Last month, I attended my first wedding in a Greek Orthodox Church. My friend Teresa, a devout Roman Catholic, married Sean, a devout Greek Orthodox. I didn’t know what to expect from the ceremony aside from being surrounded by the distinctive architecture. It was certainly a sacred experience – simple and symbolic of the covenant that marriage is.
There were two moments in the wedding that stood out for me the most.
The first was the Betrothal Ceremony. The priest took the rings and, making the sign of the cross over the couple’s heads, blessing them, saying “The servant of God… is betrothed to the maid of God… in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In their wedding program, Sean and Teresa wrote:
In Scripture, as the prayer of betrothal indicates, rings were given as signs of commitment, authority, and forgiveness. After they are blessed by the priest, the rings are exchanged between bride and groom. The exchange signifies that in married life the weaknesses of one partner will be compensated for by the strengths of the other.
The second was the Crowning Ceremony, when the bride and groom were crowned as king and queen of their home, which they must rule with wisdom, justice, mercy, and integrity. This was a great reminder that a married couple needs to exercise dominion over themselves and over their children. “The crowns also symbolize martyrdom and sacrifice. Throughout marriage, the husband and wife must be willing to offer and sacrifice themselves in imitation of Christ.” Near the end of the Ceremony, the priest removed the crowns and prayed, remembering Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. He then blessed the bride and groom and instructed them to go in peace, performing the commandments of God.
On this Feastday of Mary’s Birth, we can ask Mary to help us keep at the forefront of our lives, the deep meaning of our covenant of love. Some of us may be single, others married or in the religious life, but we are all called to love, and to see our lives in connection with the faithful who have gone before us