I don’t know about you but I can really get into a good love story. One of my favorites is entitled, “The Princess Bride.” It has one of the most memorable wedding scenes in a movie. The Vicar stands in front of the couple and the assembled guests and says, “Marwage. Marwage is wha bwings wus together toway.” (Translation – Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today.) I can’t wait to use that in a ceremony!
So what got me thinking about love stories and weddings is that I’ll officiate a renewal ceremony in a couple of weeks. The Bride has taken great care to prepare for their special day commemorating their 25th Wedding Anniversary. It has been a treat for me to work with the couple to find ways to intertwine various components into the ceremony that provide meaning to both the couple and to the guests.
Interestingly the Church has been called the Bride of Christ. Fortunately it does not have to work as hard as our modern brides. In fact, from a biblical perspective, the Bride has little more to than show up for the wedding – the groom does all the work! To really see this in the context of an ancient Jewish Wedding Ceremony we need only look at the greatest love story ever written, the Bible. In its pages is outlined for us the process and ceremony of the wedding. I would suggest that we look at the Genesis and Exodus stories as our point of reference.
The Father, the Bridegroom Yahushua, the “servant” the Rauch Yahuwah, the attendant of the Bride and the attendant of Groom are all in the story. The wedding process starts with the matchmaking or shidduch. The Father would look for the best possible match. His choice is not made haphazardly, hastily nor is it based on external attributes. In our story this is the calling of the people of promise through Abraham.
The couple then gets an opportunity to meet and get acquainted. If the match is accepted and the families agree, the vort or engagement period starts. A small reception is held to honor the pledge. It is during this time that the ‘conditions’ of the wedding obligations are completed. We can see this is in the promises that God gave to Abraham.
One week before the wedding, the chosson and kallah, groom and bride, stop seeing each other in order to enhance the joy of the wedding through separation. The Egyptian period of captivity lasted a little more than a week but it illustrates our point.
The wedding day finally arrives. The Groom comes with the help of his attendants to claim his bride. In the Exodus story this took about a year for the Egyptians to release the Israelites and they paid an enormous price to release them. Having claimed his bride, the groom leads her to the chuppah or canopy. It is a decorated cloth held over the couple symbolic of the new home they are making together. After some days the people of
come to God’s mountain, Sinai and there the Glory of God blankets the top in a cloud. This represents the new home God’s people would make in the coming years. Israel
The signing of the marriage covenant or ketuveh is completed, the witnesses sign and it is given to the bride. Here the groom outlines the obligations he will make; to provide food, clothing, shelter and pleasure. It is a legal document and can be enforced by the court system. The Jewish tradition is to make it an artful work and display it in the new home. It is no wonder that the Tabernacle was built; where else would you display the Ten Commandments.
The 10 commandments outline God’s conditions to us his people. He tells us to forsake all others, to go so far as to throw out pictures and mementoes of our previous associations. Taking the name He gives to protect and use it wisely. He tells us that we are so loved that He wants us to take one day a week and have a date night! He even goes so far as to tell us how to deal with our in-laws and each other.
In the traditional Jewish literature marriage is actually called a kiddushin, which is translated to sanctification or dedication. It indicates that what is happening is not just a contractual arrangement but a spiritual bonding. It is a fulfillment of the mitzvah or Divine precept. The dedication indicates that this is an exclusive relationship that involves a total dedication to each other. The idea is that one soul dwells in two bodies. My hope is that your life with Christ is seen in such a way as to be exclusive and bonding.
So mazaltov! I’m off with Jan to quietly celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary.
Grant us, even us, O Lord, to know you, and love you, and rejoice in you. Amen.