As we have seen in recent blog posts, our marriage liturgy is bursting with meaning and significance for this important covenantal relationship. Nestled between the powerful, insightful prayers and the pronouncement of peace, the blessing takes its rightful place in the marriage service. The bride and groom kneel side by side before the altar and under the cross as the officiant prays a powerful prayer and blessing over the couple.
Both the prayer and the blessing are trinitarian throughout. All 3 members of the Trinity come together to bless. The prayer is loaded with 4 thanksgivings, 4 requests of the Holy Spirit, 4 venues of blessing and a final goal.
We give thanks that God sent Jesus to us out of his tender love. We thank God that Jesus was born of a human mother. We are grateful for the way Jesus, in his self-giving sacrifice, shows us that the way of the cross is the way of life. Finally, we rejoice that the union of man and woman is consecrated (made sacred) in Jesus’ Name.
4 Requests of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit, who is our guide, who empowers us and who comforts us is asked to pour out the abundance of blessing on the man and woman. Not just enough to get by – an abundance! We pray the Spirit would defend this couple from every enemy, both from outside and inside the marriage. And, as the bearer of Peace, we pray the Spirit, would lead them into all peace.
Finally, we ask the Spirit to let their love be 1) a seal on their hearts ("A devise or substance that is used to join two things together so as to prevent them from coming apart or to prevent anything from passing between them.” Collins); 2) a mantle about their shoulders (a covering for protection and warmth); and 3), with a crown on their foreheads (used as marks of victory or honor; emblems of God’s favor).
4 Venues of All-encompassing Blessing
The blessing continues with four areas of our life together in which we seek God’s blessing, through the example of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit. These areas capture all the many dimensions and spheres of the marriage relationship: work and companionship, sleeping and waking, joys and sorrows and life and death. No matter where we find ourselves and our marriage relationship, we ask for the Spirit’s presence, power and direction.
Finally, we look forward to the day when we join the heavenly banquet at the great marriage supper of the Lamb. We acknowledge that even as married persons, we both are also the Bride of Christ.
The blessing has already addressed God, has acknowledged the connection we have with Jesus in the Incarnation, and has empowered us through the Spirit for the joys and responsibilities of marriage. Again at the end, we know all that we ask is through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with our gracious God and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
Finally, the nuptial blessing is added. We ask that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, would bless, preserve, keep the newly-married man and woman. We also acknowledge our desire that the Lord would look at the couple, both in mercy and favor and fill them with everything they need to live faithfully together here on earth and to have life everlasting in the age to come.
The Final “Amen!”
Even though the priest has been saying these powerful, encouraging words over the couple, the prayer ends with the members of the congregation adding their loud and heartfelt, “Amen!” It is not just the priest’s wish, nor the couple’s desires that are expressed in the Blessing of the Marriage, but that of the whole chorus of faithful men and women, who have already pledged to do all in their power to uphold this man and this woman in their marriage. How appropriate, that what follows is the bidding of God’s shalom, peace, to one another.
And, may the Lord bless, bless, preserve and keep each married person who reads these words. Amen!