Divorce in the Orthodox Church
There are seven Sacraments, also referred to as Holy Mysteries, in the Greek Orthodox Church. Holy Matrimony is an optional sacrament that enables a man and a woman to commit their lives to God. When they have children, their lives are committed to God, as well.
In order to get married in the church, a series of requirements need to be met. If the couple wants to remain “in good standing” in the church, they need to go through the process of getting married in the church. However, what happens when the couple no longer gets along and wishes to separate? Here’s more information that will help you through this process:
Visit With Your Priest
As soon as your marriage is in distress, you should start by consulting with your priest or spiritual father. This is important for several reasons. First of all, when a marriage is in trouble it can be a trying, stressful time. Your priest can give you advice from a spiritual standpoint. Since every case is different, it’s hard to know which direction to take. Also, not every marriage that is in distress will result in divorce. Your priest can help you through the whole process and also offer prayers and support. If the marriage isn’t salvageable, he can help by giving you counsel as you separate from your spouse.
One reason why you may want to meet with your rest is because divorce isn’t the only answer for a marriage that is in distress. In many cases, it still is possible to reconcile. There are so many things that can go wrong in a marriage that the path to making the marriage healthy again is different for each couple. However, it is important to remember that in the eyes of the Orthodox Church, marriage is a Holy Sacrament where you and your spouse have committed your lives to God. Focus on honoring this commitment by attending church, reading scripture, and praying. If you focus on your own spiritual health, it will help improve the quality of your life, even if it doesn’t actually fix your marriage.
Getting an Ecclesiastic Divorce
The Orthodox Church does allow for divorce, and your priest can guide you through the process if this is the avenue you want to take. This will enable the divorcing couple to remain in good standing with the church. After your priest helps you make certain this is the right decision, he will help you through the process.
In order for it to be official, you not only need to file for divorce with your state or county, you also have to do so with the church. Most priests will tell you to wait until the state divorce is finalized before starting the process. Here is a summary of the process that needs to be taken in order to successfully get a divorce in the Orthodox Church:
- Meet With Your Priest. Once your marriage starts to falter, you should meet with your priest. He can advise you on what to do to either repair your marriage or take the steps needed to officially getting a divorce.
- Proceed With the State Divorce. If you ultimately do decide to divorce, the next step is to take care of divorcing with your state. To do this, you should consult with a lawyer. Once the state divorce is finalized, you may then file for divorce in the church.
- Begin the Process of Ecclesiastic Divorce. Once your divorce is finalized, you will meet with your priest again to discuss your reasons for the divorce. This is also an opportunity for him to ask any questions that the church may need to know about your situation.
- Appear at Ecclesiastic (Spiritual) Court. After the priest fills out the necessary paperwork, the church will send you a date for your Ecclesiastic or Spiritual Court appearance. Be sure to follow the instructions outlined in the letter you will be receiving. For this part, you will sit in front of a panel of priests and possibly the bishop so that they can understand your situation. From there, they make a recommendation that your divorce be granted. If it is, you will should receive confirmation in the mail.
Even though Holy Matrimony is a sacrament, that doesn’t mean that each marriage should stay intact at all costs. This is such a big decision that it’s best to focus on building your relationship with God, praying, and ultimately making the best decision according to your situation. You should consult with your priest every step of the way. He will help you through the process, answer any questions you may have, and help ensure that your spiritual health remains intact while going through this time in your life.
The Religion section on GreekBoston.com was written by Greeks to help people understand some of the traditions of the Orthodox Christian religion, which is a religion practiced by people in countries such as Greece, Russia, United States, and other nations throughout the world. This article is not a substitute for information found in the Holy Bible or by our church fathers, priests, and other clergy members.
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