The Wedding Garment

My house has been suffused with joy, anxiety and eager anticipation as the family makes preparations for my youngest daughter’s marriage (this Sunday afternoon). The are inevitably so many details – thank God for my wife and friends – I would be lost if I even began to consider all that is involved.

I am reminded of the gospel account of the wedding of the King’s son, where everyone offers excuses and the invitation is then extended in a most extreme manner. I remember as well the odd ending when a stranger arrives at the wedding and is “cast into outer darkness” because he has “no wedding garment.”

There are cultural issues required to be understood before the parable itself can be understood. The family of the groom provided the “wedding garments” for the guests. Thus the late-comer has refused the gift of the King and has presented himself for the wedding having spurned the hospitality of his host.

As Christians, our “wedding garment” is nothing less than the “righteousness of Christ” which we receive in Holy Baptism, and which we renew regularly in our repentance. To arrive at God’s great wedding banquet without a proper garment, is to have come, spurning the good gift of God’s own righteousness and forgiveness. It is to arrive assuming our own merits are sufficient.

The theme of the Wedding and its garment is brought continually to mind for an Orthodox priest. As he vests for the Divine Liturgy, he blesses first his white robe, the stikharion, using these words:

My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation; as a bridegroom has He set a crown upon me; and as a bride adorns herself with jewels, so has He adorned me.

For the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, is nothing other than the very meal at the End of the World. It is the marriage feast of the Lamb; the feast of the Kingdom of God – our participation in the very Body and Blood of God.

To be even remotely present in a home that is preparing the marriage of a daughter is to have a strong sense of preparation involved in this major life event. The details overwhelm me (as they nearly overwhelm everyone). Watching Steve Martin’s Father of the Bride rings true even if it does not add comfort to the situation.

Weddings easily devour the fact that what is occurring is a sacrament of the Church. Our culture, in situations of relatively light religious affiliation (as in so many “wedding chapels”) easily replaces the holy with the merely romantic. The merely romantic is a very flimsy frame upon which to build a life of mutual self-sacrifice.

Within the Orthodox Church, a number of canons safeguard the sacrament: the marriage must be celebrated in a Church – not outdoor, not in a barn, not in an imaginary romantic setting. It belongs in the Church because it is indeed a sacrament – a means by which God becomes present and we participate in His grace. The couple is also required to have counseling beforehand and to make their confessions before a priest as they prepare to receive one of the Holy Sacraments. One prays that such actions add to the sobriety of the occasion and draw attention towards God and away from the manifold distractions of our silly world.

This weekend will mark the fourth time I have stood with one of my children and had a share in the celebration of this sacrament. Each time I have been blessed by the fact that the young couple standing before me were clad in the wedding garment of Christ. The Orthodox wedding also declares that “the prayers of parents are the foundations of homes,” a very sober reminder to myself and my wife that we have not completed our responsibilities as parents – they have only shifted into a yet more strenuous gear.

I rejoice with my daughter and her fiance and ask you to join my family as we pray for her and her husband.

“O God, remember your servants Clare Anne and Andrew as they enter this new way of life. May their life together always be an icon of Christ and His Church. May we all share together in the feast at the end of the world!”

20 Responses to “The Wedding Garment”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    How beautiful! Many many years to them! I am God willing going to a Greek monastery near by tomorrow for a baptism and have put their names and yours on the list for prayers! 🙂 Love the picture of them – so glad to share in your time of joy Father! 🙂

  2. Barbara Says:

    May God bless this marriage, Fr. Stephen! How wonderful for you to participate in all four weddings and to be able to do so with such joy.

    My niece is also getting married on Sunday, so I can definitely relate to your comments about the sacrament getting lost in the preparations. My niece is not Orthodox, so she will be getting married outside in a “romantic” protestant ceremony. However, I gave her the Orthodox Prayer of a Married Person as part of a shower gift and she asked me if they could use it during the ceremony. I am filled with joy knowing this prayer will be prayed during their marriage.

    I hope all goes well on Sunday and that the sacredness of this sacrament will be a light for all present.

  3. Mrs. Mutton Says:

    Many, many years to all, and thank you for this wonderful reflection. I especially liked your point about how parental responsibility does not end — funny how you think that there’s an end point when they’re babies, and gradually you realize: You’re responsible for their lives right into eternity. =:0

  4. lissi Says:

    May GOD bless Clare Anne and Andrew with many years of happiness always

  5. davidperi Says:

    Most beautifullllll

  6. Valja Says:

    Congratulations! May God bless Clare Ann and Andrew with many years together. Thank you for your illuminating reflection on the wedding of the King’s son as well — I was not aware of its cultural background.

  7. Victor Says:

    Congratulations! Many Years!

  8. easton Says:

    congratulations, father stephen. what a joyful occasion for your family!

  9. Fr. Raphael Johnston Says:

    Fr. Stephen
    May God bless Clare Ann and Andrew, who through God’s good providence are now being united in wedlock. May He bless their goings our and their comings in. May He fill their life with good things. And may He receive their crown into His Kingdom, preserving them spotless, blameless, and without reproach.
    Andrew and Clare Anne will be remembered at Proskomedie Sunday morning.

  10. Karen Says:

    Many years to Clare Ann and Andrew!

  11. Margaret Says:

    Congratulations! May God grant them many years!

  12. James the Brother Says:

    Great Joy; Many Years; Many Blessed Years

  13. mary c Says:

    Sharing in your joy Fr Stephen. Joining in your prayers for Clare Ann and Andrew to have a blessed life together.

  14. Lena Says:

    Dear Father Stephen,

    congratulations to all your family! Such a wonderful event! I remember Clare when she was about 10 years old. Even then she was amaizingly calm strong and self-motivated person. I remember my amaizment hearing her clear intellidgent explanation why it is cool to stay up all night for Pascha. I thought : I wish my son would be able to do that one day.
    Your family your wonderful daughters and son (and their families) are such an encouragment in our cazy time.
    Thank you dear Father for your ministry your family your book. (I wish to say it better but my English didn’t get much better even in last 10 years).
    My sincerest congratulations to Clare and Andrew!
    Lord bless!

  15. Ken Kannady Says:

    My sincerest congratulations to Clare and Andrew!

  16. zeitungzeid Says:

    Father — I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to the bride and groom but this photo is wonderfully iconic. Thank you.

  17. MichaelPatrick Says:

    Many years!

  18. Dwight Penas Says:

    Many years for the newly marrieds. And may God grant you and your wife the grace and longevity to pray earnestly on their behalf, thus fulfilling your sacramental responsibilities to help provide the foundation for their home — as that praying has done for the home of your daughter’s origin.

  19. octobertwentyten Says:

    I hope you have a lovely day!!!

  20. sqktong Says:

    How beautiful! Many many years to them! I am God willing going to a Greek monastery near by tomorrow for a baptism and have put their names and yours on the list for prayers! Love the picture of them – so glad to share in your time of joy Father!

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