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Orthodox Church Traditions - Our Marriage Ceremony
(Many of us often wondered what are the significance/symbolism of the various parts of our marriage ceremony. This recent letter from Fr. John may shed some light. - ed.)
According to Oriental Christian theological concept, marriage is not just union of two individuals nor a mere contract but a way of fulfillment of divine purpose of creation and hence an experience of worship. It is a holy sacrament because Godís invisible grace is showered upon the bride and the bridegroom to unite them as one forever through the mediation of priest as the representative of God. Bridegroom stands in Christís stead and the bride is in the place of the Church, which is indicative of inseparability, mutual care and selfless love, which are divinely inspired.
Orthodox marriage ceremony has two parts:
1. Ring is symbolic of mutual trust and commitment.
2. Crowning is symbolic of elevating the bride and bridegroom to the status of queen and king respectively and conferring upon them heavenly blessings which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the paradise before their fall. This is the crown of righteousness.
Crowning is followed by Minnu kettu or tying the minnu which is reminiscent of special Indian custom. Minnu is not talli as generally conceived but a stylish heart-shaped cross, a symbol of marriage bond between husband and wife. Bridegroom ties it around the neck of the bride as a token of his firm commitment to nourish, cherish and protect her throughout life. Cross is a good sign of victory over evils and of salvation through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross and worn around neck to symbolize mutual sacrificial love. The song chanted while tying minnu amply exposes the significance of wearing cross.
Then the bridegroom adorns Manthrakoti or bridal dress, over the head of the bride. Ruth 3:9 and Ezk 16:18 mentions about spreading bridegroomís garment upon the bride. This is ancient biblical Jewish custom indicates possession that is, from now onwards the bride has become an integral part of the husbandís family.
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