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Regarding Walmart, I don't admit it. I appear to be the only blogger who shops at Walmart.

Regarding sociology + Hart, I like solely Weber.

The importance of using stats in the social sciences (including economics) rests on a Comtian fairytale. That's probably our sole agreement here.

Yes, yes. You got me there, with a few qualifications.

The "goods" of Walmart stretches the lexical meaning of "good," you must admit.

Moreover, your sardonic remark is predicated on the sort of sociology advertised by Comte and Weber. How about the sociology suggested by Rieff (who is more my speed), or Berger (who is not)? The sociology that slums in the numerology of statistics, especially multivariate statistics that permit quite anything to be said out of anything, is worthy of your contempt.

I'm not sure the same obtains with the texts of Phillip Rieff, who like Hart is not paid attention to in the American Orthodox scene.

"decrepit plastic Walmart desert of sociology"

Hmmm, rather a mixed concept here, since Walmart is justly famous for delivering the goods and sociology isn't.

Cudgel, we're agreeing on almost everything eventually (I think). "Married as Jews" but "without engaging in sexual relations" may be more a linguistic problem than a philosophical or doctrinal one.

I certainly do not define marriage as the "fulfillment of romantic hopes." I do not separate it from its procreative potential. However, marriage must involve romance (or eros): and in this regard, I wonder whether it is ever possible to separate procreation from romance. I'm afraid some assume that this must be what chastity is, whether they agree with chastity or not.

I think I will go further than your points for the purpose of marriage, because I do not thing that the preservation of chastity, the development of virtue and the creation of godly offspring exhausts the phrases "and the two shall be one flesh," or "submit to one another." I think that beyond these instrumentalities, there is also the meaning of marriage primarily in the sense that it is an image of the Trinity: the co-inherence of the Persons giving oneself to one another is the mystery of which Holy Matrimony is only a glimmer.

But what a glimmer it is -- and it does result in children born in peace ... and it does legislate and nurture virtue.

(1) I'll defer to your judgment on the marriage of Joseph and Mary. I thought they were betrothed and married as Jews were without engaging in sexual relations. I'll have to look into that later.

(2) I did not see my *historical points* as implying anything in particular about on premarital sex/cohabitation or marriage's status as a sacrament. Before Christ, in the early church and in the present time, marriage is view from the top-down as God's means of accomplishing something: the preservation of chastity, the development of virtue and the creation of godly offspring. To see it as the fulfillment of romantic hopes or to separate it from its procreative potential is to make it something other than that what our liturgical texts tell us it is.

You know, Cudgel, I could shift this discussion into the linguistic field, where I am not at all confidant. I could tell you that "brothers" in Matthew 13 can refer to a range of relationships, and does not at all demand a maternal fraternity. Certainly, the predominance of the Church before the 16th century seemed to think so.

I could also say the same about the word "wife" in Matthew 1. Again, the majority of the Apostolic witness until the rationalistic, secular age, seemed to think so.

That is a discussion unto its own. Suffice to say that I believe in the ever-virginity of Mary, and the exclusive "nuptial" relationship she has with the Divinity that excludes everything except a guardianship from the Righteous Joseph.

Now, to your second point. Yes, there has been an evolution of the nuptial sacrament over the centuries. What would you have me say here? I suspect that you want me to stipulate that cohabitation and premarital fornication were tacitly accepted by the pre-Constantine Church, where the couple was instructed by the Church to seek its blessing. I don't know if you wanted to go so far as to deny that marriage was seen as sacramental, because then you would have some difficulty with St. Paul saying that women are saved through childbirth, and that the households of unbelieving spouses are sanctified through the faithfulness of the believing spouse.

If this is what you are suggesting, you should know that I distragree. I will not prove this to you, since I will not pretend to know that particular history nearly well enough. But I do not think that the Church ever permitted sexual activity outside of marriage, whether or not that marriage was blessed or sacramentalized in the apostolic community.

