Holy and Great Council: The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments

Source: Holy and Great Council

June 26, 2016

I. On Orthodox Marriage

  1. The institution of the family is threatened today by
    such phenomena as secularization and moral relativism. The
    Orthodox Church maintains, as her fundamental and
    indisputable teaching, that marriage is sacred. The freely
    entered union of man and woman is an indispensable
    precondition for marriage.
  2. In the Orthodox Church, marriage is considered to be
    the oldest institution of divine law because it was
    instituted simultaneously with the creation of Adam and
    Eve, the first human beings (Gen 2:23). Since its origin,
    this union not only implies the spiritual communion of a
    married couple—a man and a woman—but also
    assured the continuation of the human race. As such, the
    marriage of man and woman, which was blessed in Paradise,
    became a holy mystery, as mentioned in the New Testament
    where Christ performs His first sign, turning
    water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, and
    thus reveals His glory (Jn 2:11). The mystery of the
    indissoluble union between man and woman is an icon of the
    unity of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32).
  3. Thus, the Christocentric typology of the sacrament of
    marriage explains why a bishop or a presbyter blesses this
    sacred union with a special prayer. In his letter to
    Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius the God-Bearer stressed that
    those who enter into the communion of marriage must
    also have the bishop’s approval, so that their
    marriage may be according to God, and not after their own
    desire. Let everything be to the glory of God
    (V, 2).
    Therefore, the sacredness of the God-established union and
    the lofty spiritual content of married life explain the
    affirmation: So that marriage should be honored among
    all, and the bed undefiled
    (Heb 13:4). That is why
    the Orthodox Church condemns any defilement of its purity
    (Eph 5:2-5; 1 Thes 4:4; Heb 13:4ff).
  4. The union of man and woman in Christ constitutes
    “a small church” or an icon of the Church.
    Through God’s blessing, the union of man and woman
    is elevated to a higher level, for communion is greater
    than individual existence because it initiates the spouses
    into the order of the Kingdom of the All-Holy Trinity. A
    necessary condition of marriage is faith in Jesus Christ,
    which must be shared by the bridegroom and the bride, man
    and woman. Consequently, unity in Christ is the foundation
    of marital unity. Thus, marital love blessed by the Holy
    Spirit enables the couple to reflect the love between
    Christ and the Church as a mystery of the Kingdom of
    God—as the eternal life of humanity in the love of
    God.
  5. Protecting the sacredness of marriage has always been
    crucially important for the preservation of the family,
    which reflects the communion of the persons yoked together
    both in the Church and in society at large. Therefore,
    communion achieved through the sacrament of marriage does
    not merely serve as an example of a typical natural
    relationship, but also as an essential and creative
    spiritual force in the sacred institution of the family.
    It alone ensures the safety and formation of children,
    both for the spiritual mission of the Church as well as in
    the life of society.
  6. It was always with the necessary strictness and proper
    pastoral sensibility, in the compassionate manner of Paul,
    Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom 7:2-3; 1 Cor 7:12-15, 39),
    that the Church treated both the positive
    preconditions
    (difference of sexes, legal age, etc.)
    and the negative impediments(kinship by
    blood and affinity, spiritual kinship, an existing
    marriage, difference in religion, etc.) for the joining in
    marriage. Pastoral sensibility is necessary not only
    because the biblical tradition determines the relationship
    between the natural bond of marriage and the sacrament of
    the Church, but also because Church practice does not
    exclude the incorporation of certain Greco-Roman natural
    law principles that acknowledge the marital bond between
    man and woman as a communion of divine and human
    law
    (Modestin) compatible with the sacredness of the
    sacrament of marriage attributed by the Church.
  7. Given our current context, which is unfavorable for
    the sacrament of marriage and the sacred institution of
    family, hierarchs and shepherds must actively cultivate
    their pastoral work in order to protect the faithful,
    standing by them to fortify their hope shaken by many
    hardships, and asserting the institution of the family
    upon an unshakable foundation that neither rain, nor
    river, nor wind can destroy, since this foundation is the
    rock which is Christ (Mt 7:25).
  8. The pressing issue in society today is marriage, which
    is the center of the family, and the family is what
    justifies marriage. Pressure to recognize new forms of
    cohabitation constitutes a real threat for Orthodox
    Christians. This variously-manifested crisis in marriage
    and family profoundly concerns the Orthodox Church not
    only in light of negative consequences for the fabric of
    society, but also in light of its threat to particular
    relationships within the bounds of the traditional family.
    The main victims of these trends are the couples
    themselves, and especially the children, since regrettably
    the children often endure great suffering from an early
    age, while nonetheless bearing no responsibility for the
    situation.
  9. A civil marriage between a man and a woman registered
    in accordance with the law lacks sacramental character
    since it is a simple legalized cohabitation recognized by
    the State, different from a marriage blessed by God and
    the Church. The members of the Church who contract a civil
    marriage ought to be regarded with pastoral
    responsibility, which is necessary to help them understand
    the value of the sacrament of marriage and the blessings
    connected with it.
  10. The Church does not allow for her members to contract
    same-sex unions or any other form of cohabitation apart
    from marriage. The Church exerts all possible pastoral
    efforts to help her members who enter into such unions
    understand the true meaning of repentance and love as
    blessed by the Church.
  11. The grave consequences brought about by this crisis of
    the institutions of marriage and the family are manifested
    in the frightening increase in the number of divorces,
    abortions, and other problems of family life. These
    consequences constitute a great challenge to the mission
    of the Church in the modern world, which is why the
    shepherds of the Church are obligated to make every
    possible effort to address these problems. The Orthodox
    Church lovingly invites her children and all people of
    good will to defend this fidelity to the sacredness of the
    family.

