Crowning of David and Elizabeth Ash
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before we begin the crowning service, I’m charged to say a few words. And David and Elizabeth well know that I am seldom a man without words. But I feel unable really to say what I feel. I feel unable to speak with enough eloquence to describe my love for David and Elizabeth, and my desire and their desire to show their Orthodox faith to you, their family and their friends, and of course, our parish family, who of course already know their faith.
In order to begin to explain, I’d like to ask the question that is answered much differently to an Orthodox Christian than to the rest of the world—and that is “Why should we marry?” What is the purpose of marriage? Well, in the world, people marry because they fall in love, they have a mutual attraction to one another, they have mutual interests, they are compatible, not to be lonely. Those are all good reasons, and those all apply to David and Elizabeth.
But the purpose of marriage is identical to the purpose of life, identical to ts purpose of monasticism, which involves, of course, no marriage at all, but the celibate life. The purpose of marriage for those who are in the married state is the mutual salvation of the soul.
And that is all. That is the reason people should marry. Now, we grow up, we fall in love, we desire to be with someone the rest of our life, and that is all part of our life if God grants it and allows it, as God has granted to David and Elizabeth. But the purpose of your marriage, the purpose of my marriage, is the salvation of our souls. So, you should continually life one another up, as Christians.
Now, the crowns before us are not only attractive pieces of jewelry that make the ceremony beautiful, but they are actually martyr’s crowns. Marriage is, indeed, voluntary martyrdom. And, indeed, Christianity is voluntary martyrdom. Our Lord and our Savior voluntarily gave Himself up on the Cross for us of His own free will. We give up our wills, our ambitions, our false ways of thinking, voluntarily, so that God can enlighten us. Marriage, indeed, for those who pursue it seriously, is a martyrdom.
I got married when I was 21 years old. I didn’t know nothing from nothing, and I didn’t understand what a selfish person I was until I got married. I thought I was really a pretty decent person. But I found out that, even with someone you love, it is very difficult to always subdue my own will and put their needs first. And, indeed, my wife would be required to put my needs first.
Both of us preferring the other—that is truly what marriage is. It is an image of how Christ is with us. Because He gives all to us, and He became a man for our sake and suffered indignities and even death on the Cross because of His love for us. We deserve none of it. And yet He gave us everything needful for salvation. One of the greatest things we need for salvation is the knowledge of ourselves.
Marriage, more than any other estate other than monasticism, teaches us about ourselves. It is often not a very good story. Anyone who looks in their heart can say, “There are many times I’ve been a selfish husband, a selfish wife.” Now, because of love, the wife, the husband, forgives—over and over again. But we should remember our own unworthiness and our own lack of love. And it is usually seen among those we love the most—which is an unfortunate fact of human life.
Now David and Elizabeth wish very much to sort-of make a statement of their faith before all of you. This is much more than a crowning, it is their attempt to tell you that they have found the Pearl of Great Price. And I wish I could do justice to this Pearl. I wish I could speak of it eloquently enough so that you could see it shine, as we experience in this humble Church. I only hope that you will see something in the Orthodox Faith that attracts you. This is David and Elizabeth’s wish, and of course it is my wish. I remind you again: the purpose of David and Elizabeth’s marriage is the salvation of their souls.
So, when you listen to the prayers tonight, pray for the salvation of their souls—that they mutually would help one another, mutually preferring the other, mutually lifting one another up, mutually praying with each other and for each other. And all of us who are married should have this same prayer for ourselves.
Now, none of us, if we have any sense about us, should be able to say such things as I just said and not feel some guilt that we have not reached this goal. God forgives, though, those who try, those who help. In marriage we are made strong enough, because God is in everything we do. St. Paul quotes Genesis, “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then he says “and this is a mystery, of Christ and the Church..”
So marriage is an image of our relationship with Christ. Let the world romanticize it; let the world speak of attraction and mutual interests and such things; we will speak of the salvation of the soul. So, David and Elizabeth, your charge before God is to assist one another in the salvation of your souls. That is your task in life, and that is why God has brought you together.