“St Augustine relegates his sensual nature to lust and does not elevate it to romanticism as do later writers,” Elena said after Pavel had started Book IV of Confessions. “He differentiates marriage from mistresses in saying marriage is for procreation, and mistresses are for lust. So much for the idea of finding one’s soul mate.”

“But what about the relationships in the Bible like Samson and Delilah…”

“Sin” said Elena.

“David and Bathsheba…”


“And Boaz and Ruth”


“The Shulamite and her lover in Song of Solomon.”


“They call each other Beloved, not Amusing.”

“It is pretty physical, though.”

“But even readers back then related to the special place one object of affection can have.”

“It was symbolic of our relationship with Christ. I think human relationships are much more individual. You may have the idea that someone is fulfilling that role for you, but you may be wrong. There may be cases of mutual true love, but to me it is more like earthly riches. It is a fleeting luxury. One that can too easily lead to self indulgence. Perhaps Song of Solomon is like the parables that use people’s love for money to demonstrate ascetic motivation. Song of Solomon demonstrates heart-felt devotion. One should not love a person more than God.”

“Western Churches say marriage is for procreation, but the Orthodox Church says marriage is a Sacrament representing the union of Christ with the Church.“

“Maleness and femaleness require each other for completion, most completely in marriage. In the case of solitaries, I think they sort of take on the characteristics of the opposite gender for practicality. They will both provide for themselves, and clean and decorate for themselves, for instance. They still maintain their individual gender distinctions, and God also becomes what they need. He becomes a father to orphans and a husband to the widow. While he made fathers and husbands for a reason, neither he nor we are bound in necessity to human ones.”

“He doesn’t say he becomes a wife or mother, though. Perhaps that is for the Theotokos.”

“We have an inner desire for both the human and divine fulfillment of these roles. Some may get both, but others only get one. The ascetic gives up good things for better things.”

“Because he genuinely desires the one over the other,” Pavel said.

“Or because he believes more in one than the other, even without experiencing it.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t believe in human union because of bad experiences.”

“That may be. But he is convinced nonetheless.”

“Some monks may be inspired by married couples. They may come to appreciate their attentiveness to each other and their mutual self-giving.”

“I don’t think they would be jealous though. If they were good monks they would be inspired to be more attentive and giving to God.”

“You seem determined. What if your husband were dead?”

“I can’t consider that. Back to the inspiring couple, St. Augustine said that he was prone to ‘jealousy and suspicion, anger and quarrels.’ I think that is what most relationships are like. The Shulamite was pretty miserable when her Beloved wasn’t around. They can’t be around all the time, but God is always there.”

“That is why Orthodox couples are given the martyr’s crown. They, like the monk, have to give things up for their beloved. And what if God seems to be with another person more than he is with you?”

“Then I should be inspired to be more pleasing to God. A man may prefer another woman out of selfishness or greed.”

“Being faithful should not entirely rest on the qualities of the other person. Do you think that goes for God’s attentions too?”

“He would have my perfection in mind even when dealing with others. I don’t think he forgets like a man does.”

“You have had a bad experience.”

“I probably gave one too. Pavel, I’m pregnant.”

“I wondered. I’ve noticed your belly of late. Does your husband know?”

“No. I didn’t know when I left.”

“Do you think you should go back?”

“No. I don’t think the baby would be safe back there.”