This, then, is what it means to marry in Christ: spiritual marriage is like spiritual birth, which is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh. Consider the birth of Isaac; Scripture says, “It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” Her marriage was not one of fleshly passion, but wholly spiritual, just as the soul is joined to God in an ineffable union which He alone knows: “He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.”
See how he does not despise physical unity, however, but uses spiritual unity to illustrate it! How foolish are those who belittle marriage! If marriage were something to be condemned, Paul would never call Christ a bridegroom and the Church a bride, and then say this is an illustration of a man leaving his father and his mother, and again refer to Christ and the Church.
The Psalmist prophesies of the Church when he says, “Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty,” and the Gospel says concerning Christ: “I came from the Father and have come into the world.” . . .
Tell [your wife] that you love her more than your own life, because this present life is nothing, and that your only hope is that the two of you pass through this life in such a way that in the world to come you will be united in perfect love.
Say to her, “Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one both with Christ and each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.”
Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently.
Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers.
If you are overtaken by poverty, remember Peter and Paul, who were more honored than kings or rich men, though they spent their lives in hunger and thirst. Remind one another that nothing in life is to be feared, except offending God.
If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks. . . .
Finally, never call her by her name alone, but with terms of endearment, honor, and love. If you honor her, she won’t need honor from others; she won’t desire praise from others if she enjoys the praise that comes from you.
Prefer her before all others, both for her beauty and her discernment, and praise her. She will in this way be persuaded to listen to none that are outside, but to disregard all the world except for you.
Teach her to fear God, and all other good things will flow from this one lesson as from a fountain and your house will be filled with ten thousand blessings. If we seek the things that are perfect, the secondary things will follow. The Lord says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
What sort of person do you think the children of such parents will be? What kind of person are all the others who associate with them? Will they not eventually be the recipients of countless blessings as well? For generally the children acquire the character of their parents, are formed in the mold of their parents’ temperament, love the same things their parents love, talk in the same fashion, and work for the same ends.
If we order our lives in this way and diligently study the Scriptures, we will find lessons to guide us in everything we need! In this way we will be able to please God, and to pass through the course of this life in virtue and to gain those blessings which He has promised to those who love Him, of which, God willing, may we be counted worthy through the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, honor, and power to the Father, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
St John Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians 5:22-33 (“On Marriage and Family Life,” pp. 54-64)