Spiritual Marriage and Domestic Church

Hieromartyr Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen,

Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Come, let us bow down and worship God our King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ Himself, our King and our God.

On the third hour, O Lord, You sent Your All-Holy Spirit upon Your Apostles. Do not take away from us, O Gracious Lord, but pour this same Holy Spirit upon us, who beseech You now. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O Blessed Theotokos, You are the true vine that blossomed the fruit of life. We beseech You, intercede for us, O Lady, together with the Apostles and all the Saints, that our souls may find mercy in the Lord. Amen.


On August 23rd [Απόδοσις της εορτής της Κοιμήσεως or the leave-taking of the feast of the Dormition] Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith: Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons; Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Sirmium; Saint Callinicos, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Porthinus, Bishop of Lyons; Saint Victor of Marseilles; Saint Eftychios and Florentius of Nursia; Saint Nicholas the Sicilian; 38 Holy Martyrs of Thrace, Greece; Saint Lupus, slave of Demetrios of Thessaloniki.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

SAINT IRENAEUS, BISHOP OF SIRMIUM. Saint Irenaeus was filled with modesty and the fear of God and was a man of peace. However, during an early 4th century persecution by the pagan Roman emperor Diocletian, the bishop was arrested and brought before the Prefect Probus to offer sacrifice to their pagan gods or die under torture. Saint Irenaeus said, "My duty is clear, I am to undergo torture rather than renounce my God and offer the sacrifices, but he gave them no answer. Meanwhile, Probus continually urged Saint Irenaeus to reconsider and be done with the punishments. Saint Irenaeus responded, "Do thy duty, O Prefect, for I am doing mine." At length Saint Irenaeus said to Probus, "I should be most obliged if thou wouldest expedite my sentence." When Probus told Saint Irenaeus that he would die by drowning, St. Irenaeus asked to die by the sword to show him how Christians despise death because of the faith we have in God Who conquered death. The bishop was elated to receive a sentence of death by beheading. Saint Irenaeus offered thanks to Jesus for giving him the endurance to undergo all the torments. At the execution site, he prayed that the heavens be opened and that the Angels take up his soul that suffered for Jesus and his Church. Saint Irenaeus was beheaded, and his holy relics were cast into the Sava River.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 2:5-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28


"First of all, we should train our tongues to be ministers of the grace of the Spirit, expelling from our mouths all hostility and ill will, and the habit of using obscenities. We have the power to make each part of our bodies a tool of evil or of righteousness. So listen now some people make the tongue an instrument of evil, and others of righteousness. 'Their tongues are sharp swords' (Psalm 57:4); but another says this about his own tongue, 'My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe' (Psalm 45:1). The first wrought destruction; the second wrote the divine law. So one was a sword and the other a pen--not by its own nature, but by the choice of those who used it. The nature of the one tongue and the other was the same, but what they did was not the same". (Saint John Chrysostom).

by Saint John Chrysostom

Saint John Chrysostom is well known for his extensive ascetical writings. He was a great philo-monastic. The Church is rich with his literary treasures dealing with monastic themes. Besides being an accomplished ascetic himself and greatly enriching the ranks of the Church's athletes by his exhortations and teachings, he was a man of the city, and a pastor thoroughly imbued with a message of sanctification for the married Christians who constituted his flock...He was a great lover of the monastic brotherhood, and at the same time a supporter of the family and the Christian home. He had a profound vision for both states of life. Accordingly, he saw no contradiction between praising marriage as an honorable way of life on the one hand, and affirming virginity as a yet-more honorable state on the other. On virginity, for example, he writes as follows concerning the two states, addressing heretics who were against marriage:

"You will say, 'Do you not forbid it [marriage]?'--Nonsense! May I never as you do.--'Why then do you encourage us not to marry?'--Because I believe virginity is much more honorable than marriage. I do not of course discount marriage among evil things, rather I praise it exceedingly. It is the harbor of chastity for those who desire to use it well, and it does not allow one's nature to become wild. For like a dam, marriage gives us an opportunity for legitimate intercourse and in this way contains the flood of sexual desire. It deposits us in calm sea and watches over us. But there are some who do not need this security; instead, by fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, and the practice of other hardships, they tame the madness of their nature. These I advise not to marry, but I do not forbid it."