II. On Impediments to Marriage and the
application of economy

  1. Concerning impediments to marriage due to kinship by
    blood, kinship by affinity and adoption, and spiritual
    kinship, the prescriptions of the canons (Canons 53 and 54
    of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council) and the church
    practice derived from them are valid as applied today by
    local autocephalous Orthodox Churches, determined and
    defined in their charters and their respective conciliar
    decisions.
  2. A marriage that is not completely dissolved or
    annulled and a third marriage constitute absolute
    impediments to entering into marriage, according to
    Orthodox canonical tradition, which categorically condemns
    bigamy and a fourth marriage.
  3. In accordance with the rigor (akribeia) of
    the holy canons, entering into a marriage after monastic
    tonsure is forbidden (Canon 16 of the Fourth Ecumenical
    Council and Canon 44 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council).
  4. Priesthood in itself does not constitute an impediment
    to marriage, but in accordance with the prevailing
    canonical tradition (Canon 3 of the Quinisext Ecumenical
    Council), after ordination entrance into marriage is
    forbidden.
  5. Concerning mixed marriages of Orthodox Christians with
    non-Orthodox Christians or non-Christians:

    1. Marriage between Orthodox and non-Orthodox
      Christians is forbidden according to
      canonicalakribeia (Canon 72 of the Quinisext
      Ecumenical Council).
    2. With the salvation of man as the goal, the
      possibility of the exercise of ecclesiastical
      oikonomia in relation to impediments to
      marriage must be considered by the Holy Synod of each
      autocephalous Orthodox Church according to the
      principles of the holy canons and in a spirit of
      pastoral discernment.
    3. Marriage between Orthodox and non-Christians is
      categorically forbidden in accordance with canonical
      akribeia.
  6. The practice adopted in implementing ecclesiastical
    Tradition with respect to impediments to marriage should
    also take into account the relevant provisions of state
    legislation, without going beyond the limits of
    ecclesiastical economy (oikonomia).

† Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman

† Theodoros of Alexandria

† Theophilos of Jerusalem

† Irinej of Serbia

†Daniel of Romania

† Chrysostomos of Cyprus

† Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece

† Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland

† Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania

† Rastislav of Presov, the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

† Leo of Karelia and All Finland

† Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia

† Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon

† Elder Archbishop Demetrios of America

† Augustinos of Germany

† Irenaios of Crete

† Isaiah of Denver

† Alexios of Atlanta

† Iakovos of the Princes’ Islands

† Joseph of Proikonnisos

† Meliton of Philadelphia

† Emmanuel of France

† Nikitas of the Dardanelles

† Nicholas of Detroit

† Gerasimos of San Francisco

† Amphilochios of Kisamos and Selinos

† Amvrosios of Korea

† Maximos of Selyvria

† Amphilochios of Adrianopolis

† Kallistos of Diokleia

† Antony of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian
Orthodox in the USA

† Job of Telmessos

† Jean of Charioupolis, Head of the Patriarchal
Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition
in Western Europe

† Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian
Orthodox in the USA

Delegation of the Patriarchate of
Alexandria

† Gabriel of Leontopolis

† Makarios of Nairobi

† Jonah of Kampala

† Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola

† Alexandros of Nigeria

† Theophylaktos of Tripoli

† Sergios of Good Hope

† Athanasios of Cyrene

† Alexios of Carthage

† Ieronymos of Mwanza

† George of Guinea

† Nicholas of Hermopolis

† Dimitrios of Irinopolis

† Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria

† Narkissos of Accra

† Emmanouel of Ptolemaidos

† Gregorios of Cameroon

† Nicodemos of Memphis

† Meletios of Katanga

† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon

† Innokentios of Burudi and Rwanda

† Crysostomos of Mozambique

† Neofytos of Nyeri and Mount Kenya

Delegation of the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem

† Benedict of Philadelphia

† Aristarchos of Constantine

† Theophylaktos of Jordan

† Nektarios of Anthidon

† Philoumenos of Pella

Delegation of the Church of Serbia

† Jovan of Ohrid and Skopje

† Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral

† Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana

† Vasilije of Sirmium

† Lukijan of Budim

† Longin of Nova Gracanica

† Irinej of Backa

† Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla

† Justin of Zica

† Pahomije of Vranje

† Jovan of Sumadija

† Ignatije of Branicevo

† Fotije of Dalmatia

† Athanasios of Bihac and Petrovac

† Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje

† Grigorije of Zahumlje and Hercegovina

† Milutin of Valjevo

† Maksim in Western America

† Irinej in Australia and New Zealand

† David of Krusevac

† Jovan of Slavonija

† Andrej in Austria and Switzerland

† Sergije of Frankfurt and in Germany

† Ilarion of Timok

Delegation of the Church of Romania

† Teofan of Iasi, Moldova and Bucovina

† Laurentiu of Sibiu and Transylvania

† Andrei of Vad, Feleac, Cluj, Alba, Crisana and
Maramures

† Irineu of Craiova and Oltenia

† Ioan of Timisoara and Banat

† Iosif in Western and Southern Europe

† Serafim in Germany and Central Europe

† Nifon of Targoviste

† Irineu of Alba Iulia

† Ioachim of Roman and Bacau

† Casian of Lower Danube

† Timotei of Arad

† Nicolae in America

† Sofronie of Oradea

† Nicodim of Strehaia and Severin

† Visarion of Tulcea

† Petroniu of Salaj

† Siluan in Hungary

† Siluan in Italy

† Timotei in Spain and Portugal

† Macarie in Northern Europe

† Varlaam Ploiesteanul, Assistant Bishop to the
Patriarch

† Emilian Lovisteanul, Assistant Bishop to the
Archdiocese of Ramnic

† Ioan Casian of Vicina, Assistant Bishop to the
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas

Delegation of the Church of Cyprus

† Georgios of Paphos

† Chrysostomos of Kition

† Chrysostomos of Kyrenia

† Athanasios of Limassol

† Neophytos of Morphou

† Vasileios of Constantia and Ammochostos

† Nikiphoros of Kykkos and Tillyria

† Isaias of Tamassos and Oreini

† Barnabas of Tremithousa and Lefkara

† Christophoros of Karpasion

† Nektarios of Arsinoe

† Nikolaos of Amathus

† Epiphanios of Ledra

† Leontios of Chytron

† Porphyrios of Neapolis

† Gregory of Mesaoria

Delegation of the Church of Greece

† Prokopios of Philippi, Neapolis and Thassos

† Chrysostomos of Peristerion

† Germanos of Eleia

† Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria

† Ignatios of Arta

† Damaskinos of Didymoteixon, Orestias and Soufli

† Alexios of Nikaia

† Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios

† Eusebios of Samos and Ikaria

† Seraphim of Kastoria

† Ignatios of Demetrias and Almyros

† Nicodemos of Kassandreia

† Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina

† Theologos of Serres and Nigrita

† Makarios of Sidirokastron

† Anthimos of Alexandroupolis

† Barnabas of Neapolis and Stavroupolis

† Chrysostomos of Messenia

† Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnon and Petroupoli

† Ioannis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis

† Gabriel of New Ionia and Philadelphia

† Chrysostomos of Nikopolis and Preveza

† Theoklitos of Ierissos, Mount Athos and Ardameri

Delegation of the Church of Poland

† Simon of Lodz and Poznan

† Abel of Lublin and Chelm

† Jacob of Bialystok and Gdansk

† George of Siemiatycze

† Paisios of Gorlice

Delegation of the Church of Albania

† Joan of Koritsa

† Demetrios of Argyrokastron

† Nikolla of Apollonia and Fier

† Andon of Elbasan

† Nathaniel of Amantia

† Asti of Bylis

Delegation of the Church of the Czech lands and
Slovakia

† Michal of Prague

† Isaiah of Sumperk

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