Friday, 2 November 2012

Marriage in the Orthodox Church

Married life, no less than monastic life, is a special vocation, requiring a particular
gift from the Holy Spirit, a gift bestowed in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The
same Trinitarian mystery of ‘unity in diversity’ applies to the doctrine of marriage as it
does to the Church. The family created by this sacrament is a small church.
The Orthodox Church teaches that man is made in the image of the Trinity, and he is
not intended by God to live alone, but in a family, except in special cases. And just as
God blessed the first family, commanding Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply,
so the Church now gives its blessing to the union of man and woman. The mystery of
marriage, in the Church, gives a man and a woman the possibility to become one
spirit and one flesh in a way which no human love can provide by itself. The Holy
Spirit is given so that what has begun on earth is fulfilled and continues most
perfectly in the Kingdom of God.

The Marriage Service
For the Orthodox Christian, the marriage service (wedding) is the Church's formal
recognition of the couple's unity, a created image of God's love which is eternal,
unique, indivisible and unending. The early Church simply witnessed the couple's
expression of mutual love in the Church, and their union was blessed by their mutual
partaking of the Holy Eucharist.
When a marriage service developed in the Church, it was patterned after the service
for baptism and chrismation. The couple is addressed in a way similar to that of the
individual in baptism. They confess their faith and their love of God. They are led into
the Church in procession. They are prayed over and blessed. They listen to God's
The service contains no vows or oaths. It is, in essence, the "baptising and
confirming" of human love in God by Christ in the Holy Spirit. It is the deification of
human love in the divine perfection and unity of the eternal Kingdom of God as
revealed and given to man in the Church. There is no "legalism" in the Orthodox
sacrament of marriage. It is not a juridical contract, it is a spiritual bond.

The marriage service is divided into two parts, in earlier times held separately, but
now celebrated together.

Office of Betrothal
At the Betrothal service, the chief ceremony is the blessing and exchange of rings.

The rings are blessed by the priest in the name of the Father, of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The couple then exchange the
rings, taking the bride's ring and placing it on the groom's finger
and vice-versa. Then they exchange them again, symbolizing that
each spouse will constantly be complementing and enriching the
other by the union. This is also an outward symbol that the two
are joined in marriage of their own free will and consent.

Office of crowning
The second part of the service is the ceremony of coronation, in which the heads of
the bridegroom and bride are crowned by the priest. In the Russian tradition, the
crowns are gold or silver, while the Greek tradition uses
crowns of leaves and flowers.
The crowns are crowns of joy, but also crowns of
martyrdom, since marriage involves a self-sacrifice on
both sides.
At the end of the service the newly married couple drink
from the same cup of wine. This common cup is a symbol of the fact that after this
they will share a common life with one another. This also recalls the miracle at the
marriage feast of Cana in Galilee.