Though Saint John Chrysostom did not leave us many treatises exclusively devoted to the practice of the Christian family, we do find extensive instruction, with copious practical details for family life, permeating his many homilies delivered to the faithful. This spiritual and practical family guidance shows Saint Chrysostom to be not only a concerned shepherd of souls but also one very knowledgeable concerning the intimacies of the household and quite hopeful concerning the vocation of the Christian family. Throughout his homilies labors, which were born of deep pastoral love, we are able to perceive his grand vision of the true Christian family. In fact, his writings convey his deep vision of the SPIRITUAL POTENTIAL OF A MARRIAGE Truly founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ: teachings that applied equally to monk and married person. He did not see a great chasm between monastery and Christian home, nor did he find anything inconsistent about vigorously promoting celibate life while giving great encouragement and practical guidance to married Christians. Instead, in his works he wove together a beautiful harmony and mutual fertilization in which married Christians were called to live a Christian asceticism: one that was not easy (what asceticism of any value is?), but relevant and practical to their everyday living and capable of exalting them to great spiritual heights. Saint John's broad and inclusive vision of sanctification for both monks and married person has not always been embraced, and in recent times often not even understood, by some leaders of the Church.

Saint John Chrysostom's approach to marriage in comparison with monastic life has been particularly perplexing to some modern scholars, especially those scholars who themselves come from anti-monastic religious traditions. These scholars are unable to properly understand Saint John's exaltation of the celibate life over married life.

On the other hand, some scholars are struck by the wealth of guidance St. John Chrysostom gives to Christian families and find it difficult to understand how Saint John could both so vigorously promote virginity and at the same time present such wholesome and hopeful spiritual guidance to Christian families.

The possession of property is justified by its use. Married Christians should not build elaborate houses designed for display, and should be very thoughtful about the size of their habitation. If someone puts on a sandal larger than his foot, the sandal becomes a hindrance rather than a help. The same concerning the family home. It should be just big enough to meet the needs of the family and no more. Most families need nothing more than a house with three rooms, and ought to remember that some large families only have one room in which to dwell.

The Patriarch Abraham is the model for married Christians, for Abraham did not cover his roof with gold as he could have, being a rich man, but he established his home in a tent near an oak tree, content with its shade. This humble dwelling was to God so illustrious that Angels visited. The tent of Abraham was poorly appointed, but it was "more illustrious than the halls of kings" (τών βασιλικών αυλών λαμπρότερον).

Saint John Chrysostom criticized those who sought expensively adorned furniture and fancy beds. He taught that the truly beautiful bed is "King David's bed," full of tears of confession.


Saint John counseled that the Christian home be well ordered according to a certain domestic typikon. The ecclesiastical ethos of the Christian home is maintained by a fervent and continual link with the Church. The blessing of the household is contingent upon faithful participation in the prayers of the Church. No excuse should be tolerated in families for staying away from religious services. Time in the Church should be preferred to time anywhere else.

"What profit do you gain which can outweigh the loss you bring on yourself and your whole household when you stay away from the religious service? Suppose you find a whole treasure-house filled with gold, and this discovery is your reason for staying away. You have lost more than you found, and your loss is as much greater as things of the spirit are better than the things we see."

Again Saint John Chrysostom discloses the secret of the virtuous life: "Nothing contributes to a virtuous and moral life as does the time you spend here in Church…The time we spend here in Church is the basis of every blessing." The sanctification of the Christian family starts and ever continues, according to Saint John, by a faithful participation in the life of the corporate body of the Church. The sanctity of home life is a sanctity derived from the holiness of the Church, and the latter undergirds every joy of the home. It is not the sanctity of the family that is primary and that produces the same in the Church, but vice versa. One day in seven, the Lord's Day, must be consecrated to the matters of the soul and should be free of worldly endeavor. On the Lord's Day parents should especially teach their children the Christian Faith.

Imitating the practices of the Church, the Christian home should have formal prayers every morning and evening. The husband and wife must be sure to pray together. Upon arising, which should be done before the sun, and before washing, one should say his prayers. For just as water washes the body, so prayers wash the soul. Following the evening meal, the family should give themselves to thanksgiving.

(to be continued)

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George