Dear Father Christopher,
Greetings in Christ.
According to the Holy Canons of our Church, archimandrites are not allowed
to bless a wedding. Why is this prohibition imposed?
Answer to Question 20
The Holy Canons do not actually forbid an Archimandrite or Hieromonk from
performing a wedding, but there is a long standing rule that says they
shouldn’t. It does not refer to all Archimandrites as we know them today,
otherwise it would also prohibit Bishops from performing weddings as well.
Today there are many Archimandrites and celibate Priest that live in the
world and are Priests of a Parish Church, but this is an innovation. The
word Archimandrite means the head of the fold, and was a title given to
the Abbots of Monasteries. The Archimandrite Abbot had the responsibility
and spiritual welfare of the monks in his monastery and as a monk himself,
who had left the world for an ascetic life, had no reason to return to the
world to perform a wedding. This also applied to all celibate Priest (Hieromonk)
who are also monks and as Priests should only perform the daily services
of the monastery. According to many old Greek films, there were times when
people would secretly go to a monastery to get married. If this actually
happened, then I have reservations to how legal the wedding was, because
to get married nowadays involves a lot of paperwork and a wedding licence
must be issued before the Priest can perform the wedding.
In general, monastics do not perform weddings either at their monastery
nor anywhere else. They are monks and tend only to the needs of their
monastery. In our times many celibate Priest live in the world and serve a
Parish Church. On paper they are monks and belong to a monastic community,
but many have never even lived in a monastery. They are often given the
honorary title Archimandrite and wait to be appointed as a Bishop when a
See becomes vacant. He is still the head of a fold, but now, not of a
monastery, but of a parish and must also tend to the needs of his parish.
Thus he must perform weddings and anything else his parish requires of
him. The prohibition then has nothing to do with whether the Priest comes
from the monastic order, but rather where his duties lie. If it concerned
all celibate Priest then neither could a Bishop perform a wedding because
he also is a monk, but living in the world and as the Head of his Church,
he has every right to perform weddings, if he so chooses to. Our own
Bishop of Limassol came from the Monastic life. When he was elected
Metropolitan of Limassol, he had to leave his place in the Monastery and
tend to the flock God assigned to his care. He has never performed a
wedding, not because he is not allowed by some rule, but because he
chooses not to perform weddings.
The rule prohibiting weddings in monasteries should not be misunderstood
that it is scandalous for a monk to perform a service that is opposed to
his own calling. Monks are not repulsed by the idea of marriage: they
willingly give up this life, established and sanctified by God, to follow
a different life equally established and sanctified by God. A monastery is
a spiritual haven needing peace and quiet. Joyful worldly occasions such
as weddings only disrupt the tranquil monastic life and have no place
there. For the same reason, Baptism also should not be performed in
monasteries. Not so many years ago, monasteries were places where people
flocked to baptize their children. This brought in a lot of income for the
monastery, but the spiritual life of the monks suffered. In Cyprus at
least (I don’t know about Greece) the Holy Synod decreed that no more
Baptisms, are to be performed in monasteries.
With love in Christ