Intercultural Marriages - Fr. Pishoy Salama
Originally Recorded on July 25, 2009, Uploaded August 4, 2009St. Maurice & St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church of Toronto, Canada http://orthodoxsermons.org/sermons/intercultural-marriages
Transcription Summary:Fr. Pishoy Salama discusses the challenges and the blessings of Inter-Cultural and Intra-Cultural Marriages (and the Sacrament of Marriage in general), and identifies passages in the Bible that affirm the acceptance of Inter-Cultural Marriages but in the context of keeping the Faith and Worship of God and rejecting the worship of idols. Themes: Inter-Cultural Marriages and Relationships, Inter-Religious Marriages and Relationships, Diaspora, Working with different Cultures, Preservation of Faith, Unity under one Holy Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Faith, Lands of Immigration, Acceptance to Land of Immigration, Welcoming Church, The Youth, The Stars of the Church. Transcription: In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God Amen. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and until the age of all ages, Amen. Tonight's topic is a controversial topic. Just have to give you a heads up before I begin. It is one that has created so much discussion in recent years within the Coptic Community, in particular, and within most ethnic groups in North America. This topic is InterCultural Marriages and with Intercultural marriages included in the topic is also Inter-Religious Marriages or relationships, as well as inter-denominational marriages or relationships. [1:03] Even though it is a controversial topic, it is one that I have a personal passion and dedication about and a very strong opinion which I have to give you a heads up that not everyone would support it, but I'm hoping we can have a conversation at the end or a discussion. Maybe most of us would agree with me but even within the Clergy in the Church, there's much discussion and debate about it because concerning its validity and success rate, if it's Biblical, scriptural or not. It is such a huge topic to the point, and it's dear to me as I said, to the point that I dedicated my PhD dissertation about this particular topic, to research it, to try to get to the bottom of it. And I haven't really started my research yet so I can't give you conclusive evidence one way or the other, nevertheless I've some preparation work, I've written papers on it, I've done some background reading, but I haven't done my one on one interviews with like intercultural marriages within the Coptic Orthodox Church, this is coming up hopefully within the next few months, and then once I start writing my dissertation and have it approved etc, I'm sure there'll be another session that we could spend together, that I can tell you more comments or more insights concerning this subject. [2:57] In the past few years the one thing I've personally noticed is that the rate of intercultural marriages has been growing within the Coptic Church, and by intercultural marriages I mean that the two parties, the male and the female, are not both of the same ethnicity or culture. So they could be coming from anywhere in the whole world, because we are in the Coptic Church one of the couple would be of a Coptic descent or maybe Egyptian descent, while the other party could be from anywhere from around the world. [3:37] And intercultural marriages have been receiving mixed reviews within the Church, and I'm going to tell you why, and all honesty, maybe more so in the United States, the failure rate for intercultural marriages is much more than in Canada, because unfortunately that many of the new immigrants, they land there and they don't have their paper work [laughter], so they are looking for citizenship so they get into these convenient marriages, just to do their paper work, and once they have their green card or whatever they need too, boom, you know? each one [laughter] goes their separate ways. [4:27] So in the mind of some clergy members or even some families, there's a much higher risk for someone to marry from someone who has a different ethnicity. So Let's say the divorce rate in North America is up to 50% in the general population, they may see some of the failed marriages of people who may have inter married within someone else not specifically from the same culture and they also base this on the success rate, so if a daughter or a son comes home and they say to their parents "Mom, dad, guess what? I found my soul mate that I can live with forever." And they look at them and they are of a different ethnicity they...the mom usually gets a heart attack [laughter] and she's like shaking all over, and you know you have to call the ambulance, and the dad has this routine that he has to go through to give her some amonia to wake up or something like that...the worst thing that could happen that you could come and introduce this soul mate of yours, who is coming from a different background or ethnicity, it doesn't matter really from where, as long as they don't speak the same language, they don't eat the same food...ma7shee and molokheya, and all of these things, then they, it's not an option, they're not giving them the day of light to progress with this relationship.
