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Rite of Holy Matrimony

We continue our examination of the Pastoral Rites in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer, specifically the rite of Holy Matrimony. Note that I say rite as in ritual as opposed to “right” as in a moral or legal entitlement.  I say this because over the past 25 years and specifically since the US Supreme Court decision known as Obergefell v. Hodges which redefined marriage in the United States allowing for same-sex marriage as a “right.” 

The service begins with the priest giving the welcome and introduction which clearly states the reason for our gathering:

“Dearly beloved: We have gathered together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.” 

The community has gathered in the presence of God. While it is accurate to say that God is omnipresent, specific places have been set aside, literally made holy, such as churches.  It is for this reason that the rite of Holy Matrimony should take place in a church or other sacred space.  This rite deserves the dignity and reverence of being held in a sacred space. 

The bride and groom’s families, friends, and church community have gathered to witness the vows to be taken before God and his Church. In addition, they are gathered to bless this relationship about to be made holy in the sacrament of marriage through their presence, prayers, and their faithful support of the couple and their relationship. 

The service continues:

“Almighty God established the bond and covenant of marriage in creation as a sign of the mystical union between Christ and his Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and it is commended by Holy Scripture to be held in honor among all people.” 

Theologically this sacrament of marriage is about much more than this specific relationship.  Firstly, it mystically reflects the love between Christ (the bridegroom) and his Church (the bride). Over and over again Holy Scripture uses this metaphor to help us to understand a present relationship and a future reality. Secondly, it is made clear that our Lord himself blessed marriage by his presence at the wedding in Cana found in the second chapter of the Gospel according to John.  Jesus’ presence and support were in support of Holy Scripture, which lay out the order of creation (Genesis 1 & 2) and includes the direct statement, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) 

It is clear that from the beginning of time God specifically formed this relationship as the very foundation of creation, and in time, society. 

Next week we’ll examine the purpose and meaning of marriage.  Until then, I pray each of you every blessing and good health. 

Bishop Menees

San Joaquin Anglican
May 21

May 31

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Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin · 1300 East Shaw Avenue #123 · Fresno, CA 93710 · USA

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