Jane and I opted not to have an engagement party, after all there was not a whole lot of time until the wedding date and now there are less than 150 days to go! However I was keen to have an engagement blessing of some sort. I had been to engagement parties where the priest comes along and in a simple ceremony blesses both the ring and the couple. In the Middle Eastern region the idea of an engagement blessing seems to be bigger than it is in the West and an added Eastern tradition is that the man would also have an engagement ring. Even though I don’t have ring we did arrange to have the blessing at my Melkite parish last Sunday evening after the Divine Liturgy (i.e. Mass). We didn’t want to turn the event into an engagement party in itself so we only invited our immediate family and a few very close friends for the Liturgy and then to join us afterwards for dinner.
For Jane’s family and all of our friends the evening was a more novel event as it was of course a Byzantine Liturgy. The Sunday night Liturgy is in English, which is just as well as I don’t speak Arabic. The Liturgy was beautiful as always with its ongoing chant, incense and processions, with the iconastasis (icon screen) reminding us that we worship amidst all the saints and the angels. A touching homily was preached by our archdeacon who is actually a full born ‘Australian’ but who came over to the Melkite Church many years ago. While the Divine Liturgy was taking place Jane’s engagement ring sat on the altar which was a lovely blessing in itself, that the offering of my love to her was placed on the altar at which the ultimate showing of love takes place.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy the Archdeacon called Jane and I forth to receive the blessing upon our engagement. The Archdeacon asked us if we had our maid of honour and best man present. Now for Jane that was not an issue as both her maid of honour and bridesmaid where there. One of my oldest friends Sameh was there as well and I was always planning on asking him to be my best man but I had not done so yet as I still have not selected the other groomsman. I decided to tell him right then and there so walked down the main aisle to where him and his wife were sitting and let him know he was my best man. Thankfully he took it well and came straight to the front. He and Jane’s maid of honour Sarah held the book of the Gospel’s with Jane’s ring on top while Father and the Archdeacon prayed the blessing. Jane and I were standing either side of Father and at the end of the blessing he instructed me to take the engagement ring and place it on Jane’s finger. That was very novel and brought a smile to both our faces. At least I now know what it will be like to place a ring on her finger in a few months time with a whole church full of people watching. I must say it was a really nice experience to have our engagement blessed by the priest in front of the congregation and our family and friends.
As planned we all headed down the road for a good evening of food and conversation. Some of our dear friends even bought us engagement gifts! Not expected but so very kind. It is a wonderful thing to be on the path to marriage surrounded by the love and support of others.