Author Topic: New Book - Guide for a Church Under Islam  (Read 1227 times)

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Offline Fr. Pat

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New Book - Guide for a Church Under Islam
« on: May 30, 2014, 05:35:38 AM »
I am sharing news of the publication of my new book, Guide for a Church Under Islam: The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions Attributed to Theodoros Balsamon, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

The book contains a translation of a Byzantine canon law work often cited regarding life under Islam, Orthodox-Latin relations, and history of liturgy.  It contains some interesting points regarding deaconesses.  I have provided a number of other translations in the notes and introduction including extensive texts from Balsamon's commentaries and introductions to the Ecumenical Councils.  Balsamon was a major canonist of the 12th century and patriarch of Antioch.  I believe he is unfairly blamed for increasing the division between East and West; and explain my reasons for this.

The book is available on Amazon ( and through the Holy Cross Bookstore (1-800-245-0599).

Below is a description:

In the Christian East, the pastoral manuals of the Church took a literary form known as "Questions/Answers." The authors of these canonical works were bishops and priests who usually wrote to guide clergy in addressing issues arising from diocesan and parish life. Unlike any of these other guides, in the present work an entire church subject to Islamic persecution sought the counsel of its sole Eastern sister church that was free from Muslim conquest. This pastoral guide for a church under Islam sets forth a pattern meant for a patriarchate to apply in addressing issues arising in a society under the domination of an alien religion that regarded itself as superior by nature.
In addition to the main issue, the twelfth-century document has a number of interesting features relevant for Church history, including its record of ancient Christian practices regarding liturgy, fasting, preparation for the Eucharist, burial of the dead, deaconesses, and the internal life of Arabic Christians living in what would become modern Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. The translation as well as its annotations and introductory history represent a time capsule of the Church's history in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East and just before the taking of Constantinople in 1204 by the Latin Crusaders.

Fr. Patrick Viscuso

Offline Sinful Hypocrite

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Re: New Book - Guide for a Church Under Islam
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2014, 07:50:32 PM »
Can you explain the concepts a little further for those who cannot read the book?  Such as what it recommends for those churches in Islamic countries.
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Offline Nephi

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Re: New Book - Guide for a Church Under Islam
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2014, 08:29:42 PM »
Thank you for sharing this, Father. I look forward to eventually reading this as well as Sam Noble's book.

If I recall correctly, Balsamon was important for the Byzantinization (including liturgically) of Melkite Antioch. Is this an accurate statement?

Offline Fr. Pat

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Re: New Book - Guide for a Church Under Islam
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2014, 04:54:56 AM »
The work that I have translated was an official document composed in 1195 and issued by the Holy Synod of Constantinople in reply to a series of sixty-six formal inquiries made between the patriarch of Alexandria and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   They cover many areas of church life (liturgy, clergy, communion, marriage, fasting, heretics, women, sexuality, monasticism, Islam, Scripture, usury, burial slavery, and so forth).  In this sense, the work is a time capsule or window into a period of the Church’s life. 

The first question concerning Liturgy is sometimes cited as evidence of Balsamon’s central role in promoting "Byzantinization" in Antioch   

Nevertheless, Balsamon, the twelfth-century patriarch of Antioch in exile, did not have an ecclesial role in this exchange between Alexandria and Constantinople.  Although the responses are attributed to him, Balsamon’s participation and contribution in framing the answers may be seen as that of a subject matter expert in canonical and legal affairs serving the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose Holy Synod was ultimately responsible for the decisions underlying the responses.

In exploring “Byzantinization” a little further, the questions - if it can be assumed that they were composed by the Alexandrian patriarchate based on the accompanying letter of Markos III, the pope of Alexandria at the time - reflect the concerns of the religious leadership of the Melkite Christian community that lived in the Arabic-speaking world of Islam in Egypt.  Underlying the questions and their associated responses, which are extensive, may have been an effort by the Melkite patriarchate to reinforce its self-identity as the Catholic Church, and thereby to affirm the legitimacy of its own authority and distinguish itself from Christian communities considered heretical, especially in the most distinctive and publicly noticeable area, liturgical usages. 

The Canonical Questions thus reflects concerns on the part of both patriarchates that the central liturgies used for worship were acceptable, services were celebrated in proper locations, celebrations took place at proper times, clergy exhibited a correct appearance in the types of vestments worn, sacred vessels were suitably consecrated, fasting took place at prescribed times (to include abstinence from certain foods, and where applicable, marital relations), and existing indigenous customs were legitimate (such as anointing deceased clergy and burial in churches).  In this context, the usages of the Great Church were regarded as free from heresy as well as from the effects of Islamic or crusader domination, and thus a guide or model for other patriarchates.