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GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF WEST ISLAND OF MONTREAL

Weddings

 

 

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

The Mysteries, the word used by the Orthodox Church for Sacraments, are the living waters of the life-giving Holy Spirit, which are watering and rendering fertile the land of the Living, which is the Church. Without partaking of the Sacraments we are depriving ourselves from our life-line, our participation in the life of the Church. Without Sacraments we cease being Christian.

The Sacrament of Confession reconciles us to God through a conscious act of repentance; it is a concrete sign that we want to change the course of our life, and that we realize that unless we change the way we do certain things we will continue to live in the absence of God and in the presence only of our self centered being.

If confession reconnects us with what we have lost from our life through our sins, that is, God, the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist is restoring the presence of God in our life, in a tangible, organic manner, through His Life that is entering into our very being through the consecrated Bread and Wine changed during the Divine Liturgy into His Body and Blood. This is the Sacrament that unites us to Christ by making us receptacles of His Life; thus, our body and whole being becomes a Holy Temple of His Life.

The Sacrament of Baptism integrates us as members of Christ’s Head, so that we, as members, and He as the Head of the Church Church may form together the living Body of the Church.

The Sacrament of Matrimony (marriage) is the union between a man and a woman that is used in the Bible as the image of God’s faithful love for ancient Israel and Christ’s sacrificial relationship to the Church. Jesus Himself, together with His mother the Theotokos and the disciples attended and blessed a wedding in Cana of Galilee, performing His first miracle. When we say that Christian marriage is a sacrament, we use that word to convey the depths of the bond you are about to enter. As Christians, the sacrament of marriage is your oath of loyalty unto death to each other and – as a couple – your oath of loyalty unto death to our Lord Jesus Christ. Christian marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s presence and love in this fallen and broken world.

See down the page an attempt to briefly explain and illuminate a few aspects of the ceremony

The sponsors

The sponsors or koumbaroi (best man and best lady) represent, for the couple who are joined in marriage, the Church. It is for this reason that they must be Orthodox. How is it possible for someone who is not a member of the Living Body of Christ, to introduce a new reality, the married couple as one flesh, into that Body?

The sponsors must respect the rules of the Church of which they are members. It is for this reason that the Church cannot accept as koumbaroi those who have contracted a marriage outside the tenets of the Church, such as civil marriage, or those who have been married to non Christian partners outside the Church.

Nevertheless, the Church accepts as koumbaroi those Orthodox who have been married in an Orthodox Church to non Orthodox Christians, be they Catholic or Anglican, or any other denomination which is acceptable to the Orthodox Church.

Setting the Date

A couple desiring to be married should first contact the church secretary to set the wedding date. If required you can also schedule a meeting with the priest. It is preferable to schedule both your wedding date and meetings with the priest at least six months prior to the desired date so that scheduling conflicts can be avoided.

According to the tradition of the Church, weddings may not be celebrated during the fasting seasons or the major feast days of our Church:

  • December 13-25 (The Advent and Christmas season)
  • January 5-6 (Theophany)
  • February 2 (the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple)
  • Great Lent and Holy Week (usually mid-February, the entire month of March and part of April)
  • August 1-15 (the fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos)
  • August 29 (the beheading of Saint John the Baptist)
  • September 14 (the Exaltation of the Cross)
  • The Ascension
  • Pentecost

Necessary Papers and Documents

To process an application for Marriage the Church needs the following documents from the postulants, which should be submitted at least one month before the ceremony :

1) Baptism certificate of the postulants for marriage
2) Marriage certificate of the Koumbaros (-a) if they are married or Baptism certificate if they are unmarried.
3) In the case of a second marriage the postulants must have applied and obtained from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto an Ecclesiastical divorce.

Wedding Church Fees

For someone to be able to take part in an Orthodox Sacrament, he or she must be a member of the Orthodox Church and of the Greek Community. It is evident that in order for the Community to be able to maintain the Church as well as the persons who are responsible for providing various services, the members must pay their dues to the Community. It is for this reason that the Community has established an amount for what it offers.

