02 July 2009

Eastern Orthodox marriage as joint coronation

The Eastern Orthodox Church seems to be closer to the Gnostic traditions of early Christianity than the Western is. In particular, it seems to be the only form of Christianity that incorporates into its rituals a recognition of the importance of royalty (i.e. of centralisation) as a psychological concept.

The Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremony takes the form of a joint coronation of the new husband and wife, thus indicating that centralisation is, at least in principle, accessible to both sexes. Either wreaths of flowers or ‘real’ red and gold crowns are used in the ceremony.

Transposing the idea of centralisation to the idea of the territory or realm of a household within which children are to be brought up is not an idea that would necessarily have appealed much to the Gnostic outlook. The Cathars regarded celibacy as the ideal state, not wishing to draw more souls or consciousnesses into involvement in the material world.

In non-Eastern Christianity, the assertions about kings and kingdoms seem only to be ascribing a peculiar status to Christ himself, rather than a recognition of a generally applicable piece of psychology.

The bride and groom are handed candles which they hold throughout the service. The candles are like the lamps of the five wise maidens of the Bible, who because they had enough oil in them, were able to receive the Bridegroom, Christ, when He came in the darkness of the night ...

The crowns are signs of the glory and honour with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home – domestic church ... When the crowning takes place the priest, taking the crowns and holding them above the couple, says: "The servants of God, [names], are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The crowns used in the Orthodox wedding service refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.

The concepts of kings and servants are about equally anathema to the modern ideology. Those who might have been servants and done things useful to others have become social workers, doctors, and so forth, intruding on people’s lives and imposing restrictions on their liberty.

The couple return to their places and the priest, blessing the groom, says, "Be thou magnified, O bridegroom, as Abraham" ... And blessing the bride he says, "And thou, O bride, be thou magnified as Sarah ..."

Note references to honour, glory and being magnified, as reflecting the self-glorification which is eliminated from most traditions.

During [the] walk around the table, a hymn is sung to the Holy Martyrs, reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage – a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved.

(Extracts taken from www.orthodox.net)