The Canon Law of Marriage

The Canon Law of Marriage The Canon Law of Marriage The Canon Law of Marriage

As faith without works is nothing, the Christian should accomplish the commandments which are written in the Bible and make himself worthy to be a communicant and to participate in the very life of the Church. The Holy Communion is only given to those who are legally married and living in record with the Principle of Marriage, or those who are unwed such as Monks, Nuns and single people who live in purity free of fornication. Anyone who falls into sin can, after having done penance, receive the Communion also.

We have agreed upon and have written the law of the Principle of Marriage for the Christian People. This law will be honoured and kept by all Christian people, but anyone who trangress this regulation will be counciled through penance, and if he does not repent or if solution is impossible by this means, the situation will be revised and judged in accordance with the Canon Law of the Church.

Arrangement of Marriage

According to the established Principle of the Church, the male must be at least 18 years of age and the female 15 years of age.* (* This principle is unlike the regulation of the Western World, which demands the age of the couple to be above 18 years). After the two voluntarily agree, the consent of the parents of each party is also required. When approved by both parents, then the engagement of the two can be arranged by church officials. Such an engagement cannot be valid if the male is under 18 years and the female under 15 years.

Agreement and Engagement

The two parties, male and female, the parents of each, as mentioned in [1] above, and the spiritual father of each party will go to the Church officials and inform them of their agreement. The Church official must inquire of the spiritual father of each party wether the parents and their children are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The spiritual father together with the parents and children will witness and sign a testimony to verify their devotion to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In addition, he will inquire of the male and female of their willingness to marry and the parents of their approval. The couple will then go to a Bishop or Archimandrite. However, if neither official is available they will go to a Priest.

The couple will lay their hands together on the Gospel and Cross, while making the following Solemn Agreement:
"In life, in time of difficulty, in sickness, and other similar circumstances we will help, comfort, and encourage each other, until death do us part. For this God is our Witness".

Then the clergy man shall read from the Gospel concerning marriage and explain to them its importance, after which they will sign in the special book designated for marriage. Finally, the clergyman will say a special prayer and benediction after which they shall recieve the certificate of engagement which states they are eligible for marriage.

The Performance of Marriage

Eight days before the performance of the marriage ceremony, in order that that the Church is notified, the couple must go to the Church where the marriage is to be performed, and submit the certificate to the head of the Church. On the eve the performance, the bridegroom and the bride together with their parents, their spiritual fathers, and their respective relatives will go to Church very early on Sunday morning.**
(** In recent years marriage is permitted to be performed on Saturday)
According to the Church rite the clergy will perform the Sacrement of Holy Matrimony and in the morning they celebrate the divine Liturgy, at which time the couple will recieve Holy Communion.

The Matrimonal Service is conducted as follows:

  1. (a) The Bride and Bridegroom and his party enter the Church from the northern direction, then the Bride accompanied by her party enter from the Southern direction.
  2. (b) The Bride and Bridegroom sit in the southwest side of the Church, which has been specially prepared for them.
  3. (c) The wife and husband are then each robed with a bright Church vestment.
  4. (d) A ring is placed on the finger of each.
  5. (e) Together they hold one Cross.
  6. (f) They are crowned and are annointed with Holy Oil.

The ceremony of Matrimony is performed and the couple is wrapped together with one cloth, which signifies their unity, and the married couple then recieves communion. In this way the Matrimonal service is Administered.

These symbols have a great mystery:

  1. the wrap signifies the oneship
  2. the ring Faith or Religion
  3. The Cross signifies the temptation they will encounter in life, because of their commitment to their faith
  4. the crown symbolizes the honour they will inherit in heaven, and the Holy Oil signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For those christians who follow such Matrimonal Principles, recieving Holy Communion and abiding in these principles, as is written in Psalm 112:2, "...the generation of the upright shall be blessed...", their children are blessed and also wealth and riches shall be in their house, and their honour shall abound.

If there may be a person who, having been married under the Principle of the Church desires divorce or separation, the problem is investigated to determine which individual is at fault. The matter will be evaluated according to the Church Canon Law. Whoever is guilty will be corrected through penance, and the marriage will once again be restored. However, if the guilty party will not repent he or she will recieve judgement, as pronounced in the Canon Law of the Church.

Concerning those who have been married outside the Church

In the case of those who have been married outside of the Church their spiritual fathers should teach and convince them to obey the Principles Of Marriage set forth by the Church and to recieve Communion. Those who refuse repentance and advice of the Priest shall be denounced publicly by the Priest.

Conditions under which second marriage is performed

After being married according to the Canon Law of the Church, if the husband or wife should die, the survivor, if he or she cannot be a monk or nun, he or she may be permitted to re-marry after obtaining permission from the official of the Church. The ceremony of the marriage is performed as follows:
(in the case of a widower):
  1. (a) He can find a previously unmarried woman of good reputation or widow of good report
  2. (b) The couple should come to an agreement, go with their spiritual fathers to the Church official and obtain the permission. (As mentioned in section two)
  3. (c) After saying the Solemn Agreement they then sign the book of engagement and recieve the certificate of engagement.
  4. (d) The couple then goes to the Church where the Priest must pray for them the "Absolution of the Son" as well as the "Prayer of Penitence" they recieve communion and become man and wife.

The Prohibition of Marriage among Relatives

Marriage is forbidden among relatives for all christians. It is forbidden up to seven (7) generations on both sides for relatives to marry, but beyond that it is permitted to marry. For the case of someone who breaks the regualtion and trangresses this command and marries, such marriage shall be denounced according to the Canon Law of the Church.

The Prohibition of Marriage with Godparents

The relationship between god parents and god children is essential, and is established or granted by the Holy Spirit. It is prohibited for god parents to have marriage relationship with their god children until after the seventh generation.

The Prohibition of Marriage with Persons related Through Marriage

It is forbidden for all persons to have marriage relationships with persons related by marriage, under the following circumstances:

  1. (a) As the descendant, a son cannot marry his father's nor grandfather's not his great-grandfather's wife nor her child, nor her sister, nor her mother.
  2. (b) As the progenitor, a father cannot marry his son's nor his grandson's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sisters, nor her mother, nor her grandmother.
  3. (c) A brother cannot marry his brother's wife, not her daughter, nor her sister, not her mother.
  4. (d) An uncle cannot marry his nephew's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sisters, nor her mother.
    (This also applies to an aunt)
  5. A nephew cannot marry his uncle's wife, nor her daughter, nor her sister nor her mother.
    (This also applies to a niece)
  6. A husband cannot marry his wife's sister, nor her mother, nor her grandmother, nor her great-grandmother.
    (This Principle also applies to the wife)
    Lev. 20:10-21.