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Thermometers and Thermostats

Saints John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas have exerted an enormous influence on Christian thinking, writing and theology. They are included among the Doctors and Saints of the Church, in recognition of their outstanding teaching, orthodoxy and holiness of life. Although the writings of each cover many subjects, we share their insights on marriage.

St. John Chrysostom (347-407) is regarded as the greatest orator and biblical commentator of the Eastern Church. The name “Chrysostom” means “gold mouth,” given to him because of his outstanding preaching skills. Chrysostom is one of the greatest apologists of Christian marriage. He expounded that God ordained marriage primarily to promote holiness of the husband and wife and secondarily to produce children.

Here is St. John Chrysostom’s advice to young husbands on how to treat their wives…

Never speak to your wife in a mundane way but with compliments, with respect and with much love. Tell her that you love her more than your own life, because this present life is nothing, and that your only hope is that the two of you pass through this life in such a way that in the world to come, you will be united in perfect love.

Say to her, “Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one both with Christ and with each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.”

Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out at the marketplace. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently. Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers. If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks.[1]

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), is highly regarded among the early Church Fathers. He is considered as the father of both scholasticism and mysticism. Augustine had a keen insight into spiritual matters.

St. Augustine defined the three goods of marriage as proles, fides, and sacramentum – procreation, fidelity, and the sacrament (De bono coniugali 28.32).

Procreation is a good whereby children are born into the world and brought up in the faith, fidelity is the good whereby a man or woman takes only one spouse, and the sacrament is a good whereby it preserves the union as indissoluble. These elements form the basis of the Church’s understanding of marriage even to this day. In fact, St. John Paul II used Augustine as the foundation of many of his writings, including Familiaris Consortio, Mulieris Dignitatem, Love and Responsibility, and the Theology of the Body.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. St. Thomas said “the principal end of matrimony is the good of the offspring [and}…the secondary end of matrimony is the mutual support of the spouses” (Supplement, Q 41. A1). “Indissolubility belongs to marriage…it is a sign of the perpetual union of Christ with the Church” (Supplement, Q. 65, A. 1).

The theology of these great saints forms the Church’s teachings on the Sacrament of Matrimony (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1601-1666). To this august body of knowledge, we would like to add what we call, The Theology of Thermometers and Thermostats.

Thermometers react to the environment whereas thermostats create the environment.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. Galatians 5:16-17 (emphasis added)

Which of these two best describe you in your marriage and family life? Thermometers operate in the flesh, reacting to any stress and tension in the home.

Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (emphasis added)

Thermostats on the other hand, operate in the Spirit, creating the environment in the home.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 (emphasis added)

If you are a thermometer, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the Fruits of the Spirit. He willing gives to anyone who asks. The transforming power of the Spirit can change you from a thermometer into a thermostat. Through the Spirit, your home can be transformed from discord to harmony, from jealousy to goodwill, from anger to joy, from selfishness to self-giving, and from dissension to unity.

Please pray this prayer with us for an abundant outpouring of the Fruits of the Spirit in your marriage and family.

Prayer for the Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Father, today, fill me with the fruit of the Spirit. Help me to live by the Spirit, and not by the flesh. Let me lead by example, and show my spouse and my children love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, through your Spirit. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord in union with God the Father. Amen.

[1] St. George Greek Orthodox Church, On Christian Marriage – St. John Chrysostom, internet: https://www.stgeorgeor.org/on-christian-marriage-st-john-chrysostom-347-407-ad/ (accessed July 16, 2021).