Posted with permission of Fr. Anastasios
I would like to bring your attention to the publication of my book on Sexuality, Marriage and Celibacy in Byzantine Law
. The book contains a partial translation of a primary Byzantine source dealing with this subject, the Alphabetical Collection
of the hieromonk Matthew Blastares, which was written in the fourteenth century. The book has an extensive introduction with historical background and analysis. The translation is footnoted with identification of Byzantine sources, historical events, and persons.
The Alphabetical Collection
is a Byzantine canon law encyclopedia organized according to the letters of the Greek alphabet, with topics treated first from the perspectives of the canons and then with citations of Byzantine civil law. Blastares includes much analysis of each topic, including remarks on relations with the “Latins.”
The hieromonk has an extensive description of the responsibilities of and the service used for women deacons. Blastares analyzes the place of women in the Church and describes their purity and impurity. He also depicts the ideal functioning of a monastery and sets forth standards for monastic life.
One of the most interesting aspects of his work is its definition of marriage and the way in which matrimony is formed. In general, the Eucharist was viewed by Blastares as fulfilling a symbolic role in the nuptial rite with regard to the worthiness of both the couple and marriage itself. However, Eucharistic participation was not regarded as a necessary element in the establishment of matrimony.
The translation comprises forty-nine chapters of Blastares’s work covered under eight letters of the Greek alphabet. Information on abduction, homosexuality, and menstruation is found under Letter Alpha
. The material contained under Letter Beta
deals mainly with restrictions on who is permitted to marry. The end of this section deals with the dignity ascribed to marriage. Material on the nature of marriage, remarriage, polygamy, forbidden unions, women, ordination of women, divorce, betrothal, married clergy, the use of virgins by priests, frequency of intercourse by married couples, sexual assault, and abortion can generally be found under Letter Gamma
. Sexual dreams and masturbation are covered under Letter Kappa
. Adultery, celibacy, monks, and nuns are treated under Letter Mu
. The children of priests are dealt with under Letter Tau
. Abortion is covered under Letter Phi
. The nature of ordination and Christianity is discussed under Letter Chi
The book is available directly from its publisher, Holy Cross Orthodox Press (http://store.holycrossbookstore.com/hocrpr.html
), as well as Amazon and St. Vladimir’s Bookstore.
Fr. Patrick Viscuso