Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Christian’

It was such a tiny little wedding in a cavernous cathedral…but it was so touching and beautiful.  It was in English, Korean, and Greek, and the ceremony was full of ancient melodies and ancient Christian rites.  But above all, I think the best part was the little girls sitting on the ground gazing in awe of our little ceremony.  When I was 5 I was the bridesmaid in my mother’s cousin’s wedding, and I was enamoured by the bride..the ceremony….the dignity of it all, and it feels like I’ve reached some sort of new life stage by being on the other side…by being that woman that little girls look up to.  And especially being that I know these little girls, and because these girls are from my church family, I feel a certain responsibility to strive to be a good example in having a happy and healthy marriage. 

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Orthodox Wedding Crowns (Stefana)

from Etsy

Russian Crowns

I’ve been refreshing my memory on the key points of an Orthodox wedding ceremony for tomorrow, and in my search, I came across this page.  It’s a good abridged version of the major symbols and rituals and the meaning behind them, and this one point about the crowning portion of the ceremony that really stood out for me. 

 “The service of the Crowning, which follows, is the climax of the Wedding service. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor 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, which they will rule with fear of God, wisdom, justice and integrity. 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.”

We’ve been legally married and living together for nearly two months now, and I have to say that one of the most unpleasant things I have learned about myself is how self-serving I really am.  Women have heard this ‘sacrifice’ line for so many generations, and it has often been used to subjugate women…or perhaps more commonly for women to make themselves feel guilty because they are not subjugating themselves.  Women have often been the ones more likely to give up their talents, their desires, their wants for their husbands, sometimes for the good, but often to the detriment of themselves and their families, and this is why feminists are so loathe to use the word ‘sacrifice’ and ’women’ in the same sentence.  I’ve always feared giving in too much, or losing too much of myself to a relationship to an unhealthy and dangerous degree which explains some of my prior fear of commitment.

But the flip side, the one that I am guilty of, is not sacrificing in that beautiful way in which people – men, women, children, citizens, strangers – let go of their egos and put someone else first for the benefit of all.  I think the ego bit is key. We should not sacrifice ourselves so that we crush our spirits in great misery, we should suppress our egos to build harmony and create happiness for everyone.  Sacrifice isn’t ‘women’s work’ or ‘women’s duty,’ it must be found on “…both sides.”  Sacrificing can be dangerous if one person is always doing the lion’s share, but it is beautiful when practiced by all.

I’ve been so guilty in these past 7 weeks of looking out for myself, for evaluating the minute details of each action to make sure we are both giving equally at equal times to our home, marriage, and partnership.  I can’t give you any specific examples, but it is a common theme running through my head at all times…looking out for my wellbeing instead of wondering how I can best serve my husband (even though he is always looking for ways to serve me).  I need to work a lot more on slaying my ego, on being joyful in service, and on committing myself to partnership over self gain.  I have heard of or seen so many cases where women’s needs and wants have not been met and they have been crushed in the process, but I am not in this situation.  Mr. Lee is by far a much nicer and more giving person than me (I tend to be snarky, over cynical, and bitchy), and I can learn so much from how he is always looking for ways to please me. So tomorrow when we are crowned in Holy Matrimony, when we are made ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of our residence, I hope that I can embark on a less egotistic journey of ways to better serve my husband instead of serving myself because the best leaders always remember that they are really servants.

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Tomorrow we are having our Orthodox church wedding.  It’s going to be a tiny little ceremony in the chapel instead of the cathedral, attended by probably around 10-15 people.  I’m not really excited at the thought of having another wedding ceremony, especially one so close to the huge Korean wedding we had last week, but it we didn’t participate in this ceremony, I wouldn’t be considered an ‘Orthodox in good standing’ meaning that I could not receive communion, be a Godparent, or be considered a person living in the fullness of the faith.  (The post explaining why we could not get married in one ceremony can be found here).

Perhaps to someone outside of this tradition, or outside of a religious tradition itself, it seems strange that I should care so much.  Indeed, at the beginning of my planning journey I considered not having an Orthodox wedding because of the complicated process and cost of planning so many ceremonies, and the fact that nobody else in either my family or my husband’s family are Orthodox and care about such matters.  However, I then read an online post from a girl who had just found out that her Catholic church was not going to marry them because for practical purposes, they were living in the same home even though they were not having any form of sexual relationship.  The priest was uber conservative and told her that he didn’t believe that they were not doing anything sinful.  In the process of trying to find a solution in which the just 3 month away wedding could proceed as usual, the girl started asking about the general Catholic policy on this issue and found out that the church she had been attending for three years, and that her fiancé’s family had been in for twenty years, was not technically part of the Roman Catholic communion, but a pre-Vatican II breakaway church that is not actually under the auspices of Rome.  In other words, had she married there, her marriage would have been considered invalid in the eyes of Roman Catholics which is the group she actually wanted to (and thought) she belonged to. 

That might be too much in the way of church politics for the more secular among my readers to handle, and is definitely ‘irrational’ but the idea is that we all have our own views on what makes a marriage ‘valid.’  Yes, in most places the State ‘validates’ your marriage in a legal way, and for a small minority that is enough to ‘be married.’  However, for the rest of us, we usually want the marriage to be witnessed by certain people, or we want specific vows or actions to accompany our marriage.  Yes it is irrational – the presence of my mother does not mean that I am married and has absolutely no bearing on how the State treats me or what benefits I receive as a married person, but for some reason I feel that it is necessary that she and other important people in my life be there to witness my marriage.  And yes, people elope, and yes people go down to the courthouse, but even those people usually have certain symbols and actions which they want to incorporate into their ceremony, and as a person who had her civil ceremony first, I can attest to the fact that at the very least for me…for us as a couple, the legal paperwork was not enough for us. 

 So with these above ‘irrational’ feelings, I want to throw in one more which is that I also believe that being married in a way which is understood to be ‘marriage’ by my church is another vitally important component to me ‘being married.’  I did not realize that I had such strong personal opinions on this matter until I read the other girl’s story. My heart broke for her as she struggled over several weeks to deal with the sudden fact that her church was not ‘The’ church, and then as she searched valiantly for a way to get married in ‘The’ church on such a short time frame.  And at that point I realized that not having my marriage validated in my church was a big problem for me.

 I have this personal mantra about many things in religion in a whole, which is ‘God doesn’t care.’  Meaning, if you cover or don’t cover during service, if you kneel or don’t kneel, if you say this prayer or that prayer, God does not really care. God doesn’t worry about the specifics, although the specifics have often been developed by people through the ages as a guide for our overall wellbeing and spiritual journey.  Instead, I think He worries about our heart.  And as a result I have a high level of tolerance and respect for a variety of traditions and Traditions far different from my own.  So, on one hand I could rationalize my Korean wedding, or vaguely Protestant-esq Canadian wedding, or legal wedding as what it means to fully be married because ‘God doesn’t care’ if I’m actually married in my church.  I’m married, people witnessed it, and it’s legal according to the State.  But while I don’t think God cares, I care, and I think that if I have committed myself to this Christian tradition (I’m a convert), and if I see my active and full participation in this tradition as a key factor in my life, then I need to participate in this additional ritual because it is important to me and my understanding of what it means to live an Orthodox life.

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