the eyes of the Church, marriage is the sacramental union between a man
and a woman that is used in the Bible as the image of God’s faithful
love for ancient Israel (Isaiah 54; Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16) and Christ’s
sacrificial relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5). When we say that
marriage is a sacrament, we use that word to convey the depths of the
covenantal bond the bride and groom are about to enter into: a sacramentum
in the ancient Roman empire was the oath of loyalty unto death that a
Roman soldier took to the emperor when entering the military. As
Christians, the sacrament of marriage is the oath of loyalty unto death
the bride and groom make to each other and – as a couple – their
oath of loyalty unto death to our Lord Jesus Christ, “the King of
kings and Lord of lords.” Christian marriage is intended to be a sign
of God’s presence and love in this fallen and broken world.
celebration of the sacrament of marriage is made up of the Service of
Betrothal and the Service of Crowning. The text of these two services
summarizes in words, images and symbols the Orthodox Christian teaching
rings are an ancient symbol of the couple’s commitment to one another
and their desire to enter into the covenant relationship of marriage. As
the Prayer of Betrothal indicates, in the Scriptures, rings were given
as signs of commitment, authority and forgiveness. After being blessed
by the priest the rings are exchanged between bride and groom. This
exchange signifies that in married life the weaknesses of one partner
will be compensated for by the strengths of the other.
bride and groom are given candles to hold during the service. The
candles symbolize Christ, “the light of the world,” and the gift of
the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that must burn in the hearts of the bride
and groom to light and guide their path throughout life.
Joining of Hands
priest joins the right hands of the bride and groom while saying a
prayer asking God to unite them in oneness of mind and heart. The bride
and groom keep their hands joined throughout the rest of the service to
symbolize their unity as a couple in God.
crowns are symbols of the glory and honor that God bestows upon His
faithful people. They are attached to each other by a white ribbon
symbolizing the marital unity being entered into by the bride and groom.
They are the “crowns of righteousness” spoken of by the apostle Paul
in his Second Letter to Timothy, given on the Day of Judgment to those
who are faithful to Christ. The bride and groom are crowned as king and
queen of their own household which they must rule responsibly, with love
and wisdom. The crowns also symbolize martyrdom and sacrifice.
Throughout marriage, husband and wife must be willing to sacrifice
themselves for one another in imitation of Christ sacrificing Himself
part of the wedding service, there are two specific readings from the
New Testament. The first is from the apostle Paul’s Letter to the
Ephesians 5:20-33, which describes the relationship between the bride
and groom as an image of the relationship of sacrificial love that
Christ has for the Church. The second reading is taken from the Gospel
of John 2:1-11, which describes the first miracle of the Lord Jesus as
taking place at a wedding in Cana of Galilee to which He, His mother
Mary and His disciples had been invited. It is here, at the urging of
His mother, the Theotokos, that He changes water into wine so that the
celebration of the marriage feast may continue, thus beginning His
ministry and the revelation of His glory.
bride and groom drink from a cup of wine given to them by the priest in
remembrance of Christ’s miracle of changing water into wine at the
wedding in Cana of Galilee and symbolizing their sharing in the cup of
life together with all its joys and sorrows.
Dance of Isaiah
priest leads the bride and groom around the wedding table as an
expression of joy and celebration. The hymns during this procession
specifically refer to the prophet Isaiah prophesying the birth of
Christ, as well as the apostles and early Christian martyrs bearing
witness to Christ and His Gospel by their preaching and teaching, even
at the sacrifice of their own lives. Husband and wife take their first
steps as a married couple in the Church, following a path marked by the
good news of the Gospel.
Removal of the Crowns
the very end of the service, the crowns adorning the couple are removed
by the priest, as he remembers in prayer Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and
Rebecca and Jacob and Rachel, charging the bride and groom to “go in
peace, doing the commandments of God.”
the beginning, God in His providence planned
the union of man and woman.
is no relationship between human beings
close as that of husband and wife
they are united as they ought to be.