My 17yodd is competing in an oratorical at our church conference this week. Each year at conference time, our archdiocese gives all the kids a topic on which to base their projects. A few years ago, my 17yo discovered that she loves to deliver speeches so that is where she has chosen to compete these last few years. This year's topic is the following:
"Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female? For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-5)
I thought I would share dd's speech here. Please keep in mind as you read it, we (my family) are Orthodox Christians so a couple of the Christian practices that she mentions in her speech you may not understand or agree with but I believe there is enough general content here that can be shared by all Christian Faiths. Oh, and the story she tells is really a true story of an older couple we knew. For privacy reasons, I've changed their names in the speech.
Feel free to voice your opinion of the speech. I'd like to know what you think of it. Dd is learning challenged with her writing so try to overlook some of her grammatical errors as she only writes her speeches for them to be delivered, not read. As she wrote her speeches in the previous years, I've helped her a bit with editing. This year I purposely stood back to allow her to work solely with her speech coach. Just the other day was the first time I heard dd practice delivering her speech.
I would like to share an INCREDIBLE story with you today. 52 years ago, Sophia moved from Lebanon to the United States where she met her future husband Nazih, for the very first time. Sophia did not speak a word of English. Nazih spoke very little Arabic, but despite these odds, they managed to communicate and raise a loving family committed to our Orthodox Faith. Many years later, Sophia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Nazih would not hear of placing her in an assisted living facility, rather, he wanted to care for her himself in their family home. They had been together throughout their married lives and he saw no reason that illness should separate them now. After having suffered a fall, Nazih’s own ill health soon prevented him from caring for her without assistance. It was only then that he allowed Sophia to be moved into an assisted living facility. In May of this year, Nazih was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. The doctors informed his family that medically there was nothing more that could be done, and his sons decided to bring their dad home.
Nazih passed away peacefully, at home, 3 hours later. 15 minutes later, across town, Sophia suddenly awoke from her coma, calling out for her family. Her sons immediately brought her home, just as they had their father and, 7 hours after Nazih, Sophia also passed away peacefully. At the funeral, the sight of two caskets in the church, although at first startling, was somehow comforting to those in attendance because somehow it just seemed right. They lay before the altar together, just as they had stood before the altar to be united on their wedding day. A further testament to their lives together was the fact that they had passed away during the most sacred time to die, Pascal season, while the Church was celebrating Christ’s triumph over death. For their entire married life, Nazih and Sophia lived sacrificially, not only for each other, and their children, but for their Faith. 52 years of unity, they passed into the Kingdom, now together for eternity.
As it is written in Matthew 19:4-5, “/Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female? For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”/ Matthew 19:4-5. The story of Nazih and Sophia is heartwarming, INCREDIBLE, but would it be the lead story on Access Hollywood? No. Why? Because a successful marriage is, after all, too boring for the entertainment business and the pop icons they worship.
In the Orthodox Church, we have icons of the saints to look to for prayer, comfort, and GUIDANCE as to how we should live a Christian life. THEY are the true representatives of family, sacrifice, and marriage. Today, young people are obsessed with entertainment programs such as Access Hollywood and Inside Edition. They follow these “icons” such as Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, Britney, and now Ellen. Every minute detail of their life is covered by the media. What they are wearing, who’s living together, what teen idol is pregnant. Society is now our moral compass, condoning, gay marriage, and glamorizing celebrity weddings and divorces. They nearly begged for photos of Tom and Katie’s daughter, offering 3 million, as if rewarding the couple’s act of beginning a family outside of marriage. Brad and Angelina are known to have done many charitable projects. Because of this, we put them on a pedestal as people of high morals, despite the fact that they live together. Does charity offset behavior?
Is the Church’s view on marriage reaching our young people? Subtle as it may seem, marriage is under attack. Our Faith needs to be the voice in the back of their heads. The Church’s teachings must be THEIR Inside Edition, the TRUE program in their mind that helps them tell the difference between right and wrong.
There are three things the Church teaches regarding marriage. It is a sacrament, it is sanctified by Christ, and it is between a man and a woman. Not the man who was a woman, who is now a man married to a woman, and having a baby. St. Ambrose wrote, ‘/We do not deny that marriage has been sanctified by Christ since the Divine Word says, “the two shall become one flesh and one spirit”.’/ Marriage, as a sacrament, is one of God’s gifts of love. St. Paul wrote, ‘/For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church./’ Ephesians 5:29.
Christ, in union with the Church, loves and cares for us just as we, in return, love and reverence Christ. He came to serve us and sacrificed himself on the cross. In a marriage, the husband and wife must each be willing to be a steward and sacrifice themselves for each other. Each has a specific role. St. Paul wrote, ‘/Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands’/. ‘/Husbands, love your wives’./ Ephesians 5:22-29. Ultimately, husbands and wives must LOVE and SUBMIT to one another to become unified as one flesh. Their love must mimic the sacrificial love Christ had for the Church.
Attaining unity of this level requires three key elements: physical, emotional, and spiritual connections. The physical connection within a marriage expresses love of the flesh the way GOD intended it to be, between a man and a woman. The emotional connection entails submission and sacrifice to each other, and following Christ’s teachings. The spiritual connection is only attained through the sacrament of marriage, not just living together without the commitment.
Only the sacrament of marriage, blessed by God, can unite the spirits of a man and a woman, JUST like the connection Nazih and Sophia shared. These are the elements of a good marriage. If we, as the Church, don't address what marriage is NOT, then the Brad and Angelinas of this world will be our role models. Nazih and Sophia had a TRUE marriage, they lived in unity as followers of Christ, and they served each other and raised a dedicated, Christian family. 52 years ago, Nazih and Sophia united as one flesh. 52 years later, they left this earth, husband and wife, hand in hand.