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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 04:07 pm (UTC)
I see that you have not read the Qu'ran. Surah 5:59-60 calls the People of the Book apes and swine. In another part it says, to offer them to become Muslim, or pay Jizya, or kill them. As I said before, the Hadith states the punishment of the homosexual.

Besides the fatwas, the Hadith with the Qu'ran is the law of the land according to the Muslims. I do not know where you got this idea of Christians being treated with respect, you need to inquire a little further about the Copts in Egypt that were murdered for nothing but being a Christian.

On the web, there is a site for Jewish and Muslim studies. It is interesting to note that the Muslims hate the Jews, as a matter of fact, Hitler received advice from Muslims back then on killing the Jew. I tend to wonder why to two religions were co-mingled into one site. Perhaps because of their monotheistic stance.
11th-May-2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
I see that you are still selectively quoting little parts of a whole, which other posters have already established were written during a period of war between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

You're still pretending that all Muslims interpret the entire Quran, Surah and Hadith as having the same meaning and as all applying in the modern day, which is false. There is no religion in which all it's adherents have the same interpretation of it.

The Old Testament of the Bible calls on the Israelites - the people of Yaweh (God) to kill all those who worship other Gods - and their children and their animals ( e.g Joshua 6:20-21, Deuteronomy 2:32-35 , Deuteronomy 3:3-7,Numbers 31:7-18 , 1 Samuel 15:1-9 ).

By your dodgy argument, that must prove all Christians believe they should kill all non-Christians.

What do i hear you say? They don't. Right - and neither do all Muslims take that one passage you use as a source as applying in Islam.

The fact that Copts were murdered by Muslim extremists in Egypt (and recently by the Egyptian military to try to divide and conquer the democratic revolution there - google it) does not prove all Muslims want to kill all Christians, any more than the crusades or recent murder of a Muslim woman in California , or even the atrocities committed by US - mostly Christian - forces in targeting Muslim civilians, ambulances and medics with snipers in Falluja and Samarra in Iraq in 2004 (see the BBC report 'Picture Emerges of Falluja siege') prove that all Christians want to kill all Muslims - they don't either.

It is interesting to note that your constant refrain that "Muslims hate/want to kill all Jews / all Christians" has the same logical structure as the argument that all rectangles are squares, or that all atheists are mass murderers on the grounds that some of them have been (e.g Pol Pot) - and the same (lack of) any evidence in reality - with plenty of examples of Muslims who neither hate nor wish to kill Muslims or Jews.
11th-May-2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
... thank you. ♥

I wonder what this person must think of Muslims who marry non-Muslims. Or what they must think of the many Muslims who come from non-Muslim families. Does this person think they wish to kill them too?

Even in the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)'s time, he preached that Muslims should love and respect their families. "Heaven is underneath the feet of the mothers." Whether or not their family was Muslim or non, he would encourage Muslims to give their relatives gifts and to treat them kindly.

And treating neighbours well is also enjoined! Even when it comes to non-People of the Book. There was a pagan who would throw thorns and other harmful things in the Prophet's way when he went to pray each day and one day, she (I think it was a woman, but I might not be remembering clearly, since it's late and I'm going by memory ^^;) did not throw anything harmful, so he wondered about the reason. He found out she was sick and visited her (or him, whichever ^^;;) to check up on her health, out of concern! I think she even became a Muslimah after it..
11th-May-2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
I have read the Quran more than once.
It did not call all the People of the Book apes and swine, being turned into apes and swine was a punishment for those who transgressed and behaved unjustly. This is common even in the Bible, isn't it? That some Jews in the past tended to kill the prophets and messengers sent to them.

Once again, that other part is during wartime. Paying jizya is no different than paying taxes. That's all it is, really, paying a tax to continue living in a land under Muslim rule, so they'll protect you as one of their own.

Once again, please don't confuse some people's twisting of the truth to serve their own ideals and goals to be the true Islam. There are many people who call for harsher punishments than necessary or even ridiculous things that are directly against Islam. Muslims are not supposed to kill anyone for not converting to Islam! "La ikraha fil-deen" meaning "there is no compulsion in religion." That's also in the Quran.

I would imagine they were co-mingled because of they're being Abrahamic religions. Not sure why Christianity was not included among them, if that were the reason, but... -shrugs-
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