Thank you Alex for your comments. I would like to respond.
You prove to be extremely proud in affirming that you can understand the Scriptures differently then those who read it as their mother tongue 2000 years ago... read some of the Church Fathers. NONE of them ever interpreted that "fornication" as you do.
You have cited not a single church father to me in order to show me that they disagree with me. Why should I believe you? What is more, you seriously misunderstand my beliefs. I will explain that below. Please read what I say carefully or else you will be responding to a strawman (an argument I'm not making). If you want to actually know my beliefs before criticizing them, you will have to read what I have written about both sex and marriage. Here are the links, but I will try to summarize the articles below as much as possible for you so you don't have to read them. http://www.unc.edu/home/jasondm/sex.html http://www.unc.edu/home/jasondm/marriage.html
The summary of it is that the Song of Solomon is a story about marriage, and the couple plainly and obviously explores sexuality with one another during courtship (chapter 1). They don't have sex immediately. However, they eventually do lie with one another before their wedding ceremony, immediately warning us to wait until the right time for this (2:6 and 2:7, wedding ceremony is end of chapter 3). Therefore, I believe their unification (their 'one flesh', their 'marriage') occurred in private, before they announced it to the world. I am not saying that sexual promiscuity is okay. I am saying what Scripture says: the process of becoming "one flesh" _is_ the formation of marriage.
The process of becoming married is a process that runs its course over time, constrained by patience and the conscience, and it includes both personal, emotional, and sexual exploration before the ceremony. At the right time, with a pure conscience, the couple unites with actual intercourse (laying with one another always indicates intercourse in Scripture). They celebrate and announce this later with nuptial ceremony and celebration. That is God's story about marriage, given to us in the Song, and my conscience leads me to believe this Scripture if the Church Fathers don't disagree with me.
Granted I have not read the Fathers as thoroughly as you, most likely, but I have read them some. That is why I'm asking you to cite them if you think they so strongly disagree with me. I would be willing to bet that a lot of church fathers understood "marriage" to be the unification of a couple at the right time, with the right intent, for the right purpose, and that they did not judge a couple if the "ceremony" came later. And the truth is, in many cases we don't have enough of the father's writings to accurately know their exact definition of marriage (that is to say, to know if they thought a ceremony created it or simply celebrated it). Scripture, the Song, indicates that the ceremony celebrates the union... the ceremony does not actually create it between the couple, it announces it to the world.
Prove me wrong, since you so confidentially call me "proud" for my beliefs. Cite Fathers that clearly and obviously disagree with me. If you can't do that, you are asking me to believe you, *your* traditions, and not those of the Orthodox Church.
My impression is that you just want to be a Christian and yet fell justified in your well-acquired behaviours and mindset
Your impression is one of pre-judgment. I have never told you what my behaviors are, you have merely assumed to know them. I will tell you now, since you are so obviously prejudicial. I am not having sexual intercourse with anyone, and I will not have sexual intercourse until I'm with the one I am to marry. Scripture leads my conscience to that conclusion. Even though Scripture does not say pre-wedding sex is a sin, sex is only celebrated in Scripture in the development of marriage (Song of Solomon). On top of that, Scripture does say sexual promiscuity is a sin (Romans 13:13). All of this leads me to know that sexual intimacy is meant for courtship and, ultimately, sexual intercourse is for marriage.
I just define marriage according to God's story about marriage in Scripture, the Song, and no one has shown me that the Fathers disagree with me. Marriage is the sex at the right time, with the right conscience, with the right commitment, followed later by a celebratory ceremony. You define marriage according to your traditions. Well, friend, sometimes traditions are wrong. Every Orthodox priest acknowledges that fact. Not all traditions in orthodox churches are the Tradition of the Fathers, right?
As I understand Scripture, and as I am lead in my conscience by the Spirit, sexual exploration (not necessarily intercourse) is an important part of courtship. Also, sexual intercourse is to occur when the couple, in the right conscience, with the right intent, decides it should occur. They marry of their own accord. Then they celebrate and announce. I believe this because I believe the Song, God's song to us about marriage formation, and no one has shown me that the Fathers disagree with me here.
Thank you for your comments, and thank you all for your help. God guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.