Orthodox Marriage as Ascetic Calling

“Fill their houses with wheat, wine and oil and with every good thing, so that they may give in turn to those in need…”

The above quote is taken from the Orthodox marriage service. The calling of marriage within Orthodoxy does not contrast the ascetic calling of monasticism, rather it is a compliment to monasticism. There is no dichotomy between marriage and monasticism. We are all called to adhere to the words of Christ regarding the ascetic life, to sacrifice what God has given us in order to serve those in need. This will look different in most every household, but we can each know how to accomplish this through our spiritual convictions, after listening to the words of Christ in the Gospel accounts, as well as his witness throughout the Bible. We are called to serve the poor and the needy, whether it be within our own family or both our family and people throughout the community. Marriage is not a call to hedonism, rather, it is a call to serve the Kingdom!



  1. I have struggled with the topics of marriage, divorce, and remarriage since I began my journey home to the Orthodox Church. In fact my journey began with the devastation of divorce and the after effects. When I got married I was deeply involved in the heretical protestant churches and I had a high view of marriage despite the destruction of divorce all around me. I met my wife in church and I thought that it would be enough that we were both Christians. I look back on it now and realize that the heretical teachings of the churches we attended led to many of our troubles.

    The idea of salvation being a moment in time led to the idea that marriage was also a moment in time. I believed that if two Christians got married, and Christ was the foundation, that things would just fall together. When things started to get rough I believed that it must be the lack of faith in one or both of us. I kept buying marriage help books to assist us but they all led us further into despair. Ultimately this belief led to a journey that led us all the way to the Lutheran Church, but the troubles just kept piling up. In the end she became violent, committed adultery (many times), denied Christ to my face, delved into witchcraft, and filed for divorce two times. The first time she filed I was able to convince her to rescind the petition. The second time she filed I felt compelled to allow it because she threatened to take the kids and disappear. Needless to say, I was completely crushed and destroyed. I was consumed by two emotions at the time. I felt abandoned by my wife and God, and I felt that I failed my children and God.

    The Orthodox Church’s treatment of marriage as a sacrament was a refreshing and wonderful thing to me, but it was also a terrible realization. The understanding that I have of the Orthodox Church’s teachings has given me an uneasy feeling about my standing before Christ and the Church. My ex wife’s faithless actions have become a curse to my life that apparently will never leave me until the day I die. I am not saying that this is what is actually the truth about the Church…it is just my perception of the situation. I felt completely, and wrongfully, abandoned after being divorced. I understand the Church’s allowing second and third marriages as a matter of economia, but why is the order of service for the victims of adultery and/or abandonment penitential and not a celebration? Is this only because the Church sees divorce as a tragedy?

  2. Toby, I am sorry to hear about your situation. Saint Basil’s canons, in the 4th century, stated that penance had to be made for the second marriage, and that a third could even be done. Later, the Church relaxed that and simply put forth that the second marriage could not be crowned and there had to be two years penance with it, and that a third marriage required five years penance. The Church then relaxed the crowning of the second marriage, but only through economia. The current “second marriage” rite is supposed to be practiced when it is a second marriage for both the man and woman. This is done because the Church simply cannot justify giving the same celebration. Giving the same celebration given a second time would weaken the very fabric of marriage as a sacrament. It would communicate a totally different theology of marriage to all of Christ’s people. I think you are right about the tragedy aspect. A second rite for a second marriage does indeed demonstrate that the second marriage is being done as an exception.

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