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THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY MATRIMONY
Reverend Christopher Condoleon officiating at the wedding of Peter and Fredericka Thomas (Photo: Courtesy of Mary Thomas Maroulakos c. 1932)
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church with Reverend Christopher Condoleon officiating at the wedding of Peter and Fredericka Thomas. The Koumbaro (best man) is exchanging the white crowns, which symbolize that they will become King and Queen of their home. The ribbon, which connects the crowns, symbolizes the two becoming united into one in Christ.
At the Old Testament, the Marriage was affirmed with a religious ceremony. In the Gospel, the first recorded miracle of Jesus Christ after His Baptism was performed in the wedding in Canaa in Galilee.
As Saint Paul says in his Epistle the Sacrament of Matrimony is a great mystery. The reason is that the two people from two different parents, from different backgrounds they become one. The matrimony of marriage is rich in symbols.
The Service of Matrimony is composed of two services. The first part is the Engagement service and blessing of the rings. The second part is the Wedding service and the blessing of the crowns.
The First Part
The Service of matrimony starts with petitions to God for the newly engaged servants of God. A prayer for the rings is read. The Priest blesses the rings on the Holy Gospel and after making three times the proclamation of the engagement on the newly engaged couple, he places the rings on their right hand. Then the Best man/woman exchanges by crossing his or her hand the rings on their right hand three times and at the end it places it on the right hand again. In the mean while the priest reads a great benediction including the prophets and saints of the Old Testament and New Testament and the first part concludes.
The Second Part
Starts with the words Blessed is the kingdom, which usually is the beginning of the Sacrament. Petitions again to God for the new life of the people who are getting married. In the prayers abundance of every good in their home is asked from God, also love and peace to be their companion etc. Then the priest unites their hand by reading a prayer and crowns them by blessing first the crowns on the Gospel and then on their head by crowning them. Then he takes the Common cup filled with wine, sign of fertility and blesses the cup and the couple sips three times the wine from the same cup, which represents that they are one, they are united. Then the priest takes them by holding on his right hand the Gospel and with his left hand their united hands and they go three times around the small table which is at front of the altar the part called Solea, where the wedding ceremony and all ceremonies take place.
The meaning is that they first walked as husband and wife in the Church and Jesus Christ guided their first steps. The Gospel that the priest holds on his right hand represents Jesus.
Then the priest blesses with a special prayer their forehead and takes off the crowns and places them on the gospel. He splits their hands that he united earlier with the gospel and after some conclusion prayers the services finish. The bride and the groom leave the church together with the bridal party and guests.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR WEDDINGS
For the union of a man and woman to be recognized as sacramentally valid by the Orthodox Church, the following conditions must be met:
The Sacrament of Matrimony must be celebrated by an Orthodox Priest of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, according to the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, in a canonical Orthodox Church, and with the authorization of the metropolitan of the metropolitanate.
Before requesting permission from his Metropolitan to perform the marriage, the Priest must verify that:
a) neither of the parties in question are already married to other persons, either in his country or elsewhere;
b) the parties in question are not related to each other to a degree that would constitute an impediment;
c) if either or both parties are widowed, they have to present death certificates of the deceased spouses;
d)if either or both of the parties have been previously married in The Orthodox Church, they have to bring their ecclesiastical as well as civil divorces;
e) the party of the parties who are members of a parish other than the one in which the marriage is to be performed they have to provide a letter of Good standing from the Parish priest of the community they belong for the present year;
f) A month prior the wedding they have to obtain their civil marriage License from the Town Hall and bring it to the priest.
No person may marry more than three times in the Church, with permission for a third marriage granted only with extreme oikonomia.
In cases involving the marriage of Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, (mixed-marriages), the latter must have been baptized, in water, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The church can not bless the marriage of an Orthodox Christian to a non-Orthodox Christian.
The sponsor (koumbaros or koumbara) must provide a current certificate of membership providing him or her to be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. A person who does not belong to a Parish, or who belongs to a parish under the jurisdiction of a bishop who is not in communion with the Greek Archdiocese, or who, if married has not had or her marriage blessed by the Orthodox Church, or, if divorced, has not received an ecclesiastical divorce, cannot be a sponsor. Non- orthodox persons may be members of the wedding party, but can not exchange rings or crowns.
DAYS WHEN MARRIAGE IS NOT PERMITTED
Marriages are not performed during fast days or fasting seasons.
From December 12 to Dec 26, January 5th and 6th, From Clean Monday to Easter Sunday, from All Saints Sunday to June 29, from August 1 to 15, Aug 29, Sept. 14.
On the Great Feast Days of our Lord.
January 6th, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Christmas Dec. 24 and 25. On these days weddings are performed if it is extreme emergency and if a special permission is obtained by the metropolitan.
INTER - CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES
It is a fact that, the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to live together in peace and concord. Shared faith and traditions spare couples and their children, as well as their extended families, many serious problems, and help to strengthen the bonds between them. Even so, the Orthodox Church will bless marriages between Orthodox and non-Orthodox partners provided that:
The church can not bless the marriage of an orthodox Christian to a person who considers him/herself Christian but is not baptized in water and in the Name of the Father , of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For example Jehowah Witness, 12 Days Adventists;
The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church and raise and nature them in accordance with the Orthodox Faith.
In cases to accommodate both parties two weddings take part in two churches of different denominations is not acceptable. The partners before marriage they have to decide in which denomination they are going to have their sacrament of marriage.
A baptized Orthodox Christian whose wedding has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good standing with the Church, and can not receive the Sacraments of the Church, including Holy Communion, become a Sponsor of an Orthodox Marriage, Baptism or Chrismation. Also in such case he or she is not entitled to have his or her funeral in the Orthodox Church.
A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian in an Orthodox Church does not thereby become a member of the Orthodox Church, and may not receive the Sacraments, including Holy Communion or be buried by the Church, serve on the Parish Council, or vote in Parish Assemblies or elections. To participate in the Church's life, one must be received into the Church by the Sacrament of Baptism or, in the case of the persons baptized in water in the Holy Trinity, following a period of instruction, by Chrismation.
Canonical and theological reasons preclude the Orthodox Church from performing the Sacrament of Marriage for couples where one partner is Orthodox and the other partner is a non-Christian. As such, Orthodox Christians choosing to enter such marriages fall out of good standing with their Church and are unable to actively participate in the life of the Church.
The following types of relationships constitute impediments to marriage:
Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or godchildren of the same godparents.
Brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews
First and second cousins with each other. For the third cousin permission has to be taken by the local Metropolitan, according the Canon Laws.
Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of the foster parents
God parents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of the godchildren.
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