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Doctrine and Practice of the Church

Order and Canon Law of Marriage

The sacrament of Matrimony is important for the Life of mankind. It is holy and ordained by God. Through it the husband and wife are united and given divine grace that sanctifies their union and makes it perfect and spiritual, like the unity of Christ and the Church. This order is significant not only for the life of the couple but further demands the moral support and protection of all nations and their states. Moreover the Kingdom of God and the church are involved in this great mystery. Marriage is important for at least three reasons:

  1. For the propagation of humanity as it was commanded: “ Be fruitful and multiply.”
  2. To keep man and woman from the temptation of carnal lust.
  3. For the good relationship and mutual help between husband and wife.

The intention of marriage is that one husband should have one wife and one wife should have one husband.
It is a gift for the preservation of man’s health in this world and for his salvation in the world to come. Marriage was institiuted from the very begining along with other commands which God first gave to Adam. The Conditions of the institution are as follows:

  1. As Adam was created by God alone he had no mate with him. God became concerned because of the loneliness of Adam and He said"It is not good that the man should be alone. Let us make a helper fit for him." God then took a rib from Adam and dressed up the place with flesh. The rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into woman and brought her unto the man.
    Then the man said "This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man." (Gen. 2:18-25)
    When God created the one man and the one woman, this becomes the example and pattern in which all men should live without trangressing this commandment. Adam and his wife Hewan (Eve), from the time of marriage, continued to live together without separation or divorce until the time of their death. The marriage of Adam and Hewan (Eve) established and continued the principle of the indissolubility of marriage through divorce, trial, separations, etc., until the union ends in death of the couple. It is the manifest will of God that the Principle of Marriage should be respected and kept and that the husband and the wife should keep this union throughout their lives.

  2. From the time of Adam all those who did not respect the Principle of Marriage have suffered and were destroyed. Those however, who respected and kept the Principle of Marriage and lived according to the will of God have lived harmoniously in peace, have prospered and found the perfect rest.

  3. Ethiopia Marriage
  4. In ancient times many people lived in accord with the Principle of Marriage and all benefited from keeping this virtuous principle. From Adam to Noah were ten generations and Noah stands out as a very good example of the benefit of living in agreement with the Principle of Marriage. As we know, Noah was especially blest by God in that he and his family alone were found worthy whilst the rest of the world was destroyed in the flood. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that the imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."(Gen. 6:5-7; Heb. 11: 7-8; 1 Peter 3:20) But because of Noah's and his wife's good example which was emulated by their children thay are said to be the parents of the nations.
    "And behold, I establish my covenant wit you, and with your seed after you." (Gen. 9:9)

  5. Isaac lived in keeping the Principle of Marriage and in so doing found favour with God. "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." (Gen. 24:67) For this reason he became a sign of the Christ who was to come to give his life for the salvation of the world when he was to be used as a sacrifice by his father Abraham. He found eternal rest in the keeping of these Principles.

  6. Moses, when he organized a civil and spiritual code of laws for Israel in keeping with the ancient tradition and the worship of the One God, included the Principle of Marrage, that there should be one husband and one wife. The Law provided the death penalty for all who transgressed it. "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Lev. 20:10)

  7. The Prophets who spoke from time to time confirmed the Principle of Marriage and opposed, absolutely; divorce and separation. (See Jer. 3:1; Hosea 7:4)

  8. These are our points from the Old Testament. We will continue with the Principle of Marriage in the New Testament

  9. Thanks to our Lord Eyesus Kristos, who became man in order to fulfill prophecy, while he was teaching on earth, it was His will that marriage be respected and santified. When he was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee with His Disciples and His mother Mary, the Virgin, he confirmed the Canon Law of Marriage by blessing it with his presence. When the wine was exhausted and he was beseeched by his mother to make more, he changed water into wine, thereby, accomplishing his first miracle. It is very appropriate that marriage should be so honoured by the Lord Himself. (See John. 2:1-11)

  10. In St. Mathew chapter 19 we read, "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?' And he answered and said unto them, 'Have you not read, that he made them that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female', and he said 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore, they were no more twain, but one flesh. Therefore, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.' 'And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery;
    and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery'
    (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) Thus our Lord Eyesus Kristos in these and similar divine words ordered that the Canon Law of Marriage be respected and kept; and that everyone should live having one husband or one wife both living in harmony, without divorce or separation, and thereby, making themselves worthy to partake of the Communion.

