Info

gnomes tou episkopou; To Polycarp 5.2), but this did not lead immediately to the development of a Christian marriage liturgy. In the first three centuries it was usual for Christians to marry using the same rituals that non-Christians did, although rigorists like Tertullian insisted that pagan religious symbols and practices should be avoided (De idololatria 16.3; De corona 13.4).

Only in the fourth century do we see the beginnings of specifically Christian liturgical practices for marriage, initially within the context of ceremonies in the family home. Because marriage rituals in antiquity were notably boisterous affairs, clergy were hesitant at first to participate. Erotic songs, dances and plays were a regular feature of wedding feasts. The leading of the bride to the home of her new husband (domumductio) was accompanied by a raucous street parade that included clowns and prostitutes. While church fathers, such as John Chrysostom, denounced these 'satanic orgies', they remained a prominent aspect of civic life during late antiquity. In the mid-fourth century the Council of Laodicea decreed that clergy should not witness the plays at weddings and must depart before the players appeared (c. 54; repeated in c. 24 ofthe Council in Trullo). The same council forbade the celebration of marriages during Lent (c. 52).

Despite the inherent difficulty of'Christianising' an institution such as marriage, the clergy gradually acquired a role in the celebration of Christian marriages. Gregory of Nazianzus said that priests were sometimes asked to bless the couple at the moment when they received their nuptial crowns, although he disapproved of the practice. Gregory thought that the bride's father should perform this customary ritual (Letter 231). Somewhat later, John Chrysostom recommended that priests should be summoned to the nuptials in order to pronounce 'prayers' (euchai) and 'blessings' (eulogiai) upon the bride (Hom. 48 on Genesis). Chrysostom was also the first to provide a Christian interpretation of the nuptial crowns: they signified the victory of those who arrived at marriage without succumbing to fornication (Hom. 9 on 1 Timothy). In some regions of the East, such as Armenia, the blessing of the nuptial crowns by a priest had become a well-established practice by the middle of the fourth century and was carefully regulated by the fifth century. 8

In the Western church the movement towards a Christianised ritual of marriage seems to have begun earlier than in the East. The bestowal of a nuptial blessing by a bishop or presbyter had become common by the end of the fourth century, at least in Rome. The Roman presbyter Ambrosiaster was

8 See the detailed discussion in K. Ritzer, Le mariage dans les ├ęglises chr├ętiennes, 145-9.

0 0

Post a comment