Dear Brother Punch,
This was discussed with the venerable schemamonk Ambrose on a public list run by Mary. Most of us know him as the priest and author Fr Alexey Young, a disciple of Fr Seraphim Rose. The archives of the list are accessible if anyone wishes to check the quotes.
"What on earth? In my 30+ years as an Orthodox priest I have never heard of a second marriage that was considered non-sacramental. This idea is peculiar. --Fr. A"
"I was only saying that the rite for a second marriage itself is not seen as penitential, and that a penance will have been imposed on the divorced and remarrying parties before the marriage ceremony. But the second rite of marriage will be joyful and festive, with the Church wishing the couple well and praying for a successful married state for both. The rite itself is sober, but so is the rite for a first marriage."
I never said the rite was not a Sacrament, nor did any Priest that I spoke with. As you know, we don't call them Sacraments, but Mysteries. They are called such because they transcend what we as humans can understand.
The second statement makes sense, and I may have fixated more on the first part than the second at the time. Fr. Ambrose was well known by the Priest in question, and spent time in the Monastery with my Godfather.
Father, while we sometimes disagree, please be assured that nothing that you say is dismissed by me. I was home from work today and spent most of the day pondering on this. I read much from the writings of St. John Chrysostom, as well as from St. Ambrose, both of whom I know wrote extensively on the subject. I am left with the same impression, or overall feeling about second marriage as I had before as none of what I read treats it as anything other than a concession to our weakness, and an attempt to keep us from falling further into sin. The idea of perpetual adultery is, perhaps, harsh. However one cannot undo what has been done. One can certainly be forgiven for what has been done, and I believe this happens after the penitential prayers. The first wife simply does not disappear. St. Ambrose goes as far as to say that the first marriage is not even erased by Baptism, and that a priest cannot remarry even if his first marriage was prior to his Baptism and the second after. He writes this in his epistle to the Christians in Vercellae in 396 AD and spends quite a few words discussing the matter.
Reading your reply regarding the time spent on the penitential prayers vs the rest of the service certainly cleared up your point of view for me. I can see where you are coming from. I never thought in those terms, and would not have given this any credence at all were it not you who wrote it. The thought of time spent did not occur to me since I tend to view all services by content rather than by length. The coming of the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine to Christ's Holy Body and Blood is a very small part of the Divine Liturgy, but yet it is the most important - the whole reason for having the Liturgy in the first place. Then when we consider the time spent in the Vigil to prepare, and the Hours and the Pre-Communion prayers, the amount of time spent outside of Communion far exceeds that spent Communing. Yet, is the partaking of the Mysteries less because it takes less time than the other? Yes, Father, that is a rhetorical question and you do not have to answer as I know that you would consider that idea absurd, as do I! To me, the insertion of the penitential prayers into the marriage ceremony was huge, and it does indeed change the "color" of the ceremony for me. But, I also realize that my understanding of the whole ceremony may be clouded by a very high view of marriage, and a very harsh view of divorce. I have always held the view that one always remains married. The two become one flesh and that cannot be undone. What God has joined, let no man rend asunder. The Fathers are clear that the purest form of marriage is that between a virgin man and a virgin woman, and all other than this is imperfection - regardless of the ceremony. The joining of man and woman in marriage by God predates all the rituals written later. However, this being said, I do understand your position and will ask the God to soften my heart on this matter if I have incorrectly understood the issue. Pray for me.