According to Orthodox Christian understanding, everything around and within us, the whole universe, has changed in the result of the
incarnation of our Lord and especially in the light of His Glorious resurrection. Marriage and family are not an exception from the rule. Marriage as
an act and family as a continuous result and life long work have been transformed completely in many dimensions and aspects by which they were
known before this universal event.
The family is one of the highest forms of relationship in society. Christian families have always been standing out in the history of mankind. Many
have written about the outstanding relationships within and between the Christian families . Christianity has always paid a very special attention to
the maintenance of the families as a healthy environment for the development of human beings.
Family relationships like anything else have their phases of development throughout history. In this paper we will try to have a glance on some
aspects of family life within the historical context, relating it to the Christian perspective. Within the Christian understanding, almost everything
has a theological base for existence and development.
Modern non-Christian psychologists suggest that the family is the base of the society. As we look at the history of human development we see a
variety of family expressions. We find in history polygamy, polyandry, homosexuality, and so on. Some researchers explain these expressions of
human relations by the environment or by the change of moral standards . In our modern society Parent is replacing the terms Mother and Father,
but according to another perspective there is a notion to replace the term family with the term household.
It would be interesting to see what the meaning and the origins of these terms are. The word parent comes from Latin parentem (nom. parens)
"father or mother, ancestor," which is a noun use of verb parere "bring forth, give birth to, produce,". As we can see the preferred word parent
directly relates to giving birth. If we look at this from sociological perspective giving birth, bringing forth or ancestry does not make one a mother
or a father.
In the stories (Reaching out in Love) told by MOTHER Teresa we find the following heart wrenching anecdote: “I will never forget a little child
who came knocking on our door around midnight, crying at the top of his voice and saying: “I went to my father, my father didn’t want me. I went to
my mother, my mother didn’t want me. DO YOU WANT ME”. In this case it would be appropriate to use the word parent in its original meaning. Not
knowing the circumstances it is difficult to speak of those two people who gave birth to this child. One thing is clear though, that is that we can
say for sure that the child is looking for a household that these two people have failed to form. He is looking for that security,
“The sacrament of love”
In many ancient societies, marriage has been looked upon as only an earthly sexual union. “Christian marriage is not only an earthly sexual
union, but an eternal bond which will continue when our bodies will be “spiritual” and when Christ will be “all in all” .
Both Roman and Jewish Cultures looked upon marriage as an institution that serves the needs of the society and the tribe. Procreation was the
essential meaning of the marriage under the Jewish law. Even in many Christian societies that have suffered some type of genocide (Armenians
would be a great example) procreation remains one of the essential components of marriage.
From Jewish history we see that people with no children were less respected and even were considered to be under some kind of curse.
Women were looked upon as birth giving tools. This is easy to understand when we relate this fact to the promise that was given to Abraham: “I
will multiply thy seed”, or when we look at how the women were treated in that and many other ancient and even modern societies.
“In the Roman world, marriage was not conceived primarily as a means to secure posterity but as an agreement between two freely-choosing
parties. ” “This implied a substantial social progress if compared to the concepts prevailing in other ancient civilizations”, although already during
the reign of the last emperors of pre-Christian times we see a decline of family institution in the result of which the morals of the society are
In his letter to his wife a pre-Christian emperor Marcus Aurelius says this: “There was a time when one set of parents were enough to raise ten
children, now even ten parents would have hard time to raise one child. ” later in the history to modern times we meet an expression “It takes a
village to raise a child”. This expression could be understood twofold, one in the light of the great emperor’s concern and also that the family is
not an isolated entity but a segment of community--especially in the Christian community. Therefore the task of the parents ceases from solely
being either procreation or a way to supporting the society.
We do not deny that the family has an important and irreplaceable role in both these tasks, but in the Christian society these are not the only
purposes of the family life. The relationship is the foundation and the goal of the family life.
In His many stories Christ uses vital images from a family life to explain many spiritual realities. Christians are compared to children. His
relationship to God the father as an only begotten Son is a strong family image. The relationship between father and a prodigal son is a great way
of explaining between God and the fallen humanity. The heavenly Jerusalem is depicted as a Mother who collects her babies under her wings.
Family As a Sacrament
The base of the society as well of the family is the Eucharist, the living relationship with God. The understanding of God and the type of
relationship one has with God determines the quality of the family. In one of her speeches Mother Teresa suggests, “The family that prays
together stays together” .
Prayer is a way of communion with God. Transformation and growth happens within that communion. In this Eucharistic environment, a group of
individuals transform into a loving community. In one of his sermons late Metropolitan of England (Russian Orthodox) Anthony Bloom says, “Family
is the symbol of Holy Trinity, two loving individuals come together in the communion of love and become one ”.
“Home ….is a small kingdom on the ancestral throne of which parents seat, father as a king and mother as a Queen and they rule their obedient
family. In this family palace and in this kingdom there are neither Police nor a sword, neither violence, nor a stuff, but instead of all this there are
paternal love and maternal compassion. The living example of the parents is the teacher and instruction” .
So looking at the family from a Christian perspective, we can see an institution that provides citizens of the heavenly kingdom both through free
choice of coexistence and procreation. In other words, these are two concepts of the ancient world that in some sense are prototypes of Christian
communion in love within a family. Even though the mystery of marriage begins in our homes, it cannot be contained within the family walls.
“Without love there can be no happiness in the home, no peace in the world”. We cannot show our love for God whom we can not see and who
is in need of nothing except by loving and serving our neighbor whom we see and love as God’s child.