I think that sexual activity is inherently noetic, and because it is, it is quite perilous outside of the Church's blessing -- no matter how we got to this point, this is what we know now. Any noetic activty -- like sexual intercourse, intimacy, planning for the future, conception, even and including all religious and philosophical speech -- will become quite demonic if engaged in outside of and contrary to the Way of the Church.

No ritual or liturgy is an unrevisable absolute requirement. But there are absolute requirements -- and there are many rituals and a liturgy for the fulfillment of these requirements.

The nuptial sacrament that is practiced in the Orthodox Church is one. Cohabitation is certainly not, and it will unleash an insidious destructive dynamic.

Fr. Jonathan,

(1) I propose that Matthew 1 & 13 prove beyond all doubt that Jospeh and Mary were betrothed and subsequently married to each other.:

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was ***pledged to be married to Joseph,*** but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, ***he had in mind to divorce her quietly.***

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, ***do not be afraid to take Mary home AS YOUR WIFE,*** because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18-20)

"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)

(2) For centuries before the Eastern Roman Church's liturgical ritual became normative for the State recognition of marriage, Christians would marry outside the Church and have their marriages blessed afterward and sometimes the Church's blessing was not sought at all. In the West, ecclesiastical ceremonial weddings were not mandatory until after the Reformation. I agree that God unites people through the Church's liturgical ritual, but to treat the ritual as an *unrevisable* absolute requirement or directly from God leaves me unable to explain other things I believe to be true.

No. Joseph and Mary were not "married" in God's eyes, or in any other's. Mary conceived the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, so any other marriage -- including to Joseph -- would constitute adultery.

I know that sounds abrupt, simplistic, and nearly blasphemous. But if the Father is the Father of Jesus, the Son of God, then no one in the original audience and earliest followers would have ever dared to think that Joseph was married to Mary -- if they stipulated the Paternity of Jesus Christ.

I'm not sure where we stand here. What is your proposition? That marriage is independent of the Church's liturgical setting? Please clarify.

"Am I right in thinking that you are of the opinion that marriage starts at sexual intercourse?"

Ah, a trick question!? :-)

I believe that Mary and Joseph were married in God's eyes by virtue of their betrothal, and I believe that Christians today are united in marriage during the liturgical service and that prior to relations. I agree that God is the uniter of man and woman in every marriage, but I see this as completely compatible with marriage as a contract between the spouses:;&version=31;

I cannot see how else Jesus' original audience and earliest followers would have understood his remarks on marriage. My current viewpoint is the only means I presently have of explaining all of the relevant Scriptural, historical and liturgical evidence.

Am I right in thinking that you are of the opinion that marriage starts at sexual intercourse?

I can't go with you to the stark extent that the Church's role in "how the union is initiated and consummated" is not part of revelation. The Church's role in society -- whether in its relation with the state, secular citizens or her own members -- is always somehow part of revelation. Holy Tradition -- despite its stable form -- is always revelatory, as the Holy Spirit is always articulating the apostolic vision to the Apostolic Church.

I grant you that too often, the Church's activities in time distorts that very Tradition. If you want to say that a particular exercise of economia -- say, for example, the permission for remarriage after divorce -- constitutes a particular distortion, then you can do so. You'd be in agreement with quite a few, already.

But I don't think so in this instance.

Yes, it is God Who has joined husband and wife: but in the rubric of holy mystery, this joining corresponds with the ecclesial sacrament. The Church's discipline here tells me how marriage is to proceed and how it is to be transfigured into paradisical domesticity, for the poor, the foolish and the marginalized, as well as those in the Roman world who were rich enough to be married in the civil endorsement. The Church has every right to make these pronouncements and impingements on my privacy.

Fr. Jonathan,

I most certainly agree that the Church has no authority to change Tradition itself but merely its application. The essential content of the Orthodox doctrine on marriage I take to be summarized in the "Encyclical Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on Marriage:"

In the New Testament Scripture, from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn that marriage is a unique and unbreakable union of husband and wife joined by God Himself: "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6)

How this union is initiated and consumated and what role the Church/state play in those processes is not part of revelation and has thus undergone continuous change throughout Church history.

