“Faith is the foundation on which hope and love rest, just as selfishness is the foundation from which all the other passions spring – avarice and voluptuousness.” – Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol
The three temptations in marriage
We have already discussed that God created man and placed him in paradise where he functioned naturally in a healthy relationship with his wife Eve. Their goal was not the birth of children, but the achievement of perfection, the achievement of God’s perfect love, which is also the main goal of marriage. Therefore, every Sacrament of the Church, including marriage, is the forgiveness of sins and is for eternal life. Therefore, marriage is a Sacrament, a charisma that God blesses and gives in the Church. Therefore, the Church blesses him and considers the family as a place where a person goes to find his purpose. After all, the purpose of marriage is to overcome it – to overcome marriage and not to turn it into an idol, but to see it as a means that will lead you to God. Marital love is not canceled because God’s love does not cancel the love of people or the love between us. On the contrary, it makes human love more perfect, stronger, more powerful, purer and healthier. God’s love does not cancel conjugal love, nor the love of children, but makes it truly perfect.
Today we are going to talk about some more practical things about the problems one faces in marriage. The main passions that fight man and from which the rest of the passions are born, are three – the love of glory, that is, selfishness, avarice and voluptuousness. Why do we think so? From the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and their experience, but mainly from the holy life of Christ described in the Gospel, it is clearly seen that the devil fought with Christ through these three temptations – the first is selfishness, glory, conceit and pride: “if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the temple porch” he tells him (Luke 4:9); the second thought is of voluptuousness – we see it when the devil offers Christ to turn stones into bread. And the third temptation is of avarice, when the tempter offers Him the riches of the whole world. Of course, Christ rejected all three temptations and thus defeated the devil. Each person faces these same three temptations. On the other hand, we also have three charismas, three supreme virtues of the Holy Spirit, namely faith, hope and love – they go together.
Faith is the foundation on which hope and love rest, just as selfishness is the foundation from which all other passions spring – avarice and voluptuousness. Likewise, the family man who strives for perfection in Christ will have to struggle – like every striving Christian, whether he is a monk or a family man – with these three great and basic passions.
The first passion, as we have said, is selfishness. How does it manifest itself in action? What does it mean? The word itself gives us the answer – selfishness, that is, everything revolves around our ego, it is me and no one else! This is how I believe, this is how I judge, this is what I want, this is how I like it, this is how I want it to be! All these things, which naturally spring from the selfish disposition of man, do not allow the selfish man to love strongly. The reason is that he cannot overcome himself and is locked in his selfishness, in his individualism. A selfish man can neither love nor humble himself. And how will he humble himself, since he is selfish – nor can he admit his mistakes, because he always and for everything justifies himself. The egoist cannot communicate, he is not capable of it, because in order to communicate with the other person, you have to get out of yourself, you have to hear the other person. But in order to hear him and to hear exactly what he says, you must first of all be silent, have no thoughts, no prejudices, no pre-adherence to certain positions, so that you can then easily put yourself in the place of the other person.
I recently heard an American proverb that says: if you want to understand someone, walk 2-3 kilometers in their shoes and then you will understand them. That is, in order to understand the person, you have to go down to where he is. Or go up if he’s high. You have to understand the other person, see what he is like, how he grew up, age also matters, even the gender difference, man and woman are not the same thing. They have different psychologies, as well as different biology. Age also plays a role. A person is one way when he is 20 years old, in another, when he is 30, 40, 50. Even where we come from matters. Yes, this has been observed thousands of times. The place where a person grew up also plays a role – in which city, in which village, under what circumstances. To be able to communicate with the other, you must understand him, put yourself in his place, become one with him. Christ is proof. Christ could save us by being in heaven. He could have saved us by sending the gospel or by some other means. Nothing is difficult for Christ. But he didn’t. He became absolutely, perfectly Man, like us, so that after we became weak, He could save us. To be able to join Him and show us the right way to communicate. He became Man for our sake.
In order to communicate with his wife, a man must understand how a woman thinks – if he doesn’t, he will never succeed and will always think his own way about the woman. The same goes for our children and our parents. Selfishness is one of the most essential elements that break a marriage and we see it every day around us. Egoism destroys every relationship of a person: with God, with himself, with the people around him, and much more with his partner and children.
How to fight selfishness? Through humility. In the life of monks, humility is applied through obedience, and in marriage through the cutting off of the will. This is where a man goes to cut off his will. You go to do something, you sacrifice what you want, you accept what the other person tells you. You sit down to listen to him, you give him time to tell you what he wants, and even if it seems funny and insignificant to you, you should not consider it funny, but you must consider it serious, since it is serious to the other person. If you do not learn to humbly accept the arguments and facts of the other person, then you have certainly cut off any possibility of communication with him.
Yesterday, some asked the question of what happens to a child’s upbringing if one parent says one thing and the other another. So what’s going on? We have two selfish parents who will end up ruining their child because no one has the humility to say:
– And my husband has the right to an opinion about the child!
– And my wife has the right to an opinion about the child. I’m not the only one who knows how things are.
For example, the mother said something about the child. The husband should not immediately reject it, nor should he demand at all costs from his wife to agree to it. As we said, the father behaves in one way, the mother’s behavior and place in the child’s psyche is another. When you do not accept the other person and think that only you know everything and only you can speak about the upbringing of the child, then you have certainly humiliated your partner. And the other will either remain silent, or if he is a man, he will pick up the newspaper and say:
– Raise him yourself, if you want me to bathe him, call me!
