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In addition, there is a related aspect indicating the significance of marriage: the whole ritual points to the Christian wisdom and sacrificial spirit to which the two are called together.

This aspect is suggested by the remembrance in the ceremony of a series of saintly families – icons of wisdom, commitment and blessed life.

The Priest offers the cup, firstly to the Groom then to the Bride.

The Dance of Isaiah The procession, a symbolic dance for the joy of God’s presence, is conducted in a circular fashion with the Holy Gospel in the hands of the priest who leads the couple holding their united hands.

The rite is performed by a Priest who stands before an appropriately covered ceremonial table.

It is placed in the middle of the Soleas area of the church, in front of the Holy Altar.

Also, by the crowns bestowed upon the groom and the bride, crowns of martyrs, indicating the spiritual, or ascetical, dimension involved with living together in Christ (as further suggested by the mystical dance around the book of the Gospels and the holy cross).

In fact, living together requires a mutual predisposition to make room to one another and to grow in communion, goals impossible to attain without small sacrifices for the sake of one another.

This dynamics of sacrifice determines St Maximus the Confessor to point out the validity of both ascetic ways – marriage and celibacy – with respect to realising the virtuous path (see his Difficulty a5).

The idea, ultimately, of both the order of the service and the traditional literature (worth mentioning here St John Chrysostom’s homilies dedicated to marriage) is that without spiritual progress there is no accomplished married life.

In our tradition, consequently, love is never treated lightly as merely ‘natural’ or an ephemeral event of chemical reactions.

The synaxis of love manifests a mystery of divine-human interaction, on the one hand through the mutual affection and agreement of the groom and the bride, and on the other hand through the blessing they receive from above.

Amen.” Before congratulating the Newlyweds, the Priest takes the Holy Gospel and separates their right hands with it, thus signifying that nothing and no one, except the God alone, who forgives and unites and strengthens, should come between the new couple.

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