  11. The Disciples, followers of our Lord Eyesus Kristos, determined also that the Principle of Marriage should be honoured and kept. When St. Peter said that wives should be subject to their husbands, he means that wives should not look to or at any other than their husbands because wives should not have time to serve or be wife to more than one husband.
    (1 Peter 3:16)

  12. St. Paul the teacher of the Church, has written at length about the Principle of Marriage.
    "A married woman is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies she is free from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulterer if she lives with another man while her husband is alive." (Rom. 7:2-3) To assure that all Christians should not divorce and marry another he said, "Because of the temptation to immorality each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." (Cor. 7:2) He also taught how husband and wife should show respect and humility to each other after marriage by saying, "Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church" and also "You husbands love your wives even as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for Her..." even so husbands should love their wives as their body. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church.
    However, let each of you love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:21-end)
    When St. Paul said that the husband is the head of the wife and that she should be subject to him, this does not mean the she is inferior to him nor is he dictator or master over her but, that he is responsible for her and must care for her and love her. Even as Christ who is head of the Church is not a dictator or slave master over the Church but He Himself refers to us as His children and the Church as His bride. He also commanded those who were married not to become divorced as he states "To the married, I give charge, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband, (But if she does, Let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife (1 Cor. 7:10-11). With respect to the Principle of Marriage and Law St. Paul points out, "Let Marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled" (Heb. 13:4) From these we are able to to see the emphasis St. Paul placed upon adhering to the Principle of Marriage, honouring and respecting it, and to the keeping away from divorce.

    Christ also said that whoever divorces his wife and marries another is called an adulterer. Adultery is also mentioned among the condemned evils of Revelation 21:8, which says, "But for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" as also of the five that are outcast from the Kingdom as we read, "Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev. 22:15)
    The Bible proves that fornication or adultery is contrary to the will of God and that He has always expressed indignation towards it. [1] In Old Testament the earth was destroyed with flood. [2] Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. [3] The people of Cannan were destroyed and Israel given their land. (Gen. 6:19-24; Lev. 18:3).
    Father Malakot To show the significance of marriage and to prove that it is where all the scriptures show Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as the Bride, read (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:32).

  13. Since the begining of creation, from the time of Adam and Eve (Hewan) and the time of the Fathers and Saints, the Principles of Marriage has been greatly honoured and it has been recorded and respected in both Old and New Testament. It is not something that is new, but an on-going principle. All Christians should respect the Principle of Marriage and keep its regulations and must live in faith of our Lord Eyesus Kristos. As faith without works is nothing, the Christian should accomplish the commandments which are written in the Bible and make himself worthy to be a communicant and to participate in the very life of the Church. The Holy Communion is only given to those who are legally married and living in record with the Principle of Marriage, or those who are unwed such as Monks, Nuns and single people who live in purity free of fornication.
    Anyone who falls into sin can, after having done penance, receive the Communion also.
    We have agreed upon and have written the law of the Principle of Marriage for the Christian People. This law will be honoured and kept by all Christian people, but anyone who trangress this regulation will be counciled through penance, and if he does not repent or if solution is impossible by this means, the situation will be revised and judged in accordance with the Canon Law of the Church.

New Testament

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable and unmerciful:
who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
(The Holy Bible: Romans:1 22-31)

Arrangement of Marriage

[1] According to the established Principle of the Church, the male must be at least 18 years of age and the female 15 years of age.* (* This principle is unlike the regulation of the Western World, which demands the age of the couple to be above 18 years).
After the two voluntarily agree, the consent of the parents of each party is also required. When approved by both parents, then the engagement of the two can be arranged by church officials. Such an engagement cannot be valid if the male is under 18 years and the female under 15 years.

Agreement and Engagement

[2] The two parties, male and female, the parents of each, as mentioned in [1] above, and the spiritual father of each party will go to the Church officials and inform them of their agreement. The Church official must inquire of the spiritual father of each party wether the parents and their children are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The spiritual father together with the parents and children will witness and sign a testimony to verify their devotion to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In addition, he will inquire of the male and female of their willingness to marry and the parents of their approval. The couple will then go toa Bishop or Archimandrite. However, if neither official is available they will go to a Priest.
The couple will lay their hands together on the Gospel and Cross, while making the following Solemn Agreement:
"In life, in time of difficulty, in sickness, and other similar circumstances we will help, comfort, and encourage each other, until death do us part. For this God is our Witness".
Then the clergy man shall read from the Gospel concerning marriage and explain to them its importance, after which they will sign in the special book designated for marriage. Finally, the clergyman will say a special prayer and benediction after which they shall recieve the certificate of engagement which states they are eligible for marriage.