[6:15] Now I have to say that intercultural is different from inter-religious, so if two people are coming from completely different religions, like Muslim/Christian, or Hindu/ChristianOrthodox there’s a much bigger gap to deal with or to reduce and so much more work that has to be done than lets say someone who is of two different denominations. But also within the Orthodox Church, marrying someone who is Catholic or Protestant also is not that smooth because of the many differences and there’s always a worry: so who’s going to pull who to their church? where are the children going to be baptized and are you going to let go of sacraments? are going to let go of your heritage and your culture and your background? And what are the kids going to look like? And they won’t feel a sense of belonging anywhere or identity. So interdenominational, inter-religious but also intercultural, some people call them inter-ethnic, marriages.
[7:36] So many questions in our mind which definitely effect us as a community and effects our future, and I was personally involved with so many conversations with leaders in the Church or even clergy members, who are very much outspoken about dismissing the possibility someone who is of a Coptic background, or lets say someone of a an Egyptian background, marrying or being in a serious relationship with someone who is not. And they always give the excuse of one of the funny things that I heard, in Arabic we have a funny term after someone takes a bath, after they come out of the bath, they say to them, “na3man.” I don’t know if some of you are familiar with this term. And one clergy member told me, if I marry someone who doesn’t speak my language, how are they going to understand when I tell them “na3man?” [Laughter] Who cares if they understand it? Really the word na3man doesn’t have any translation, because it’s something you say after you shave, after you cut your hair, after you take a shower, you say na3man, but what does it really mean? And what significance does it have to a successful marital relationship and a future and all the challenges that face a married couple? But again this is just personal opinion.
[9:15] Yet there are so many challenges, that face a couple who are coming from two different backgrounds. I want to say, even if they’re both Coptic, meaning their parents are both Egyptians, or if you want to widen that to any ethnic groups, it could be Greek, it could be Romanian, could be someone who is from the Caribbean Islands, who are from Africa, or Europe, or Asia, every culture or ethnicity has its set of rules and expectations about what that partner has to behave and be like.
[9:55] But when they don’t see that they completely fulfill this picture, they have a sense in their mind that maybe we have failed as parents to raise our children. It is, it gives them some kind of guilt feeling and sometimes parents live on feeling guilty, they survive on that, because if they don’t feel guilt for the well being of their children, they feel they’re not doing a good enough job.
[10:22] So the cultural background is definitely an aspect, the language maybe different, customs, religious customs as well could be different because most of the case say someone is marrying within the Orthodox Church, there is a good chance that their partner or someone that they like is not Orthodox, so they may have to bridge the gap between the other Christian denominations or the other religions in some cases.
[10:56] The point here that we want to discuss is basically is there a Biblical, Theological foundation for Intercultural marriages throughout the history of the Church and God dealing with His people? How did God view it? How did the Church deal with it throughout the ages? Speaking about some recent statistics and in all honesty one of the reasons why we wanted to initiate this ministry because intercultural marriages were almost persecuted within the Church. Many couples did not feel completely belonging or a part of the system, always looked at as outcasts, and very recently within the past few weeks, a clergy member in an engagement said to those who were attending, and some of those who were attending heard, and there were couples who were marrying from different cultures, he said it publicly that “it is best for our youth to marry from within their community rather than look outside” as if people who are not from our same ethnicity as ourselves are inferior in some way or the other. And of course people were embarrassed, I imagine being in this position, attending a function, hearing these words, even if they are not being addressed to me, I’m taking the comment for myself, and I’m going to be extremely turned off from church, and ask myself “is this the true Orthodox Christian message that I’m sending to my youth and young adults at this day and age and at this generation? Or what message am I sending exactly?”
