Early Church Fathers, Love & Romance

Yesterday’s post was rather long, so I’ll keep this one nice and short.

After the Office Christmas Party this weekend one of my coworkers, Kevin, and his girlfriend got engaged.  This put me in mind of two of my favourite quotations from the Early Church Fathers on the subject of love and marriage.

As I think I’ve said before, one of the things which constantly surprises me is that, although these men lived so long ago, they have so much wisdom from which today’s world could benefit.

The first quotation comes from a priest of the late 4th Century called John.  His preaching was so renowned, he acquired the name “golden mouth” or in Greek “chrysostomos”.  He is most commonly referred to as St. John Chrysostom.  He is one of the few to be declared a “Doctor of the Church”, a greatly deserved title:

“An intelligent, discreet, and pious young woman is worth more than all the money in the world. Tell her 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” – St. John Chrysostom

Beautiful, isn’t it?  Superb advice – you’d never guess he was a celibate priest… 😉

St John Chrysostom

The second quotation is from someone who is not technically an “Early Church Father”. This is because in later life he left the Church and joined a group called the Montanists, robbing him of the title “Early Church Father”.  He is therefore strictly known as an “Early Ecclesiastical Writer”.  Like Madonna and Cher, he is simply known by a single name: Tertullian.  Tertullian was a lawyer from Carthage and is probably one of my favourite heretics ;-).  He wrote two books addressed to his wife, which contained the following:

“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.

“They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.

“They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.

“Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another.

“Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is….there evil is not.” – Tertullian

If you’d like to learn more about Tertullian, I would thoroughly recommend Lawrence Feingold’s lecture and Q&A session on him and St. Cyprian over at the Association for Hebrew Catholics.


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