Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Mystery of Marriage

 Arabic original here.

The Mystery of Marriage

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This was the establishment of the mystery of marriage with humankind as the mystery of the unity of man and woman. This is what God wanted since the beginning. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ says in the Gospel about this issue, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6).

Do people treat marriage on the basis of it being a mystery and the gift of unity from God, in Him and through Him, between man and woman? Do they start off in establishing it on the principle of its unicity and its eternal permanence as a covenant between people, among themselves and with God, before Him and for His sake, or do they treat it as though it is something that can be broken, like a human contract with conditions and stipulations?

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Marriage is not a need in the sense of man not being able to live and exist without being married. It is a path of holiness and longing for unity with God through the practice of purifying human love from attachment to self, that is, from possessiveness, domination and lust, by means of love of God and obedience to Him in the commandment that is the path to unity between the partners though union with God in the sacrament. Existentially, man's sole true need is for the infinite love that is God Himself. Why? Because man is in God's image and this is God's image in him: love (agape).

In ancient Greek, there are three expressions that indicate love: eros, philia and agape. The first expression is tied to bodily lusts, the second to friendship and the third to the existential love with which God loves us. Thus, many marriages take place on the basis of eros, having no spiritual or true human foundation, but rather are essentially tied to the delight of the eye and lust of the body. Other marriages are based on philia, in which there is mutual understanding and harmony, but within a human and social framework that does not endure, perhaps breaking up due to infidelity or due to attraction to another person due to the influence of eros and philia existing together. In the first two cases, even if the partners have faith in God and in the sacrament of marriage, because it is difficult to keep faithfulness in them or to preserve them because they are not built upon the infinite and unconditional love that is in agape, where the essence is to realize that the other is my life.

If love in marriage does not develop with knowledge and faith to ascend from eros to philia and then agape, the marriage remains within the limits of human relationships, even though it is fundamentally tied to God's presence through the grace that comes down upon the bride and bridegroom in the sacrament, which makes the marriage a covenant between them and God to be faithful and to strive to purify the love through sacrifice and giving of the self in tenderness that cleanses desire from its enslavement to the pleasure of the body and elevates it to a pouring out of one into the other in humility and self-emptying by the grace of God, and a covenant between God and the bride and bridegroom for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them in their obedience to the divine word which makes them "one body" in unity with God and between themselves. This unity cannot exist without God and apart from this sacrament there is no true unity between the spouses. Only God is able to make the two one and what God unites, no human can separate. But if it is not God who brings them together, then the marriage is not built upon rock and has no permanence in itself.

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If God is not the foundation of the marriage, then there is no firm construction to face the earthquakes, storms and raging winds, on the inside and the outside, that must inevitably come over the course of purifying human love from the ego so that it may be elevated by grace and transformed into love from God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain..." (Psalm 127:1).

 Returning to God sincerely and profoundly and commitment to the other in the love that is by divine grace is the response to eternal, heavenly joy, from this moment, in marital life that is a little icon of the beauty of the Kingdom of God and its radiation into the world through unity consisting of three elements, between the man, the woman and God. This is the salvific faithfulness.


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