Traditions and rituals run deep in many wedding ceremonies. Often guests are lost in the proceedings if they don’t share the same upbringing and honestly many of us have seen the traditions and rituals but have never really looked into what they are, why we do them, or the meaning behind it.
In Orthodox Christian churches there is a crowning ceremony and after the crowns have been placed on the couple’s heads they precede around a center table. As they walk counterclockwise their priest holds the Gospel or Blessing Cross and the clasped hands of the couple. The best man or woman follow (they sometimes have additional responsibilities depending on the particular churches traditions) and bridesmaids follow holding lit white candles. The movement around the table is considered ‘the dance.’ This is officially called The Dance of Isaiah.
The ancient hymn is utilized to signify that these people have been set apart from the common world to live a life in Christ. This ceremonial ritual is also done for ordinations to the priesthood.
The words: Rejoice O Isaiah The Virgin is with child and shall bear a son Emmanuel, Who is both God and Man, And Orient is His Name, Whom magnifying we call, The Virgin blessed.
This section is about the joy Isaiah the Prophet expressed in Isaiah 7:14. It talks about the bliss of the coming savior. ‘And Orient is His Name’ comes from Zechariah 6:12 many Bibles utilize the word ‘branch’ instead of ‘Orient’ and calling on ‘The Virgin blessed’ refers back to Isaiah 7:14 again in the hope for the future through her.
O Holy Martyrs, Who fought the good fight and have received your crowns, Entreat ye the Lord, That He will have mercy on our souls.
This section is based off of 2 Timothy 4 about staying righteous and longing for the Lord.
Glory to Thee, O Christ God The Apostles boast, The Martyrs Joy, Whose preaching was the Consubstantial Trinity.
The trinity is the base of belief for all Christian communities and accepting Christ as God is the essential center point of the faith. When the statement of ‘The Apostles boast’ is presented in the song it refers to Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through with the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ‘The Martyrs Joy’ refers to Philippians 2: 17-18 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. This final stanza of the song rolls all the joy of marriage not only between two humans but the joy of marriage with God/Jesus as its center point that since consubstantial means that one is of the same substance or essence than marriage within God would infer that this marriage is of God. This then leads to the final blessing mentioned later in this article.
The crowns have multiple meaning: union with Christ’s Kingship, martyrdom, and blessing unity for all ages. Martyrdom in this tradition doesn’t mean physical death for the sake of Christ but instead death to ones individual life for the life of the other and through the other Christ. Almost everything in this ceremony is done in threes to pay honor to the Holy Trinity and the crowns are no exception. The third part of the ritual is to remove the crowns and the priest says, “Accept their crowns in Your Kingdom unsoiled and undefiled; and preserve them without offence to the ages of ages.” “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
I’ve personally been witness to this tradition a number of times in different languages. This is the central part of the marriage ceremony for the Orthodox Christian and goes back into ancient times. This ritual is beautiful and meaningful as it brings peace to everyone as they witness it.