On Christian Marriage- St. John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
Marriage was ordained by God as a blessing to the human race. A certain wise man in the Scriptures, when enumerating which blessings are the most important, included “a wife and husband who live in harmony” (The Wisdom of Sirach 25:1).
From the beginning, God in His providence planned this union of man and woman. God has put into a man’s heart the capacity to love his wife and into a woman’s heart the capacity to love her husband. There is no relationship between human beings as close as that of husband and wife – if they are united as they ought to be.
God’s purpose in ordering marriage is peace.
If a man and a woman marry to satisfy their sexual appetites, or to further the material aims of themselves or their families, then the union is unlikely to bring blessings. But if a man and a woman marry in order to be companions on the journey from earth to heaven, then their union will bring great joy to themselves and to others.
When we speak of the wife obeying the husband, we normally think of obedience in military or political terms: the husband giving orders to the wife and the wife obeying them. But while this type of obedience may be appropriate in the army, it is ridiculous in the intimate relationship of marriage. Obedience should not be confined to the wife; the husband should be obedient in the same way. St. Paul writes: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:22). Thus a good marriage is not a matter of one partner obeying the other but of both spouses obeying each other.
When the Apostle Paul says: “Husbands, love your wives,” he does not stop at this, but gives us a measure for true love by adding, “as Christ loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25). And how did Christ love the Church? “He gave Himself up for her,” the Apostle says. So even if you must die for your wife, do not refuse.
Love is most powerfully present in a marriage when accompanied by respect. A good marriage is like a castle. When husband and wife truly love and respect each other, no one can overcome them.
In the providence of God, when a husband is spiritually weak, his wife is spiritually strong; and when a wife is weak, her husband is strong.
Nothing can destroy love that is rooted and founded in Christ.
The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together.
St. John Chrysostom’s advice to young husbands: Speaking with your wife . . . .
Never speak to your wife in a mundane way but with compliments, with respect and with much love. Tell her that you love her more than your own life, because this present life is nothing, and that your only hope is that the two of you pass through this life in such a way that in the world to come, you will be united in perfect love.
Say to her, ‘Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one both with Christ and with each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.’
Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out at the marketplace. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently. Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers. If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks.