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The Mystery of Crowning

(The Sacrament of Marriage)

The pastor of a parish is the father of his spiritual family and has great responsibilities toward his spiritual children, thus, the term “Father” (Abouna). Among his many duties, he is to remind the engaged couple that their spiritual responsibilities, are just as equal as their temporal ones, and must play a major role in their life as a couple. One of those roles is to prepare a couple to enter into married life.

  • The couple must meet with the pastor for their wedding plans.
  • Arrangements for Marriage must be made in advance. Some cases may require up to one year depending on the circumstances.
  • At this meeting, the pastor will determine if both parties are able to have the Mystery of Crowning (Sacrament of Marriage) celebrated in the Catholic Church.
  • Based on the given information, he will also determine if they are eligible to be married in the parish.
  • The parties must be (or at least one of them) registered parishioners and should assist in the divine mysteries (attend mass) and support the parish. This basically shows that they have the intention of being a part of the local “Family of Faith.”
  • In preparation for the Mystery of Crowning, several forms will be completed in cooperation with the pastor. These forms are linked to the eparchial website:
    • Form A - Pre-nuptial Investigation
      Form B - Previous Marriages
      Form C - Marriage Dispensations & Permissions
      Form D - Petition for Defect of Form
      Form F
      - Affidavit of Freedom to Marry

Through parish registration, parishioners have the privilege of receiving all of the spiritual benefits offered by the Church through their parish priest. Of those, the most important, of course, is the reception of the Mysteries (Sacraments). On the other hand, a registered parishioner is also bound by certain other obligations: attending the Qurbono (Mass) at the parish church on a regular basis, thereby contributing to the spiritual bond which ties the parish family together, and using the weekly offering envelopes thereby contributing to the temporal responsibilities of the parish.

  • If the priest sees that the couple is able to be married in the parish church then a tentative wedding date can be established. The date is tentative because it depends upon the fulfillment of all of the marriage requirements listed below:
  • Bride and Groom to be must present an original Certificate of Baptism. This certificate cannot be more than six months old and can easily be obtained by contacting the church of baptism.
  • If one of them is not a member of the parish, a letter from his/her parish priest must be presented stating that he/she has never been married. If the party is unknown to the parish priest, then two witnesses, who have known the party for several years, must sign affidavits before the priest that the party has never been married before, either in a Catholic ceremony, another church ceremony, or by the civil authorities.
  • The couple must attend together the Pre-Cana Preparation classes, or other equivalent marriage preparation classes, required by the Church.
  • A civil marriage license from the civil authorities must be given to the priest at least seven days prior to the celebration of the marriage.
  • The Catholic Church prescribes that the celebration of the Sacrament is to be celebrated in a sacred place, i.e., the parish church (not in a private home, reception hall, garden, etc.).
  • Marriages are usually celebrated on Saturdays and Sundays, but arrangements for weekday Marriages can also be made with the pastor.
  • It is customary that an appropriate donation, according to the means of the couple, be made to the parish church and a stipend given to the priest who celebrates the Marriage.

Other Important policies:

  • The Dress Code of the bride and her bridesmaids must be modest and respectable. No bare shoulders, low cuts or plunging necklines are permitted. The church sacredness must be respected.
  • The Wedding music must be liturgical. Hymns used by the Roman Catholic Church are acceptable and must be approved by the Pastor. However, pop music and movie themes are not permitted in the Maronite Marriage ceremony.
  • Flowers for the church should be appropriately placed in consultation with the Pastor.
  • Rose petals, Balloons, bubbles, confetti, rice, unity candles and anything else that detract from the sacredness of the Sacrament are not permitted inside the church.
  • The bride and groom must be on time for the celebration of their wedding. In consideration of practical circumstances and as a matter of courtesy, the priest and the guests should not have to wait more than 10 minutes for them to arrive.
  • Due to the parish Mass schedule latest time a wedding can be scheduled on Saturday is 1:00 pm.
  • Marriages are never celebrated during Lent, unless there is a very serious reason to do so.
  • Photographers and videographers are to observe the Eparchial policy. They must contact the pastor one week prior to the wedding ceremony for service guidelines.
  • Musicians, Soloists/choir for the wedding ceremony must be approved by the pastor. The parish does provide an organist/soloist for your ceremony if you wish, their fee is $150.00.
  • Marriages Oversees An Affidavit of Freedom to Marry is Needed Parishioners who plan to get married outside the United States of America, and need a testimonial for Free State to Marry, must contact the Pastor six (6) months before they travel. The reason being is because the Affidavit of Freedom to marry must be obtained from the Office of the Bishop in Brooklyn, New York. It is hoped that this projected period will allow enough time for the approval to return from the Office of the Bishop, in New York."

