The bride and groom wear crowns at a Melkite Catholic wedding in Jordan. (CNS/Mark Pattison)
By Mark Pattison
ADER, Jordan — Melkite Catholic Father Boulos Paul, we were told, was too busy to accommodate an audience of about a dozen writers and bloggers on religion. He is, after all, the pastor of two parishes, one in Karak and another, smaller parish of about 50 families — about 300 people total — in the smaller town of Ader.
But we were offered a chance to go to a wedding at the church in Ader. Would that be OK?
Are you kidding?
We got to the church a good half-hour before the scheduled 6 p.m. wedding ceremony was to begin. The church was decked out in wedding finery, but absolutely empty.
Outside, we chatted with one of the parish elders, Michael Bagain, who returned to Ader two years ago after spending the previous 35 years in and around Chicago, where his children still live.
Bagain said Ader is home to three Christian “tribes.” The Melkites are all named Bagain, the Latin-rite Catholics are all named Hijazeen, and the Orthodox are all named Madanat. So the nuptials were between Mr. and Ms. Bagain, Michael Bagain confirmed.
By this time, the groom and his best man had arrived. There was the typical nervous pacing and frowning into a smartphone one might see prior to an American wedding.
The bride’s family arrived, dressed in stylish clothes appropriate for a wedding. And here we were, Americans, who got only a couple hours’ notice of this blessed event and were wearing jeans and sneakers. What must the others be thinking?
Soon the courtyard in front of the church filled, and everyone took their places for the grand procession.
A pre-wedding ritual: firing a gun before the ceremony. (CNS/Mark Pattison)
The women led a song with rhythmic hand-clapping; even the bride took part. A couple of the women ululated during the song. Soon afterward, one man took out a pistol, held it straight in the air and fired five shots. Nobody in the courtyard flinched. Well, none of the Melkites, that is.
Slowly, the wedding principals and the guests began surging through the narrow doors of St. Georges Melkite Church. With all of the excitement apparently over on the outside, it was time to go inside and find a seat.
Once a wedding chant by a small men’s chorus ended, Father Paul spoke to the assembly in Arabic, then switched to English (Read More)