Very few people get to hear the prayers recited over the bride and bridegroom at an Orthodox wedding. Often the choir is finishing the dance of Isaiah as the bride and groom kneel before the priest and he recites a very short prayer at the removal of their crowns. I was privileged to stand up with my compadres at their marriage last year and I got to hear a lot of those quiet priestly prayers up close and they brought me to tears. Below are the prayers on the Greek Archdiocese website:
- Be magnified, O Bridegroom, as Abraham, and blessed as Isaac, and increased as was Jacob. Go your way in peace, performing in righteousness the commandments of God.
- And you, O Bride, be magnified as was Sarah, and rejoiced as was Rebecca, and increased as Rachel, being glad in your husband, keeping the paths of the Law, for so God is well pleased
These prayers clearly lay out what the Church thinks of marriage. Marriage is holy and honorable and sexuality and children are part of the arrangement. Why, then are so few of our known saints married? Why are the marrieds either celibate or remembered for their time as monastics rather than husbands and wives? How does a Christian husband take on the calling of family life and achieve salvation for himself and his children when so many of our examples are celibates and monastics?
In subsequent posts, I would like to explore this thesis: That marriage–in all its fullness– is a vocation conducive to theosis and sanctity. I want to begin with the Orthodox wedding prayers, then explore pertinent biblical passages, and finally make the connection between married asceticism and monastic asceticism and what we can learn from each role as we move towards our salvation. These posts will be geared towards Christian husbands, but I believe that the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures are applicable to men and women living the married state.
Look at those prayers again and see the challenge set before the bride and groom: Arise and be magnificent! Take on the role of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Joachim, Anna. Be holy together, keep to the path together, and bring salvation to your home.