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall” (x, 12). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (xv, 58). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened” (xvi, 13). “Do all to the glory of God” (x, 31). “Be without offence to the Jews, and to the Gentiles, and to the church of God” (x, 32). “Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ” (xi, 1). “Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? . . . Glorify and bear God in your body” (vi, 19, 20). Saint Paul is teaching the faithful to live righteously, to follow the teachings of Saint Peter that they should be holy.
The obvious question that has emerged, is a same-sex marriage holy and blessed by God? If the answer was “yes” the Betrothal and Marriage Service would not be explicit in its language, which contradicts this. In this quest for holiness, is there any room for a passion-filled lifestyle?
In Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, he goes on further and with more vigor to strengthen his earlier teaching:
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4.
Saint Paul tirelessly admonishes the early Christians through his Epistles to remain strong in the faith and to live according to this faith. Again, to pursue a path of righteousness that leads to holiness. His teachings on relations support this and show us the holiness of Marriage. There is never a doubt of the definition of Marriage.
In a recent article, an author wrote concerning the place of government in defining marriage:
“Marriage is not a creation of the State; it predates the rise of the State. When the State codifies heterosexual marriage, it simply affirms what already exists in nature. However, when the State decrees that a homosexual coupling is a morally licit marriage, it arrogates unto itself an authority to define human relationships that do not exist in nature and thus violates natural law.
The State codification of same-sex couplings as a marriage means that moral relativism is being crafted into law. This creates a new conflict. A society cannot live with the tension between the State and nature and thus is left with two available choices: 1) deny the arrogation of authority by the State, or 2) destroy the definition of natural marriage altogether. The first is the choice of anyone who believes that the moral tradition and/or natural law references an authority higher than the State. The second will be favored by those who see the State as both the source and judge of morally licit human relationships.” Source.
The state has created a new definition for marriage. This initiates a very dangerous precedent and paves the way for further conflict with the Church. The early Church suffered persecution because it refused to offer sacrifice on the altar of the religion of the state. This was viewed as disloyalty and Christians became the scape-goat for all the ills of that society. The day is dawning and is here in which those who disobey the law of the state on unjust matters will be persecuted. At first, this persecution will appear as a “cold war”, in which the Church will not be overtly persecuted but will do so subtly, so as to paint the dissenters as “right-wing conspirators”, opening the door to public hostility from the supporters of the state’s legislation. Over time, the persecution will become increasingly hostile in the supposed spirit of prejudice, bigotry, and hate crime. Freedom of speech, of expression, and of religion will be irrelevant so long as they differ from the supported law of the state.
Our God who created man and woman- two sexes. He established marriage at the time of creation and this is directly from our Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ:
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Mark 10:6-10; cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24; 5:2).
What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Amen.