[13:09] I like to be realistic about what’s happening amongst ourselves today as a church, as a church community, I’m saying this from a personal experience, that more than one half, of our youth, our young adults, and I call them the Lights, the bright lights, and the Stars of the Church, of the Beautiful Faith, these are the people who are going carry the Faith in the next generation. More than half are marrying from outside the Coptic community, that means the other partner is not Egyptian. What is going to happen to our youth if we send this message that “don’t” or feeling a sense of guilt that the choice is not complete unless they marry within the church.
[14:06] Now I have to clarify myself because I have nothing against Copts marrying one another, but also I have no problem with intercultural marriages. From a personal experience, I think the church has been enlightened and enriched by intercultural marriages, because now the church has become part of the greater culture and community that we live in, we are no longer segregated from the outside world, but as one youth, younger youth put it “I want to go to a normal church,” meaning a church where just when I go to school I see twenty, thirty, fifty different ethnic groups represented, I want to go to a church where also I see people from all across the world.
[14:55] The church unfortunately, and every church, again I’m not only speaking of the Coptic Church because I’m in contact with so many leaders from different Christian communities, and even different religions, and they all say the same thing, is that, as an immigrant community the first thing we wanted to do in the first Generation is just to huddle and enclose ourselves in a circle, in order to preserve our identity and preserve our culture and preserve our customs and preserve our language, and our food, and our habits. It was their first thing they wanted a clone, and that’s why we have little Italy, and China Town, and Portuguese town, and you know we have all of these things, and Greek town, all of these things because the people wanted to transform the culture that they lived in and mimic it here in North America.
[15:56] And this was the goal of the first generation, and they did an amazing job at it, I mean it was really good, because that transition was so difficult, from the mother land into the lands of immigration, they wanted to preserve the gifts that they had. Now realistically speaking the second generation doesn’t feel the exact same like the first generation. They grew up in North America, let’s say in Canada, in Toronto, rather than playing their sports, they played baseball, and football or rugby, like sports they may or might not have had in their home town, they grew up with kids that are not all of the same religion or cultural background. We grew up in a multicultural society, and it’s only normal that the culture, the community we grow up in we get to know one another, and God sets for us someway along this journey, a person that we are extremely comfortable with. That we know, that we can find a good life with, that we can communicate well, that we have respect. Also statistically speaking, it never works that every single person needs to find someone of their own ethnic background, it’s not something you can force on people, to say these are your limits, or these are your boundaries, you’re bound by certain ethnic group or, it’s extremely difficult and unrealistic in this day and age.
[17:41] So the role of the Church has to adapt with that, we have to evaluate, what is it, that we can adapt and what are some of the things that we have to hold on to that we cannot let go of.
[17:58] And here comes the next challenge to us, to our minds, which is also open for discussion because we all come from many different backgrounds, is that it is possible to inter marry from different ethnic groups, but it essential to maintain one faith, a unified faith. And this will be the basis for one of the papers that I wrote actually for school, and I want to share it with you, and I apologize if part of it would be technical or theoretical, but it is biblically founded as well as culturally, and the Church tradition, we look at Scripture, Tradition and culture, we evaluate it. And let’s see again what the Scripture says about this subject.
[18:52] Let’s begin by looking at the scripture foundation for marriage and how God dealt with humans since the beginning of time. In our Coptic community we put a major emphasis upon the Holy Scriptures, affirming that it is the inspired word of God, and thus the biblical narrative has always played a major role in defining the behaviour of individuals as well as the conduct of the community at large. Here a thorough examination of the Scriptures would be extremely significant in determining the approach which we will be adapting in responding to this discussion that we just started together.
[19:39] Even thought the Holy Scriptures might not be the only source which the Coptic community relies upon in determining our actions, yet it’s still considered a primary as well as a respected foundation.
[19:53] In the beginning of human creation, God made Adam and saw that he was alone and there was not found a helper comparable to him, this is Genesis 2:20, so God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and out of his ribs, God made a woman, Eve. The Lord blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, Genesis 1:28.
[20:18] Hence we witness the first reference to the union of males and females at the second chapter of the book of Genesis, therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh, Genesis 2:24.
