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Why?/Why: - 3

Some of my friends act “disappointed” when they find out that my father will not walk me down the aisle and “give me away” at my wedding. They said that it is “so touching” to watch and be a part of. Since this was never done at any of our family’s weddings, I cannot understand their concern. Why do they make an issue of it?


Most likely they do not understand what a wedding is. It is a sacrament: a Mystery of God’s love being expressed by a most sublime and sacred act. Here, a man and a woman participate as principle co-workers in the story of the human race that traces its roots to the first book of the Bible--Genesis.

It is an awesome event that harkens back to the mutual aid accorded Adam and Eve by God’s will to make them in “our image and likeness--male and female”.

God gave man and woman to each other - imbued with free will and a responsibility to “be fruitful” and to take mastery over the Earth. Our church reflects the commission given to our first parents in the way it furthers God’s work - and as expressed in its rituals.

It seems that there are some pre- non- and antichristian ideas that have infiltrated the process of the continuance of humanity. These may have developed in societies not so in tune with the revealed Word of God as we know it. It may stem from systems of familial or tribal power struggles which evaluated success by numbered possessions - rather than values of the original intent of our Creator.

History can certainly be cited of instances of “civilizations” that counted people as possessions - the natural-born offspring; by adoption, those brought into the clan through marriage; or acquisition as slaves. From this system there arose in parts of the pre-Christian (some say “pagan”) world attitudes that women were bartered for possessions or positions of prestige. Thus originated the idea that a father gives away his possession (daughter) to another man, family or tribe. Often prices were paid for the privilege of being given away-a dowry. This turned into the notion that such unions were considered contract--more than sacrament--and sacredness was overshadowed by mundane and expedient affairs of day-to-day living. Other societies arranged unions more for economic or status’ sake rather than a commitment of wills to find growth in fulfilling God’s plan.

Through the priest, our church blesses unions of a man and a woman as husband and wife-as an outcome of the commingling of the roles of civic and religious leaders, particularly after the declaration of Christianity as the “state religion” of the Roman Empire by Constantine.

In some places secular reality prevailed--and less spiritual elements of the idea and ideals of marriage predominated.

Based, however, upon the texts of ritual used by Eastern Churches--and their interpretation according to Biblical principles so intrinsic to very early Christian notions - there is a different appreciation for the state of Matrimony, which differs in concept from “wedding” and “marriage”. Here the man is joined to his wife as Christ is to the Church--in a reciprocal relationship.

We see that the bride and groom approach the Church as individuals, using their free-will choice to assert to the world that they intend to live as God intends: as two people; yet as one flesh; joined for the duration of their life as an entity not to be torn asunder. They are met by the pries--as the representative of (not just a mere “witness” to) the God Whose Kingdom they intend to expand, and proceed with him into the body of the church.

With prayers and petitions they are crowned as equal partners as the king and queen of their own dominion in this Kingdom and are led around the tetrapod accompanied by a tropar that expresses their acquiescence to the Will of God.

It is sometimes thought today that the wedding is “the bride’s day”. It reality it is the “Church’s Day” for another family is begun, with a sacred mission. The ritual is not to be tampered with, neither minimalized nor compromised in any way. Some concessions might be arranged in the case of an inter-ritual marriage-but not to circumvent the integrity of the rite. (For example, if someone were totally committed to having the father of the bride present his daughter to her future husband, it may be done on the church steps, or in the vestibule, before the priest approaches the couple to lead them down the aisle). Marriages must be done in the church, where God does the “touching”. To be married “before a priest” does not suffic--lest someone think that the priest can nonchalantly come to a park, hall, or other location. The ceremony is to be conducted with all solemnity and prescribed action--frivolous antics seen on “funniest video” programs notwithstanding.

As had been a practice early in our history in the United States, it is possible that the couple attends the Divine Liturgy (Sunday) morning, and returns in mid-afternoon for the wedding itself and the subsequent reception for family and well-wishers.

Church law requires persons contemplating marriage be instructed in the concept and depth of the Mystery of Matrimony in these words: “Can. 783 § 1 of the Code ofCanons ofthe Eastern Churches reminds the pastors of souls about their obligation to take care of the faithful who are preparing for the matrimonial state, so that they may get to know and be informed about the meaning of Christian Marriage, about its characteristics of union and indissolubility in the image of the indefectible union of Christ with the Church and about its duties of union between them and toward their offspring (can. 776 §§ 1 and 2). In reviewing … the liturgical prescriptions for these celebrations, the competent authorities of each Church sui iuris are to carefully safeguard the specific features of their own heritage which show the particular prominence of the meaning of the matrimonial institution in the framework of the history of salvation and, especially, expresses in theological terms the strict relation between it and the nuptial mystery existing between Christ and his Church”.

In closing, congratulations on your up-coming wedding! Maybe you could prepare a printed program for your guests who may not be familiar with some of the things they will see or not see; hear or not hear at your ceremony--and have legitimate questions or curiosity about why it is we do what we do. It would be a great gift of sharing a “teachable moment” with those who experience your great participation in the continuum that is the Church. God grant you many year--in peace, health and happiness!

By Fr. Danny Molitvy


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