Jesus worked his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. He changed water into wine for the guests gathered for the celebration.
This was a significant event because John’s gospel ends with the statement, “He revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
Weddings are an important part of every culture. I recently visited a friend who went to a Greek Orthodox Wedding in Tampa. The explanation printed in the wedding program inspired me. Since most of us do not have the opportunity to attend a Greek Orthodox Church, (the closest one is in New Orleans), I have included these highlights in my column.
The wedding ceremony of the Greek Orthodox Church is an ancient service dating back to the 9th Century. A man and a woman are united “In Faith, and in Oneness of Mind, in Truth, and in Love.”
Their love is rooted in God, who is Love itself.
The abundant symbols reflect the basic elements of marriage: love, mutual respect, equality and sacrifice.
The priest begins by asking God’s blessings upon the rings and proceeds to bless the bride and groom with the rings. He does this three-times in the Name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, first from the groom to the bride, and then from the bride to the groom. The back and forth movement means that their lives are being entwined into one. The exchange signifies that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other.
The couples are now officially engaged to be married before God.
The Sacrament of Marriage begins with the priest handing the bride and groom white candles that symbolize the couple’s spiritual willingness to receive Christ in their life. Two candles are lit and the light from the candles represents their willingness to take their light from Christ, the “Light of the World.”
The Crowning is the highlight of the Sacrament. The priest then takes two wedding crowns, or Stefana, and blesses the bride and groom in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and then places the crowns upon their heads. Through the crowns, Christ establishes the couple as the King and Queen of their home, which they must rule with wisdom, justice, and integrity. The crowns also refer to the crown of martyrdom, since every true marriage involves self-sacrifice.
The Gospel reading about the marriage at Cana of Galilee follows the crowning.
Following the Gospel reading, a cup containing a small portion of wine is presented to the bride and groom. The common cup reminds the couple that they will share everything in life, joy as well as sorrow, and that they will bear one another’s burdens. Their joy will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they share them. Whatever the cup of life has in store for them, they will share equally.
The celebrant leads the groom and bride around the altar three times as an expression of joy. The threefold walk is an expression of gratitude for all God’s blessings, and joy of receiving those blessings. The altar contains the cross and the holy gospel. On each circle, the couple kisses the cross. The circular movements represent the peacefulness and infinity that the couple desires for their lives. The cross represents suffering, and the gospel represents the education of children to come.
The bride and groom take their first steps together as a married couple, and the priest representing the Church, leading them in the direction they should walk.
The priest then blesses the groom and the bride as he removes the crowns from their heads, and implores God to grant the newlyweds a long, happy, and fruitful life together.