This is the third part in a four-part series on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage. The first part spoke to Christian Marriage as being an Icon of the Trinity; the second part spoke to Christian Marriage being an icon of the Church’s communion with Christ. In this part, I will speak about the Dogma of the Incarnation and how it has changed the nature of communion with God so as to bring in a new type of marital like relationship.
If you have not read the other two parts I would suggest that you do read them along with this third part because none of the parts stand on their own or would give a full picture without the other parts.
The Incarnation as the New Communion
It must be understood that the Incarnation of the Son of God changed all reality for by the Incarnation humanity has now entered into the union and communion of the Godhead through the man Jesus Christ. By this, mankind is now able to partake in not only a spiritual communion, but also a fleshly communion with the Son of God. And this is what happens at the height of the Christian worship when the Son of God gives of his flesh and blood to sanctify and bring the church into the communion of God.
It also must be understood that Christ’s Incarnation made clear the purpose of the Old Testament. For in reading the Old Testament, Paul says, the Jews had a veil over their eyes and could not understand the meaning since the Scriptures proclaimed Jesus Christ and they rejected him. But we who have received Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament now understand that the nature of Christ’s kingdom is that of a spiritual kingdom and not an earthly kingdom. This means that we as Christians are no longer to look for an earthly nation, like that of Israel, but are to understand the Church to be the Kingdom of God on earth. The Church awaits its glorification at the transfiguration of all things that will make all creation once again the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom where God dwells.
Thus, within the Godhead is now a man, who partakes spiritually in the Communion with God that he has always enjoyed, and who partakes with his Church physically and spiritually in communion. And because Jesus Christ partakes with his church in a physical and spiritual union, much like that of marriage, then the Incarnation has given a new realm by which procreation can take place.
For the church brings forth her own creation through the communion with Jesus Christ. This creation is different from that of marriage because of the nature of the communion with the Divine Son of God who is truly man. In this communion, the spiritual birth comes first, for Christ was first Divine and then became man. The Church therefore births spiritual children through baptism, which itself pictures the water in the woman when she bears physical birth (John 3).
Once the Church has brought forth spiritual children through baptism, she nourishes those children spiritually and physically, mainly through the Eucharist of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also through the Word of God. And those who have been born spiritually through baptism, at the resurrection of the body will also be part of the new creation, thus they are also physical fruit of the communion of Christ and his Church. For since they were born again they will rise again, and thus their physical resurrection is physical fruit of their communion with God.
It must also be understood that the children of an earthly marriage never partake in the fleshly communion of their parents, but the children of the marriage between Christ and his Bride partake in the fleshly and spiritual communion just as the earthly children partake in their parent’s spiritual communion. The reason for this is because unlike marriage, when a child is birthed into the Church he becomes part of the Bride and thus a full partaker of every aspect of the Communion.
Since therefore there is a new marriage and a new communion between Christ and the Church, this means that there is a new vocation in which some may enter in order to fulfill their role of imaging the Godhead by multiplying the image of God in the world. We hold therefore by the testimony of the Holy Scripture and the practice of the Early Catholic Church and the consistent practice of the Church throughout history, that a man or woman may choose celibacy as a life vocation in order to devote themselves more perfectly to the ministry of the Church so that many will come to be reborn at the glorious fount of the Holy Spirit, and be nourished by the precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And therefore celibacy is a worthy and most desirable vocation for as the apostle says it frees one up to think fully on the things of God and to give his or her life to this marriage of Christ and the Church. Celibacy should therefore be taught and promoted as a vocation just as important as marriage, and possibly even more fruitful for the Kingdom of God. Every person that senses a calling into a life devoted to full ministry in the Church should first consider celibacy since this allows a greater and more perfect commitment to the ministry. However, if celibacy has not been given to that person by the gift of God’s grace, then they are free to marry due to their inability to forego a fleshly union with the opposite sex.
However it must be noted that a person who is able, by the gift of God, to live a celibate life, must realize that all men and women are called to give themselves in sacrificial communion to another. And therefore a man or a woman who gives his or herself to vows of celibacy is not relieved of the obligations of a self-giving communion, but rather has foregone the physical union of marriage in order to participate more fully in the physical and spiritual communion of Christ and his Church. Therefore, he or she should take vows to this end, and he or she should realize that it is his or her bounden duty to give of him or herself to the Church’s ministry; and he or she is to grow in this devotion as a husband or wife grows in his or her ability to fulfill these vows unto God.
