Finding Love, how lucky and blessed

January 25, 2015

In Nikos & Andre Wedding 2008 028the PBS television series “Call the Midwife,” there is a wonderful line spoken by one of the characters, Jenny: “If we are lucky, we find love. If we are blessed, we understand its meaning.” This line struck me on many levels. Many of us have been lucky in life to have or have had parents who loved us. Perhaps only later in life are we blessed enough to understand the hardships they endured and the sacrifices that they made for us, because they loved us. An even greater blessing is if our parents loved us unconditionally, and if we returned that same level of love.

Those of us who are truly lucky have been able to find a life partner or spouse, someone to love and share life’s joys and challenges. Perhaps years later, we are blessed enough to have “been worthy to attain a ripe old age together”[1] and look back, as a couple, at the moments of elation as well as the times of trial. It is one thing to be lucky in love and another thing to understand how blessed one has been because of that love shared. A true blessing of a relationship is to be loved unconditionally and to return the same love without conditions.

The concept of unconditional love is not one exclusive to Christianity, but it is a vital pillar of the faith. One of the hymns chanted at the Orthodox wedding (crowning) ceremony refers to martyrs. The hymns are part of the “Dance of Isaiah,” sung as the married couple takes their first walk together, led by the priest, around a small table. The text of the hymn is as follows: “Hear us, you martyred Saints, who fought the good fight, graining crowns: entreat the Lord to shed His tender mercy on our souls.” Anyone who has been married or partnered for a period of time knows fully well that a healthy relationship takes some work. It becomes too easy to take your spouse/partner for granted, treating our “luckiness” as a given and frequently forgetting how blessed we truly are. It has been stated, perhaps with bit of tongue in cheek, that one of the reasons that the Church chants the hymn about martyrs during the wedding ceremony, is that you are expected to become a martyr for your spouse; that married life can be torturous. And yet, it is the essence of the Christian message: sacrificing your own needs in order to love and provide for others. Couples together for a significant period of time know full well that there no such thing as a healthy relationship without sacrifice. Finding someone willing to sacrifice for us is luck, understanding the nature of the sacrificial love, is a blessing.

One of the family stories I treasure in my life is that my paternal grandparents met each other in church. They were lucky enough to find each other in a refugee camp for displaced Ukrainians in Poland, in a small Orthodox chapel, where they would later be married. My father was also baptized in that same humble church. Having lived through two World Wars, two emigrations, and various other hardships that enveloped that part of the world in the early twentieth century, I hope that my grandparents were able to look back at those difficult years of sacrifice and understand how blessed they were. If fifty years of marriage taught them anything, I imagine it was how lucky they were, and I pray that they were blessed to truly understand the meaning of the life and love they shared. I can only pray and hope that my husband and I and will one day be fully blessed to understand how lucky we are that we found each other, love each other and share a wonderful life together.

The central message of Jesus Christ is one of love, a sacrificial, and unconditional love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Many of us are lucky to believe and know that God loves us. Few of us are blessed to understand the true meaning of the sacrificial unconditional love that God has for us. Perhaps one of the greatest and most natural ways to mimic and live the sacrificial, unconditional love of Christ is in a marriage. It has always been the message of the Orthodox Church that marriage is “the most perfect, natural expression of God’s love[2]” for us, because “it is not good for man to be alone.”[3]

If we are lucky, God has sent us someone to love and be loved by, to share our life with them completely. If we are lucky, we will understand that we have to sacrifice for and love our spouse unconditionally. If the Orthodox Church is lucky, it will begin to see the fullness of God’s creation, including those who are gay, lesbian, and transgendered. If the Orthodox Church is lucky, it will see, that just like many straight people, gay people also desire to share in the rewards and challenges that a marriage brings. If the Orthodox Church is lucky, it will begin to understand, what many of us believe, that God Himself has brought together and united many lesbian and gay couples. And if the Orthodox Church is blessed, it will begin to celebrate and “confirm the word that has been spoken”[4] by the couple, and “crown them with glory and with honor.”[5]

[1] From the Orthodox crowning ceremony – wedding.

[2] http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/marriage

[3] Genesis 2:18

[4] From the Orthodox betrothal (engagement) ceremony.

[5] From the Orthodox crowning (marriage) ceremony.

  1. James Said,

    A theological question: I think that many of us who have settled down with a partner feel that we have been joined together by God even if this is not recognized or celebrated by the church. Some Christian denominations, such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who do not have priests, clearly state in their marriage ceremony that a couple is joined by God and that all those present at the worship service devoted to the marriage are merely witnesses of this. What is the theological role of the priest in an Orthodox wedding?

  2. andre Said,

    James,
    Thank you for your comment and support of this website. I am so happy that you have a partner you can celebrate life’s joys with and with whom you can share the difficulties. You are one example that God has indeed brought two people of the same sex together.

    Concerning your question, it is better to quote an authority of the church:” In the Orthodox Church it is the priest or the bishop who consecrates the marriage, who calls upon God in the name of the community, and asks that the Holy Spirit be sent down (epiclesis) on the man and woman and in this way make them “into one flesh”. In addition marriage is for the Orthodox Church rather a spiritual path, a seeking after God, the mystery of oneness and love, the preparatory portrayal of the Kingdom of God, than a necessity for reproduction.” The quote is from Bishop Athenagoras of Sinope of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/athenagoras_remarriage.htm#1)

    I hope that helps to answer your question. Please stay in touch. I bid you and your partner peace,
    Andriy

  3. Isaac Said,

    Thank you for this! I see that in some ways, relationships are really taken for granted by some people and treat it as if it were a game. Even marriage life reflects the life of Jesus. Both people in the relationship work to make the relationship healthy and endure the sacrifices and trials together. It really is beyond romantic but a display of true love (I can’t explain this in words). Even then, this type of love is demonstrated from parent to child, friend to friend, etc. It is true, it is kind, it is strong and very genuine. Just like a parent gives the best to their child. There is a passage in the Bible the says to reflect the light so that others may see the the glory of the Father in heaven (Im paraphrasing).

  4. andre Said,

    Isaac,
    Thank you for your kind words and support. You have a bit difficulty explaining the love in a relationship because there are no good words or ways to express it. Matthew 5:16 is the verse you are looking for.
    Please stay in touch.
    I bid you peace,
    Andriy

  5. The Honest Truth Said,

    Well for the men and women out there that are married with a family should consider themselves very Blessed to have one another since their life is very much Complete and they certainly do have very much to be very Thankful for which many of us are just very Miserable since we still Don’t have someone to share our life with. I really do Blame God in a way for my Singleness since i Never at all Expected this to happen to a very Good man like me that really wanted that Gift Of Life as well. The very sad thing now is that the women of today are very much to Blame more than God since they have really Changed for the Worst of all over the years compared to the Real Good old fashioned women of years ago when Most of them were the Best at that time which they really Did make a very Good wife too. Today with Most women being very Selfish and very Spoiled has a lot to do with it since they will Only want the Best of all and will Never settle for Less. And i do have friends of mine that are going through the same thing right now as well.

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