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Divorce – An Orthodox Perspective – Fr. John Meyendorff

October 30th, 2008 by Fr. Vasile

The Orthodox Christian in traditional view canonical regulations on divorce and remarriage are based on two presuppositions. 1) Marriage is a sacrament conferred upon the partners in the Body of the Church through the priests blessing. As any sacrament marriage pertains to the eternal life in the Kingdom of God and therefore is not dissolved by the death of one partner. An eternal bond is created between them-it is given to them (Matthew 19:11). 2) As sacrament marriage is not a magical act but a gift of grace. The partners being humans May have made a mistake in soliciting the grace of marriage when they were not ready for it; or they May prove to be unable to make this grace grow to maturity. In those cases the Church May admit the fact that the grace was not received tolerate separation and allow remarriage.

But of course she never encourages any remarriage-we have seen that even in the case of widowers-because of the eternal character of the marriage bond; but only tolerates it when in concrete cases it appears as the best solution for a given individual. The indissolubility of marriage does not imply the total suppression of human freedom. Freedom implies the possibility of sin as well as its consequences. Ultimately sin can destroy marriage. The Church therefore neither recognized divorce nor gave it. Divorce was considered as a grave sin; but the Church never failed in giving to sinners a new chance and was ready to readmit them if they repented. Of course in each particular case pastoral counseling and investigation should make sure that reconciliation is impossible; and the permission to remarry should entail at least some forms of penance (in conformity with each individual case) and give the right to a Church blessing according to the rite of second marriage.

(Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective by John Meyendorff St. Vladimirs Seminary Press 1975)

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