Human love in a world without love
The world is falling apart because there is no love. Marriages fall apart because there is no love. The most basic, human love, of which a Russian priest says:
“Human love … How beautiful, sublime and bright you are! O, the riches you pour out on those who know how to sacrifice for you! How incomprehensible, fierce and tragic you are for those who do not know that love is given to us by God, that its source is the Almighty and All-Holy Lord.
Human love … You fill the desperate and powerless with faith in life, you make the rude and clumsy soft and smooth. You’re the only one that turns stutterers into eloquent speakers. The words moved by you, inconsistent and separated, come together in rhythms and sway in unison like a flock of birds, on the waves of measure and harmony … Great is your power over human hearts! You equally subdue an ordinary man and a sage, an ignorant man and a man of great knowledge.
Human love … Who can keep you undisturbed, who is able to drink your cold and clean water on the third day, yesterday and today? Only he who will receive you as a gift from heaven, as a blessing from above, who will receive you from the right hand of the generous Father.”
There are many characters in art who convey the beauty, and often the fatality, of human love. But only the Church gives us the opportunity to see and imprint in our hearts what cannot be expressed in words, sounds, or by connecting lines–a treasure given to her by Christ the Savior–the sanctity of marriage. It is the testimony of the only and unrepeatable love which is being dreamed of. The Christian bride and groom have just such love for each other, while the Lord, uniting them in the unbreakable bonds of Christian marriage, gives those who love each other the grace to carry that feeling throughout their lives.
Marital sanctity arises from love. And the Holy Fathers sing the hymn to marriage.
The Holy Fathers’ hymn to marriage
Even after the fall, the goal of marriage is to unite the spouses with God and preserve their purity. By His presence, Christ sanctified marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2: 1-11), and thus made every human marriage sacred–if people want to follow the path of which Saint Justin Popović says the following: “Everything is obtained from Christ through obedience to Christ. That is why everything is Christ-like, everything is–Christ-given, everything is–a yearning for Christ.”
That is why Saint Gregory the Theologian sings the hymn to Christian marriage: “Behold, what a wise marriage, an alliance of love gives to people. Who taught (people) the desired wisdom? Who has studied the mysteries which the earth, the sea and the sky hide within? Who gave the cities the law even before the law, who founded the cities and found the skills through inspiration? Who filled the markets and homes? Who filled the seats for board games? Who gave an army for battle and tables for a feast? Who amplifies the choir in the fragrant smoke of the temple? Who tamed the animals? Who learned to plow the land and sow plants? Who sent a ship into the sea to fight the storm? Who, if not marriage, united the sea and the land along the way and that which was separated from each other? These are the gifts of marriage in this (earthly – ed.) sense. But there is something even more sublime and better. Bound by marriage, we are each other’s hands, ears, and feet. Thanks to it (i.e. marriage), we gain double strength to the great joy of friends and the sorrow of enemies. Shared worries reduce interference. Shared joys become more pleasant. Wealth gives greater joy because of unanimity. And for those who do not have wealth, unanimity gives more joy than wealth. Marriage is the key that opens the way to purity and love.”
There is no love without purity.
A lesson from Patriarch Pavle
Serbian Patriarch Pavle of the blessed memory said: “Older Orthodox Christian theologians state that the goal of marriage is twofold: to achieve unity and to bear children. St. Simeon of Thessalonica, although he says that marriage was created by God’s condescension, ‘for those who want to live in the world it is only for the sake of having children’ /… /, further on he says that spouses ‘should keep the marriage unspoiled together, and remain in peace and piety; and what they have received from God, unity in humility and love in chastity, and living together in harmony and peace, they should keep together as a treasure entrusted to them both’/… / Nicodemus Milaš is also on this line, saying that marriage is ‘a bond for the entire life between one man and one woman … With it, man complements himself … It prepares and educates the members of God’s kingdom, because through it the act of man’s creation is established and extended…’” The Patriarch also cited St. Sava’s Nomocanon (the highest legal code in Serbia, dating from 1219), which says: “The secret of marriage, or legal marriage, was established by Christ Our Lord, for the multiplication of the human race and the upbringing of children to the glory of God, in the indissoluble bond of love and community, and mutual alleviation from the sin of fornication.”
When it comes to giving birth to children, Patriarch Pavle pointed out: “Certainly, people are not the same as rabbits, who only know how to breed. To demand that they only multiply, to be a ‘factory for children’, is as extreme as avoiding conception. Marriage is not marriage just because children are born in it, because children are also born from fornication. But, on the other hand, marriage is also not marriage when spouses seek ways to prevent childbirth and at the same time keep the pleasures. Fear of overpopulation is just an excuse to calm the conscience by avoiding childbirth. The Earth could feed several times as many people if the means of production were used more rationally, distribution was done more humanely and basic foodstuffs were consumed more responsibly. According to the principle of Apostle Paul: ‘Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality’ (2 Cor. 8:13-14).”
These precious words need to be remembered.
Serbia, or any country for that matter, cannot be revived without reviving marriage and family values: the family is a model of raising children, adopting values, acquiring work habits, fulfilling family obligations, overcoming lonely individualism, strengthening the sense of security and unity, nurturing folk traditions. That is why, at the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, nothing is more important than understanding that Serbia as a state (and the world, as a whole!) must revive the family!