2008 Oratorical Festival Winner: Cameron Robert Close
On September 14, 1980, my parents tied the knot — they got married. They stood before the altar and made the ultimate promise — to become ONE in the Orthodox Church. How they came to this decision, however, I will forever be uncertain: you see, my parents are exact opposites. My mom is quiet and reserved, and my dad is louder and outgoing. My mom is a true homebody, and my dad has an unquenchable itch to travel. And when it comes to seasons, my dad prefers the heat of the hot summer sun, while my mom excitedly anticipates the cool crisp air of autumn.
Despite all of these differences, though, I can attest that you will not find a more perfect couple. I have heard their story over and over again. From their senior prom date to their wedding day, one thing is certain; my parents truly were meant to be together. One phrase has been used time and time again to describe my parents: “Made for each other.”
This phrase seems quite simple, as the whole they create is so much larger and stronger than each of them is individually. My parents have built a firm foundation in their marriage, which allows our family to flourish. But does this commonly used phrase, “made for each other” mean something more?
It seems that in our society today, we are completely obsessed with the topic of couples. We are constantly flooded with models of the perfect couple — those who were made — and in some cases even manufactured — for each other. Take for example, Barbie and Ken, Beauty and the Beast, Romeo and Juliet — the list is endless. Our media bombards us with images of couples, who, according to popular wisdom, complete each other. Through these images we are told who to emulate, and what constitutes a perfect union. But where did our media come up with this idea — that one woman is made a perfect match to her male counterpart?
Our answer lies in Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 18.
God looked at His completed creations, and at the man, Adam. “Then the Lord said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So the Lord God caused deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” By creating woman, God completed man.
Adam and Eve, the first couple. The man, Adam, and the woman, Eve, who was literally made from and for him. Adam and Eve, the very first embodiment of humanity, male and female, were literally and truly made for each other.
While our media will continue to attempt to recreate the perfect couple, it seems that sadly they have forgotten one crucial aspect of any union — that only through faith, love and prayer, can the perfect couple ever by recreated.
The standards of today’s secular world change, morph and self-justify, and do not provide a steadfast guide for us to follow. However, we Orthodox Christians do have a guide, and it is our faith — the teachings of the Holy Fathers and of Jesus Christ Himself. That is where my parents got their guidance and their strength, and their role models. Only through our faith and the guidance of the Orthodox Church can the perfect couple be attained.
Interestingly, it was not Adam who decided that it was not good to be alone. It was our Creator who determined that something — or someone — was missing. God made woman as a partner to man, and thus he formulated the relationship we call marriage. When God said, “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 24), God clearly determined that one man and one woman shall be joined. So when my parents partook of the Sacrament of Marriage in the Holy Orthodox church, they were not married by a legal contract or by a societal convention, but by a covenant determined by God that two should become one flesh. This bond forged by God is sacred and natural, and manifests itself in man and woman who are truly made for each other.
Marriage is a Sacrament — a Mystery — that was instituted with God’s blessing during creation. As an expression of God’s will, marriage has a fully mystical character, which our Church emphasizes. Our Lord Jesus Christ further renewed this covenant in His ministry. In Matthew, Chapter 19, verses 4 and 5, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “At the beginning He made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” He is responding to the Pharisees question on divorce: “Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.” Marriage is a covenant from God which cannot be broken, voided, nullified, or revised.
The apostle Paul was the first to understand the essence of Christ’s teaching on marriage and its sanctity. In Ephesians, Chapter 5, verse 32, St. Paul calls marriage “a great mystery in Christ and in the Church.” According to St. Paul, the spiritual bond of love, commitment and the reciprocal submission of the married couple — the bond of their complete oneness — exists when it conforms to the love of Christ for His Church. Earthly marriage is a reflection of the marriage of Christ, the bridegroom, to the Church, which is His bride. So you can really look at my parents’ marriage, and all Orthodox Christian marriages today, as a representation of our church — a little church. With Christ serving as their infinite guide, the husband and wife are king and queen of this little church, which allows them to maintain fellowship and communion with God.
In Galatians, Chapter 3, verse 28, St. Paul explains God’s view of man: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, so you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is a very powerful statement, as it clearly shows that man and woman are equal. But it does not say that man and woman are the same. Male and female are not interchangeable. One is incomplete without the other, and each contributes uniquely to the union.
For example, take a bird flying overhead. It has two wings which beat together harmoniously. They are both wings; contain the same numbers of bones, feathers and joints. But if the left wing were missing, would two right wings be able to do the job? Absolutely not, because although they are equal — that is, they are both wings that enable the bird to fly — they are not the same. Just as it is with man — male and female — equal but different.
To reinforce this equality in marriage in the Church, St. Paul also says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians Chapter 7, verse 4). This statement may upset many people today who are competitive and self-serving. However it should be considered in a different perspective, in the perspective of faith and unity. Both the husband and the wife are in control of the other’s bodies equally. This represents perfect balance, showing us that each one cannot act without the other’s consent. Both have equal responsibility in the relationship, and cannot exist without the other’s support and, of course, love.
“At the beginning He made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
When I first read this passage from Matthew, Chapter 19, verses 4 and 5, I mused that this certainly does not pertain to me! I am in high school; thoughts of marriage are a long way off. There are other goals that I am focused on right now, like getting my license, convincing my parents that I should be the one to decide when I need a hair cut — the important things in life. After all, it will be a long time before I leave my mother and father for anyone!
OK, so maybe I am not thinking of marriage right now, but, these words are meant for me, because as an Orthodox Christian, I am blessed with a guide for living provided to me by our Lord. As a follower of Christ, I can look to Him and to the Church for direction and clarity. While I enjoy my life as a carefree sixteen-year-old now, I certainly cannot imagine a life without one day finding my Eve, the one that God has undoubtedly “made for me!”
Cameron Robert Close, 16, is a member of St. John of Damascus Church, Dedham, MA.