Brainfreeze: I completely understand.

Well, to be honest, I take your point about multiple marriages/divorces. I am never comfortable about marrying a couple after a divorce. It is little comfort to note that in each of the particular divorces of which I was painfully aware, there was adultery involved.

But that does nothing to answer your point. This is an example of "economia," where the church has had to make pastoral accommodations for social realities, in order to sustain the communion of a home and its children.

"Mandatory episcopal celibacy" is something with which I am much more positive. The priesthood is one thing to allow for marriage, since it is so local, particular and concrete. But the episcopacy is much more akin to the apostolate: you should bear in mind that the episkopos St. Paul spoke of is much more like today's priestly office, rather than today's bishopric.

Today's bishopric is so attacked by demonic forces and miserable inanities that no wife or children should be subjected to the tumult. The level of merely defensive prayer is so demanding that no time for the family would be allowed.

The bishopric is a lightning rod for demonic and societal contempt. I would never want to see a wife and children shrivel in that torrid maelstrohm.

The Church has no authority to change Tradition, only the application of Tradition (hence its allowance for up to 3 divorces; its allowance for a permanent status of marriage before entrance into major holy orders; and its demand for episcopal celibacy).

([I accidentally wrote "John" instead of "Jonathan" because of a brainfreeze.]

Fr. John,

I suppose for me the central question is this: if the Church has the authority to tolerate multiple marriages/divorces despite what Christ said and the authority to introduce mandatory episcopal celibacy despite what St. Paul said, then how can I deny the Church's authority to change the form of marriage when no commandment concerning it exists?

No, Cudgel, your questions are not annoying at all.

Because this is a large historical issue, I cannot do it justice. But in the Apostolic Church, marriage is inaugurated by the nuptial sacrament, and this sacrament (as are all sacraments) is rooted in Holy Tradition.

That is the reason why the Church is not free to redefine its relationship to marriage, simply because Tradition does not permit such arbitrary decisions.

I am a priest of the Orthodox Church, therefore I have no right to think of sacramental marriage apart from the only theologically valid form, which is the Orthodox sacrament of marriage. That is why I cannot commune anyone who is in an erotic relationship unless it is subsumed under the sacramental blessing of the Church.

In other words, no, I cannot agree that it is theologically valid to see marriage "as a creation of the two persons" -- that is more like the secular custom of "civil marriage," which is endorsed by a Justice of the Peace. Such a theory is closer to the Protestant "worthy estate" -- a formula that is deliberately anti-sacramental.

There are all sorts of relationships and all sorts of civil marriages, but no spouse or co-habitating "significant other" can be communed unless that relationship is sacramentally founded in the Orthodox Church.

Hope this helps.

Fr. Jonathan,

[Note: I hope my questions have not become annoying.]

My historical research and reading of Scripture forces me to conclude that the initiation or consummation of a marriage has no theologically obligatory form. It is therefore theologically valid to see marriage as creation of the two persons in the presence of witnesses, or of the parents, of of the State, or of the Church, but none of these forms are unrevisable in principle as they are no mandated by God.

The Church marries people with power it always possessed, but it did not become responsible for all marriages until Emperor Leo IV. The Church is free to redefine its relationship to marriage however it wants.

Thanks, Cudgel, for the clarification.

The expectation for sex and marriage is clear. Sexual activity (and I will be arbitrary here and confine it to physiologically aroused activity, just for the argument) is meaningful and spiritually wholesome only in the framework of heterosexual marriage that is blessed by the church.

While I certainly agree with prohibiting sexual activity outside matrimony, to me that is a distorting converse of the Church's endorsement of eros (cf Council of Gangria; Canon of St. Andrew; Hebrews; Canticles; 1 Corinthians) in nuptial union. The endorsement may be a negative, as in the sense of accomodation. It may be positive, as in the sense of Evdokimov's Sacrament of Love and even Chrysostom.

