The Betrothal Service

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450800921This service was not always done in the Church, but now has been added to the beginning of the Service of Matrimony. In this service there is a placement of rings on the fingers of those being betrothed by the Priest. The priests blessing of the rings and the blessing of those becoming betrothed changes the promises from simply a worldly promise which can be easily broken, to a heavenly bond, which is not meant to be broken. For these reasons the service caused issues when it was kept separate from the Service of Crowning, since in some places it had a legal consequence, and that is the main reason we see it immediately before the Service of Crowning. (You may be thinking, “Hey, wait, I have been to an engagement party where the priest will bless an engaged couple. Does this mean they are married?” No, the priest is not wearing the stole [epitrahelion].)

The Betrothal Service begins with “Blessed is our God always, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages.” This first line signifies that we are starting a service, but not one in the Kingdom of Heaven (as we see in the Service of Crowning, modeled after the Divine Liturgy, in which the service originated). The priest prays for “an indissoluble bond of love” between the couple and asks that they be directed “into every good work.” Later the rings are placed at the forehead of the groom and the priest says, “The servant of God (Name) is betrothed to the servant of God (Name), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” As the priest is mentioning the bride, the rings are moved to the forehead of the bride. This is done three times, in honor of the Holy Trinity. Then the same thing is done, this time from the Bride to the Groom, three times again. Then the priest puts the rings on the right ring-fingers of the Bride and Groom and the Sponsor (Koumbaro/a) then, at the same time, takes groom’s ring and places it on the finger of the bride and the bride’s ring and places it on the finger of the bride and then brings it back. This exchange of rings is done three times in honor of the Holy Trinity, and then the Sponsor will push the rings on the fingers so that they don’t fall off.

Next the Priest calls to remembrance stories of Abraham’s espousal of Isaac and Rebecca and the Creation, in which man and woman were created and that God brought them together for assistance and continuation of the human race. He prays for their betrothal to be sealed in faith, oneness of mind, truth and love. He recalls the ring Joseph (from the Old Testament) by which he was given might in Egypt (Genesis 41:42), a ring in which Daniel was exalted in Babylon (Daniel 6:18), a ring that made the truth of Tamar manifest (Genesis 38), and the ring that was given to the Prodigal Son by his Father (Luke 15:22). Then the priest focuses on all the things that God has done with his right hand, which is where the rings are placed. Lastly, the priest says that the Lord blessed these rings and ends this portion of the Service of Matrimony.

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This post was written by Andrew Athanasiou

About Andrew Athanasiou

Andrew is a student of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Andrew is a Masters of Divinity Student who is also a Seminarian. Andrew is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his knowledge comes from five major sources: Greek Orthodox Seminary; Greek Orthodox Summer Camp; both being taught and teaching in Greek Orthodox Sunday School; and finally further readings and interests in other theological areas.