I went to an Orthodox wedding yesterday to celebrate the sacramental marital union of my friend Nathan and his wife Rebecca. Contrary to many Western style weddings, the primary focus of an Orthodox wedding is not on the bride, but on Christ. The bride is not amplified over the groom, but rather the two are liturgically treated in such a way that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two. This is clearly intentional, as this represents the two “becoming one.”As with any sacrament, the effectiveness of uncreated grace is contingent upon our cooperation (synergy) with God. Just like a baptism without a real death (dying daily) to self cannot save, or a Eucharist without the work of true penitent preparation, so too does the grace within the sacrament of marriage fall by the wayside if we cease our pursuit of Christ, and allow ourselves to be cut off from the lifeblood of the true Vine.If we lose sight of Christ in our marriages, then they will inevitably descend to the place of the dead. Sacramental grace fills our being so long as we remain ‘plugged-in’ to Christ, and when we run dry, we need only repent and reconnect ourselves (through confession) to be filled once again. Therefore, we must remain vigilant in marriage, always making sure to keep our lamps lit with the oil of Christ.
Marriage is not merely a union of two people, it is a union of three people: Christ, husband, and wife. The married couple is a triangular trinity, having Christ at the top of the triangle. When the husband pursues Christ and His commandment to sacrificially “love his wife as Christ loves the Church,” and when the wife pursues Christ and His commandment to respectfully submit to her husband (not “all things” down to what brand of soda she is allowed to drink, but all that which encourages the ascent of her spiritual life unto salvation), both travel up each side of the triangle, growing closer to both Christ and each other.
As I looked and saw the bride and the groom being crowned, and as I heard the passages of Genesis read, I heard in my spirit, “Look.” As I looked up and to the left wall, I saw the massive icon of the resurrection.
However, being at a wedding changed the context through which I would have normally looked. All of a sudden, the icon expressed not Christ rescuing Adam and Eve from physical death through His resurrection, but rather Christ lifting husband and wife out of their broken marriage, and uniting them one to another through Himself. I perceived the triangular lines of the image, and how heaven truly reached down as far as the east is from the west in order to lift up our marriages and restore them once again to newness of life in Him.
Whenever our marriages seem to falter because one or both parties have ceased in their pursuit of Christ, may we never forget how Christ is able to resurrect all of that which is dead, including marriage.