The Performance of Marriage

[3] Eight days before the performance of the marriage ceremony, in order that that the Church is notified, the couple must go to the Church where the marriage is to be performed, and submit the certificate to the head of the Church. On the eve the performance, the bridegroom and the bride together with their parents, their spiritual fathers, and their respective relatives will go to Church very early on Sunday morning.**
(** In recent years marriage is permitted to be performed on Saturday)
According to the Church rite the clergy will perform the Sacrement of Holy Matrimony and in the morning they celebrate the divine Liturgy, at which time the couple will recieve Holy Communion. The Matrimonal Service is conducted as follows:

  1. (a) The Bride and Bridegroom and his party enter the Church from the northern direction, then the Bride accompanied by her party enter from the Southern direction.
  2. (b) The Bride and Bridegroom sit in the southwest side of the Church, which has been specially prepared for them.
  3. (c) The wife and husband are then each robed with a bright Church vestment.
  4. (d) A ring is placed on the finger of each.
  5. (e) Together they hold one Cross.
  6. (f) They are crowned and are annointed with Holy Oil.

The ceremony of Matrimony is performed and the couple is wrapped together with one cloth, which signifies their unity, and the married couple then recieves communion. In this way the Matrimonal service is Administered. These symbols have a great mystery:

  1. the wrap signifies the oneship
  2. the ring Faith or Religion
  3. The Cross signifies the temptation they will encounter in life, because of their commitment to their faith
  4. the crown symbolizes the honour they will inherit in heaven, and the Holy Oil signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For those christians who follow such Matrimonal Principles, recieving Holy Communion and abiding in these principles, as is written in Psalm 112:2, "...the generation of the upright shall be blessed...", their children are blessed and also wealth and riches shall be in their house, and their honour shall abound. Cannon Law of Marriage

If there may be a person who, having been married under the Principle of the Church desires divorce or separation, the problem is investigated to determine which individual is at fault. The matter will be evaluated according to the Church Canon Law. Whoever is guilty will be corrected through penance, and the marriage will once again be restored. However, if the guilty party will not repent he or she will recieve judgement, as pronounced in the Canon Law of the Church.

Concerning those who have been married outside the Church

In the case of those who have been married outside of the Church their spiritual fathers should teach and convince them to obey the Principles Of Marriage set forth by the Church and to recieve Communion. Those who refuse repentance and advice of the Priest shall be denounced publicly by the Priest.

Conditions under which second marriage is performed

After being married according to the Canon Law of the Church, if the husband or wife should die, the survivor, if he or she cannot be a monk or nun, he or she may be permitted to re-marry after obtaining permission from the official of the Church. The ceremony of the marriage is performed as follows:
(in the case of a widower):

  1. (a) He can find a previously unmarried woman of good reputation or widow of good report
  2. (b) The couple should come to an agreement, go with their spiritual fathers to the Church official and obtain the permission. (As mentioned in section two)
  3. (c) After saying the Solemn Agreement they then sign the book of engagement and recieve the certificate of engagement.
  4. (d) The couple then goes to the Church where the Priest must pray for them the "Absolution of the Son" as well as the "Prayer of Penitence" they recieve communion and become man and wife.

Nevertheless, if one of them is a young man or woman who has never been married before, the sacrament of Matrimony is performed especially for that person in the morning. Furthermore, a person may marry for an unlimited number of times if confronted with death of his or her companion, or similar circumstances.

The Prohibition of Marriage among Relatives

Marriage is forbidden among relatives for all christians. It is forbidden up to seven (7) generations on both sides for relatives to marry, but beyond that it is permitted to marry. For the case of someone who breaks the regualtion and trangresses this command and marries, such marriage shall be denounced according to the Canon LAw of the Church.

The Prohibition of Marriage with Godparents

The relationship between god parents and god children is essential, and is established or granted by the Holy Spirit. It is prohibited for god parents to have marriage relationship with their god children until after the seventh generation.

The Prohibition of Marriage with Persons related Through Marriage

It is forbidden for all persons to have marriage relationships with persons related by marriage, under the following circumstances:

  1. (a) As the descendant, a son cannot marry his father's nor grandfather's not his great-grandfather's wife nor her child, nor her sister, nor her mother.
  2. (b) As the progenitor, a father cannot marry his son's nor his grandson's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sisters, nor her mother, nor her grandmother.
  3. (c) A brother cannot marry his brother's wife, not her daughter, nor her sister, not her mother.
  4. (d) An uncle cannot marry his nephew's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sisters, nor her mother.
    (This also applies to an aunt)
  5. A nephew cannot marry his uncle's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sister nor her mother.
    (This also applies to a niece)
  6. A husband cannot marry his wife's sister, nor her mother, nor her grandmother, nor her great-grandmother.
    (This Principle also applies to the wife)
    Lev. 20:10-21.
Abba Yesehaq; Teacher