Beloved young girls and boys who are planning to get married, God has prepared for each and every generation Christian family models, models of holiness that should be taken as landmarks by us, the many, and we should follow them regardless of the times we are living in. Ranging from Abraham and Sara to heavenly fathers Joachim and Anne, the thread of models to be followed continues without interruption, and will be continuing until the end of time, as the generation that will not give saints to the world will be the last. Thus, holy models are not scarce, what we lack are people willing to follow them.
Therefore, because it seems to us that models from the past were able to live according to Christianity because of the fact that they weren’t struggling with so many temptations as there are nowadays, we will bring forth a Christian marriage model from a time close to ours, yet unimaginably more difficult to live in: The model of Virgil și Petruța Maxim, husband and wife.
At first glance, the marriage of the blessed Virgil and Petruța Maxim looks like a funny countryside tale. Yet, if we search deeper into this short tale, acknowledging its connection to the live before wedding and the one after the wedding of the two main character, we will realize that the funny side of the story encompasses the most profound teachings of the sacrament of matrimony.
After going out of prison, the “student” Virgil Maxim had initially opted for the monastic life, yet as his parents were sick and as there was no one else to look after them, he did not receive the blessing from his spiritual father to enter in a monastery, and so he had to settle for the alternative of a Christian marriage.
Yet, how could he find a proper girl for marriage, as he was a mature, 43 years old man with a ruined social life? What could have been the demands of a man whose profession was that of a “student” on going out of prison? What faithful and obedient girl could Virgil Maxim have found in times when almost all the girls aged 17 or 18 years old were getting married?
It’s easy to understand that he couldn’t have found anything worthy, had it not been for God’s deep care for all those who declare their faith in Him. And behold God’s providence, visible when the time is right: a simple countryside girl, faithful, quiet, pure-heartedand wise, still waiting for a man at the age of 35, still not having lost her virginity. A girl who had kept her purity without complaining about the hormonal activity, about family pressures or time passing by. A girl who carried on as a virgin with dignity because until Virgil Maxim appeared, she didn’t find any man worthy to be her suitor, and she had only met men who had material agendas, petty figures, full of vices and wicked with passions; many like men nowadays, that is.
Even though Petruța’s demands were nothing out of the ordinary, but of the basic sort, one of her aunts would still tell her decidedly: “Darling, you can even shape him with the lathe and he will still not come out as you want!” Meaning: “girl, you’re asking too much from life, can’t you see there are no such men!? You’ll die an old maid. Just pick one and be done with it!” Yet the girl could in no way be convinced by her relatives’ persistent advice, pieces of advice which could have forced her into a failed marriage as it often happens today. And the girl endured it with patience in her 35 years of age.
What is really surprising and unexpectedly beautiful in her holy expectancy, emerges from the gift with which the young girl’s patience is rewarded, and which is far beyond her expectations. Not only was Petruța gifted with a husband who would correspond to all her demands, this man was also more beautifully shaped than her aunt could imagine; a man spiritualized by the lathe of the toughest suffering and tortures of the 20th century.
What a great reward God gives to Petruța for being unrelenting in matters of sin and compromises for a convenience marriage! He did not only prepare a non-drinking, non-smoker and non-violent man for her, but He also put aside for her a true avva of the communist prisons, a wise, kind, immensely patient man, who was hard-working and full of gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Which of the girls nowadays wouldn’t keep her virtues intact for such a man? not until turning 20, or 30, but 35 years old, with the firm resolution of keeping away from corruption and compromise even if she would not find a true man. This is how God looks after us, so that the one we cannot find, would appear in our lives when our souls are ready.
Even though Petruța was a simple countryside girl, the wisdom acquired through virtue helped her promptly reject the ill advising of the world, just as she had done until then:
Upon reading the Apostle, at the last verse “And women shall fear their men” one of her aunts, sitting behind her, whispered in her ear:
“Step on his foot! (habit according to which the man would be dominated by the woman)
Is this what you did, for that now Uncle John doesn’t stay at home? the bride observed.”
This is how this short episode taken from the marriage ceremony teaches us an important lesson: how to spiritually understand St. Apostle Paul’s words, uttered during the sacrament of matrimony. Lots of young people, especially girls nowadays are horrified by these words: “And women shall fear their men” Rivers of ink have flown so as to make people understand the sort of fear we are talking about, and rivers will flow still, yet it won’t be enough as long as young people step over the threshold of the church with a bankrupt theological culture similar to the Christian life they have lived until then. The Apostle Paul is not to blame for many brides’ and grooms’ failures in their spiritual understanding of the Holy Scripture.
This is how we learn, without any theological explanation, what happens to women who do not fear their men as the Holy Scripture teaches us: “Is this what you did, for that now Uncle John doesn’t stay at home?” Which is another way of saying: “Your man runs away from you because he feels unfulfilled seeing that you want to be in his shoes. Can’t you see that you, as a woman, would feel unfulfilled as well if the man played your part?”
In other words, when a woman doesn’t understand her role as a wife and as a mother, things turn out to be catastrophic for the entire family, just as catastrophic as the situations caused by a man who misses his vocation as a Christian husband and father. So, without theorizing the definition of fear, we can notice that if we don’t understand the roles required by the sacrament of matrimony, we will fail in our family life. And there are people who fail time and time again and still can’t understand why they have such a difficult family life: because their lives are parallel to the commandments of the God .
This was all the partying of the wedded pair: “We had a peaceful wedding, at home.” In other words, the happy pair’s devotion should give us much food for thought. It is not the home wedding that stands for their devotion, but the peacefulness of it; devoid of the noisiness of sin: no white doves, a symbol of purity, when in fact the couple had lived in adultery; no musicians, no oratorical staged performances or other pompous surprises of a “successful” wedding that crumbles with age.
And here’s another lesson: the deeply spiritualized groom gives to his bride a cross he had carved in prison, a sign of unified sacrifice reflecting what the sacrament of marriage represents: a permanent unified sanctification, in joy, and especially in sorrow; the cross of life carried on the wings of love between a man and a woman.
While young grooms and brides today only think of an easy life, with travels through foreign countries, with all things necessary in the household, and brilliant careers, we get slapped hard by this example of spiritual Christian marriage: “You might have to suffer, being by my side. We will have to carry the cross of life together. Do not be deceived by the fact that I am a teacher now, because tomorrow I might have to dig out cesspools.”
And because God loved the groom who confessed his faith in exchange of his youth and life, the groom receives the proper response from the wife that God had put aside for him and who measures up to his merits as a man:
“Even if I’ll have to look after cows, I will be with you and I will not leave you! We will get along together as one gets along with one’s soul.”
That is, no airs, no crying, no sniveling because of a difficult life, but commitment, shared sacrifice for life, no matter how hard it would be. Petruța Maxim followed God’s beloved man throughout all the tests that have strayed over them: Security baffles, disease, poverty, and many more. All of these things made them feel even more united, helping them perfect their love towards one another and their love towards God. And because Petruța Maxim followed Virgil Maxim, the witness, she is a happy witness just like all mothers and wives of witnesses in communist prisons.
I think the most important lesson we have to learn from these happy witnesses, is this one: a Christian marriage is a “Hymn to the carried cross” and so should be all marriages of practicing Christians: hymns of praise dedicated to God.