 

Two Elements to the Mystery of Crowning

The seventh chapter of the 1942 edition of the Book of Rituals [pp 231-268) contains the Mystery of Crowning under the title: On Holy Marriage. The chapter is divided into two sections and is preceded by some practical canons and Instructions. The first section Is entitled, The Rite of Betrothal. and the second is called. The Rite of Legel Crowning.

The Rite of Betrothal includes three acts without introduction: 

  • The Rite of Covenant (consent of the couple, joining of the hands and blessing by the priest); 
  • The Blessing and Giving of the Rings on the right ring finger); 
  • The Blessing of the Ornaments (cincture. clothing and jewelry) and Binding of
    the Couple.

In the current discipline the Rite of Betrothal is often ignored. However. originally it reproduced the same meaning and effect of the betrothal as practiced in the New Testament. The covenant and the giving of the rings. in the betrothal, represented than the definitive engagement of the couple. They were not simply considered as the sign of a promise the couple made to each other, nor as the pledge they were called to honor at a later time. On the contrary. they indicated the true beginning of marriage itself - with only one exception, that is: the right to live together under the same roof.

The Rite of Crowning itself is introduced by an hour of the Divine Office, which forms the Service of the Word. Then the rite itself follows in three stages:

  • The Rite of Covenant, including the verbal consent of the groom and bride, the joining of their right hands end the priest's blessing;
  • The Blessing and the Giving or the Rings [which are pieced on the left ring finger);
  • The Rite of Crowning and the Removal of the Crowns.

The first two stages, covenant and giving of the rings, are but a duplication of those performed in the betrothal rite; originally, they did not belong to the Rite of crowning itself.

 

Inter-faith marriages

Because the sacrament of marriage establishes between man and woman a “partnership of the whole of life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601), Christian spouses would ideally share the same religious conviction and practice, so that the partnership of their marriage might be as complete as possible. 

As we know, however, men and women can fall in love and wish to marry for a variety of reasons, even when religious faith or practice is not something that they share. 

While the Church acknowledges that the “difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage,” her pastors counsel nonetheless that “the difficulties of mixed marriages not be underestimated.” Many Protestant pastors also give this counsel. 

For her part, the Church desires that couples not experience the “tragedy of Christian disunity in the heart of their own home,” which can become a “source of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children” (1634). 

For this reason, the Church obliges the Catholic party wishing to enter into either a mixed marriage (Catholic and non-Catholic Christian) or an interfaith marriage (Catholic and non-Christian) to obtain special permission from his or her bishop. This permission is usually granted on the condition that the Catholic party will not be pressured into abandoning the Catholic faith, and that he or she will remain free to fulfill the duties of a Catholic parent, which includes raising the children in the faith. For the Catholic party to receive this permission, the non-Catholic party must agree to these terms.

The reason that the Church takes extra care in these instances is because, ultimately, the Church wants to safeguard the souls in her care. So while the Church allows for mixed marriages, she also wants to make sure that Catholics are protected from any misunderstandings or from false or even unjust expectations by non-Catholic spouses. The marriage preparation phase before your nuptials is going to be essential for working through these questions with your fiancée. 

 

Annulments 

The mystery of Crowning invokes the Holy Spirit to create an indelible bond between husband and wife. Because of this, marriage is presumed to be permanent and can only be disolved by God through the death of one of the partners. It is an unfortunate reality that many couples are not able to maintain this permanent bond and divorce. Divorce is a civil action, disolving the civil contract that was entered into when the couple married. Civil action has no effect of the indelible bond created by the Mystery of Crowning. However, certain requirements need to be met in order for a marriage to be valid. For an extreme example, if a man was being forced to marry by being threatened with a shotgun toting father of the bride, any successive "marriage" would be considered invalid. Life is not always as clear cut as this example. The prenuptial work done with one's pastor is supposed to identify those elements that could invalidate a marriage. Despite whatever preparation is done in anticipation of marriage, people marry and only later become aware of factors that could render their union invalid. The Church handles this through the process of annulment. Individuals who have been divorced and wish to engage in a valid marriage through the Mystery of Crowning must demonstrate that their previous union was invalid. This can be a time consuming process and should begin long before (a minimum of a year and ofen longer) before a marriage can be considered. One's pastor will be consulted in order to begin this process and once it is completed the couple can begin wedding preparation. The process will include extensive paper work; the most current forms can be found on the eparchial website and links are given below. You should not begin wedding preparations assuming that your previous union was invalid. The final determination of whether or not the Church considers you free to marry is made by the Eparchial Marriage Tribunal.

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