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The Spirituality Behind the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian



  The Armenian Church celebrates the sacrament of Holy Matrimony with a beautiful service. The attention of the witnesses focuses on the bride and the groom, while the Holy Spirit works mysteriously outside our physical sight. This reflection centers on the meaning and spirituality behind the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, to help us better absorb the service mindfully and spiritually.

             

            The service begins when the bride enters from the door, either with the groom or her father. She walks up the aisle accompanied by the Armenian hymn “Ourakh Ler Sourp Yegeghetsi” («Ուրախ Լեր Սուրբ Եկեղեցի», “Be joyful, Holy Church”), and stands at the doors of the Tas. The celebrant blesses the wedding rings as the symbol of the matrimony covenant. He gives his advice to the attendees before asking the bride and groom to take their vows. If they both confess their agreement “to love, cherish, and protect each other until their death,” the priest blesses them and asks for God’s protection over them. After the vows, the priest takes each one’s right hand and joins them together, as he unites their heads under the holy cross, which is carried by the godfather. At the same time, he recites the following:

           

“God took the hand of Eve and gave it into the right Adam, and Adam said: ’This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

 

            This prayer is followed by a hymn, another blessing, and an introit. At this point, the priest and the deacon climb the stairs to the Holy Altar while the bride, the groom, the godfather, and the godmother approach the edge of the bema in the Tas. Three basic actions take place, categorized as follows:

 

a)    To be founded on the Word of God. The Word of God, the Gospel, forms the core and essence of our lives. The Gospel provides us with a Life-giving fountain of Christianity. This is essential to move into the holy and transforming mystery of God’s work. God spoke His commandments before sending His only Begotten Son to give His body and blood. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist enables us to get into communion with the spiritual “Eucharist,” listening to the Word of God.

God’s Word forms the foundation of the couple’s life journey. It is essential for the couple to come to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony united in the Word of God. Accordingly, the couple and the couple’s godparents express their faith and unity in Christ by adoring and kissing the Gospel, which is the Word of God, the “face” of salvation.

b)    To be honored with the crown of the Holy Spirit. God created Adam and Eve and created everything that they needed to reflect His love on earth. They were the crown of the creation because they received the grace of God’s image and His likeness. Their disobedience led to losing the honor of living in the true presence of God, the King. Through His salvation, Our Lord Jesus Christ restored to humankind the honor that the first couple lost. While we live and die outside the Garden of Eden, Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection have returned to us the honor of living in God’s kingdom. This is tiesd directly to the Sacrament. The couple receives the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony inside the church, which signifies God’s Kingdom, the new Eden. The Church honors their union with holy crowns (narod) to remind us that we are restored in the Kingdom through the grace of salvation. This act resembles “reinauguration” to God’s Kingdom, but not through our own efforts. Rather, we are reinaugurated through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The crowns call on the couple to allow God’s glory to shine with the grace of divine love and unity.

c)     To be transformed with the blessed wine. The service reaches its peak for the couple when they drink the blessed cup of wine before the last blessing. Our Lord Jesus Christ blessed the sacrament of Holy Matrimony at the wedding in Cana. He transformed the water into wine, saving the joy of the wedding. He later blessed the wine at the Last Supper, declaring it His blood and marking a New Covenant with humankind. As human beings, we have a difficult time staying joyful. It takes great effort and sacrifice to do so. Our Lord Jesus Christ transformed our lives with His blood to enable us to enjoy a true wedding feast. Through the blessed wine, the same salvific blood of our Lord flows into the mouths of the couple and circulates into their spiritual veins to transform their beings, making them one. Their love for each other brought them to the Sacrament of the Holy Matrimony. God is the source of love, and He demonstrated His love through the Holy Cross.  

 

The Apostle Paul describes the unity between man and woman as analogous to that between Christ and His church. Furthermore, families are considered their own small churches under the auspices of the Mother Church. The first family on earth, Adam and Eve, lived in the Garden of Eden in the presence of our Lord, the Tree of Life. Even though they were created perfectly, they lacked life without the presence of God. He is the source of life and love. How can a family survive away from the source from which they received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony? It would be like unplugging a lamp from the outlet. The sacrament includes several signs to remind the couple of the grace that they receive during the ceremony, including the ring, which signifies their oath and obedience to one another; the Gospel, which forms the foundation of their unity; the crown, which reminds them of the destination of their glorious journey; and the wine which signifies the life-giving blood of our Lord, who transforms their lives, from simple water to wine.    

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