Why was it Peter and Febronia that became revered as the patrons of marriage? This “loaded question” is asked not only by atheists, but even the faithful sometimes marvel: “They were even childless!” And unbelievers sometimes mock them, each in his own way. One famous politician and journalist recently quipped, calling Febronia a blackmailer, and Peter spineless. Of course, he had a malevolent conclusion: They are strange role models for modern families.
Okay, so this reduction ad absurdum is a good, clear method of argumentation. And the author, accusing St. Febronia of blackmail, involuntarily highlighted for me the reasons why Sts. Peter and Febronia can truly be role models, and especially in our day.
In fact, it is extremely important for us that the saints got married before they became saints. Peter, by any measure, lied to Febronia. But Febronia knew where her interests lay. There is a pious interpretation of her behavior: The future princess saw with her spiritual eye that the prince would perish without her influence, and therefore began to set conditions, and didn’t just simply heal the prince.
But, oddly enough, for today’s young couples, it is more useful to accept the idea that the right-believing prince and princess in their youth were people not without flaws. But they forgave one another these flaws, covering them with love, and their loved blossomed into a readiness to renounce glory and honor for the sake of their beloved.
We are now simply completely marinated with the ideas of perfection and the idealness of anything we “allow” into our lives. Modern freedom in choosing a life partner plays a cruel joke on people. It seems since you are no longer bound by the authority of your parents and class barriers (and some are not bound by moral taboos), you can choose a spouse for yourself like a jacket, finding whichever is “just right,” trying on half the store to find the very best, without any flaws.
On the linguistic level, people understand that “everyone has flaws,” but in the depths of their souls they hope they will be lucky, that they’ll find someone smarter than everyone else! And then half a year passes (a year, five years…), and the young spouses exclaim, “Indeed, everyone has flaws, but what huge ones my spouse has!” And someone standing nearby objects: “It’s no big deal, nothing deadly—you’re not an angel either!”
It’s often only bitter experience that convinces someone that flaws, and even very serious ones, truly exist in everyone, and that you won’t die from them, but you’ll even live long and happy if you figure out in time how to deal with someone else’s shortcomings.
How have many spouses traditionally dealt with one another’s faults? They run to announce them to their mothers, to their friends, and then even on Facebook statuses—why fiddle about on a small scale? And they look deeper into these weaknesses and faults, analyzing, mentally weighing and compartmentalizing them, until they’re finally convinced that it’s time for a divorce.
Spouses are like two warriors with chainmail needing mending in the back, in battle against the temptations of this world. They can stand back-to-back in defense and hold out, or they can start spinning around, looking at one another’s backs with haughty laughter: “Well look at you! How are you going to fight like that, you oaf?!” All they can do is laugh for a long time.
Marital fidelity, among other things, is often expressed in the desire to cover your other half’s faults, not only from the prying eyes of others, but from your own irritability. I’m not talking about any serious sins that destroy marriage in principle, but about weaknesses. Laziness, disorderliness or excessive pedantry, a hot temper, or emotional dryness—you can live with these quite well, until you start making a mountain out of a molehill. A husband comes home tired, not in the mood: How hard it is for a wife to bear this calmly, not harping on her husband’s temper with accusations and inquiries, but waiting until it passes!
How difficult it is to protect our loved one from our own nagging and accusations. How easy it is to fall into irritability and scrupulous studying of others’ faults through the shards of the troll’s mirror, who, as you recall, was the devil himself.
Prince Peter and Princess Febronia very quickly learned to “stand back-to-back” in marriage, covering one another’s weaknesses from the world and their own infirmities. And they show us that this path is fruitful, that weaknesses are not forever. Only love is forever—we just have to preserve it…