Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Marriage, an Everlasting Sacrament

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Recently, there have been some questions put forth regarding "should I or should not I agree to a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage?" Further, "if there is no divorce in Christianity it should not matter if I sign one, right?"

Knowing that a prenuptial agreement is not central to or even a part of the rite of marriage, is it a correct assumption to believe that 1) the focus of the pre-marriage phase of a couple's life is concentration on money rather than God, 2) there is a lingering doubt that the marriage may fail, and 3) a plan for a failed marriage exists in writing that is legally binding by worldly law?

Marriage in itself is finality within Christianity. It should begin that way and go to the grave that way. Marriage is a means to an end. There is no changing a decision, no "taking back" of a sacrament, no second choices or "no second time at the altar". There is no divorce in Christianity and this is an understanding from the very inception of marriage. It is difficult to believe any two people contemplating marriage would assume "if this marriage does not work, I will marry another and start all over again". Neither is it fathomable that in the discussion of approaching marriage, divorce is planned for.

In the Holy Old Testament Book of Malachi 2:16, it states,

"The Lord God of Israel says He hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16).

In the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew we read,

"Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marry commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:8-9).

Does this mean a man or a woman who has left their spouse and divorced them can date and "know another" openly or quietly, but they simply cannot marry another in the Church? It absolutely does NOT. It means that if you leave your spouse then you must consider reconciliation or you live your life alone (1 Corinthians 7:11), you must NOT know another in any way. If you choose to know another, then you must not partake of the sacraments of the Holy Church.

Hermas, a first century early father, thought by many to be the person St. Paul refers to in the Holy New Testament Book of Romans 16:14 wrote in this dialogue:

"And I said to him, 'Sir if anyone has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detects her in adultery, does the man sin if he continues to live with her?' And he said to me, 'As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. But if the husband knows that his wife has gone astray and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery.' And I said to him, 'What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continues in her vicious practices?' And he said, 'The husband should put her away...'

And I said to him, 'What if the woman who has been put away should repent, and wishes to return to her husband? Shall she not be taken back by her husband?' And he said to me, 'Assuredly, if the husband does not take her back, he sins. And he brings a great sin upon himself. For he should take back the sinner who has repented. But not repeatedly. For there is but one repentance to the servants of God. In case, therefore, that the divorced wife may repent, the husband should not marry another after his wife has been put away. In this matter, man and woman are to be treated exactly in the same way. Moreover, adultery is committed not only by those who pollute their flesh, but also by those who imitate the pagans in their actions. For that reason, if anyone persists in such deeds, and does not repent, withdraw from him, and cease to live with him, otherwise you are a sharer in his sin'" (c. 150 W;

Again and again, there is no divorce in the Christianity and such will not change.

St. Clement of Alexandria expressly stated that the Holy Scripture allows no release from the marriage union and as the Law decreed,

"You will not put away your wife, except for the cause of fornication."

Therefore, defending the marriage as an act of ultimate finality, what purpose does a prenuptial agreement support? Absolutely not one. If someone you are planning to marry asks you to sign a prenuptial agreement, then a red flag should appear in your mind. The happiness and fulfillment of married life is not more pleasing with a contract saying if you divorce you get so and so. If marriage is not to be dissolved, then why is the focus of your anticipation of marriage surrounding a prenuptial agreement?

This is a sad work of the devil entering into one's mind saying this particular marriage may be risky. This marriage is built upon a condition of monetary planning rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. This marriage is built upon conditions other than those stipulated by the ONE Church and Her beliefs in the sanctity of marriage. There are too many divorces in the world today; perhaps the focus of a marriage is not in Church where it should be firmly grounded.

In some cases, a person may advise another person not to stay in a particular marriage because the spouse has changed, does not take care of him/her, or more commonly he/she is not the person you married. Certainly with the birth and growth of children and their needs, life circumstance of aging and the need for constant adaptation, a spouse changes. Where is the godly friend in life to advise a godly advice?

Marriage is an intimate relationship among the husband and wife.

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:5-6).

Money should not be the binding thread of a relationship; God should be. They should enter life together as one spiritually and become inseparable from God's love.

In this sense there is no one person's money or belongings; no one person's home or car. It is theirs. It is not in the case of a prenuptial agreement, "If you do not do as I say, I will leave you and you will get so and so." It is a false source of power and control. It is not a means of security if you are afraid your wife will flee. If you are afraid then do not marry her.

St. Clement of Alexandria further stipulated that,

"Marriage is a help in the case of those advanced in years, by furnishing a spouse to take care of one, and by rearing children of her to nourish one's old age" (c. 195).

The Diocese of the Southern United States offers pre-marital classes to those within the Diocese and accepts candidates from outside the Diocese as well. Everyone is encouraged to attend, especially all those seriously contemplating marriage. For a career many study years upon years. You retire from a career. From marriage you will never retire. The pre-marital classes are strongly recommended to prepare you for the rest of your earthly life and to assist you in securing the eternal life.

St. Peter loved, honored and respected his wife very much. St. Clement (c. 195) confirms this by writing...

"They say accordingly, that the blessed Peter on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call and conveyance home.He called to her very encouraging and comfortingly, addressing her by name and saying, 'Remember the Lord."

St. Peter boldly and openly for all encouraged his wife,

"Remember the Lord!"

Such was the marriage of the one St. Peter held dear to him.

The spouse is disciplined by marriage, procreation of children, and cares for his/her home as his/her first and foremost priority.

St. Clement believed the married man versus the single man seeking marriage to be capable of surpassing

"...temptation arising through children, wife, and life circumstance" (c. 195).

How are husbands and wives to love one another and work in the workplace, put their jobs in a secondary place?

Novatian (c. 235) eloquently wrote the answer quoted by many,

"Wives are to be loved by their husbands even as Christ loved the Church. And wives should love their husbands also as the Church loves Christ."

God bless those who chose the way of marriage, and always keep before the marriage that "Again I say to you that if two of you [husband and wife] agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:19).

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