[20:35] There’s an apparent significance to the mention of this union this early in the scripture and it’s inclusion in the creation narrative, there’s an obvious Theological significance and relationship between, the act of creating the woman out of Adam’s rib and marriage, which is seen as an everlasting union, as in Matthew 19 verse 6.
[21:00] Westerman’s statement regarding this narrative sufficiently describes its purpose, he states that Genesis 2:15-24 is unique among the creation stories of the ancient near East in the appreciation of the meaning of woman, ie. that human existence is a partnership of man and woman.
[21:24] Moving along, during Noah’s time, all the people had fallen into sin and disobeyed God’s commandment, the Lord asked Noah to build an ark where he, his family and every kind of animal from the flood, Genesis 7:1-2, it was through Noah's household that whole earth was regenerated and God re-established His law in this new creation, the salvation of Noah's family from the flood was seen as an ante-type of Baptism as in 1 Peter 3: 20-21.
[22:03] After the flood and the safe deliverance of Noah and his family, people wanted to build a city and a tower who's top would have been in heaven, Genesis 11:4. Up until this time people had spoken the same language but God caused their language to be confused so that they may not understand one another, hence all the people were scattered upon the face of the earth.
[22:28] So we believe it was starting at the tower of Babel, that these ethnicities and these cultures started to develop, and people gave them different languages, so this was the basis. So I wanted to establish that we all come from the one root, the whole family of humans descended from this blessed marriage of old, of the beginning, of Adam and Eve, and then also all of humanity, this family descended from this family of Noah and his household which was another blessed family and then it was scattered forward.
[23:14] Wenheim sees that the two stories of the Flood and Babel have been brought together into mutual relationship and shed light on each other. Towards the end of the Flood narrative the reader would conclude that the sons of Noah lived in brotherly love fulfilling God’s command to fill the earth and subdue it. While God wanted man to fill the earth, he tried to make for himself a name and he on schemed his own account. It is in Babel that God confuses human speech so that all the descendants of Noah can no longer live together and thus cultures and nations are created under God’s judgement.
[23:53] Abraham made an oath with his servant that he would not take a wife for Issac from the daughters of the Canaanites, but the servant should take her from Abraham’s country and from his family. Of course the Canaanites are the nations, Abraham's descendants were the Chosen people, or the beginning of the chosen people of the Old Testament. So he wanted to have a wife not from the Canaanites but from his family.
[24:24] The servant inquired of Abraham the possibility that the woman would refuse to travel back to him from Caanan, but Abraham confirmed his faith in God’s promise, that He would send His angel before him and fulfill His covenant to give Abraham and his descendants the land. It was through Divine guidance that the servant met with Rebecca who was a relative of Abraham and she accepted his proposal to marry Issac and to travel back with him to Caanan. So we see, yes God, in cases, some cases, He would want the person to marry from their own ethnicity, so there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re not against that. But there are other circumstances also in scritpures that give another perspective.
[25:11] It is clear in this narrative that in later narratives that God insists that the Hebrew Children would not marry Canaanites which is repeated several times in the law, Exodus 34:16, Numbers 25, and Deut 7:3, here Abraham establishes the principle for the first time and later Issac sends Jacob back to his father’s house to find a wife. At that time the nations had filled the earth and every nation would have it’s own idol, so by the concept of intermarrying with the nations you are virtually bringing the worship of idols in confusion or in mixture with the worship of God. So this is what God wanted to prevent, so keep that in mind, it wasn’t that people of other nations are bad, no it was a problem of the mixture in religions or the confusion of the worship of idols and the worship of God.
[26:08] The Old Testament witnesses a series of individuals who marry from within their ethnic group as well as from outside. Some of the prominent people even from the old testament, Joseph, who was an immigrant to Egypt and a Hebrew, was married to Asinaf, the daughter of a pagan priest in Egypt called Potiphera, Genesis 41:45. Joseph had two sons from Asenath, named Manasseh and Ephraim, who were counted among the household of Jacob, Genesis 46:27. We also explore the two marriages of Moses, the first of Zipporah, the daughter of the priest of Midian, again a pagan priest, who bore for Moses two sons, named Gershom and Eliezer, Exodus 2:16-22 and 18:4, and his second to an Ethiopian woman. So again two of the most prominent people of the Old Testament, like Joseph and like Moses, both of them did not marry from within their ethnic group.
[27:09] So again one was the daughter, for Moses, one was the daughter of Median, and one was an Ethiopian woman, and here is a big surprise, a big surprise after Moses married the Ethiopian woman. When Aaron and Miriam doubted his prophetic gift they said, “how could he be a prophet and he is marrying an Ethiopian woman,” look what happened, due to his union with a Gentile, God reprimanded them and struck Miriam with leprosy. So his brother, Moses’ brother and sister when they rebelled against Moses and said “how could he be a prophet and marry a Gentile?” Mariam was struck with leprosy as a punishment from God, for doubting his [Moses’] Prophetic ability, Numbers 12:1-13.
[28:07] As for Hosea the Prophet, God commanded him to marry a harlot named Gomer, possibly to represent the unfaithful the people Israel, and this is mentioned in Hosea 1:2. What about King David? King David had multiple children from different wives such as Amnon by Ahinoam, Chileab by Abigail, Absalom by Maacah, Adonijah by Haggith, Shephatiah by Abital, and Ithream by Eglah, in 2 Samuel 3:2-5. Solomon’s birth by Bathsheba was of special significance to David because the Lord loved him and he was to succeed David in his kingdom, 2 Samuel 12: 24. Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, brought the Sidonian baal and ashara to Samaria, 1 King 16:32-33, so we notice the problem here of intermarriage, intermarrying into nations was the problem of bringing the worship of idols, and in consequence of Jeroham’s marriage to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, a temple for the Sidonian baal was erected in Jerusalem, which is in 2 Kings 8:18 and 2 Kings 11:1.
[29:30] So again we are not, as we follow the Holy Scriptures, the picture is starting the clear up a little bit. God is not against His own creation, he's not against His people, He's not going to go and create someone and then tell them you are evil because you came from this descendant. No this not God's way, God is a loving and a caring and an accepting God to everyone, the only issue that God would have with anyone is that if they worshiped someone else except Him, and this is the issue of uniting in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
[30:15] God's commandment was clear to the Hebrew children that they should not marry from the people of the land of Gentiles because the possibility that they would turn their hearts against God's worship was always there. There was also the possibility that God's children would conform to the religious practices and would begin to offer sacrifices to the idols and join in their praise. This act of serving other gods and would arouse God's anger and possible disciplinary actions would follow as in Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3-4. It was appparent that Solomon did not heed God's commandments but instead intermarried from the nations which God forbid him. Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away from God as mentioned in 1 Kings 11:1-3.
[31:09] As a result of Solomon's disloyalty to God's statues due to the worship of idols, his kingdom was torn apart and given to his servants. Mordecai condemns on Solomon's clear disobedience to God's commandment, forbidding the Hebrews from intermarrying from the nations, referring to the the harem or the harem regulations of Deuteronomy 7:3-4, saying do "not marry them, do not give your daughter to his son, and do not take his daughter for your son, for he will turn away your son from Me and worship other gods."
[31:42] So it extremely clear now what is God's concern. So while we as human beings are concerned about ethnicity, God is not concerned about that, and we have to be in the Image of God, all of God's creation are His children, but He is concerned. When I give my son or daughter to this person, will they turn away their heart from Me, or will they bring them closer to Me. So now the picture is starting to be focused a little bit.
[32:12] After Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity Nehemiah noticed that many people had married from the Gentiles to the point where their children could not speak the language of Judah. Nehemiah reminded the people of Solomon, who's wives had turned away his heart from worshiping God and caused him to fall into idolatry, he warned them from marrying pagan women and insisted that they should not confuse their children between different religions and languages, Nehemiah 13:23-28.
