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Moral Theology, Chapter 22

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)Christianity is life, Christianity puts a new stamp on all of life’s relationships between people.

The influence of Christianity on all aspects of life. The Christian family. The mutual relationship between husband and wife, parents and children. The respect for authority civil and spiritual.

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The basic aim of Christianity is to teach man God’s Will, thus bringing them to eternal beatitude. In vain do some want to compare Christianity only to a narrow, isolated sphere of religious experiences.

No, Christianity is life, Christianity puts a new stamp on all of life’s relationships between people. Its influence on life is unarguable and indubitable for every unprejudiced person. It suffices to indicate that even if life and conduct of people in our time have departed from Christian ideals, their understanding and views were formed by Christianity. The work and creations of the best, most sincere servants of Science and Art, carry within themselves a clearly Christian mark.

Further, such consoling phenomena as the disappearance, of slavery, the appearance of many philanthropic and educational institutions, and many others are undoubtedly indebted to Christianity for their existence.

But perhaps the family, as the first structural cell of social life, experienced the most reformative and educational influence of Christianity.

Of course, it is a great responsibility for a Christian man and woman to choose for themselves a friend for their entire life. God’s Word declares that in a Christian marriage, “two will be one flesh”; two people in marriage seem to compose one organism, one common life. A Christian wife thinks of her husband before everything else and only then of herself. Exactly in the same way, the husband first cares for his wife and only then for himself. The Lord strengthened such a Christian unity of spouses with His Divine Word, What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. It is remarkable that the love: of husband and wife has the same unselfish, self-sacrificing character that generally distinguishes Christian love. Not in vain does Apostle Paul compare conjugal unity to the unity of Christ and the Church, saying, Husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25). In Christian marriage, the unity of the two beloveds becomes so all-encompassing and complete, the mutual devotion of the spouses is so deep and unconditional that they resemble each other, and at times even begin to look like each other towards old age. Their life flows in utter harmony, in full devotion to the laws of Christ the Savior and His Holy Church.

In our days it is so difficult to bear watching the impetuous, irrational, imprudent and completely un-Christian relationship of youth to this serious question. We continuously observe today how marriages are contracted not from a serious, deep, tested feeling of love but from the emotionality of “being in love”, a feeling which is not serious, not deep, and morally not very high. Often, the substance of “being enamored” is, alas, essentially only animal sensualism, only the “agitation of young blood”, sometimes not even young but dirty, and quarrelsome. At the same time, deceit, the self-adornment of body and soul, and the hypocritical desire not to be but to seem better and more beautiful, of which we spoke earlier, is continuously observed in the premarital period of such “marriages”. But life can be built only on truth, it cannot remain upright on falseness. The disappointment of spouses in each other and the indecent practice of divorces stems so often from this. Who has not heard of these “loves” being continuously resolved today into “civil marriages”, that is, illegal ties, systematically, continuously violating the Seventh Commandment, for which the Holy Church forbids receiving Holy Communion. All this ends most tragically, not only in quarrels but in crimes, murder, and suicide.

Christian marriage is one life with two alive in a single union. With the advent of time, conjugal love in marriage strengthens, becomes deeper, more spiritual. Sensuous love enters into this conjugal love as a known item in Christianity. Sensuous love is tied to the natural, sexual instinct peculiar to man and to the purely physical inclination and attraction to the other sex. In a genuinely Christian marriage, such physical love is only one part in the attachment of the spouses and never has such meaning and power as in non-Christian marriages. In the Lives of the Saints, we see several examples of how Christian spouses refused a sexual life by reciprocal agreement, either from the very beginning of the marriage or after forty years. It is amazing that in such marriages, where spouses-ascetics live “as brother and sister”, their mutual love is distinguished by a special power of attachment, all-encompassing faithfulness, and mutual respect. Christianity has thus enlightened, elevated, and transformed marital unity.

Children and parents, besides the husband and wife, are included in the Christian family. Christianity again leaves its characteristic stamp on the mutual relationship of those and others.

In every good family, there must be an unfailingly unified family life. The common “our” must always stand higher than the personal “my”.

It is not in vain that all the members of a family have one name in common and they must live a friendly life together.

The head of the family is usually considered to be and must be the husband. The well-being of the family is based on his labors. The family is his first responsibility. Apostle Paul says tersely but with sufficient intelligibility concerning those who do not care for their families that, If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8).

It is common to see in life that parents, directing their children on that or another path, act contrary to their children’s inclinations and heart’s desires. And sometimes they are even unfair. The Apostle says straightforwardly in opposition to this, Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Col. 3:21), and, Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Being excessively demanding beyond the children’s strength, only plunges them into despondency. Unfairness does that so much more; the father, for the child is the highest authority and woe if that authority will go against the feeling of truth so much stronger in each child than in adults. This creates a desperate situation for the child’s soul. But worse things occur when parents spoil their children overly much, are too indulgent towards them and often leave them without supervision. From here stems great moral damage to the child; especially since we have seen that God’s Word directly orders parents to raise and guide their children in our Lord’s Law.

The raising of children, of course, largely rests upon the mother.

And this is natural, as no one is so close to the soul and heart of a child as his mother. Not in vain does he run to her with the cry “mama” when he has been hurt. A great problem lies before the mother to raise the son or daughter as a faithful Christian, a kind, sensitive, industrious, good worker for the Church and state, to raise with words and by example, with fondness and sternness. The husband must appreciate this enormous work of childrearing. This is the altar of her service to the Lord, a work which is no less important than his work for the family.

Shame and disgrace on those mothers who feel burdened by having to raise their children and often give them up entirely in the care of hired servants, forgetting how easy it is to hurt or defile the child’s soul.

Can anyone really replace a child’s mother? Children must remember their responsibilities no less than their parents. Everyone knows the Fifth Commandment of God’s Law about honoring one’s parents. Children, wrote Apostle Paul, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Eph. 6:1). And of course, this demand is evoked precisely by Justice. Children are indebted for everything to their parents who care for them, loving them, working, denying themselves in much, raising them with their love, often helping them even when they have become adults and independent people.

How often is the Fifth Commandment broken today? Even those children who are convinced that they sincerely and firmly love their parents are often disobedient and thus do not honor them. Love is always tied to obedience. The older such children become, the more self-willed they become, being rude to their parents, reproaching them for their “backwardness” and disregarding their authority. Is this the honoring of parents? In the Old Testament, it is said directly that, Who speaks evil of his father or mother must be put to death”. In the New Testament the Savior, remembering this law, called it the Lord’s Commandment. How many terrifying instances there are in life when the Lord severely punishes (sometimes fatally) offenders of their fathers or mothers! It is not said in vain that a mother’s prayer saves (a child) from water and fire, and that, “A parent’s blessing confirms their children’s house”; on the other hand, who has not heard of what terrible unhappiness it is to inflict upon yourself a mother’s or father’s curse.

Thus, basically the meaning of the Fifth Commandment speaks about respecting our parents. But of course, for a Christian included here is everyone taking the parent’s place: teachers, governesses, and so forth, and especially the representatives of the legal authorities who preserve the state’s order. Apostle Paul directly orders us to pray for the Kings and for all that are in authority (1 Tim 2:2), and in many other places of his Epistles he teaches us to submit ourselves to the authorities. Even more important for a Christian is to honor the spiritual authorities—the Church pastors, especially the bishops and also that pastor who is our spiritual father and answers before God for our souls. Apostle Paul said, Obey them that have rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account (Heb. 13:17). The Lord Himself said to His Apostles and through their person to the Church pastors, He that heareth you heareth Me, and he who despiseth you (does not listen to you) despiseth Me...”

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