My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SUPPORTING THE FAMILY
"To the best of their ability, a husband and wife should nurture the virtue of love, so that the two of them will always remain united; and so that there will be with them always a Third Person -- our sweetest Lord Jesus Christ."
FOR A HARMONIOUS FAMILY
by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
"The good start of family life"
--Geronda [Elder], a young man who has chosen married life asked me how he should make a good start in it.
--First of all, he must take care to find a good wife who will comfort him internally, for every person is comforted differently and by a different person. He should not expect that she be wealthy and beautiful, but that she be above all simple and humble. He should pay careful attention to her inner beauty rather than her external beauty. When the woman is a positive and wholesome person endowed with the manly virtues of courage and strength, without too much feminine character, this will be helpful to their compatibility, as the man will come easily to an understanding with her without many headaches. If she also has the fear of God, if she has humility, then they can both go hand in hand to cross over the bad current in the world.
If a young man is thinking seriously about a young lady becoming his wife, I think it is better if he first makes this known to her parents through some related person, and then meet them and their daughter. Afterwards, if they give a promise and become engaged--and it's good if the duration of the engagement is not overly extended--he should try during the period of engagement to see his fiancée as a sister and respect her. If they both struggle, with philotimo, to preserve their virginity, then at the Sacrament of Marriage, when they are crowned by the priest, they will receive an abundance of the Grace of God. For as Saint John Chrysostom says, "The crowns are symbols of victory over bodily pleasure". [Note: "Crowns are placed on the heads (of the spouses) as a symbol of victory, for by prevailing and not being won over by sensual pleasure, they thus approach their marriage bed." St. John Chrysostom]
Following this, they should cultivate, as far as possible, the virtue of love, so the two of them will always remain united in such a way that the Third Person--our sweetest Lord Jesus Christ--will also remain with them. In the beginning, naturally, as they get to know each other well and become settled in their family life, they may encounter some difficulties. This happens with every beginning. Just the other day, I saw a tiny, little bird. It had just flown out of the nest to find its own food, and was just a few inches off the ground. It didn't know how to easily catch the insects off the ground. It didn't know how to easily catch the insects, and it struggled for quite some time. As I was watching it, I thought to myself how difficult every start is. The young graduate student, after receiving his degree and getting a job, will face some difficulties in the beginning. The novice monk also faces hardships during his early days at the monastery. The young man, when he marries, will also encounter some difficulties.
--Geronda[Elder], does it matter if the wife is older than the husband?
--There is rule of the Church which says that if a young woman is two of three or even five years old than the man that they ought not to marry.
The harmony of God is hidden within the difference in a character
One day a person came to my Kalyvi (hut) and told me that he is very upset because he does not agree with his wife. But I noticed that there was nothing serious between them. He had a "bulge", and his wife had another "bulge"; and so they couldn't get near each other. They just needed a little planning to smooth out their differences. Take, for example, two rough, unplanned wooden boards. One has some knot at one point, the other another at some other point. It you try to connect them, they will have some empty space between them. But if you plane one down here and the other a little there, but with the same plane, they come together at once!" [Note: The Geronda (Elder) of course is referring to the work done by the Spiritual Father which is effective when the husband and the wife have the same Spiritual Father, so that the spiritual planning is done 'with the same plane.']
Some men tell me, "If I don't agree with my wife; we are complete opposites! How does God allow for such strange matches? Couldn't He provide so that couples would be compatible and live spiritually?" But I tell them, "Don't you understand that in this very difference of character lies hidden the harmony of God? It is the different characters which create harmony. God forbid that you should be the same in character! Think of what would happen if, for example, both of you had a short fuse; you would tear the house down! Or, if both of you were mild in character, you would fall asleep standing up! If you were both stingy, you might have been suited to each other, but you would both go to hell. And, if again, you were both too open-handed, would you be able to maintain your household? You would have destroyed your home, and your children would be running in the streets. If you were both contrary and disagreeable characters, would there ever be anything similar between you? You would kill each other in one day! So, do you see what happens? God provides for one good character to marry another who may be disagreeable in order to be helped; for it may have been that he or she had a disposition to be good but never had the help to become so from an early age."
The little insignificant differences in the characters of spouses help to create a harmonious family, because one completes the other. A car needs the patrol pedal to move, but it also needs the brakes to stop. If the car only had brakes, it would not budge; and if it only had gas, it wouldn't stop. Do you want to know what I told a couple once? "You don't match because you are a match!" They were both very sensitive. If something happens at home, they lose their composure and both start "Oh my God, what's going to happen of us!" says one; "Oh my God, what's going to happen to us! says the other. In other words, one just makes the other more hopeless. One can't help the other a little by saying, "Wait a minute, this is not as serious as you make it out to be, after all." I have seen this in many married couples.
Even when it comes to raising their children, parents can be more helpful to them when they're different in character. One holds on to the brakes, while the other says, "Let's give the children a little freedom." If they both pressure and retrain the children too much, they will lose them. And if both leave them completely unrestricted, again they will lose them. Through a balance, the children are kept on an even keel.
What I'm saying is that everything is needed. One shouldn't go to extremes, but each husband or wife can help the other in his own way. For example, if you eat something very sweet, you also want something that's a little salty. Let's say that you eat a lot of grapes, but then you also want a bite of cheese, to cut back on the sweetness. Or, if the green vegetables are too bitter, they cannot be eaten, but with a little olive oil, they become delicious. But a little bitterness, as with a little sourness, is very good for you. But, if someone who's sour says, "All of you ought to be sour like me" and another who's bitter says, "All of you ought to be bitter like me," then we just can't get alone. (Source: Family Life by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels IV)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God