We reject however as unscriptural, and against the mind and actions of the early church, the notion that one cannot be both married physically to a wife and still given in vocation to the Church to a life devoted to ministry of the Communion of the Church. For the holy Apostle clearly states that it is worthy for a pastor of the church to be married (1 Tim 3), a practice found in the early church and in all churches today except for the Roman Catholic Church. (Though there are some exceptions and nuances in the Eastern Orthodox Church to those who would be bishops and monks, and those who have already become priests when single). But being not bound to the clerical obligations of the Communion of Rome, but rather bound by the Communion of all the rest of the Church, and even the early Roman Church, as seen by the one they call their first bishop, Peter, we hold that it is lawful that a man be both in union with his wife in marriage, and devoted as though married also to the church.
Though this may sound like a form of polygamy it must be understood that there is a difference between the marital union and the Church communion. In marriage there is a union that is created where the one man and one woman become one flesh, but in the Church, which is made of many members, both married and unmarried, it is not the individual himself which is united to Christ in marriage, but rather, the whole Church is wedded to Christ.
And even when someone takes vows to the Church, this person is not more married to the Church then all the others, but rather he is more committed to ministry of this communion of Christ and His Church. And thus, all members of the Church are part of this communion of Christ, and not just those who come to the ministry of the Church by vocation. The difference is in level of commitment. The layman has commitments and vocations outside of the church and as such is not under a new vow by which he commits himself to marital sacrifice like one must do so in a marriage. Whereas the one who takes vows as a minister has placed himself under marital obligation to the Church as well as any other obligations in which he is already committed.
The one who has taken vows to the Church so as to be committed in marital sacrifice to it is under a deeper commitment and obligation to partake more directly in the ministry of the Communion of Christ. Therefore their position is one of those under vows and is much like a marriage commitment to the ministry of the Church by vocation. Whereas the layman is not under these same commitments, and is free to have another vocation outside the church and to devote himself to pursuits outside of the Church.
So though those under orders and those who have taken vows of celibacy for the Kingdom of God’s sake are like as those married with the Church to Christ, this marriage is not altogether like that of the physical marriage of a man and wife. And thus, it is not polygamy if a man is both married to a woman and also under vows to the Church. But this difference between the two communions should not lose the great similarity between the two, a similarity which is strongest in relation to procreation. For procreation always comes by union and communion, and intimate marital communion is found both in marriage and in the Church’s communion with her Lord Jesus Christ.
And thus to those who are not married, their celibacy replaces their marriage. But to those who take vows to the church and are also married, they have added the responsibility of ministry in the Church, and they are under obligation to devote themselves fully to both their marriage to their wife, and their greater participation in the ministry of the communion of Christ to his Church.
Now after the Incarnation, Christians are to continue to join in marital union which will continue to take part with God in bringing forth physical creation, and hopefully spiritual creation as a result of their obedience to God. And some are called to participate more fully in the Church’s communion with Christ which also results in new birth, first spiritual but then also physical by the Eucharist and the Resurrection of the Body.
But all members of the Church must realize they have some role in this communion and should exercise their will in love to help those who have committed themselves by solemn vows to a life of dedication to the Church. And may those who are under vows realize that this obligation to the church is the same type of obligation as a man has to his wife, and thus may he as an ordained minister or a celibate commit himself diligently to sacrificial service in the ministry of the Church.
And as such, we learn this truth about Christian Marriage:
*Christians are all in a new communion of flesh and spirit with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This communion comes by being members of His Bride, the Church. As such those who commit themselves to the vocation of ministry in the Church must understand that the nature of this commitment is that of a marriage in respect to responsibility and devotion. And those who desire to forego physical marriage in order to dedicate themselves more perfectly to the marriage of Christ and his bride must see that this vocation of celibacy replaces the vocation of marriage, and so they must see this vocation to be their marriage and their way of fulfilling their obligation to multiply the image of God upon Earth and to give themselves to another in self-sacrificial service in love.