Twenty-three couples gathered on a Saturday evening to focus on God’s presence in marriage, during a “marriage retreat” at the Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, PA. The event on January 25 was hosted by the parish’s Adult Christian Education ministry, headed by pastor Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, and led by Elise Antreassian of the Diocese’s Christian Education department.
On entering the gathering, husbands and wives each selected a visual representation of marriage from a variety of photos. To a background of music and mezze, they sat in small groups to discuss why they had selected the photos they chose. It was a way to ease into a more serious discussion of marriage in America, marriage myths, and God’s intention for our relationships with one another.
A key Bible text in the evening came from the First Epistle of John (4:19), about how human love is grounded in God’s love: “We love because He first loved us.”
After reading scripture together, the couples were led through the memory of their wedding ceremonies, stressing the importance of God’s presence on that day as expressed through our actions, vows, and the celebrant’s prayers. Elise asked the couples to consider what they treasure in one another, in the context of Christ’s injunction: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21).
Some lighthearted activities were interspersed throughout the retreat, including a traditional Armenian dinner.
It concluded with the group reading together the passage from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 13) on the subject of Christian love—which is routinely read during wedding ceremonies. Each couple took home a silver wall cross engraved with the same verses, and adorned with wedding bands.
A Marriage Blessing
In a candle ceremony, Fr. Gevorgyan then prayed: “God of love, you established marriage for our happiness. The plan was yours, and only with you can we work it out with joy. Remind us always that marriage is not living merely for each other; it is two hearts becoming one to love you and others.”
To the attendees, he said: “Dear married couples gathered here tonight, seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will happily follow. Don’t expect perfection in each other since perfection belongs to God alone. See each other through God’s loving, patient, and merciful eyes.”
“May we remember that God was not just at our wedding, but invite him into our lives every day, every minute, every second,” he said.
“It was a very warm and fruitful evening,” reflected Elise Antreassian afterwards. “The chemistry among the couples was amazing, and the spiritual energy in the room very high.”
To learn more about holding similar events in your local parish, contact Elise Antreassian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to view photos.