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When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite 
11th-Dec-2009 10:47 am
Psyche
Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Original Article or

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 - 518) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and committment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.


Updates
Corrected Article Link

Article Written By
ThosPayne at The Colfax Record.

Books Written by Prof. John Boswell
Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe and Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
Comments 
11th-May-2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
because it is stated in the Qu'ran to kill the People of the Book.

Once again, people are taking the Quranic ayat sent down during wartime out of context. The context is important!

Muslims do not wage war unless they are attacked first. If we are not threatened, forced out of our homes, or attacked, we are not to kill anyone, Muslim, pagan, People of the Book or otherwise.

Muslims are never supposed to start wars and attack the People of the Book unless they are threatening them. The "kill them where you find them" verse was sent down during wartime. The Muslims were already being killed and persecuted during that time. The context is important!
11th-May-2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
"Muslims do not wage war unless they are attacked first."

With all due respect you must first define which Muslim you are talking about. Many Muslims are as peace loving as the next guy but increasingly more and more Muslims are adopting a hardline, fanatical interpretation of the Qu'ran and creating reasons to attack others by saying they were themselves first attacked. This is not that different from the Roman Empire attacking their neighbors for Elbow room. The same justification that Nazi Germany used to invade Poland. or that earlier Germany used to pressure Austria into declaring war after the "attack" against the arch duke. Anytime a group of people set up a rule that say we will only attack if we are first attacked t hen you can bet that many in power will go out of their way to look for something claim was an attack. In the case of Islam today that extends to anything from US soldiers on ground to the presence of a McDonalds or a woman not wearing a Hajib. Now in fairness this is not that different from some of the more fundamental Christians out there but the fundamental Christians who are that extreme number in the hundreds, maybe thousands and keep to themselves while the Muslims number in the millions and seek to infect others.

I recall a quote from a book I read many years ago. It went something like this. We come in peace. We will not cause you any harm unless you seek to harm us first. Well sir, what do you consider us causing you harm? Oh that is easy, refusing to accept our absolute authority is enough.

11th-May-2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, forgive me, I meant how Muslims ought to behave based on what we're commanded to do by the Quran and Sunnah and not based on the skewed readings of some people in positions of power nowadays that twist the religion to serve their selfish goals.

No, it needn't be authority over you, simply giving us our freedom to practice our religion amongst ourselves without being persecuted for it is more than enough!
12th-May-2012 06:54 am (UTC)
Yes it is true that many "Muslims" take the word of their teachings and twist them to gain the war that they want to have. However that just taking the text out of context. It is exactly the same thing just in a different direction. To follow the true faith of Islam is to be a very peaceful and devout person, however people are easily corrupted and controlled by those who want to twist the meaning of a holy book to their desires. If you have ever watched the Book of Eli, you can see this idea in live action so to speak. One quote (from memory so forgive me if not exact) "With this book we can control everyone and have everything that we could ever want or need. This book is power." in reference to the Holy Bible, but the context would be exactly the same with the Qu'ran.
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