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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Wedding Rings On The Right Hand?

Over the recent holidays I spent time with my Protestant siblings, two sisters and a brother. My brother noticed that I wore my wedding ring on my right hand and, much to the chagrin of one of my sisters, who is anti-Orthodox, asked why it was so. I gave my brother as brief an answer as possible, but have since found this good explanation for the biblical and cultural origins of the practice:

"It has always been the tradition of the Church to place the wedding ring on the right hand of the couple based on biblical references. This is seen very clearly in one of the prayers in the Betrothal Service. A portion of the prayer refers to the biblical references: “For You, O Lord, have declared that a pledge is to be given and held inviolate in all things. By a ring Joseph was given might in Egypt; by a ring Daniel was exalted in Babylon; by a ring our heavenly Father showed compassion upon His prodigal son, for He said, ‘Put a ring upon his right hand, kill the fatted calf, and let us eat and rejoice.’ Your own right hand, O Lord, armed Moses in the Red Sea. By word of Your truth were the Heavens established and the earth set upon her sure foundations; and the right hands of Your servants shall be blessed by Your mighty word, and by Your uplifted arm.” As we see, it was scripturally the practice to wear rings on the right hand, the hand of authority and power completing the pledge of commitment. The power and authority comes from the right hand of God.

The practice of wearing rings on the left hand is rooted in superstition that says that there is a vein that goes from the left hand directly to the heart. This medieval superstition, like many others, was brought to America from Western Europe no doubt. Unfortunately, too many people today just follow what the majority in society do without truly understanding its meaning. Hopefully, with education and faith we will maintain the richness and meaningfulness of the Orthodox faith."

Once again it is the Western practice that is the aberration, not unlike the question of beards on men. The aberration is to be clean shaven, as the Pagans. Western Protestantism is an aberration from the Church established by Christ and His Disciples. Protestants in the West continue to look through a glass darkly at the Church and are puzzled by what they see.

10 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:33 AM

    I believe it's the custom in parts of Europe to wear the wedding ring on the right hand. It is common in many parts of the world.

    Mary

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  2. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Actually in ancient days when a man would choose a woman it was usualy against her will and they would tie her down and the more she ould submit the less he would tie her untill she was fully submitted and he would tye just the ring on her finger as a reminder of his contril over her by bonbage, then it evolved to a sign of commitment but a ring for men and women.
    Why do only women wear engagemwnt rings? In society it is tradition every where to wear the ring on the left hand as a symble of you commitment to your spouse and if you dont it is showing your lack of commitment to them. Yes the marriage alone should be enouhg for you but wedding rings arent for you they are for every one else and you are telling them you are single and that is slap in the face to your spouse. Christian, orthodox, or pagan it is the left hand that sends the message. why fight everything that is so, just to prove that you want to be different?

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  3. While the Bishop and the Priest in their vocation raises their right hand to bless us, you raise your right hand in your vocation of marriage to bless yourself in the Name of the Triune God as well when you bless your children and your wife you do so with the (right) hand of blessing.

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  4. Anon, Please forgive, but your diatribe seems to lack validity and at least is incomplete. What do you mean by "ancient days" and in what culture are you referring? What society? There are many throughout the world.

    Therefore your conclusion that we "fight everything that is so just to prove that you want to be different?" Is a weak conclusion.

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  5. SPH, Thanks for sharing a very clear visual of the importance of the right hand.

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  6. In Traditional Judaism the ring is worn on the right hand as well. You are correct in that the pagans put rings on the left hand and Israel rejected being "like unto the nations".
    Don't know if you ever saw it but the old 1950's movie 'Martin Luther' shows that when he married, he placed the ring on her right hand. If I hadn't been Orthodox, I would have thought it odd indeed!
    Once in a Cathedral book store I casually checked the hands of 7-8 women who entered. Of those wearing a ring, it was on the left hand and only one wore it on her right hand. When I remarked about it and said 'of course, I'm Orthodox!' Too bad most Orthodox aren't all that Orthodox. A coworker, an Orthodox convert, said she switched it from right to left because she thought they had done it wrong. It was in a Greek Church and no one bothered to explain it to her.

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  7. I had thought the placement of the wedding band on the left finger was for practical reasons, not pagan ones--in Islam the right hand is used to eat with, the left for something else, and both need to be kept separate for health reasons. If I were to put my wedding band on my right hand, paint, mortar, and many other horrible things would damage the band.

    Now, as for the beards versus clean shaven men, this is not just a western tradition. The Greeks evolved the fashion of shaving the beard and cutting their hair short centuries before Jesus was born. The Hebrews didn't like the Greek customs, particularly the ones about naked sports, oiling their bodies before war, and the customary gay behavior among juveniles. The Hebrews tended to kept their beards and hair long, a practical habit where good barbers are not available.

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  8. I'm afraid that the paragraph after the prayer in the quoted explanation is a non-sequitur. The practice in the Orthodox west in pre-schism days was to place the ring on the right hand but the rubric of the marriage service gives as the reason precisely that there is a vein leading directly to the heart - from the right hand.

    It may well be that this is mediaeval superstition that somehow found its way into the service books of the Church - I do not know - but it is quite clear that the superstition, if such it be, is not linked to the left hand (at least not alone) and that this talk of veins has no bearing on the question on which hand bears the wedding ring. I do not blame you at all, Nathan, but if the author of the quoted text had done the minimal amount of basic research, (such as picking up a translation of the wedding service from superstitious, mediaeval, western Europe), (s)he would have known this.

    What is the source?

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  9. In response to the Anon. Both men and women wore betrothal bands in Early Christianity. This practice continues in the Non-Chalcedonian Coptic community.

    As for it being "tradition everywhere" to use the left - In Indian Christian communities, who lacked cultural influence from the west until 400 years ago, it has always been the right. The same with Arab Christians. It is only in the West that this idea of the left hand had any influence.

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  10. i just got engaged last night and we in australia are used to seeing the rings of engaged or married people wearing there rings on the left, i converted 6mths ago to serbian orthodox so off course my ring is on the right, i don't see anyone in serbia wearing there rings on the left not even the catholics here, personally who cares what finger all i am about is a marriage should always be done in a church not by some celebrant in some park ..... thats just my two cents of the matter... and yes I'm excited hehe

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