Historical Evidence for Christian Blessings for Same-Sex Couples

SOURCE for the following information:

http://www.christianity-revealed.com/cr/files/whensamesexmarriagewasachristianrite.html

WHEN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE WAS A CHRISTIAN RITE1

By ThosPayne

 

St Sergius and St BacchusA 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,2 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 (512 – 518 CE) 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 Boswell3, 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 12th and early 13th centuries, 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 [Christian] god-given love and commitment 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.

“… in the evening the youth came to him [Jesus], wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.” —The Secret Gospel of Mark, The Other Bible, Willis Barnstone, Editor, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984, pp. 339-342.   

 

Source:

1.  ColfaxRecord.com; Retrieved 6 Jul 2009, 1830 PST [ http://www.colfaxrecord.com/detail/91429.html ]

2.  Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day  is October 7th. Catholic Encyclopedia [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13728a.htm ]

3.  John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe,Random House, June 1994

 

A modern icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by...

A modern icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by the gay, Franciscan iconographer Robert Lentz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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24 responses to “Historical Evidence for Christian Blessings for Same-Sex Couples

  1. interesting. I wholeheartedly support gay marriage and vote accordingly. A lot of people are against it but I think they are really misguided. I think marriage should be open to all couples.

  2. I wish the theology classes at my (Catholic) high school were more open to religious discussion because I would love to share this with my class/teacher. This was very well written and put together.

    • Yes, it is well written by Thos Payne. I did not write it. I was not sure if you noticed the reference to him. I thought it was very clear and forceful. I can well understand your dilemma in the Catholic high school setting…perhaps save it for the university! I went through eleven years of Catholic education in my formative years — I think it was a blessing in many ways, but also has forced me to rethink much. I also graduated from a Jesuit university and was in two convents in my lifetime…so I certainly understand the difficulty of bringing the subject to discussion. Some day…It is wonderful that YOU have such openness and receptivity! Blessings to you! And your visits and comments are so very much appreciated! If I may ask, how did you find my blog? and was there anything in particular that drew you to it?

      • My eyes sometimes skip things when I read so it’s my fault I didn’t see the reference 🙂 . I found your blog when you found mine (Thoughts Trapped On a Page). I guess I was drawn in by your writing style and I really liked your poem “How a Christian Accepts Me.”

  3. Great post. We are all people just trying to live our lives with whomever we fall in love with. How could that be wrong in any religion.

    This is beautiful and must be shared..

  4. thank you for this information. It’s very important to me. I wanted to reblog but can’t find the “button” … will share the URL in my FB page …. hugs!!!

  5. I must admit that I have seen your blog before, and normally skip any blog with a Christian reference, due in part to my religious abuse. I saw that you had followed my blog, and came to take a look.
    I saw this as one of the posts, and brilliant. I knew a lot of this. In leaving my faith, one of protestant background, I researched more thoroughly the original texts, but this is a brilliant and loving article you shared.
    I read you grew up in Catholicism and two convents. Wow. It makes my soul happy when connecting with others that find the true meaning of love in this world.
    Thank you for that. And I look forward to expanding myself with your blog.
    -CC

    • Yes, I recognize your email…I do not get much email…LOL. You have a memorable name–I viewed the Chanel movie…I think she was a very sad woman. However, back to the topic at hand. I think I can relate to your email in a very full sense — I also suffered religious abuse. I came close to suicide…and it amazed me how the Church hid behind its power in so many ways. I haven’t thought about it for a bit–but now it is like yesterday when I read your lines. It has been a long journey…I am 65…Thank you for returning and giving me a second chance! Yes, when I came upon that article I posted it everywhere I could think of! Just recently, I had a friend since high school (the first convent) who I became reacquainted with, and now I am open about my sexuality because I am so very tired of hiding relationships. So I told this person–whom I have known for 40+ years– I guess she was NOT moved by Pope Francis’ message…LOL. Yes, LOVE–I cannot understand how people can say they are “Christians” and behave as they do. I think I lean much towards a Buddhist spirituality combined with a Radical Jesus now…so not sure what that is called! LOL I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hahn — I tend to shy away from the STRICTness and rule regualtions of any religion or movement–including Buddhism. I guess you could say I am eclectic in my spiritual beliefs. As for the Christian approach to homosexuality, I have found a few other worthwhile books to help me along the way. I will search my bookcases and send you a follow-up email referencing them. Maybe you have already read them or maybe it will help someone else. Welcome and I will be sure to revisit your blog! Blessings to YOU and your journey!

      • Wow..thank you for that moving response. I was not raised Catholic. I was raised in very strict Evangelical Southern Baptist in a primarily Catholic town. You were one or the other. *smiles* I am agnostic now. I very much understood what you were saying about your spiritual path. I have tried to define mine, and as of yet cannot, other than organized religion will never be for me again.

        I am however, very moved by you and your blog. Please do not think of it as giving you a second chance. I only protected myself from triggering. Being on WP more has given me the opportunity to see others as having a much more open view to love and understanding than other venues. For that I am ever grateful. I myself, identify as bisexual, something I have come to terms with, others reactions I find a range from amusing to well..hmm lol..

        Blessings to you as well, and I will be reading.
        -CC

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