[32:43] It is interesting that Nehemiah observed the pagan influence first in the speech of children, since the mothers naturally taught their children to speak the language they knew. Nehemiah was even more concerned that the idea that if mothers indeed taught their children their foreign language the chance of them passing on their idol worship practices was even greater. This would ultimately cause the Hebrew to lose their identity.
[33:13] There are some examples from the new testament, Our Lord Jesus reveals God's will for the sanctity of Marriage as a union between one man and one woman. So again many of the examples we gain from the Old Testament, God allowed the people to marry more than one person, but our Lord Jesus put together the sanctity of Marriage to say no marriage is only between one man and one woman, and this is how God created them from the beginning, one man and one woman, united them together, they are no longer two but they are one body.
[33:48] And we have examples of many righteous families in the New Testament such as Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Acila and Percilla among so many others, who had a church in their own house.
[34:06] I'm going to speak a little bit because of our time, let's move on to Tradition. Let's see how the Church history or tradition spoke about the sanctity of marriage. One of the early Church Fathers who spoke in detail on marriage is St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople who was born in Antioch in 344 AD. He was named the golden mouth ever since the 6th century because he wrote on so many spiritual and relevant topics, including marriage of course.
[34:46] He insisted that it was extremely important to have Christ's presence at the wedding which would be represented by the presence of the poor and the needy as well as the modest apparel being worn by the bride and the groom. He has witnessed several where Satan's presence was manifested in anxiety, pain, excessive agony or trouble, and there's no cheerfulness, but he saw Christ's presence through cheerfulness, pleasure, moderation, modesty, sobriety and in health.
[35:27] Origen, one of the great scholars of the early Church, reflects on the passage in Matthew 19:3-6, concerning the Pharisee's inquiry regarding divorce by stating that this union refers to Christ and the Church, the Church being as a wife. Thus Christ did not dismiss her, His former covenant or wife with the Hebrew Synagogue, but it was the Hebrew community that committed fornication and has become the adulteress, she, or the synagogue, plotted against her husband and gave Him over to death.
[36:01] It was she who left Him, rather than her Husband divorcing her and sending her away, he then refers to Isaiah's question to the Hebrews, "where is your mother's bill of divorce with which I put her away?" in Isaiah 50:1, proving it was indeed them that divorced God and not the other way around.
[36:23] Origen's discussion concerning the Old and New Covenant is representative to God's continued commitment to His creation. God is willing to be in a relationship with humanity regardless of their ethnicity on the condition that they honour Him alone and not turn towards other gods. The concept of fidelity and faithfulness are extremely significant in the way that God establishes His covenant with humanity.
[36:53] In Deuteronomy 21:10-13, concerning the marriage of unbelievers it is exclaimed that there is harmony in the Law and no apparent contradictions. Israelites were prohibited from taking foreigners as wives lest they turn their heart against God and commit sin. However a woman who had been taken into captivity by the right of war was eligible to marry an Israelite. This is a very significant passage, actually that some people base much thought concerning the refusal of ethnic marriages and things like that. But there was a way to be included in this community, it was possible, so it's not that this person was born in a different ethnic group, no there was almost an initiation procedure to come into the Church, to be again united and considered as part of this Faith.
[37:52] A woman who had been taken into captivity by the right of war was eligible to marry an Israelite but only after she had renounced her former life, in representation of her nation: shaved her head, cut her nails, changed her garments, and lamented over her father and her family for an entire month. This tradition was viewed as the procedure necessary for proper inclusion among the people of God. This remark advances our discussion to understand the justification of marriage between an Israelite and a Gentile which would occur only after she had completely forsaken her old traditions can customs. So again here's a new point we have to add, that the union within the marriage had to be important, it's not a matter of ethnicity but it was a matter of, let's say if a couple are coming from completely two different religious orders, how are they going to celebrate the feats? what is going to guard their marriage? how are they going to take communion and partake of the mysteries together?
