The marriage service begins with the Service of Betrothal (Meyendorff 1975), in Russian churches held at the door of the church. After the opening blessing 'Blessed be our God' and the synapte with prayers for those who are pledging themselves to each other, the rings are blessed and exchanged. The rite finishes with a prayer of blessing and originally took place quite separately from the marriage itself. In some places, for example Cyprus, this was the case until quite recently. Nowadays the rite is celebrated on the same day as the crowning. There are no vows as such, but the rite of betrothal is considered as a binding contract before God.
The marriage itself, or crowning, begins with the couple processing together into the church to Psalm 127 (to the words 'Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house'). The couple stands on a cloth before a table in the centre of the church, holding candles. (In Russian usage there are questions establishing freedom to marry that date from the seventeenth century.) The opening exclamation 'Blessed is the kingdom . . .' leads to an expanded synapte, and a series of prayers evoking the examples of married couples in the scriptures. Crowns are then taken from the table and placed on the heads of the bride and groom. In Greek churches the crowns are light wreathes of flowers, in Russian and other churches they are metal and either adjustable so as to be used by different couples, or heavily ornate and so have to be held above the heads of the couple. An Epistle and Gospel are read (Eph. 5: 20-33 and John 2:1-11), and after further litanies, a common cup of wine is blessed and shared by the bride and groom. Finally the priest leads them around the table three times as the troparia are sung that start 'Rejoice, O Isaiah! A virgin is with child.' This 'dance of Isaiah' may be seen as symbolizing their journey through life together.
In former times the crowns were worn for eight days, but are now removed with prayers immediately after the procession. The service is concluded, and the newly married receive the congratulations of their family and friends.
The Orthodox Church permits the remarriage in church of divorced persons under certain circumstances. In this case the rite of second marriage, which has a more penitential rite of betrothal, may be used.
The seriously ill are anointed with olive oil blessed for that purpose in a service which ideally requires the presence of seven priests. The service begins in a way similar to Matins, with a canon that stresses the healing and reconciling uses of oil. After a prayer to sanctify the oil, there is a series of seven Epistles (the first is Jas. 5: 10-17), Gospels and prayers for healing, the Gospels and prayers being read by each priest in turn. After his prayer, each priest anoints the sick person. After the seventh prayer, all the priests hold the Gospel book open over the patient's head for a final prayer for forgiveness. In emergencies the service may be abbreviated, and is considered to have been fulfilled as long as the priest carried out at least one anointing. The anointing service is often celebrated in church in Holy Week or at other times of the year, for example, in the early weeks of Lent. Since it is intended for healing, then children, for example, may only be anointed if they are truly sick.
The liturgical books expect the priest to minister at the deathbed for the service of the parting of the soul from the body. The funeral service itself begins at the home (or the funeral home nowadays) with brief troparia and a litany. On arrival in church the service continues with Psalm 90 and Psalm 118 (usually abbreviated) and the evlogi-taria verses for the departed. The shape of Matins continues to be apparent as Psalm 50 is read and followed by the canon in tone 6, 'Crossing the deep on foot as though it were dry land'. After the sixth ode is sung the well-known kontakion, 'Give rest, O Christ, to the soul of thy servant with the saints'. The canon is followed by further poetic verses such as 'All human things are vanity, all that remain not after death', then the Beatitudes with verses, and an Epistle (1 Thess. 4: 13-17) and a Gospel (John 5: 24-30). The priest reads the prayer 'O God of spirits and of all flesh' several times during the service. After a litany the choir sing the verses 'Come brethren, giving thanks to God let us give the last kiss to the dead' and all come to greet the departed with a kiss (the casket being left open during the service). At the end a prayer of absolution is read over the body. All go to the cemetery (the Orthodox Church does not normally permit cremation) for the very brief service of committal, at which the priest scatters earth over the remains, and pours oil and empties the censer over them as well.
A major feature of Orthodox prayer for the departed is the panikhida or parastas, mnemosynon in Greek. This service, again following the general pattern of Matins, and, abbreviated according to need, is celebrated at the place of death or in church immediately after death. It is also served on the third, ninth and fortieth days after death, and thereafter on the anniversary. The word panikhida refers to the fact that this was once a vigil extending through the night. There are further opportunities to remember the dead on certain Saturdays in the year.
The structure of Matins also characterizes the many kinds of devotional service (known, for example, in Slavonic as a moleben). Typically they begin with the opening prayers, a psalm (e.g., 142), the chant of the 'The Lord is God' with verses of Psalm 117 and troparia, Psalm 50, a vestigial poetic canon and a prokeimenon and appropriate Gospel reading. Then there is a litany with opportunities to pray for particular needs, and an often lengthy concluding prayer. A similar shape is found in such services as the blessing of a new home, in which the Gospel is the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19. This service also includes a blessing of oil, and anointing and incensing of the house.
Even the contents of devotional prayer books are arranged in a way that reflects the public liturgical services, which therefore may penetrate every aspect of people's lives. Again, the year is punctuated by various blessings as was mentioned above, many of which may be used on other occasions. One of the most striking services of blessing is that of the waters at Theophany, 6 January. Appropriate verses accompany the procession to the place of blessing, which may be the sea or a river. There are then three readings from Isaiah (the last begins 'Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation', Isa. 12: 3). The short Epistle and the Marcan Gospel of the Baptism of Christ lead to a litany and the long and beautiful prayer of blessing. The prayer is similar to that used to bless baptismal water but its supplication is for more general healing and sanctification. A cross is dipped or thrown into the water (sometimes recovered by a swimmer) and all present are sprinkled with the water and drink from it.
Ordinations may be divided into those that are given before the Liturgy begins, and the major sacramental orders given during it (for further material, see Bradshaw 1990). The first group: tonsure, reader and subdeacon, were once administered outside the church, in the skeuophylakion. They are now given in the centre of the church, and the tonsure is almost always given at the same time as a man is made a reader. This service and that to ordain a subdeacon have short prayers for the appropriate grace. A new reader reads an Epistle, and a new subdeacon receives a basin, ewer and towel (one of his tasks is to wash the bishop's hands).
All the major orders start with the candidate being brought ceremonially to the bishop. In the case of a deacon this takes place immediately after the anaphora: of a priest, directly after the Great Entrance, and in the case of a bishop, after the trisagion. (A bishop's consecration is preceded by a rite of election and profession of faith, usually the night before.) The candidate is taken around the altar three times as 'Rejoice Isaiah'
is sung. The bishop then says the formula 'The Divine Grace which always heals that which is infirm . . . elevates through the laying on of hands N the most devout subdea-con to be a deacon . . .' The candidate for diaconate kneels on one knee as the bishop says two prayers with his hand on his head. The new deacon is then vested and acclaimed to be worthy, with the exclamation 'Axios!', and takes his place with the other deacons. A candidate for priesthood is conducted about the altar by two priests, and after the 'Divine grace' formula kneels on both knees as the bishop lays on hands and says another two prayers. He is also vested to the cries of 'Axios'. After the 'Divine grace' formula, a new bishop kneels while his consecrators (at least three bishops are needed) hold the Gospel book open over his head as the two ordination prayers are said. The new bishop is vested then to the 'Axios' acclamations, but only receives his pastoral staff at the end of the Liturgy. It should be noted that anciently the 'Axios' acclamations were part of the process of selection and preceded the ordination prayers; they were moved after them so as to avoid partisan disturbances.
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