Word Magazine March 1959 Page 9
BLESSING THE UNION OF MAN AND WOMAN
By Reverend Elias G. Dacy
While Christ’s authorization of Holy Matrimony as a sacrament has been endlessly debated, Catholics: both Orthodox and Roman and some others have traditionally pointed to His presence at the marriage in Cana where He performed His first miracle, for the required divine sanction. St. Paul added: “even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it — so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. . .This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25-32). It is considered a sacrament by Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Most of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s ceremonies are very elaborate: and to these devout Orthodox, this is by far the greater and most sanctified of all sacraments, and thereby celebrate it with immense gayety and pomp. Protestants, while not denying marriage’s importance, rank it as a ceremony or rite below the sacrament level.
Solemnizing the union of man and woman, Marriage sanctifies human love and procreation and education of children. The churches have always felt some degree of responsibility of education, secular as well as religious. None is more vigilant than the two Catholicities, “Roman and Orthodox.” The Roman Church being more cautious, it maintains its own educational system and thereby operates its own schools; especially the lower classes — meaning a greater and safer control at the very beginning of its young members into its school system, in which they are taught the fundamentals of their faith.
The Orthodox and Roman Churches are also the strictest in their rules concerning divorce, forbidding it and permitting permanent separation only for extreme causes like adultery. An annulment declares a marriage invalid from the beginning. For non-Orthodox or Catholics the rules vary widely, but are generally less stringent but in many cases loose and extremely negligent: it will be noted that the vast majority of divorces occur among the non-Catholic and Orthodox churches, which presently is as high as 25 percent of all marriages (according to latest statistics) . This is a lamentable situation. Whether it is performed as a sacrament or a simple religious ceremony, marriage is one of the most beautiful of all church occurrences.
Matrimony is an honorable estate, instituted by God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church.” The ring symbolizing both union and eternity.
The authority and purity of marriage is attested by Saint Paul in the following three verses:
21 — “Submitting yourselves one to another in the FEAR of GOD.”
This is the general injunction applicable to all ranks and conditions. Order and complete submission to law must characterize the Christian community. Having laid down the general principle, Paul gives three examples of its practical application: (1) In regard to husbands and wives; (2) Parents and children; (3) Masters and servants.
22 — “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the LORD.”
Particularly do you believing wives pay all becoming reverence, honor, subjection, and obedience to your own husbands, who have by the marriage bond, devoted themselves to you, as your loving superiors and always act as in the sight and presence of the Lord Christ, from love to His person, in obedience to his authority, and with an eye to his glory, and in the manner in which his people are subject to him.
23 — “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the HEAD of the CHURCH: and HE is the Saviour of the BODY.”
Paul here, to prevent error or misunderstanding, adds this important particular, in which the comparison between Christ and the church on the one hand, and man and wife on the other, does not hold: He, himself is the Saviour of the body, and the ultimate Authority.