Marriage rites

The marriage service exists in a number of older recensions, the oldest being Berke 22. One remarkable characteristic of some of the older manuscripts is that, as in the Coptic tradition, the Maronite marriage rites in some areas included a rite of anointing. The text of Renaudot given by Denzinger, coming after the ratification of the betrothal and before the exchange of rings, reads:

When our Lord Jesus Christ found himself in the house of Simon, a sinful woman knocked at the door and approached Jesus bearing ointment. She anointed his feet and her sins were forgiven her. This sinful woman carried an ointment. She entered the house of Simon and the Lord replied to her expectancy and said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven and your bad deeds are pardoned.

This anointing seems to be used in an almost exorcistic and purificatory sense rather like oil of healing. According to Van Overstraeten, it was included because of the influence of the Canon Laws of the Coptic Ibn-el-Assal in the thirteenth century (Van Overstraeten 1974). However, the Coptic prayer is full of messianic significance, and is not exorcistic and purificatory. The manuscript Vat Syr.477, dated sixteenth or seventeenth century, has a different prayer:

God the Father, you commanded your servant Samuel to anoint David Son of Jesse. And he was your prophet, and he kept your commandments and judged your people justly before you. And you raised by means of anointing priests, kings and prophets. Even now, Lord God, let your power and your right hand full of mercies rest upon this oil and sanctify it and grant to your servants whom we anoint with it pardon of their debts and forgiveness of sins, and laudable fellowship and loving unity. And rule over them with tranquillity all the days of their life, through the prayers of the Mother of God, Mary and all the saints for ever. Amen. Amen.

This seems to combine messianic themes with the purificatory theme. However, the practice seems to have disappeared after the seventeenth century, whatever the original theme may have been. The present text of the rite was published in 1942, and consists of the Covenant (betrothal) and Crowning (marriage). The Covenant takes place in the home, with the exchange of consent, and the blessing and giving of rings. There is also provision for blessing of cincture, clothing and jewellery.

The Crowning is a longer rite, opening with the Gloria patri, prayer, and Psalm 128, a husoyo with promion, sedro, qolo, etro, trisagion and readings. There follows a karazuta and a homily. Then comes the actual crowning rite. After a diaconal proclamation and qolo come vows, showing distinct Latin Catholic influence. The blessing and giving of rings follows, and then the crowns are blessed, with Psalm 21: 2-5 for the bridegroom, and Psalm 45: 11-12, 14 for the bride. For the latter the celebrant prays:

May God who crowned all the holy women and blessed Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, bless you, be merciful to you, and exalt you with the crown of glory. Adorned with the fruits of the Spirit, may you flourish as a blessed vine in the midst of the Church; may the Lord dwell with your husband in love and abiding peace; (may you bring forth children pleasing to God) through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, and all the saints.

The 'witnesses' - best man and maid of honour - are also crowned.

After the crowning comes the Hymn of St Ephrem, with the theme of Christ as the spouse, and then the removal of the crowns. A prayer over the bride and groom follows, and the rite ends with a concluding prayer and blessing.

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