The wedding at Cana became an icon when, through Christ’s signs, it revealed Christ’s glory to his disciples. In her book Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols, Madeleine L’Engle writes, “…an icon…is an open window to God.”
Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests speak of traditional painted icons in the same way: Icons are windows. An icon provides catechesis that transcends the boundaries of literacy and education. Like the marriage at Cana, your own wedding is an icon—a window to see God’s love.
At your wedding, you and your beloved are witnesses to the greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When you and your beloved join God in a sacramental covenant, you become a visible truth of love, just like a traditional painted icon. Your guests not only see an exchange of human love, but also gaze through the window of your wedding to see a beautiful image of God’s love.
Even within the strict traditions of painted icons in Eastern Christianity, iconographers bring personal interpretations to their creative work. I have seen several different icons depicting the wedding at Cana. In many, Jesus and Mary are conversing privately in the corner. In some, they are instructing the servants. In one, they are larger than life, embracing the newly married couple like children. In its own way, each icon is a reminder to “Do whatever he tells you.”
Just like painted icons, Catholic weddings follow a structure. Every Catholic rite—Roman, Byzantine, Chaldean, etc.—fulfills the sacrament in a different way. Within each tradition, every couple infuses their wedding day with a unique flavor.
You probably didn’t choose the basic order for your wedding ceremony, but you chose the hymns to set the mood. And while your reception may include a traditional set of events, such as the first dance and cutting of the cake, you and your family have selected the décor, food, and music. Even the way you interact with each other, your guests, and with Jesus throughout the day can have deep positive effects that only you can offer.
There is no other couple exactly like you, and you are an icon of God’s love in all your quirks, your challenges, and your strengths.
Unplanned moments on your wedding day can become small icons when they are windows for others to see God’s love. For me and my husband, one surprising iconic moment was during the dance of Isaiah. During this event in the Byzantine Catholic wedding ceremony, the priest leads the bride and groom in three circles around the Gospel book: a tradition full of symbolism.
As we began a slow, reverent march, Father smiled slyly and reminded us this was a dance—he instructed us to “Give it a wiggle!” He encouraged us to literally dance our way around the Gospel. I assure you, “Give it a wiggle” is not written in the liturgical books. That dance became a surprising icon for us, and for our guests, to see God’s joy and delight.
Iconography is crucial to Eastern Christian spiritual formation because icons have many layers of meaning. Regardless of a person’s background or education, they can look at a spiritual image, understand some part of the story, and relate to the depiction of a human experience. God can infuse truth and hope in the hearts of everyone who views the icon.
With greater knowledge of symbolism, theology, and iconography, a viewer can glean more nuanced truths from the image. The colors of robes and the placement of hands, for example, impart specific spiritual messages.
Your wedding also has many layers of spiritual teachings. Guests with no religious convictions, people of different faiths, and seasoned Catholics and Christians can all encounter Jesus’ love at your wedding. Whether they are moved by the beauty of the day or the beauty of two lives becoming one, your wedding guests can reflect on the human experience and spiritual truths of union, covenant, and love.
Prayers, readings, hymns, and traditions can be a window to see God for those more familiar with Church teachings. Jesus knows the hearts of everyone present, and he will use the day to draw each individual into his loving embrace.
The story of the marriage at Cana shows us how Jesus abundantly blesses weddings and reveals his great love through weddings and receptions. He will love your wedding. After all, your wedding is an icon, a beautiful and unique window to his divine love.
About the Author: Kiki Hayden is a writer and Bilingual Speech Therapist living in Texas. Her dog is named Goldberry and her husband is named Michael. She is a Byzantine Catholic. To find out more about how God is changing her life through speech therapy, visit her website.