The Holy Mystery of Marriage
The Orthodox and Eastern Churches believe that Marriage is a Sacrament instituted by Christ, by which the Grace of the Holy Spirit sanctifies the union of a man and woman.
The divine institution of this sacred bond can be found in the New Testament. In St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians chapter 5: 22-23, he speaks about the relationship of a husband and wife, comparing it unto that of Christ and His bride the Church. St. Paul says: "this is a great sacrament." Other biblical citations of the divine foundation of Marriage can be found in both the Old and New Testaments: Genesis 1 and 2; Matthew 19; John 1, 14; Ephesians 5, 23; Colossians 3, 18 and in I Timothy 2, 15, etc.
The Fathers of the Church all agree that Marriage is a holy Mystery/Sacrament founded and sanctified by Christ. The Sacrament is constituted through prayers, the appropriate signs and through the blessings of a validly ordained priest according to the norms of law of his respective particular Church law.
The outward signs of the Holy Mystery in the Orthodox/Eastern Churches:
1. The profession and blessing before the Church
2. Exchange of rings
3. Use of crowns
4. Ritual of prayers and blessings performed by the clergyman.
Those desiring to be married must be Christians and baptized in the Trinitarian formula. The Orthodox Church forbids marriage with a non-Christian. In the case of two Christians, one Orthodox and the other belonging to a separate Christian denomination, it is required that the Orthodox member be married by an Orthodox priest. For example, if there is an Orthodox bride and a Roman Catholic groom, an Orthodox priest is required to perform the marriage, otherwise it will not be recognized as being valid by the Orthodox Church.
It is also required that the two desiring to be married are of the proper age, physically capable of assuming the responsibility of marriage, there must not exist any reason by blood that would prohibit the marriage, and the "best man" must be of the Orthodox faith and if married, the best man must have been married in the Orthodox Church.
The Goals of the Holy Mystery of Marriage:
1. Preservation and Procreation of the human race, see Genesis 1, 27-28.
2. Mutual helpfulness in fostering the unitive aspect of the relationship, see Gen. 2: 18,22.
3. Chastity. Helping one another in their marital bond and state in life. Restraint of the passions, and helping one another in living out the sacrificial nature of their commitment to one another. See I Corinthians 7, 1-2 and 8-9.
4. Raising children in the Christian Faith and nurturing their spiritual lives through the Church, see Ephesians 6, 48.