A good start to family life
—Geronta, a certain young man who has chosen the married life asked me how one properly begins this.
—From the beginning, he should seek to find a good girl who will comfort him, as people are relaxed and find comfort differently with different people. He should not seek to find someone who is rich or beautiful, but above all simple and humble. In other words, he should give more attention to interior rather than exterior beauty. When a girl is a positive person and capable of dealing with men, without having more womanly character than is necessary, this greatly helps the man to find immediate understanding and not a lot of headaches. If she also has fear of God and humility then they are able to join hands and pass the evil current of the world.
If the young man is seriously considering a certain girl for a spouse, I think it is better that he first makes his intentions known to her parents through one of his relatives and afterwards he can discuss it himself with the young lady and her parents. Later, if they give their approval and the two are engaged—and it is better that the engagement not carry on too long—he should strive, throughout the passing time until marriage, to view her as his sister and respect her. If both of them struggle with philotimo and keep their virginity, then in the Mystery of marriage, when the priest crowns them, they will richly take of the Grace of God. For, as St. John Chrysostom says, the crowns are symbols of victory against pleasure.
Then, as much as they are able, they must strive to cultivate the virtue of love and always remain two united, with the Third, our Sweetest Christ. Naturally, in the beginning, until they get themselves together and become well acquainted with one another, they will have certain difficulties. This happens with every new beginning. Why, just the day before yesterday I saw a baby bird. It had just gone out to find food and could only fly about an inch above the ground. The poor thing didn’t know how to catch insects and wasted an hour trying to catch just one, little bug to eat. As I watched it, I was considering how every beginning is difficult. When a student finally receives his diploma and begins working, in the beginning it is difficult. A novice in a monastery also has difficulties in the beginning. A young man, when he marries, again in the beginning is met with difficulties.
—Geronta, does it matter if the woman is older than the man?
—There is not a Church canon which says that if a girl is two, three or even five years older than the young man they are not able to be married.