Originally posted by Satori:
I hope one of the Eastern Catholics will come on here to correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Eastern Church emphasize Christian marriage primarily as a sign of Christ's love for the Church? I have read that the primary purpose of natural marriage is children, but that for Christians the primary purpose is the sacramental one, and that children, rather than being the main reason for the bond, are emphasized as the natural fruit and crowning glory of the bond. This is why marriages between older people are still good.
This is indeed the teaching of the Eastern Church following Saint John Chrysostom in his Sermon on marriage. To quote Saint John directly:
"Marriage was not instituted for wantonness or fornication, but for chastity. Listen to what Paul says, 'Because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.' These are the two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaste and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence.
When desire began, then marriage also began. It sets a limit to desire by teaching us to keep to one wife. Marriage does not always lead to childbearing, although there is the word of God which says, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.' We have as witnesses all those who are married but childless. So the purpose of chastity takes precedence, especially now, when the whole world is filled with our kind. At the beginning, the procreation of children was desirable, so that each person might leave a memorial of his life. Since there was not yet any hope of resurrection, but death held sway, and those who died thought they would perish after this life, God gave the comfort of children, so as to leave living images of the departed and to preserve our species. For those who were about to die and for their relatives the brightest consolation was their offspring. To understand this was the chief reason for desiring children, listen to the complaint of Job's wife: 'Your memory has perished from the earth; your sons and your daughters.' Likewise Saul says to David, 'Swear to me that you will not destroy my seed and my name along with me.' But now that the resurrection is at our gates, and we do not speak of death, but advance toward another life better than the present, the desire for posterity is superfluous. If you desire children, you can get much better children now, a nobler childbirth and better help in your old age, if you give birth by spiritual labor." (Sermon on Marriage).
This line of thought will be unfamiliar to many from the Western tradition, so I think it appropriate to explain that in Eastern Christian thinking, both Catholic and Orthodox, chastity as the primary reason for marriage means more than just avoiding fornication, but includes especially the call to reflect by husbandly love and wifely reverence the union of Christ and the Church. Faithfulness in this vocation is true chastity.
This may be found in Saint John Chrysostom: On Marriage and Family Life
, published by Saint Vladimir Seminary Press.
I agree with Erin that if you read the quotes carefully they go far beyond what the Universal Church has authentically taught on this matter. If what these Fathers and Doctors have stated were to be carried out consistently, absurdities would result and married life would be rather joyless, I think, at least for many of us.