The Blessing ceremony of the Unification Church
is considered by the Unification Church
to be the most important and central ceremony in a person’s spiritual life. The Blessing is given to married (or engaged) couples. Through it, members of the Unification Church believe, the couple is removed from the lineage of sinful
humanity and engrafted into God’s sinless lineage. As a result the couple’s marital relationship—and any children born after the Blessing—exist free from the consequences of original sin
. (Children born into Blessed families are known as Blessed Children or second generation.)
For Unificationists, these interracial, interreligious and international mass marriage ceremonies symbolize the family as the hope for peace.
Frank Kaufmann, a leading Unificationist scholar, wrote:
We do not have mass weddings because Reverend Moon doesn't know any better, doesn't know how Americans react to things, or that he stubbornly adheres to some odd Korean habit. Our matchings and weddings are a direct and perfect manifestation of a profound theology and world view. You see, Unificationists believe that all the problems on earth, from the Gulf War, to child abuse, to the crumbling school system (you name it) are fruits of the fact that self interest crept in to the family, the love between husband and wife, reproductive affairs, and parent child relationships, thus since the beginning there has never been even one family whose members were not dominated by some significant degree of self interest.
Blessings of church members
The Blessing ceremony was first held 1961 for 36 couples in Seoul
, South Korea
by Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon
shortly after their own marriage in 1960. All the couples were members of the Unification Church. Rev. Moon matched all of the couples except the 12 who were already married to each other from before joining the church, which was officially founded in 1954.
Later Blessing ceremonies were larger in scale but followed the same pattern with all participants Unification Church members and Rev. Moon matching most of the couples. In 1982 the first large scale Blessing held outside of Korea took place in Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1988, Moon matched 2,500 Korean members with Japanese members for a Blessing ceremony held in Korea, partly in order to promote unity between the two nations.
The Blessing ceremonies have attracted a lot of attention in the press and in the public imagination, often being labeled "mass weddings". However, in most cases the Blessing ceremony is not a legal wedding ceremony. Some couples are already married and those that are engaged are later legally married according to the laws of their own countries.
Blessing extended to non-members
The 1990s saw a big change when Rev. Moon allowed the Blessing to be given to other people besides Unification Church members. This liberalization led to a great increase in the number of Blessed couples, with most of them having been already married and not Unification Church members. It is possible for any Blessed couple to give the Blessing to other couples and this is being done in many cases by ministers of other churches who have received the Blessing though their association with the Unification Church. Ministers of other faiths, including Judaism
have served as "co-officiators" at Blessing ceremonies presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon.
In 1997 Rev. and Mrs. Moon presided over a Blessing ceremony in Washington D. C. in which 28,000 of the 30,000 couples taking part were previously married. In 2001 Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo married Maria Sung, a Korean acupuncturist, in a Blessing ceremony presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon. In the same ceremony George Augustus Stallings, founder of the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, married Sayomi Kamimoto, a Japanese Unification Church member. At the same ceremony was Minister Benjamin Muhammad, the national director of the Million Man March and the Million Family March and a representative of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. Former Ugandan President Godfrey Binaisa married a young Japanese woman by the Blessing ceremony in 2004. At that time, Godfrey was 84 years old.
The Blessing has five steps:
- The Chastening Ceremony. The couple strike each other three times to symbolically make an end to sin and prepare for a new beginning.
- The Holy Wine Ceremony. The couple share a cup of Holy Wine (or grape juice) symbolizing their engrafting into God’s sinless lineage.
- The Holy Blessing Ceremony. The couple exchange vows. A prayer is offered by the officiators. The couple is sprinkled with Holy Water.
- The Separation Period. The couple refrains from having sexual relations for a period, most often 40 days but in some cases much longer, before consummating, or re-consummating, their marriage.
- The Three Day Ceremony. The couple begins, or re-begins, their married life in a highly symbolic ceremony over three days which is considered to reverse the fall of Adam and Eve.
Couples taking part in Blessing ceremonies exchange these four vows:
- To become a true man or woman who practices sexual purity and lives for the sake of others;
- To become a true husband or wife who respects True Parents' example and establishes an eternal family which brings joy to God;
- To become a parent who educates their children to follow the tradition of true love for the sake of the family and world; and
- To create an ideal family which contributes to world peace.
Members of some churches have expressed concerns that people of their churches taking part in Blessing ceremonies might join the Unification Church. In 1998 journalist Peter Maass
reported that some Unification Church members were dismayed and grumbled when Moon extended the Blessing to non-members because they had not gone through the same course that members had.