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Fr. John Meyendorff, The Orthodox Marriage

Fr. John Meyendorff, The Orthodox Marriage, Athens: Akritas Publications, 2004, pages 255.

            Father John Meyendorff’s book is an antidote to the secular ethos that characterizes the service of marriage nowadays and concerns even the preparation, taking permission from the ecclesiastical authorities, celebration and post marital life. Father Meyendorff re-connects theologically the sacrament of marriage with Divine Eucharist and underlines that: “this is the true seal” of its validity and differentiates it from any other that takes place in the frame of western Christianity,

            After a short introduction, where the author justifies the imposed necessity, especially in the frame of the ecumenical dialogue, of an assessment and deposition of the positions of Orthodox theology, he moves on to the analysis of the Old and New Testament views on marriage. He concludes that Christ calls the Christian to taste -already from this world- the experience of the ‘new’ life and become a citizen of heaven. And this he can achieve by means of the marital co-existence. In the new reality in Christ, marriage becomes “a unique union of two entities, two personalities, who love each other and for this reason are able to transcend their nature and in this way unite with each other and with Christ” (p. 36).

            Next, Fr. Meyendorff examines marriage during the first Christian centuries and the Roman Law. In the first centuries of the life of Christianity-during its persecution, but also during its cooperation with the Roman state - the Church accepted the Roman Law, which regulated issues about the legitimacy of marriage. In the third unit, the author examines marriage as a sacrament, commenting, in reality, on Eph. 5, 32  “here lies a great mystery, which, I assure you, refers to the relationship of Christ with the Church”. In the next unit, the author tries to make a historical and theological connection of marriage with the sacrament of the Divine Eucharist. Since Tertyllianus, in the second century, we have a testimony, which states that every couple of Christians who wished to get married, went through all the typical procedures of declaring their marriage to the registry office and then by their common participation in the Divine Eucharist, before the gathering of the community, they received the blessing of the Bishop.

            In the fifth unit, Fr. Meyendorff examines marriage as an independent ritual. Until the ninth century, the Church neither knows nor uses a separate service for marriage, which cannot be conceived as separate from the Eucharistic Liturgy. Of course, since the 4th century there are reports that state the existence of a formal service of the sacrament, a ritual of coronation, but not independent from the Divine Eucharist. The final detachment from the latter is realized by the state authority in the beginning of the tenth century.

         Next, the writer refers to the contemporary service of the engagement and the service of marriage. He analyzes his own liturgical proposition, which concerns the question of how much the original connection between Eucharist and marriage could be restored in the modern practice of the Church. In the next units, the writer presents problems and phenomena connected to marriage, such as successive weddings, the presuppositions for marriage, mixed weddings, divorce, family and family planning, abortion, married priests and, finally, marriage, abstinence and monastic life. The book ends with conclusions and a very important index of hagiographic, patristic, canonical and liturgical references in connection to the sacrament of marriage.



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