by Andrea Elizabeth
Twas 15 years yesterday. I like to add 9 to that because that is how many years total I have been married, and because my oldest is 23. We’ve lived in this house 14 years, and we’ve been Orthodox 9 or 10, depending on if you count when we were committed to it, or when we were officially received.
“Official” is a word I don’t like very much. It goes along with “legal document”, which I talked about in a previous post. I like “economia”. But I suppose economia wouldn’t exist without Official Documents. Economia puts people first, such as when Christ healed on the Sabbath and when he talked to the Samaritan woman. Rules don’t have to be dialectically opposed to people, such as was taught especially in the 60’s, but there should be authorities, official and economic, who decide what to do about them. Should laypeople be able to perform sacraments, for instance, in dire, isolated circumstances? I hope so, because George and I were married by a Justice of the Peace.
I was just reading an article from a friend on facebook about how Protestants don’t consider marriage a sacrament. They only accept baptism and the Eucharist, but it seems a lot of them only see those as symbols and personal testimonies, and not really effective means of grace, which seems to be some people’s definition of sacrament. Grace to me is like blood in the body. The sacraments, again to me, draw us into the body to be nourished by grace (someone agrees with me)(This article takes a broader view of means). Are people who don’t receive all 7 sacraments outside the body, or in the grace dispenser view, how much grace do you need? 7 kinds? In my model, baptism unites you to Christ’s death and resurrection (washing in the tomb and the womb), Chrismation inspires you with the Holy Spirit (breath), the Eucharist is obvious (joined with his body and blood), here’s what the first article says about marriage,
“Marriage in Christ allows our human love to become divine and unending. There is no “until death do us part”. The point is just the opposite. Christ comes to our human love, frees it from sin and grants it everlasting joy in His Kingdom of love.”
Surely there are unsacramentalized instances of this such as swans mating for life, unorthodox people married till death doth them part, friends committed for a lifetime, and more. The FB article said that the 50% divorce rate makes it look like a pretty ineffective sacrament. That’s the second time I’ve heard that percentage quoted since reading that the 50% divorce rate is a myth. But the idea of commitment does seem divine, and the ability to do it, also present in creation as part of his image? Does a sacramental Orthodox marriage service provide extra grace for it? I would have to believe so because of personal experience during baptisms especially. But that’s the grace dispenser model. Mine was that sacraments unite you to the body of Christ where grace is present. Does a Protestant or JoP wedding ceremony unite you to Christ? Orthodox sacraments can only be done on Orthodox people, and I believe some Orthodox believe that all other marriages are not to-Christ-uniting. My diocese’s position when I joined was that Chrismation covers a multitude of inadequacies of previous experience. I liked that economia. Still part of me wonders if I should have been rebaptized and remarried, as is done in some Churches.
All that aside, does an Orthodox marriage unite one uniquely to Christ? In other lists they add monastic tonsuring as an alternative. Does one need all 7 sacraments to be united? Will part of a person be dangling in the wind if one is not performed? In the Greek article linked above they mention, in addition to all of creation being salvific, or able to draw one to God, how Orthodox movements and hymns uniquely, or more clearly and focusedly, draw one’s attention, at least, to God. This is the reason that I’ve had some hesitation when marriage is listed as a sacrament. To me it is drawing you to another person, and almost away from God, as St. Paul says it does. A married person is more concerned about the world than a monastic, who is concerned about the Lord. But the Church teaches that monasticism is not superior. Marriage teaches you to be selfless. Or it can, or it teaches at least one of the couple selflessness, or the semblance of it. But can self-emptying for another person draw you to God? I suppose so. However, it seems the least direct route of all the sacraments, but maybe that’s my Protestant, Solus Christus upbringing speaking.
So if the ceremony does unite one more especially to Christ, and makes you an official unit with someone else, I don’t really see it as providing a mystical, ethereal bond with another person. Not that some couples don’t have that. I think it has more to do with their personal chemistry that happens when they fall in love (the reaction where the sum is greater than the two parts), not because they followed all the official steps. I’m a hopeless romantic.
I’ll let you ponder how the other sacraments perform necessary functions within the Body of Christ.