When remarrying, some jurisdictions require an ecclesiastical divorce. While the process may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, in general, it entails the submission of a written statement to a church tribunal. The church tribunal then interviews each party and either approves remarriage or disapproves it, assigning a penance. In some jurisdictions, those who fail to obtain a church divorce may be excommunicated.
Orthodox Christians may get a divorce and remarry as many as three times. The first marriage is a solemn and ecclesiastical ceremony. The second and third marriages, however, are less publicized and penitentiary. A marriage is considered to end when either one partner dies or the other becomes legally separated or divorced. An ecclesiastical divorce is a legally recognized separation, granted by the church. It is an exception granted by Christ himself.
The Catholic Church maintains the tradition of the early undivided Church. The Eastern Church, on the other hand, has introduced innovations in marriage pastoral care. This is due to the patristic understanding of the marriage bond and the indissolubility of a marriage. The Eastern Christian tradition has continued these innovations and added new practices. In a way, the two traditions are largely similar, but they follow different philosophies.
Power to lose
There are several things to know when pursuing an ecclesiastical divorce in the Orthodox Church. The first and foremost step is to decide whether the marriage was sacramental in nature. Orthodox marriages are considered sacramental if both parties were baptized in the name of the Father and the Son. Then, the priest will ask God to bless the Common Cup, which is the wine used during the wedding service. Orthodox churches will also require that the non-Orthodox party was baptized in water after the marriage.
The other thing to know is how the sacrament of marriage works. If you and your spouse had an arranged marriage, there is a high probability that it will be nullified. The church does not recognize marriages that have been annulled. However, the Orthodox church will not disallow a divorce if one of the partners has engaged in illicit activities. A priest will grant you a divorce if you’ve engaged in sexual activity with your spouse.
The Orthodox Church recognizes a person’s right to remarry after a divorce. Divorced couples may apply for an ecclesiastical divorce, which the church then issues. Once a civil divorce is granted, the couple must seek pastoral counsel to determine if remarriage is possible. In some cases, a civilly divorced person may be able to remarry if their parish priest believes they can reconcile.
Remarrying after an orthodox church divorce is legal, but there are a few caveats. Orthodox Christians who are in a second or third marriage are not permitted to participate in the Church’s sacraments unless their divorce has been formally annulled. They cannot sit on parish, diocesan, or archdiocese councils without receiving an ecclesiastical divorce.
Exclusion from Holy Communion
For many people, the word “exclusion from Holy Communion” may bring up a mixture of fear and shock. What exactly is excommunication, and how does it affect someone’s faith? In brief, excommunication means you are no longer a member of the Orthodox Church or in any formal capacity part of its life. If you are excommunicated from the Orthodox Church, you will no longer be able to receive Holy Communion.
In some cases, it is the social conditioning of the couple that led to the divorce. Other times, career requirements and job mobility forced the marriage to break down. In these situations, blame is often placed on the other spouse. If the couple had remarried, the new union requires accountability on the part of both partners, and they are not eligible for Holy Communion. In such cases, the person seeking admission to the Eucharist will need to apply to the bishop, who will determine if they can receive Holy Communion.
The Church calls its faithful to help the divorcing and the divorced. It is important that the divorcing and the divorced do not view themselves as separate from the Church, but should participate in all aspects of Church life. These include listening to the word of God, attending the Sacrifice of the Mass, persevering in prayer, and contributing to the community’s efforts to achieve justice. Finally, they should cultivate a spirit of penance, imploring God to forgive them and heal their broken marriages.
The Orthodox Church is sympathetic to divorcees, and it grieves over the tragedy of divorce. It views marriage as a sacrament, and divorce as a sinful decision, which must be resolved through repentance. However, a second marriage is permitted by the Orthodox Church after pastoral counsel and reconciliation have been exhausted. A remarriage service for a former spouse will include prayers of repentance and protection.