Benediction, Nuptial

Benediction, Nuptial Among the Jews special benedictions were in use, both for betrothal and actual marriage. A passage in Tobit 7:13, 14 indicates the close connection of the blessing with what we should term the marriage settlement. Certain heathen marriages being also accompanied with a benediction, it is but natural that the same custom should prevail in reference, to. Christian ones. St. Ambrose, writing against mixed marriages, says: "For since marriage itself should be sanctified by the priestly veil, and by benediction," etc. Turning to the Eastern Church, we find that Chrysostom never indicates the existence of a marriage liturgy, or the indispensabIeness of sacerdotal benediction. Two letters of Gregory Nazianzen show clearly that such a benediction was looked upon rather as a solemn accompaniment to Christian marriage than a condition of it. The work Sanctions and Decrees, a singular document included, by some authorities, among those of the 4th century, evidently represented the practice, of the Greek Church. The second chapter forbids marriage with a person's nuptial paranymphs, with whom "the benediction of the crowns" is received. Benedictions are mentioned in other passages, but it is clear that the ceremony of the Greek ritual known as the benediction of the crowns, and not the Latin benediction of the marriage itself, is referred to. Justinian's legislation, minutely occupied as it is with Church matters, never once refers to the ecclesiastical benediction of marriage.

Probably between the 6th and 7th centuries the regular practice of an ecclesiastical benediction upon marriage, and the Greek ritual of marriage itself, became established. The canons of a council held in England towards the end of the 7th century, under archbishop Theodore, enact that "in a first marriage the priest should perform the mass and bless both" parties;

implying, it would seem, the practice set forth by the Sanction and Decrees, of confining the blessing to the as yet unmarried party only, where the other has been married already.

In the Carlovingian era, the priestly benediction entered into the civil law as an essential requisite of marriage; and the various spurious authorities from the annals of the Western Church were apparently invented for the purpose of carrying back to a remote period the ecclesiastical recognition of its necessity. By the first Capitulary of 802, hone are to be married before inquiry be made as to whether they are related; "and then let them be united with a benediction." The reply of pope Nicolas to the Bulgarians, though belonging only to the latter, half of the 9th century, preserves to us probably the practice of the Roman Church on this subject from an earlier period. It evidently indicates a different ceremonial from that of the Greek Church, and, although dwelling on the formalities of betrothal, speaks of no blessing but the nuptial one.

To sum up:

(1.) There never was a period when the Christian Church did not rejoice to sanction the nuptial rite by its benedictions, and did not exhort the faithful to obtain them for their unions.

(2.) But having a profound faith in the primordial sanctity of marriage in itself, many centuries elapsed before the pronouncing of such a benediction was held essential to the validity of marriage, when duly contracted according to the municipal law, and not contrary to the special ethical rules of the Church in reference to marriage.

(3.) Hence the total absence of marriage liturgies from the early Christian rituals, extending to about the beginning of the 7th century; the genuineness of the one in the Gelasian Missal (end of the 5th century) being confessedly impugned by the absence of any in the Gregorian, a century later.

(4.) It may, however, be admitted that by the end of the 7th century the priestly benediction of marriage had probably become the rule in both great branches (not yet divisions) of the Church; and in the course of the 8th and 9th centuries it hardened into a legal institution within the domains of the great usurpers of the West, the Carlovingians, being now largely supported by supposititious Church-authorities, carried back as far as the beginning of the 2d century.

(5.) It is also possible that about this period a practice of sacerdotally blessing betrothals likewise grew up, and, promising to open a new source of income to the clergy and above all to the Roman pontiffs, was in like manner sought to be maintained by spurious authorities; but the date of this cannot be fixed earlier than A.D. 860, since pope Nicolas, in his reply to the Bulgarians, clearly speaks only of the nuptial benediction.

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