Yes, such psychophysical attachment is certainly bad in itself outside of marriage. I'm starting to think -- contrary to the wistful hopefulness of the NCFR stats -- that even monogamous fornication before and leading up to marriage is injurious ... and so is premarital cohabitation, which seems to be passively endorsed by my entire generation for their children.

The studies you linked are interesting. I'll have to take some time to look at them carefully. I suspect there are holes.

Thanks for the information!

Fr. Jonathan,

Thanks for the quick response.

(1) To clarify one question I raised, I thought the goal of prohibiting sex and cohabitation before marriage was to prevent premarital eroticism, that is, a degree of psychophysical attachment that is considered bad in itself as a matter of principle, regardless of its possible consequences.

(2) As far as the research is concerned, I consider the jury to still be out on the question of premarital sex/cohabitation effects on marriage:

Dear Cudgel,

Your first question seems to assume a sharp divorce (pardon the pun) of Christian marriage from romance. You define romantic love as an "open ended search for personal happiness." I'm not sure this is fair to the idea of romance. I think that eros is certainly part of Christian marriage, but only with the proviso that it is subjected and given meaning by self-sacrifice and the Holy Spirit.

I obviously like the idea of "resolute devotion," but I'm not so sure about "indifference to reciprocation." For one thing, such indifference is impossible, simply because marital love must involve reciprocation, as it is necessarily an act that images Trinitarian co-inherence.

If the supposed goal of marriage is a parallel search for selfish happiness (which itself is oxymoronic), then yes, I agree that Christian marriage is antipodal with the usual and idiotic Las Vegas style marriage.

Now, for your second question. I don't know how my terse list of five preconditions led you to think that "forbidding cohabition and physical intimacy" is meant to present "such a bond from coming into being."

Cohabitation is ruinous to marriage. Not necessarily, as happily there are some marriages that have survived this disadvantage. But cohabitation and fornication always corrode and corrupt the future nuptial union. It is the height of boorish priapism to contend that cohabitation is rehearsal for keeping house in marriage later on, or to fantasize that coitus before the sacrament is practice for matrimonial intercourse. Even in the decrepit plastic WalMart desert of sociology, you can summon not one real statistic that shows any reliable positive link between pre-marital sex or cohabitation and successful marriage.

What degree is emotional-spiritual bonding is appropriate before marriage? I do not know what emotional bonding is, and spiritual bonding sounds deeply mysterious. If you mean intimacy, then I don't know where inappropriateness begins, but I can say that it certainly precludes intercourse and orgasm outside of heterosexual marriage.

What you mean by emotional and spiritual intimacy I presume is better left to the state of betrothal -- that time between the establishment of an exclusive relationship where conversational and emotional intimacy must be kindled. This establishes the erotic friendship that will flower in intercourse, as a result of the nuptial union.

Fr. Jonathan,

(1) Romantic love involves a open-ended search for personal happiness whereas Christian marriage traditionally champions the resolute devotion to another and indifference to reciprocation for the sake of some spiritual ideal. In short, we marry based on and for reasons that essentially contradict the supposed goal of marriage. Would you agree?

(2) What degree of emotional-spiritual bonding is appropriate before marriage? Is the purpose of forbidding cohabitation and physical intimacy to prevent such a bond from coming into being, that was my understanding.

I'm not sure, V., how to evaluate. So far, none of the couples I've married as an Orthodox clergyman have divorced, although several have come in for marital counseling. One of those sessions provided the sand in the oyster that provoked the post: I'm not at all sure whether a pearl ensued.

I usually do 3 sessions of pre-marital counseling. I can say with confidence that a couple will have a greater chance of succeeding if the following conditions are met:

1) no pre-marital co-habitation.
2) emotional self-control (in Eastern terms, we'd call this "apatheia")
3) an ability to think, and a desire to learn old wisdom (eg., theology, philosophy, artifacts from Christendom)
4) prayer in Church and in private
5) faith

Note the absence of Wagnerian romance. Note the absence of schlock from La Boheme.

