Marriage is one of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christians who marry must marry in the Church in order to be in sacramental communion with the Church. According to the Church canons, an Orthodox who marries outside the Church may not receive Holy Communion and may not serve as a sponsor, i.e. a Godparent at a Baptism, or as a sponsor at a Wedding. Certain marriages are prohibited by canon law, such as a marriage between first and second cousins, or between a Godparent and a Godchild.
The first marriage of a man and a woman is honored by the Church with a richly symbolic service that eloquently speaks to everyone regarding the married state. The form of the service calls upon God to unite the couple through the prayer of the priest or bishop officiating.
The church will permit up to, but not more than, three marriages for any Orthodox Christian. If both partners are entering a second or third marriage, another form of the marriage ceremony is conducted, much more subdued and penitential in character. Marriages end either through the death of one of the partners or through ecclesiastical recognition of divorce. The Church grants "ecclesiastical divorces" on the basis of the exception given by Christ to his general prohibition of the practice. The Church has frequently deplored the rise of divorce and generally sees divorce as a tragic failure. Yet, the Orthodox Church also recognizes that sometimes the spiritual well-being of Christians caught in a broken and essentially nonexistent marriage justifies a divorce, with the right of one or both of the partners to remarry. Each parish priest is required to do all he can to help couples resolve their differences. If they cannot, and they obtain a civil divorce, they may apply for an ecclesiastical divorce in some jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church. In others, the judgment is left to the parish priest when and if a civilly divorced person seeks to remarry.
Those Orthodox jurisdictions which issue ecclesiastical divorces require a thorough evaluation of the situation, and the appearance of the civilly divorced couple before a local ecclesiastical court, where another investigation is made. Only after an ecclesiastical divorce is issued by the presiding bishop can they apply for an ecclesiastical license to remarry.
Though the Church would prefer that all Orthodox Christians would marry Orthodox Christians, it does not insist on it in practice. Out of its concern for the spiritual welfare of members who wish to marry a non-Orthodox Christian, the Church will conduct a "mixed marriage." For this purpose, a "non-Orthodox Christian" is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, or one of the many Protestant Churches which believe in and baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity. This means that such mixed marriages may be performed in the Orthodox Church. However, the Orthodox Church does not perform marriages between Orthodox Christians and persons belonging to other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any sectarian and cult group, such as Christian Science, Mormonism, or the followers of Rev. Moon.
Source: The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues by Rev. Dr. Stanley S. Harakas full article at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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