For the Sacrament of Matrimony your financial obligations to the Community are as follows:

  • Membership dues per person $100
  • Church $250
  • Collection Tray (elective) $100
  • Carpet (elective) $50
  • Rehearsal (elective) $50

May we remind you not to neglect to give an offering to the sexton and the chanter. They work hard to offer you a memorable service without being remunerated additionally for their effort; however you may want to thank them, do it with joy and gratefulness. You are kindly requested to pay these dues 2 weeks before the wedding day.

Preparation for Marriage

Amidst all the preparations for your wedding you must set aside a period of recollection and of spiritual readiness for this important event of your life, which will result in Confession of sins and Holy Communion prior to the Sacrament of Matrimony. In this way you may be assured of a truly new beginning in your life. You will be called for a discussion with the priest, where you will have the opportunity to go over these subjects and ask questions which will clarify and reinforce your faith in this important period of your life.

A note to the Bride and Groom

To those spouses who are Orthodox: there is no substitute for Jesus Christ in maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the marriage bond. For the celebration of your marriage in the Church to be real, you must live out, in subsequent years, the Christian commitment that you will make on the day of your wedding.

To those spouses who are not Orthodox: you are always welcome here at our church. Please note that your marriage in the Church does not automatically grant you membership in the Orthodox Church. If you desire to become an Orthodox Christian this must be your decision, made after much prayer and thought, in consultation with our parish priest, and never for the sake of convenience.

To both of you: the Lord and this parish are here to help, support and sustain you in your marriage bond and the life of faith to which we are called as Christians.

May the Lord grant you both many years together in peace, joy, and oneness of mind and heart.

For any additional information, please contact our Church secretary.

Aspects of the Wedding Ceremony

The Ceremony

While the Greek Orthodox ceremony is an essentially Christian one, it contains several particularities that differentiate it from other traditions. For example, vows are not exchanged, and the bride is not ‘given away’ rather, the bride and groom present themselves at the altar of their own will and this is taken to be an expression of their life-long devotion to one another. Yet another differentiating factor lies in the fact that guests are asked to refrain from clapping at the end of the ceremony. This is not because the marriage ceremony is not a joyous occasion; but rather, its beauty and joy is expressed through its symbolism and tradition.

The following is an attempt to briefly explain and illuminate a few aspects of the ceremony,

The Betrothal and the Rings

The wedding begins with the betrothal service in which the priest blesses the rings. The Koumbaro (religious sponsor) then exchanges the rings between the couple three times. The exchange signifies that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other. The priest then says a prayer to seal the rings upon their fingers and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage begins.

The Candle and the Joining of the Hands

The bride and groom are given a lit candle that symbolizes the light or purity in their lives. The couple then joins hand to be united as one. The bride and groom remain holding hands the remainder of the ceremony.

The Stefana

The priest crowns the couple with the stefana (crown) and then the Koumbaro switches the stefana back and forth three times on the couples’ head. This is often considered the climax of the ceremony.

To most, the stefana symbolize crowns. Thus, the bride and groom can be seen as being crowned the King and Queen of their new household. However, the stefana are also symbols of martyrdom. This adds a whole other layer of symbolism with allusions to a love that is sacrificial in nature, one through which the bride and groom bear witness to something greater.

The Common Cup

This is the “common cup” of life denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life-joys, as well as sorrows-and that they are to bear one another’s burdens. Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared.

The Dance of Isaiah

In this part of the ceremony, the bride and groom, led by the priest, circle the altar three times. The symbolism here is especially potent as these are the first steps taken by the couple as husband and wife. Circling the altar three times is one of many references to the Holy Trinity. Walking in a circle is also significant because unlike a line, a circle has no beginning or end point. Walking in the circle is meant to allude to the infinite, signifying that the bride and groom are joined forever.

The Removal of the Stefana

After the walk around the altar, the priest removes the stefana from the heads of the couple. He beseeches God to grant to the newlyweds a long, happy and fruitful life together. He then lifts up the Gospel and separates their joined hands. This serves as a reminder that only God can separate the couple from one another. The removal of the stefana and the separation ofthe couples’ hands, concludes the wedding ceremony.

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