This is the Lord’s Table…the altar, in an Orthodox Monastery. Pretty much what all Byzantine altars look like. It fills me with joy to know that my husband and I walked the altar in our Crowning Ceremony for our 25th Anniversary. When we initially married, we were Roman Catholic and opted to have a Crowning Ceremony as Melkite Greek Catholics. That was three years ago and it seems like there has been so much mileage since then!! Life has unalterably changed since 2009. We have a son who is now a teenager. Another son returned from war (Thanks be to God) and had his first child (what a blessing). Our other son graduated Magna Cum Laude from college and the following month was married, and is now expecting his first child. We relocated from Southern California to Washington. That has been a huge change for us.
Many years ago, I told my husband that whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted, I would go with him. I read several times the story of Ruth, and she became sort of a pilot for me. If something came up, I would think back to the many choices Ruth had before her and how she chose to always follow her husband’s people. Even after his death, she stayed with his mother, Naomi, and followed her to Bethlehem-judah to be with her family. “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Naomi and Ruth returned to the land of the Hebrews, where Ruth later married Boaz and was the great-grandmother of King David. Her decision to go with her mother-in-law and to utter those words, “..if ought death part thee and me…” have become a staple in many Christian marriage ceremonies. And it was, and is, so for my husband and myself.
When my husband was ordained a deacon, he chose the name of “Joseph.” It is perfect for him and he chose Joseph, the Worker, as his mentor. My husband is such a hard worker! And he loves to serve his community, especially on the altar. His vocation as a deacon has only grown over the years. His opportunities to serve have been severely limited in the past few years, but his desire is still uppermost in his heart. And I ache that he has no altar to serve, at the moment. And when he was ordained, our pastor asked us if I would also like to take a name, as a Diaconissa in the parish. I immediately chose Ruth, because we had traveled from Rome to Constantinople and it seemed fitting that our community would call me Diaconissa Ruth. It is a title I love. The little Arabic ladies would always greet me and speak mostly Arabic, but I could always discern, “Diaconissa Ruth” in their chatter and hugs and ways of loving me. They are so grateful for the service to the Church! And I love how they loved us for wanting to be closer to Our Lord on His Altar, and his community.
Up here, in the Pacific Northwest, we have yet to really find our place. But I still feel like Ruth, faithfully following her husband wherever that may be. And we both know that God called us here. There have been so many times when we have uttered these statements, “It is so beautiful here.” “Did you see all those colors of green?” “Oh, look, you can see Mt. Rainier” “It’s snowing and so pretty.” And we have even pinched each other, to the other’s startled amazement, and have said, “Can you believe we live here??” It is that beautiful. We also feel a tremendous contentment at the life we have had and the future before us. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. We’ve been a couple for 30 years this year; married for 28 of them, and it gets better and better. We are content with the wrinkles and gray hairs (or no hairs, in some cases – tee-hee!), and extra pounds we have gained over the years. We are in love with our children, our beautiful daughters-in-law and our amazing grandson and soon-to-be-born granddaughter. God has blessed us immensely and we are so grateful.
For our anniversary, we are buying new tires for the car. I know it sounds overly romantic, but we need the tires and it will mean we are safer on the roads, as we travel the year as a married couple and family. We may grab a bite to eat while we are out…or even just a cup of coffee. But we are together and we are in love – and I am so happy it is our anniversary!
At the Wedding ceremony’s end, the priest recites parting blessings upon the newlyweds. To the groom he may say: “Be thou magnified O Bridegroom, as Abraham, and blessed as Isaac. Walk in peace and work in righteousness, as the commandments of God.” To the bride he may say: “And thou O Bride, be thou magnified as Sarah, and glad as Rebecca, rejoicing in thine own husband, fulfilling the conditions of the law, for so it is well pleasing unto God.” And it has been for 28 years; God willing, another 28 years!!!
(A close up of our Anniversary Crowns)