Spiritual Marriage and Domestic Church

Venerable Arsenius the Abbot of Komel, Vologda

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


+In the Name of the Fathers, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is truly right and proper to praise the Supremely Divine Trinity, the Unoriginate Father and Creator of all, the Co-Unoriginate Logos (Word), Begotten Eternally of the Father before the ages and without change, and the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds Eternally from the Father.


It is truly right and proper to glorify You, O God the Logos (Word); the One before Whom the Cherubim stand in awe with fear and trembling, the One Whom the Powers of heaven glorify. In fearful adoration, let us also praise and glorify Christ, the Giver of Life, Who Rose from the tomb on the third day.


Let us all praise in a divine manner, and with fervent hymns the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Thrice-Hypostatic Dominion the One Kingdom, the One Godhead. Amen.


by Saint John Chrysostom
Part II (continued)


Married couples can imitate the self-denial of the monks by giving themselves to hymns of thanksgiving and psalm-singing in the home. After our Savior fed the multitudes He did not dismiss them to sleep but taught them. To such instruction families should commit themselves following their meals.

Just before retiring to bed, each person should strictly judge his own behavior during the day. If one remembers the judgment and hell before going to bed, one will not give way to worldly cares and sinful thoughts, and thus one's sleep will be peaceful. Night time is the special time for prayer. If one is awakened in the middle of the night, he should consider this as an opportunity for prayer and arise. Prayer at night is particularly effective...By so doing, the parents will not only be imitating Jesus Who prayed through the night as an example for Christians to come, but will accustom their children to disciplining their sleep and making it the servant of prayer. This practice turns homes into churches.

Christian families should practice fasting. Christians are not to live to eat, but, rather, are to eat to live. Such fasting is not only for the older and stronger members of the family, but even for the infants and the family pets. The animals of the pagan Ninevites fasted, and the Prophet Joel required that even the infants in the breast fast. Families should become proficient in fasting so that it functions as a proper medicine. They must pay attention to the time fasting should be practiced (Wednesday and Fridays especially), the quantity and severity of the regimen, the temperament of their individual bodies, the nature of the country, the season of the year, the particulars of the fasting diet, and many other particulars. If we pay such attention to our body when it is sick, how much more should we when this type of attention to the body is in the direct service of the health of the soul? Most of all, families should insure that when they fast they are actually sinning less.

Besides establishing a temporal prayer discipline in the home, the Christian family should exert itself in alms giving (charity). If at all possible, families should dedicate one entire room in the home to provide shelter for the needy. It should be a guestroom reserved for Christ Himself. Who will most assuredly come and dwell there in the presence of the poor..."Where alms are, the devil dares not approach, nor any other evil thing" ("Ενθα ελεημοσύνη, ού τολμά προσελθείν α διάβολος, ουδέ άλλο τι τών δεινών").

Alms giving (Charity) should be associated clearly with the prayer life in the home, just as it is in the Church. Each family should keep a small alms chest (κιβώτιον πενήτων) at home in the prayer corner of the family. At the hour of prayer alms should first be deposited and then prayer commenced. Each time income is received at least one-tenth (tithing) of the income should be deposited in this box. This will give power to prayer, and make the house holy.


Nothing is to characterize the home life of Orthodox Christians as much as the study of Holy Scripture. Indeed, love for the Divine sayings is the surest sign of spiritual health, according to Saint John Chrysostom. The Holy Scriptures are to be perused constantly at home, but in anticipation of the upcoming Church services and in reflection on what has been read and preached about in Church. Saint John Chrysostom opens one of his homilies on Saint John's Gospel with these words which express his guidance concerning Scripture reading by his faithful preparation for the Divine Liturgy:

"I desire to ask one favor of you all, before I touch on the words of the Gospel; do not refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or burdensome...What is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week, or even on the Sabbath, and before the day arrives, that he sit down at home and read it through and often carefully consider its contents, and examine all its parts well, what obscure, what seems to make for the adversaries, but does not really do so, and when you have tried, in a word, every point, so go to hear it read. For from zeal like this will be no small gain both to you and to us."

It is not possible for one to be saved without taking advantage of spiritual reading. Such literary ascesis is not the sole domain of monks, but is the calling of lay Christians as well…Families would do well not even to wait until they get home to discuss what was read and preached in Church, but on the way home begin the discussion. Christians must guard carefully the grace they have received in Church, and not, after having just taken a bath, run right back into the bog. What has been heard must be solidified by reflection. The Sacred Books of the Church are to be carefully studied at home, and from this study flow countless blessings. Of all the oracles of Sacred Scripture, it is most important that attention be given to the reading of the Holy Gospels. Such reading in the home should be done by a man with his head uncovered, and by a woman with her head covered.

No excuse will be accepted for ignorance of Holy Scripture. Such ignorance is the root of all society's ills. How is it possible that so many can memorize the lyrics of satanic songs but are not able to memorize Holy Scripture? It is the greatest insult to God to be indifferent to the reading of Holy Scripture. It would be better for indifferent Christians to tie up their Bibles and bury them in dung than to continue to allow them to sit in their homes and unread and unheeded. It is the greatest disgrace to show such indifference. Those who say that the Scriptures repeat the same old things over and over are condemned by their own ignorance, for they cannot even name the Prophets! It is impossible to exhaust the meaning and richness of Scripture. 

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George