Fr. Peter has an excellent post up on the Orthodox view of contraception. This idea for writing this came from the recent news reports about the Catholic Church and contraception. Fr. Peter does a good job of outlining the broad Orthodox view on the subject and he helpfully points out that there are possibly different views in different Orthodox jurisdictions, since in our collegial (as opposed to hierarchical) tradition there is no one voice that speaks authoritatively on these matters. My discernment of our Church’s position on contraception is that it can be used but at some point a couple should try to have children, which is the goal of an Orthodox marriage per the words of the service itself. This is why, incidentally, when older people become “companions” they do not need to have a marriage service, although some do and we willingly accommodate them.
That being said, while it is incumbent on a married couple in the Orthodox Church to attempt to have children, it is not always possible, for various reasons. It can, in fact, be very difficult or impossible to conceive or carry a child to term in some cases. This is why pressure from a couple’s parents who are anxiously pushing the grandchild button can be very destructive. This phenomenon is not uncommon in Greek culture. The stress from this can cause all kinds of mental and physical problems in couples and certainly affects the whole conception process. While the Church blesses marriages for, among several reasons, the continuance of the human race, we as the body of the Church must be loving, patient, supportive and understanding of all our married friends, regardless of their parental status.
Around Mothers Day I always quote my own mother – “Every woman is a mother.” You can extend this to “Every man is a father.” We all have family, whether we are married, celibate, have kids, don’t have kids, whatever. And in Orthodoxy – both at our Cathedral and in the Church as a whole – we are one big family. What a blessing.