And they may start shouting and arguing, etc., and chaos will occur in the house…After selfishness, we face avarice. When we hear this word, we think that it is about the love of money. But that’s not all. Why is greediness a sin? We all have money – and you have money, and I have money, and the Church has money, and monasteries have money, and Christ had money. Money wasn’t the problem. One has a lot, another has little. I wish we had a lot! Let’s do many things. And it took hundreds of thousands of pounds for this camp to get here. Some people helped, the Church gave money – money is needed to make this thing happen. Money is not a bad thing. Greed is bad. What is it? I remind you of the second virtue – hope. The first is faith, and in this connection we said that the egoist cannot believe because he believes only in himself. The egoist is actually an unbeliever. He is unrepentant, closed in on himself, selfishness does not allow him to do anything.
The avaricious, on the other hand, has no hope in God – which is the second virtue after faith. Because he hopes for his money. “I should feel my pocket full”. There are old people, over a hundred years old, who are full of money in banks and cling to it because they keep it as antiques. They are on the verge of death in the literal sense, and they keep them in the bank, thousands of pounds. The greedy cannot imagine losing them, because he has no hope in God, he hopes in money – this is the essence of sin.
And it is not only money, but also our knowledge – I hope for my knowledge, my strength, I am something, I have strength, I have a position, I have an education, I am financially well. It is a sin to hope not in God, but in your strength, your money, your fortune, your knowledge, your abilities, your beauty, and all these things, because it steals your heart from God and clings it to others things. You have the confidence that you are so handsome and so beautiful that you don’t need to look at anyone. Thousands of people want you and you reject them all because you think that the fairy tale prince should come to claim you. You have read many such tales, remember?
How does this thing get in the way of marriage? It gets in the way because everyone closes in on their own things. You see today that half of the spouses each have their own wallet and every month they sit down and do the math. I advise them to get an accountant so they can find the end of it and not fight over who spent more… One pays for the water, the other for the electricity, the other for the fuel, they do the calculations and pay that way. Few people overcome this thing – to each handle their own money and not have this fear of the other person. They go to buy a house and are afraid:
– You will write half of the house on my name!
Lest they divorce tomorrow and the other takes the house. As if that’s the issue, who gets the house if they divorce…
That mentality, my stuff, my time, going out with my friends, and I have a friend, I have my schedule – makes me cling to different things. How is this overcome in marriage? Through common ownership. Everything we have at home is ours, in common. The apostle says that we have no authority even over our own body, even I do not belong to myself. Thus it is said in a text of St. John Chrysostom: What do you constantly say about mine and yours, since my body does not belong to me, but to you, and your body does not belong to you, but to me? One belongs to the other; there is no mine and yours. You see that common possession was a special mark of the early Christian Church because the people had hope in God and did not hope in other things. In our modern days we have no hope in God, we hope in our own strength. I have to do everything, I have to run everywhere, I have to succeed in everything, I have to do it.
Get rid of these things, get rid of that suspicion that comes from the lack of hope. You begin to build your marriage, and instead of building on the hope of success, you begin to consider the probabilities of failure. However, this is already a mistake, already a failure. You set the stage, but you don’t learn that in marriage you don’t have your own things, you don’t have your own space, you don’t have your own time, you don’t belong to yourself, but to the other person. Even regarding your child. The mother says: – My son!
Next comes the voluptuousness. Of course, in monasticism it is fought through virginity and chastity, complete abstinence in carnal matters. In marriage it must also be fought – the family man cannot be voluptuous, because voluptuousness destroys the marriage. Why? Because he sees the other person as an object, not as a person. Yes, there is a blessing for a certain carnal relationship with the other person, which also has a certain purpose – the birth of children, but it is not only that. That is, this relationship has God’s blessing and the Church’s blessing through the Sacrament of Marriage. But voluptuousness cannot be the goal of marriage, because such a marriage is doomed to failure. Why? Because at some point this voluptuous urge will not be able to be satisfied to the extent that everyone has it in their imagination. Because the other person does not always have the same disposition; she will get sick, and she will be tired, she will have another disposition at some point. There are different periods in marriage – a period of pregnancy or the absence of one, a period when a person is ill or a period of some mental change when she is not in such a disposition, age itself also speaks for itself. Is not it? A person grows up and many things change. And if a person does not learn to overcome his lust, to respect the other person and to look at her as a person, as an image of God, as a vessel of God, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then he will humiliate his companion, consider her unnecessary and the marriage bond will perish.
From the experience I have as a spiritual guide, I tell you that I have seen married couples, mainly women, who literally hate their husbands because they consider them abusers, animals, because that is how they view their wives. The women must also be to blame for allowing them to look at them that way in the first place. You should have put him in his place from the start and taught him to treat you right. But when one is young, one has a superficial attitude towards things and it is not easy to act maturely. However, you cannot be the vessel and object of the other person all your life, there will come a time when you will rise up and reject the other. This is how many of the problems in the relationship between these people appear. Whereas, on the contrary, if a person is wise and looks at the other person, at his wife, at his companion as an icon of God, as a co-worker of God, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then he understands that this relationship is a blessing, and it is a joy, a haven that God has given to have some comfort in the difficult moments of the marriage journey. But if you stay in the dock and turn the sexual relationship into an idol, then you have ruined your marriage.
You meet people who make a good start and are really in love with each other in the right sense until old age, respect each other and one has never bullied the other in any point of view. Man is not only a body, but also a soul. Starting from chastity and abstinence, we move forward having a right relationship with the other person. Subsequently, God’s love sustains our lives, and then our relationships and actions acquire a holy character.
* Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol