To the Bride and Groom:
You freely chose to turn your initial attraction to one another and the affection that grew from that into a commitment of love and faithfulness to each other in marriage. Wanting a marriage that is holy, you submitted yourselves to the Church. Today, we offer your love to the Spirit and His Bride (Rev 22:17) in the prayer that your marriage may be illumined in the joy of the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9), and the children born of your marriage made “radiant with life” in the glory of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.
Through these most sacred rites of the Church’s wedding service, Christ receives the offering of your love through the intercessions of His Holy Mother as at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. In return, He crowns you with glory and honor and unites you in holy matrimony as man and wife, as He did when He created Adam and Eve. You are even now, even before you have come together in the physical intimacy of marriage, united as man and wife in the great mystery of Christ and His Church, just as Adam and Eve were united by God in marriage (Gn 2:23) before they "knew" each other in the physical intimacy of marriage. (Gn 4:1) The foundation of your marriage is therefore not carnal but spiritual in the glory and honor of your wedding crowns with which Adam and Eve were crowned at their creation. ("Thou hast made man a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor." Ps 8:5)
The Spirit of God who unites you as man and wife today is the very Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead; it is the same Spirit that proceeds from the Father and rests in His Son. And today, the same Holy Spirit proceeds from the altar of the Church to rest on you, members in the Church of the body of the only-begotten Son of God, as an invisible crown of glory and honor, and joins you, as man and wife, to the martyrs today as witnesses with them to the mystery of Christ and His Church. May God through the prayers of His holy martyrs help you to become worthy of such glory and honor!
Your Marriage Transfigured into An Ascent to the Resurrection.
Your wedding crowns give to your marriage the fragrance of the Gospel. They call you now, in the glory of the Holy Spirit, to go forth from your wedding today into the everyday life of your marriage as Adam and Eve united to the New Adam and the New Eve; and, in the mystery of Christ’s Holy Pascha to multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it, and to have dominion over every living thing in accordance with your having been created in the Image of God. (Gn 1:28) If you observe these commandments of God in your marriage, the glory and honor of your wedding crowns will, like Christ changing the water into wine, transfigure your marriage into an ascent to the Resurrection of Christ. So, let’s reflect today on the paschal force of these biblical commands given to you who are now united in holy matrimony.
To multiply according to the Gospel means to bring forth children into the world imbued with the Holy Spirit of Christ in the ethos of the grace, love and communion that flow from the glory and honor of the Holy Trinity that crown you today in His Holy Church. But surely, it means also to multiply in every good work, so that you may be made perfect in the love of Christ and His Holy Church, that you may do the will of God, so that the love of God works in you that which is well-pleasing in the sight of God the Father, through His beloved Son, Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Heb 13:21)
Adam and Eve were created in the Image of God. The Image of God is Christ (Col 1:15). A profound theological vision of human nature and destiny is proclaimed here. As the Image in whom they and all things were made, Christ embraces them and He transcends them. Embracing him, Christ brings man from nothing into being in the communion of marriage, for, as Christ Himself says, “He made them from the beginning of creation male and female. Therefore, a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh, having been joined together by God.” (Mk 10:6-9.) The union of man and woman in the communion of marriage is a fundamental law, I would even say the primordial principle, of human being.
(Those in our day who have set out to change the nature of marriage, under whatever pretext, are deluded. They have made themselves partners, wittingly or unwittingly, with the dark spirit that rules this world and that is working even now in the sons and daughters of disobedience, making themselves to be children of wrath. Eph 2:2-3 Therefore, God has given them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves; who have changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. Rom 1:24-25)
Transcending man, Christ establishes human nature in an ecstatic movement of love (eros); a movement, that is to say, that impels man and woman to go out of themselves, each in search of the other as his or her beloved, to become in the union of marriage perfect man: male and female created in the Image of God. The originator and begetter of this movement of love is God so that both the origin and telos – the goal, perfection – of this natural, erotic movement is God. Embracing them, therefore the Image of God impels them from within to strive even beyond the union of their marriage in search of the God who transcends them as the originator and begetter of the erotic force that is in them. (Cf. St Maximus the Confessor, Fifth Century of Various Texts §§85ff.) He is the Heavenly Bridegroom who calls out with His Bride, the Church, from heaven: “Come! Let him who is thirsty come and drink freely the waters of life, the living waters of the Holy Spirit!” (Rev 22:17, Jn 7:38) It is the call to the marriage feast of the King’s Son. (Mt 22:2) It calls you, as Adam and Eve in the primordial union of marriage, to ascend to the higher and greater union of the eschatological marriage of the Lamb and His Bride in the Resurrection of Christ. Submit to the call of the Spirit and His Bride, and the glory and honor of your wedding crowns align the erotic force of your conjugal love with its natural yearning for God to transfigure your marriage into a never-ending ascent from glory to glory (II Cor 3:18) to the virtue of God’s own divine nature in union with Christ and His Bride, the Church.
The command given to Adam and Eve to multiply and to subdue the earth and to have dominion over every living thing is the path of this ascent. Given to them in the image of Christ, it is perfected only in the image of Christ, only as they fulfill them as did Christ and His Church, the New Adam and the New Eve. And, how did they multiply and subdue the earth and gain dominion over every living thing?
They submitted freely and in love to the Father in heaven: the New Eve in her words, “Behold, the handmaid of God; let it be done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38), so that she became Theotokos, Mother of God from whom the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us; the New Adam in His submission to the Father in perfect obedience even to the point of death on the cross, to pour out His Holy Spirit on every living thing. The dominion that Christ and His Holy Church have over every living thing is the authority and power of their love. It is the power that is able to create the world from nothing, to destroy death by death and to give life to those in the tombs, and to make children born of flesh and blood – the children born of your flesh and blood – to become children of God. (Jn 1:13) It is this love that subdues the world; and indeed the world shall be subdued when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, in love and thanksgiving to the God who first loved us, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Perfecting the glory and honor of your wedding crowns.
Today, you are the bride and groom of the wedding in Cana of Galilee. By the presence of Christ and His holy Mother, your wedding is a witness to the hour of Christ’s glorification when the age of His Resurrection broke into the world. The Theotokos is telling you how the glory and honor of your wedding crowns will transform your marriage from the water of a mere civil union that dies with its partners into the wine of a never-ending ascent from glory to glory in the eschatological mystery of Christ and His Church. She says: “Do whatever He tells you.”
And, St Paul gives you the meaning of Christ’s commandment that transfigured the water into wine so that your marriage becomes your ascent to the age of the Resurrection, when those who are counted worthy to attain to that age will neither marry nor be given in marriage, because they cannot die anymore. They will have become equal to angels in heaven; they will have become children of God. (Lk 24:20) In their love for Christ, they will be united to Him and so have become one spirit with Him (I Cor 6:17), taken up into the great mystery of the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride (Rev 21:9 & 19:7-9) as members of His Body, which is the Church, His Bride. (Eph 5:30)
Groom, as the head of your wife, you are directed to be her head as Christ is the head of the Church. You are called to love her as Christ loved the Church. This is how your wedding crown will become an incarnate witness to Christ. He, out of His love for the Father, was obedient to Him to the point of death on the cross, that His bride, the Church, might be delivered from death, that she might be made spotless, clean, and holy, so that she could present herself to Him as His beautiful wife crowned with the glory and honor of His own Holy Spirit. To be head of your wife, to be her lord and master in Christ, is, in the image of Christ, to be her lover and her servant [douloV].
Bride, as the body of your husband, you are directed by the Theotokos and St Paul to be subject to him in all things as the Church is subject to Christ in all things; this is how your wedding crown will become an incarnate witness to Christ. For, Christ was subject to His Father in all things, even to the point of becoming flesh and dwelling among us, so that He could share with us in our death and destroy him who held the power of death, the evil one, and deliver us from bondage to death and from the fear of death, and save us and unite us to His heavenly Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit, so that we could attain to the glory and virtue of Christ’s own divine nature. (II Pt 1:4) To be the “body” of your husband is, if it is to be an image of the Church in her love for Christ, to be his beloved and his handmaid, his servant [doulh], even as the Theotokos was the handmaid, the servant, of the Lord.
Do you begin to see what’s at stake in your marriage? Your marriage is not in any way disconnected or irrelevant to the salvation of the world. It is not a private affair between you and your families. Joined in holy matrimony by God and not by man, through its sacramental character in the Church, your marriage opens onto the world – because part of the world is in you, and Christ is in you! Your marriage has a cosmic dimension. Heaven and earth are anxious in hope to see if you let yourselves drift in the direction of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or if you will resolutely set yourselves in the direction of the Tree of Life. Either the world will swallow you up and your marriage will become worldly in its willful spirit of disobedience of Christ commandments, and fall into forgetfulness and ignorance of God, subject to disintegration, either in estrangement from one another, or separation, or divorce and finally death; or, you will conquer the world that is in you and sanctify it by the grace inherent in the glory and honor of your wedding crowns, the grace of Christ in you! If you set your eyes on the mystery of Christ and His Church and take up your cross and, denying yourselves through your biblical subjection to each other, climb Golgotha to the tomb of Christ that opens onto the Garden of Eden at its summit, you will conquer the spirit of disobedience by your obedience to Christ. And in this you will multiply according to the Gospel. Your obedience to the commandments of Christ given you today in your wedding will conquer forgetfulness of God by giving birth to unceasing prayer; unceasing prayer will conquer ignorance of God by giving birth to love for Christ and His Holy Mother in unceasing remembrance of God in thanksgiving and worship. You will subdue the world in the love of God and gain dominion over every living thing in the authority and power of the love of God who alone is life and life-creating. You will become His witnesses with His holy disciples and martyrs – they in Samaria and in Judea and the uttermost parts of the earth; you in Minneapolis, or wherever you go; and, your marriage will become an icon that proclaims as you ascend to the Resurrection in your holy and sanctified love for each other the glorious destiny to which the world is called in the mystery of Christ and His Holy Church.
Man and Wife together are an icon of the Icon.
In your biblical subjection to one another, you perfect the Image of Christ in whom you were made. Your marriage becomes an icon of the Resurrection and an ascent to the mystery of God that was hidden from before the ages and revealed in these last days in Jesus Christ: the mystery of Christ in you! (Col 1:27) And, you may believe that the glory and honor of the martyrs’ crowns has become the substance of your married life when you begin to live in fear; not the fear evoked by the threat of harm, but the fear of the myrrh-bearing women and of the holy disciples when they beheld the crucified and risen Lord. It is the fear of awe before the unfathomable ocean and incomprehensible depths of the love of the crucified and risen Christ that you may begin to behold with the eyes of your soul as you practice loving each other in the way the Theotokos and St Paul are directing you today. It is the fear of God that will grip you when you begin to see, not as a religious idea but as a spiritual reality, the Christ who is in you! This is that fear that gives birth to such love for God who first loved us that one yearns ardently to be subdued under the dominion of Christ and His Church, and in the soul of your marriage, you will fall to your knees with St Thomas in worship and cry out with Him to the crucified and risen Christ in you: “My Lord and my God!”
This love of God, given to you in the gift of His Holy Spirit who unites you in marriage as man and wife, is the glory and honor that crowns you today and of which your wedding today is a martyr, a witness. This is the spiritual substance of your wedding crowns; and, you are now called to go forth into your marriage and to work to make the glory and honor of those crowns incarnate as your ascent to Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom. In this glorious vision of Christ’s Holy Gospel, submit to each other in the love of man and wife in exactly the way that Christ’s Holy Mother and St Paul are directing you today. “Do whatever He tells you to do,” says His Mother. And, St Paul says: “Submit to one another in the love of Christ. This, the marriage of man and woman, is a great mystery; for I am speaking of the mystery of Christ and His Church.”
May this glory and honor become the substance of your life and ours as we commend ourselves and each other and all our life to Christ our God. Amen.