[39:03] Therefore the partner possibly goes through a time of explanation of the faith, and if they're need of Baptism or if they're in need only of anointing, they understand exactly what the Church is, the traditions, the dogmas, and it's also a process, of growth in it, there's no problem whatsoever after they are both united in their faith to be united also in the same body of Christ in their marriage.
[39:38] So again we cannot close the door completely on intercultural marriages, but again there is an importance and a significance. Now this process mentioned here in Deuteronomy 21:10-13, is not exactly valid in the New Testament, we're not going to ask the person to weep over their family or to shave their head or all these things, but a mere education about the faith they're coming into and also which we call Catechism, and a profession through a visible sign, which is either Baptism or in certain cases we just have to anoint with the Holy Myron Oil, would be sufficient to include them in the Church.
[40:20] In the Coptic Orthodox Church Holy Matrimony is considered one of the seven Church mysteries or sacraments. A sacrament or mystery is defined as a Christian Rite, it is believed to have been Ordained by Christ, and that is held to be a means of Divine Grace or to be a sign of a spiritual reality. So it is a visible sign for an invisible grace. If you want to a very simple definition for the word Mystery or Sacrament you can use this one, It's a visible sign for an invisible grace.
[40:55] The Church holds the steadfast belief that after Matrimony, each couple is spiritually united and inseparable. The marriage ceremony includes the Priest reciting a series of prayers and blessings asking God to establish His name and this new household foundation. Couples participate in Marriage preparation courses to aid them to better understand one another, to realize their individual personality types, setting future goals and sharing in the Faith.
[41:27] The Church agrees only to marry couples of the same religion and denomination and in doing so the probability the precious Faith will be preserved is higher as its teaching is passed on to their children. Throughout the marriage ceremony, the Church exhorts the couple to love, respect and obey one another in mutual submission and to maintain the unity of the faith.
[41:54] The Coptic Orthodox matrimonial liturgy is conducted under the assumption that the bride and the groom indeed have a common faith and belong to the same denomination. The service includes a confessional of the Faith performed by reciting the Nicene Creed, confessing the Holy Trinity, Resurrection of the Dead, and the Lord's second coming, and the individuals affirm their inclusion in the Faith community in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
[42:22] During the service the bride and the groom, are anointed with the Holy Oil in order that they may receive the Holy Spirit, and the Priest places the Crown on their heads and places robes around them in representation of their new adoption into the Royal Family of God, and a formation of a new household in His name. And the Holy Scriptures are recited and prayers of God's blessing are bestowed on the new couple in the Name of the Almighty God.
[42:53] There are still more insight, but I think time is running out a bit, so I'll start to wrap up and conclude and leave some time for discussion.
[43:10] I want to say here that recent studies, I mean within the general public, the country we live in the West, have shown over and over the desire of humans to be in a relationship. To have a significant other, to have a partner. And everyone is looking at that, I see sometimes youth as early as thirteen and fourteen who come and say "we have found the one, I think I love him, I think I'm going to marry him," and they go into all these daydreams of having how many kids and a dog, and an house in the prairies, or whatever or wherever they want to live, and I say you know "snap out of it," [laughter] "take your time, there's no rush." But people want to share their lives with other people, and unfortunately in this day and age if we close the door completely to accept and to bless these relationships, then we are forcing people to do one of many things, either to possibly live in misery because this is the person that they really wanted to be with but they can't, because as you know many or most of the Coptic parents would not bless a union or relationship without going through the Church first, ask what are the conditions can they get married, so if we close the door completely and we say that intercultural marriages are not from God, then we have let down our youth and our young adults, because we saw over and over that God never had a problem with intercultural marriage, His biggest concern was if they are going to worship Him together or not.
[45:07] So it's not the ethnicity but rather the faith. So I believe the Church can insist of the unity of the Faith, because many churches now are marrying people even if they're not of the same religion. How? How is that possible? like practically speaking? It's is, you don't have union, people are teaching, you know, in different directions, completely different religions. Let's say a Muslim and a Christian are married, are you going to teach the children that Jesus is God appeared in the flesh? or is He just human with a sinful nature who was a good person who conducted some miracles and that's it?