I think pre-marital counseling or programs are not nearly as meaningful as Christian maturity, and an erotic sacramental nuptial union that blooms out of friendship. I find the usual pre-marital sort of negotiation utterly fruitless and even harmful.

Frankly, a married couple that can't keep their hands off each other but comes to Vespers and attends the Great Fast is a couple that will successfully beat off Asmodeus.

I have no idea how the Cana program of the RC's stack up in terms of outcome. I'm sure that Rome has her college of statisticians who can tell you.

Hope this helps. As you can tell, I'm not in a sanguine mood about this sort of pastoral work, but I'll do it anyhow.

How's your batting average on pre-marital counseling? Is your average appreciably different than the national 50/50 randomness? How do you think the RCC's pre-marital program measures up? What are your thoughts about pre-marital programs in general?

Thank you, Eddie. That link leads to St. John Chrysostom's justly famous homily on marriage.

I'd like to quote the part that we would call, in modern homiletics, the "sermon application":

"I am aware that many people think me ridiculous for giving such advice; but if you listen to me, you will understand the advantages of a sober lifestyle more and more as time goes on. You will no longer laugh at me, but will laugh instead at the way people live now like silly children or drunken men. What is our duty, then? Remove from your lives shameful, immodest, and Satanic music, and don't associate with people who enjoy such profligate entertainment. When your bride sees your manner of life, she will say to herself, "Wonderful! What a wise man my husband is! He regards this passing life as nothing; he bas married me to be a good mother for his children and a prudent manager of his household." Will this sort of life be distasteful for a young bride? Only perhaps for the shortest time, and soon she will discover how delightful it is to live this way. She will retain her modesty if you retain yours. Don't engage in idle conversations; it never profits anyone to talk too much. Whenever you give your wife advice, always begin by telling her how much you love her. Nothing will persuade her so well to admit the wisdom of your words as her assurance that you are speaking to her with sincere affection. Tell her that you are convinced that money is not important, that only thieves thirst for it constantly, that you love her more than gold; and indeed an intelligent, discreet and pious young woman is worth more than all the money in the world. Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers. If you are overtaken by poverty, remember Peter and Paul, who were more honored than kings or rich men, though they spent their lives in hunger and thirst. Remind one another that nothing in life is to be feared, except offending God. If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks."

"Your perfection will rival the holiest of monks."

Can't beat that.

Christ Is Risen!
There probably aren't many homilies on marriage better than this one:
Indeed He Is Risen!

As a former marriage counselor and divorced, it is an ache that lasts forever if one has eyes to see and ears to hear. I went through 7 years of "therapies" before our counselor did exactly that: "Well, we tried everything is a healthy thing for you to be divorced". It cost me about 25,000.00 to hear what I wanted to hear in the first session.
I don't do counselling any more. God bless you for trying.

"Not understanding what one might have done right ..." -- that is indeed the nature of goodness, and really all participation in Love.

Actually, loving is what works. It is the pseudo-language of negotiation and "power-distribution" that does not work.

Kenosis works, and ascesis and Grace work.

I like your point that divorce should be heartache forever. It is, and those whose hearts don't ache are unaware that it aches, or maybe that it exists.

Thanks for this. And if you ever find something to say that works... please please let us know!

Not a counsellor, but an observer of friends, siblings and others who have trod the road to divorce and mostly beyond, I'd love to tell folks, "You know, when you divorce... it is never really the end. You won't be "done" with each other." 'Cause I've never actually seen this... heard of it once or twice... but only in divorces where one wants the other to think he/she has "won" so that they may in turn "win" what they want... which is often access to the children. Divorce is... or SHOULD be heartache forever. Sadly, it seems in some cases you don't have heartache because they never actually joined their hearts in the first place. Some didn't even try to.

Listening directly or here through another, one is thankful to not be there. And it is here... not understanding what one might have done right... because I think that's the truth... that I at least begin to understand marriage as the mystery that it is.

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