In the Christian religion, rituals that accompany any of the most significant stages in an individual's life. Christian rites of passage include baptism
, marriage, ordination
, and funeral rites. These rites of passage are also considered to be sacraments
by Roman Catholics.
The established Christian church has always been against polygamy (marriage to more than one partner). Christians understand marriage
as authorized by God, who intended men and women to live together. They believe it reflects the union between Jesus and the church (his bride) and as such should be supportive, faithful, and everlasting. Mark 10:79 says that in marriage the couple will become one, joined together by God in a union that no one should break. The love shared by husband and wife is believed to bring them closer to knowledge of what Christian love
means, closer to God, and closer to an understanding of God's love for his creation. Marriage is seen as the proper environment for sexual intercourse and the birth and raising of children. Roman Catholics often regard the procreation of children as the main reason for a couple to marry; children of mixed marriages are expected to be raised as Catholics. Most churches expect couples wishing to marry to attend a series of meetings with the priest or minister for instruction. In the Church of England
, banns are read out to announce the wedding on three consecutive Sundays before the ceremony can take place.
Marriage has to take place in front of witnesses and it must be at the free will of both people to be married. The couple vow to live together according to God's holy law, until parted by death. The giving and receiving of rings, which symbolize the eternal nature of the marriage, reinforces the vows. In some churches, a Eucharist
or Mass will be celebrated. In the Orthodox Church
, the priest places silver crowns over the heads of the bride and groom, before joining their hands and blessing them.
Once married, the couple should be sexually faithful; the seventh of the Ten Commandments
demands that a person must not commit adultery. In Corinthians 7:34 and Ephesians 5:2133, St Paul expresses the duties of marriage, saying the bodies of husband and wife belong to their partner as well as themselves. For the ceremony, most brides wear white, a symbol of purity.
Christians believe in an afterlife
, and that belief in Jesus assures forgiveness of sins and assurance of heaven. Death is therefore not something to fear because it not the end. Some believers, before dying, want to make their confession
to the priest or minister; others feel that this is a private matter between themselves and God. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans receive last rites (anointing of the sick
) as a symbol of forgiveness of sins, healing of the mind, and strengthening of the spirit.
A Christian funeral service is usually held in a church, though it can also take place in a crematorium. The service may be simple with prayers, hymns, and an address that pays tribute to the life of the deceased, or it may include the Eucharist or a requiem Mass. Flowers symbolize the new life that the dead person is entering; candles may be lit to symbolize salvation
. In the Orthodox Church, it is usual for the body to be laid in an open coffin, and a strip of cloth, with images of Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist, may be placed across the deceased's forehead. Christians may be buried or cremated. Some Christians favour burial because they follow the Apostles' Creed, which states belief in the resurrection of the body. Other Christians point to the teaching of St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:4244), which seems to suggest that there would be no more need for the physical body as a spiritual body will replace it. If a body is buried, a gravestone is usually erected at the site of the grave.
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