Going To the Chapel of Love

Everyone knows this song made famous by The Shirelles.  It’s iconic.  I don’t know how many countless brides have sung this song to themselves or have had it played at their rehearsal dinner or reception.

With all the disturbing stories out there I had to write something uplifting and I think I found it.  Last week I visited the campus of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana in the hopes of touring the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  However, two weddings were scheduled that day so all tours were canceled.  As we were leaving the campus, the bridal party from the first wedding was just starting to leave the basilica.  Instinctively my girlfriend and I walked back to get a look at the bride.

As a mom, I’m patiently waiting for one of my daughters to get married.  There is just something about a wedding.  Every bride is radiant in her gown.  Some have long trains.  Some wear a veil while others do not.  The groom, always handsome in a tux or suit, and the bridal party is also equally beautiful in the color of choice.  Flowers are everywhere and the priest is forever waiting for them at the front of the church.  I never miss an episode of TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress.  I know exactly what kind of wedding gown each of my daughter’s would choose.  We all remember our own wedding.  It’s the one day we look like and are treated like royalty.  For the record—I cry at every wedding.

They say you can’t stop love.  Well this story proves it.  Nothing could stop Fadi and Rana from getting married at their local church.  I wish you could see the pictures.  The bride is gorgeous in her pure white, beaded, ball gown.  Her white rose bouquet is cradled in the crook of her left arm and with her right she holds on to her tall, dark and handsome groom in his dark suit.  The church is packed with guests (standing room only) and white flowers dot each aisle.  The maid of honor is striking in hot pink.  It was a traditional Orthodox Christian wedding, complete with crowns for the bride and groom.  The priest’s garments were robin egg blue and trimmed in gold and he donned the traditional tall, gold, domed crown in the orthodox style.

Sounds like any wedding.  So what is so special about this one?  I said nothing can stop love and nothing could stop this bride and groom from getting married in their local church.  Not a 4-year civil war.  Not the fact that they are a Christian couple in the Christian community of Hamidiyah in Homs, Syria, under attack by Islamist fighters.  Not that they were forced to flee their home town, but returned to get married in their church. Not even the fact that their church was destroyed.  Ah, now I have your attention.

St. George Church in Hamidieh Homs, Syria was among 10 churches destroyed in May 2014.  The church was reduced to rubble after countless airstrikes had destroyed it.  Although there is no longer a roof, there are partial walls and an intact foundation.  A folding table with a white tablecloth substitutes for an altar and that was good enough for Fadi and Rana.

Their wedding photos were featured on the church’s website and later picked up by several people on Twitter and shared around the world as a sign of strength and resilience.  One tweet from Bassem states, “U can destroy their church but u won’t destroy their spirit.  First wedding at St. George church Hamidieh Homs #Syria.”  Several people from around the world tweeted back, including The Christian Yahwist who tweeted “The church buildings might have been destroyed but it was in Syria that home churches were born 2,000 years ago.”  I’m sure this story is very inspirational for those Christians still living in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.  It’s also heartening for Christians in the US where religious persecution has not yet begun.

Love is indeed astounding.  Especially the love God has for us.  There is no doubt He was present at that wedding and for that matter, all of our weddings.  Many couples today choose 1 Corinthians 13 read at their wedding.  I also know that spousal love is not the same love that St. Paul speaks of.  For that we need to go to the root of the word.  The original word is the Greek – agape.  It was translated into Latin and kind of came out charity, but it doesn’t mean charity either.  Agape has no equal word in the English language, in fact it was a word that was not used much in Greek-speaking communities, however it is used 320 in the New Testament.  That tells you something right there.  This love is more like the love of God.  Think John 3:16.

Today while you’re sorting through all the evil and gut wrenching stories in the news, remember that God loves us like no other.  No matter what comes our way He will always be there.  They can destroy our churches, burn our homes, ridicule and ban our traditions and beliefs, even take our lives, but they can never take Him away.  They can never conquer the Spirit.  And one other thing—I’ve read the book, including the last page.  I know how it ends.

Congratulations Fadi and Rana on your wedding.  I hope you have a blessed and glorious life together that includes several children.  Thank you for sharing your joy with the rest of the world.  You prove God cannot be confined to one place.  He cannot be compartmentalized.   He is the great I AM.  He is everywhere and everything.  You also prove as Christians we don’t need decorative domes, roofs, or ornate walls.  All we need is a solid, intact foundation of faith—just like St. George Church.

From the USA to Syria with love.

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If you’d like to view some of the pictures from the wedding go to:  http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/07/19/syrian-combatants-may-have-thought-a-churchs-destruction-would-stop-christian-worship-these-newlyweds-proved-them-so-wrong/

Sources:

Albawaba, The Loop, A Couple in Syria’s Homs Got Married In A Church Turned To Rubble.

Daily Mail UK by Caroline McGuire for MailOnLine, ‘Life Continues Despite Destruction and Death’ July 30, 2015

The Blaze, Syrian Combatants May Have Thought a Church’s Destruction Would Stop Christian Worship. These Newleyweds Proved Them So Wrong, by Sharona Schwartz, July 19, 2015

Patheos Christian Crier, What is Agape Love by Jack Wellman, May 2, 2014

Catholic Answers to Explain & Defend The Faith, 1 Corinthians13: Charity or Love? February 17, 2013

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