With virginity belonging to the highest point of love, the Church blesses marriage temporarily, and rather tolerates than wishes it. “This work is a work of the flesh”, St. Symeon of Thessaloniki was saying about marriage. “Where is death, there is marriage”, says John Chrysostom. Marriage is not always something pointless, but it is always something small, so that, we don’t hope to the tripling of it in same-sex unions, but to the transformation of marriage, when it grows where love is perfected and pervades beyond the couple, the family becomes wider reaching the size of the church.
As we become unable to understand these realities and the Church vanishes, there is no point in referring to Christianity as ideological pretense for same-sex marriages to be condemned: we are all just adults, responsible to decide whom we are going to live with and marry, and any objection to this has no real base.
Since Christianity teaches that for God there is no male and female, how could the Church prohibit, on the ground of a non-existent difference, especially same-sex marriages? Or why would the Church prohibit them on the ground of child-bearing, when faith does not exist for child-bearing? Or why would the Church prohibit them on the ground of the mental health of children, when the majority of heterosexual couples hardly even keep their marriage?
The whole conversation on this issue has to overcome the logic of what is a personal ‘right’ to do, to overcome even marriage as absolute value, such as it tends to become, that is, to recognize that marriage is temporal, and is right and fair only to the degree that is widened and flows into the Church.
To overcome sexual discrimination is not to allow the marriage of anyone with anyone, but to surrender to holiness, when sexes don’t matter at all, because everywhere there are brothers, and marriage is the Church, the union and deification of men. St Maximus Confessor says about this condition: “the body was deified with the soul in the participation of the deification that befits it, so that only God is revealed in the soul and in the body, because their natural characteristics are changed by the excess of glory” (Theological chapters 2.88).
Where is the citation to Chrysostom (“where is death, there is marriage”) from?
It is from his work “About Virginity” (ch. 14). Here is the context:
Ὅπου γὰρ θάνατος͵ ἐκεῖ γάμος· τούτου δὲ οὐκ ὄντος οὐδὲ αὐτὸς ἕπεται. Ἀλλ΄ οὐχ ἡ παρθενία ταύτην ἔχει τὴν ἀκολουθίαν ἀλλ΄ ἀεὶ χρήσιμον͵ ἀεὶ καλὸν καὶ μακάριον καὶ πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου καὶ μετὰ τὸν θάνατον καὶ πρὸ τοῦ γάμου καὶ μετὰ τὸν γάμον.
“With virginity belonging to the highest point of love, the Church blesses temporarily the marriage, and rather tolerates marriage than wishes it. ”
This reminds me of a comment I heard from a monk at St. Tikhon’s, who asserted that, apart from the texts of the marriage ceremony, the Church does not celebrate the married state, to which I could only reply, “Of course, that is why we sing the hymns of Pascha describing the Risen Lord as a ‘monk coming out of His monastic cell.” [note for the non-Orthodox: the hymns actually describe Christ as “a Bride-Groom coming out of His Bridal Chamber,” and the services of Great and Holy Week are called the “Bride-Groom Services.” ]
“Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…so God created man in His Own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply..” The Fathers have always used this text as the springboard for Trinitarian theology (“Us” “We” but “His Own” “He”) and Christian anthropology “image and likeness of God”). A loss of this perspective, led for instance among the Latins for Abelard to declare that marriage is the only sacrament that does not give grace, an oxymoron.
The Fathers, for instance, the Alexandrian, refer to the yoke that unites the Persons of the Holy, Constubstantial and Undivided and Life-Giving Tritinty in the same terminology of the yoke that binds the married couple. This reality even compelled St. Augustine to admit “it is harder for a man to be parted from his wife than to be parted from his soul.”
Christ was celibate to espouse the Church, the Bride who calls “Come” (Rev. 22.17). “It is not good that the man [Adam] should be alone. I will make a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2. 18) Just as God created Eve out of the side of Adam, the Bride flowed out of the Holy Mysteries out of the side of the Second Adam, True God (John 19.34-36). Hell was wounded by Him Whose side was pierced. God created the physical world. Hell was created by a spirit: the Devil can create nothing, as evil, the privation of good, has no existence, just as darkness only results from the absence of light.
The monastic state is not just the absence of marriage, as it presupposes the existence of the married state. All the Christians who have a formal monastic state also count marriage as a sacrament. None of the Christians (Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, etc.) who do not consider marriage a Holy Mystery/Sacrament have monasticism.