On October 6th I had the honor of joining together two people in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. I do not usually post sermons from sacraments but I thought that this sermon was fitting to be posted here in the blog. I have removed their names from the sermon to maintain their privacy.
Today, these two children of God present themselves here in front of God and the community to pledge their love for one another and to have that love blessed by God’s Holy Church. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, they solemnly vow before Christ, the priest, and the congregation, to be true to each other for life. This union is blessed by Christ through His Holy Church and God’s grace is imparted on them to live together in His love, mutually fulfilling and perfecting each other.
The Orthodox Church teaches that marriage was instituted in Paradise when God blessed the first couple, Adam and Eve, to live as a family and so too the Church blesses the union of man and woman. The love of Christ for the Church becomes the archetype of marriage for Adam was created in the image of God and Eve in the image of the Church. By His presence at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee Christ revalues and elevates marriage to its ontological function.
St. John Chrysostom declares: “There are two reasons for which marriage was instituted… to bring man to be content with one woman and to have children, but it is the first reason that is the most important.”
Marriage implies that both the bride and the groom belong to each other and are united in spiritual love and physical unity. Christian marriage elevates the bodily union to become a spiritual union, through the Holy Spirit, just as the Holy Spirit works in the Baptismal water to make humans a new creation. The Holy Spirit also works on the couple during the marriage ceremony, through prayers and faith to unite them in the Lord. Through the commitments made by the bride and the groom in fulfilling the commandments of marriage and the work of the Holy Spirit, the two partners become one.
Marriage then ceases to be just the satisfaction of natural, human instinct, or the fulfillment of man’s search for earthly happiness. It is an event which concerns not only the newly married couple, but also Christ Himself, for two of His members are being joined in one within the whole Church which is the Body of Christ.
At the start of the service, the right hands of the bride and groom were joined. This is a visible sign of what happens on the spiritual and emotional level in the sacrament of Marriage. The hands are kept joined throughout the ceremony to symbolize the oneness of the couple. At the conclusion of the service, the Holy Gospel book is passed through their joined hands to break the bond to remind them that it is only Christ that should come between them and their love for one another.
The crowns that they wear upon their heads is a reminder that the bride and groom are kings and queens of their own little kingdom, the home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice, and integrity. These also symbolize the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage requires sustained self-sacrifice on both sides.
Drinking from the common cup is to remind both of you that from this moment on you will share in everything in life, its joys as well as sorrows and that you are to “bear one another’s burdens.” Your joys will be doubled, and your sorrows will be halved because they will be shared.
The walk around the Holy Table is to remind you that the sacrificial love that you must have for each other is eternal, there are no vows in the Orthodox Church that say till death do us part, marriage is eternal. It is also a reminder that your life should revolve around the Church as your source of life. You are called by Holy Church to be eternally witnesses of the union of Christ with His Church. This new dimension is what constitutes the whole difference between a Christian marriage and the one which is concluded outside of the Church.
Now this is the part where I, the single guy, give you, the married couple advice:
Let God help you make yours a happy marriage. Commit your lives to Him and invite Him into your marriage every day. Pray together. Worship together. Live close to Him who is the source of Love. The closer you are to God the closer you will be to each other.
If there are serious marriage problems, see the priest before you see an attorney. Many marriages could be saved if you remember that it is God that has brought you together, and this is not just a legal contract that you are entering into.
Marriage is a life-long commitment to the one you love. Your aim will be not so much to be pleased as much as to please the one you have chosen.
Love means to give. It must be expressed daily. Never take your love one from granted. Remember to say “I love you” at least one daily and continue your courtship through the years.
Your spouse comes first in all of your relationships. You complement each other. God puts dissimilar people together so that they can help each other in their limitations.
A healthy marriage requires growth, forgetting self and seeking to please the other. A healthy marriage is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner. Don’t be afraid of conflict, they can be challenges to help you know one another better. Find time to communicate, really communicate, to listen to each other, to our out your hearts to each other. Don’t be afraid to communicate angry feelings honestly and in love.
Accept your spouse. Don’t expect perfection. Don’t try to change them, the only person you can change in yourself, and this is where all real change begins. We are responsible for one another’s behavior in marriage. When your partner misbehaves, take a good look at yourself to determine whether you could be responsible.
A healthy marriage takes time. Learn to say “WE.” Holy your money in common, it belongs to both of you. Do not let outsiders make decisions for you. Never go to sleep angry, forgive each other daily, and forget.
And, to the groom, this one is for you. There are three words that you need to say each and every day as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you say these three words you will have a long and happy marriage, those three words are, “I was wrong.”
And now as the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt 19:4-6)