[45:50] If you, if someone is a Hindu and they marry a Christian, are they going to teach that Jesus is God but so are a thousand others manifestations of a god? Or that He is the Only Manifestation of God in Heaven?
[46:04] For some people these details don't matter. To some people if they still want to have their wedding ceremony they're going to get married whether they like it or not. They can have it in city hall, they can have it in somewhere else where people, institutions could bless these marriages, but not with a clear conscience in the Church, we cannot do it, and that's why we still insist in the Unity of the Faith and the Denomination. But as for the ethnicity, God has shown that He loves all of Humanity regardless, He said that "those who are in the throne of heaven are coming from every race and nation and language and tongue and tribe," so if all the people have the possibility to be partakers of heaven it should be our duty to live heaven on earth, and not to abandon that. And intercultural marriages as well as their children should have a place in the Church where they are loved and respected and treated with honour, and their children also not treated differently than in other place. Again this is the struggle of most immigrant communities, especially in North America or in the West, it's not only the struggle of the Coptic Church, but again this is again a representation of what is happening in our community, and the sooner we can recognize or realize that God can bless these wonderful marriages, they can have a future together, and we have so many examples of successful intercultural marriages in the Church, by the Grace of God.
[47:41] Is there a one hundred percent success rate? no it's not, but is it different from two people who are coming from the exact same country and village, it's not, the success rate is not different from than that either. So we cannot fool ourselves, and I think it is time for us as a Church and as a community, and this is the responsibility of each and every one of us here, not just the Priests or the servants, each and every one here, to put their heat into this ministry and make sure that we are welcoming community and a loving community, and a true Orthodox Christian Community, following the Holy Scriptures, following the Traditions of the Early Church Fathers and their teachings, and not blindly following cultural aspects which may deviate us from the focus of God and the love of God.
[48:34] I want to conclude also by saying again that this is very significant and passionate subject for me, I've taken it very seriously and I pray that I'll get another chance to tell you within the next year or so to tell you the conclusion once I start interview intercultural couples, to know what kind of feelings they have, or have had, what kept them away from the Church, what made them come to Church, what made them want to be a part of the community of believers, and some of the questions I'll be asking to intercultural marriages. Well the title of my dissertation is "what is the lived experience of intercultural marriages in the Coptic Orthodox Church in Canada" some of the questions I'll be asking: how were they received by the clergy and the general congregation, were they assimilated into the community, what were some of the challenges that faced them coming into a new community as a couple, what was the influence of the Church on their marriage, how did the Coptic community respond to their presence in the Church, can they call themselves or can they call the Coptic Church as their home Church, why or why not? Because there's always a sense of belonging to the previous denomination of course or religion so are they, do they feel comfortable calling it home or not? what are the factors affecting their future presence and involvement in the Coptic Church?
So I'm hoping that these are really important questions that through it we'll gain some insights into the future, not only the future but also present of the Coptic Church, because this is not only something that we're going to face fifty years no this is a really important issue that we all have to deal with and discuss right now and right here, and not try to avoid or sweep under the carpet but really bring everything into the open, be very clear about it, sincere, and discuss it. And if we have fears, let's talk about them, and how can we improve and get better as a community. So many community and churches have lost their stars, their young adults and the youth, they've lost them for good, they'll never come back. By the Grace of God, we still have our Youth and our Young Adults, so we're not going to wait till we lose them and say "what were the reasons that we have lost them?" So I believe that now and here in cooperating ourselves with all the cultures, the ethnicities under one roof, under the presence of God, and building families that are after God's own heart, from the beginning of time, God created them and blessed them and said they're no longer two but one body, and this is our goal. The Church can only survive through the family unit, and intercultural marriages are definitely a big part of present and the future of the Church. And Glory be to God forever and ever, Amen.
[51:50] [End of Sermon]