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||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||



(H.G. Bishop Moussa)


Marriage in the Coptic Orthodox church - as well as all the other traditional churches - is a sacrament; and this means that all three conditions of the other sacraments have to be fulfilled. These cover:

1. Those receiving the sacrament.

2. The sacramental prayers and materials.

3. The ordained priest.

"Mystery" is not the ecclesiastical definition of a

sacrament: for "mystery" means "obscurity," whereas

"sacrament" means the "unseen gift" that we obtain as a

result of our conscious participation in the holy sacrament.

It is "the invisible blessing that we receive in the midst

of physical, visible manifestations."

1. Those Receiving the Sacrament

The couple approaching holy matrimony are like those who

come for baptism or confirmation. As they approach this

holy sacrament they have to meet certain special conditions,

such as:

- The Legal minimum age (16 for her and 18 for him).

- The absence of any legal impediments or any kinship

which may disqualify them as marriage partners.

- The full consent of both parties.

- Suitable spiritual preparation, such as repentance,

confession and receiving the Holy Communion.

- Mental, psychological and social readiness.

- A sound understanding of Christian marriage.

2. The Sacramental Prayers & Materials

Everything is "sanctified by the Word of God and prayer"

(1Tim 4:5). So are the bride and groom. They must listen

carefully to extensive prayers, to readings from St. Paul's

letters, the Psalms and the Gospels. These deal with every

aspect of Christian marriage. The couple are also anointed

with holy oil. It is above all after they have been

anointed in the name of the Holy Trinity three times that

they receive the Spirit of God and He makes them one in


The Ordained Priest

If the sacrament is to be effective, the priest is

essential: for he has the authority of the church to

carry it out. It is not just the prospect of

parenthood for the bride groom, or even the spiritual

aspects of marriage that are involved in the

performance of the sacrament. The sacrament also

involves the canonical rites, and these depend on the

ecclesiastical authority handed down to the priest.

As a holy sacrament, marriage requires canonical

prayers. In those prayers we call on God's Spirit to

bless the bride and groom and sanctify their union. Is

it possible for that to happen in a civil marriage, a

marriage by private contact on in a mixed marriage

between persons from different religious backgrounds?

Definitely not! For those marriages are man-made and

not from God, and Christianity rejects them.

Matrimonial Ceremony

It involves successive steps that are vitally linked. In

fact, the ceremony used to take place between the Raising of

Incense at Matins and the Eucharistic Liturgy, just as the

rites of monasticism do now. For as the monk becomes

attached to the Lord, so the bride and the groom become

attached to one another in the Lord. In this way they are

prepared for receiving the holy communion, as the first step

to be taken immediately after getting married. In the old

days there was a custom, based on the Book of Tobit, that

the newly married couple should spend the first three days

of marriage fasting from physical contact so as to deepen

their spiritual love and thus to abide by and in the Lord.

1. The Contract of Appropriation1

The vow to belong to one another used to be taken

immediately upon engagement, in the form of public prayers.

However, these prayers have since been separated from the

engagement rites. For whereas the engagement can be broken,

the 'contract of appropriation' is binding. Saying the

prayers amounts to a real, legal marriage contract that

cannot be broken except for legal reasons.

Those prayers or at least, the most significant part of them

are now transferred to the wedding itself. We take from

them the Triple Sign which is at the heart of those prayers.

2. The Triple Sign

This is just like the blessing given for the engagement, "In

the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One

God. Amen! Blessed is God the Father, blessed is the only

Son, and blessed is the Holy Spirit." This is done for the

newly married couple and their wedding rings, as a blessing

for the partners and for their partnership, and for the

covenant of love between them.


3. The Letters From St. Paul

A passage is read form St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians

(5:22-6:3) where the Apostle draws our attention to the

proper foundations for the Christian home: a husband that

loves his wife as much as himself and a wife that obeys her

husband. As much as the husband gives love, the wife gives

obedience and vice versa. It is a wonderful recipe for the

unity and the continuity of the Christian home.

4. The Gospel

After Psalm 19: "Like a bridegroom coming out of his

chamber" (verses 5,6) and Psalm 128: "Your wife shall be

like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house" (verse

3) are read out, there comes the Gospel according to St.

Matthew where the Lord stresses:

a. The law of monogamy (one wife): "He Who made them

at the beginning 'made them male and female'" (Mt 19:4).

b. The unity of the married couple: "The two shall

become one flesh" (Mt19:5).

c. The continuity of the marriage: "What God has

joined together, let not man separate" (Mt 19:6).

5. The Litany

In which the priest and all the congregation ask God for His

mercy to bless the groom and the bride as He blessed Adam

and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and

Rachel, Joseph and Asenath, and as He also blessed the

wedding at Cana of Galilee by His gracious presence.

6. The Three Prayers

In which the priest asks for spiritual blessing and real

unity for the couple, "That they may have happiness and keep

the right faith, and enter into the mystery of joyfulness."

He also prays that God would "Keep them in welfare, wisdom

and the blessings of salvation" and grant them godly

children, "For life O Lord comes from You, and the fruit of

life from the womb."

7. Anointing With Oil

This is after a special prayer over the oil so as to bless

it: "As a weapon for righteousness and justice; an

anointing for purity and incorruptibility; radiance and

beauty that will never fade; and a renewal and salvation for

their souls, their bodies and their spirits." The deacons

respond at the end of each section by singing a joyful


8. The Chasuble2 & The Crown

The priest prays over the chasuble and the crown so that the

couple may receive, "Crowns of glory and honor, blessing and

salvation, joy and happiness, virtue and justice, strength

and stability." Thus, when the priest crowns the newly

married couple, this means crowning them in spiritual glory

in their new church. When the groom puts on the chasuble,

this means that he has become the family priest. He is to

present daily sacrifices, such as prayers, praises and

offerings, on the altar of Christian love and the altar of

the inmost heart.

As for the marriage rings, they are a mark of the covenant

of love. That is why they are transferred from the righthand

to the left, which is closer to the heart.

9. The Presentation

The priest presents the bride to the groom with a special

prayer. Then he covers both their hands with a Communion

napkin that was originally given to them as a preparation

for Holy Communion. It is now just to remind them that they

should receive Holy Communion at their earliest convenience.

10. The Exhortation, The Blessings and The Absolution

Now the priest urges both bride and groom to take special

care to nurture their love for each other and to cherish

their family ties. After they have promised at the altar to

keep the family altar, to have daily prayers and Biblereading,

he blesses them. Then he prays for forgiveness for

their sins and sends them out with the congregation in

peace. After this they should be regularly receiving Holy

Communion and other sacraments.

This is how the prayers of the sacrament reach their climax:

on a high point of spirituality and exhortation. Although

the bride and groom will then be very busy with the

photographs and social niceties, which are not that

appropriate, we still hope that they will reflect on all the

prayers of this sacrament, which are usually taped.

May the Lord keep our homes in purity, understanding and

cohesion. May He make them model homes: models of witness

to Jesus Christ, their Founder and Shepherd

||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

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||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

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