Quinisext Council, Canon 13.previous | next
Since we have learned that in the church of the Romans it is regarded as tantamount to a canon that ordinands to the deaconry or presbytery must solemnly promise to have no further intercourse with their wives. Continuing, however, in conformity with the ancient canon of apostolic rigorism and orderliness, we desire that henceforward the lawful marriage ties of sacred men become stronger, and we are nowise dissolving their intercourse with their wives, nor depriving them of their mutual relationship and companionship when properly maintained in due season, so that if anyone is found to be worthy to be ordained a Subdeacon, or a Deacon, or a Presbyter, let him nowise be prevented from being elevated to such a rank while cohabiting with a lawful wife. Nor must he be required at the time of ordination to refrain from lawful intercourse with his own wife, lest we be forced to be downright scornful of marriage, which was instituted by God and blessed by His presence, as attested by the unequivocal declaration of the Gospel utterance: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6); and the Apostle’s teaching: “Marriage is honorable, and the bed is undefiled” (Heb. 13:4), and: “Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be freed” (1 Cor. 7:27). We are cognizant, though, that those who met in Carthage and made provision of decency in the life of ministers declared that Subdeacons and Deacons and Presbyters, busying themselves as they do with the sacred mysteries, according to their rules are obliged to practice temperance in connection with their helpmates, in order that we may likewise keep the injunction handed down through the Apostles, and continued from ancient times in force, well knowing that there is a proper season for everything, and especially for fasting and praying. For those who assist in the ceremonies at the sacrificial altar have to be temperate in all things at the time when they are handling holy things, so that they may be able to gain whatever they ask God for. If, therefore, anyone acting contrary to the Apostolic Canons require any person who is in sacred orders — any Presbyter, we mean, or Deacon, or Subdeacon — to abstain from intercourse and association with his lawful wife, let him be deposed from office. Likewise, if any Presbyter or Deacon expel his own wife on the pretext of reverence, let him be excommunicated; and if he persist, let him be deposed from office.
What the present Canon decrees is this. Since we have learned that in Rome it is kept as inviolable canon that those who are about to become deacons and presbyters must promise and agree at the time of ordination that after the ordination they will have intercourse with their wives no more, we, following the old Canon of the Holy Apostles, Ap. c. V, that is to say, desire and hereby decree the marriage ties of those in holy orders to remain solid and inseverable, without requiring their separation after ordination from intercourse with their own wives when held at the proper time — when, that is to say, there is no fast, and when they are not engaged in celebrating the divine and sacred mysteries. So that whoever is married with a lawful wife and is worthy to become a Subdeacon, Deacon, or Presbyter, let him become one; and let him not be obliged necessarily to promise that he will separate from his wife — lest as a result of this we be forced to dishonor marriage, sanctioned by the laws laid down by God, and blessed by His presence, at the wedding in Cana, that is to say. For even the Lord’s utterance in the Gospel says unequivocally: Let no man sunder those who have been united by God; and the Apostle teaches that marriage is honorable and the marriage bed is undefiled; and again, if you have been tied up with a wife, do not try to separate from her. But just as the Fathers of the Council held in Carthage, in providing for the decency of those in holy orders, decreed that subdeacons, deacons, and presbyters who come in contact with the divine mysteries must practice temperance by abstaining from their helpmates (or consorts), in accordance with their own rules (or definitions) in accordance with c. XXXIII, in order that we may keep likewise ourselves the tradition handed down through the Apostles from antiquity, in accordance with c. III of the same Council (that is to say, both the written traditions and the unwritten traditions, according to Zonaras and Balsamon), so and in like manner do we, who say the same things as these Fathers, decree that the above three ranks of those in holy orders must temperately abstain from their wives in time of fasting and of praying, in accordance with the words of St. Paul. For those who presiding at the sacrificial altar ought to be temperately abstinent from everything at the time they are engaged in the celebration of sacred rites, in order that by means of this abstinence they may obtain from God that which they seeking in general, or indiscriminately, that is to say, according to Zonaras, or for the common interest of the laity (according to c. III, that is to say, of the same Carthaginian Council). So whoever dares, in disregard of the Apostolic Canons, to prevent subdeacons, deacons, and presbyters from lawfully mingling with their wives, let him be deposed from office. It ingeminates word for word Ap. c. V, the Interpretation of which you may read for yourself.
 Note that the Patriarch Kyr Luke (Note of Translator. — The word “Kyr” here is a transliteration of an abbreviated form of the Greek word Kyrios, meaning, approximately, Lord, Sir, or Mister), when asked for how many days those about to partake of communion must have abstained from womankind, declared synodically (or ex cathedra) that for three days they must not have been near their wives, whether they were men in holy orders or married worldlings. For if God commanded the Hebrews not to go near their wives for three days, in order to conform with the old law saying, “Be ye ready: for three days come not at your wives” (Exod. 19:15), it is far more imperative that men should keep these days who are about to conform, not with the law, but with the lawgiver Himself, God, through the divine Eucharist. And if Abimelech (or Abiathar) the prelate (or high priest), when about to give the showbread to David and his stalwarts, asked them whether they were uncontaminated by womankind, and they replied that for three days they had kept from having any carnal intercourse with a woman: “And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth we have kept away from women (it was) for the third day yesterday” (1 Sam. 21:5), how can it be said that those who are about to partake of the Lord’s Body need not be uncontaminated by womankind? In fact, even those who are about to marry ought to confess with their wives, and fast, and prepare themselves so as to be ready, before the divine liturgy commences, to be nuptially crowned (or garlanded). Then, after they are imptially crowned, let the divine liturgy commence; and when this is finished, let them approach to partake of the divine mysteries; and let them beware of having carnal intercourse that night after divine communion, thus conforming with such a most holy custom and order which had been kept and is still being kept even now by true Christians who really wish to be saved. It was for this reason, according to Balsamon, that the above-mentioned Kyr Luke subjected to penances newly-married couples who mingled with each other carnally on the same day after divine Communion. Hence we infer from the major premise the minor premise that if three days’ abstinence from carnal intercourse is sufficient as preparation for divine Communion, much more is three days’ fasting sufficient therefor, in spite of the fact that fasting before partaking of Communion is not decreed by the divine Canons. Nevertheless, those who are able to fast even a whole week before it, are doing the right thing. See also Footnote 2 to Ap. c. LXIII, and that to c. VII of Neocaesarea.
 The expression “in accordance with their own rules” is taken by the Carthaginian Council to signify “in accordance with their own promises,” which such men in holy orders had made to practice temperance by abstinence, or, in other words, to maintain themselves aloof like virgins from their wives by agreement. But this Ecumenical Council, improving the decisions of that Council, which was a regional one, took the expression “their own rules” to signify “at the time of divine services and their own curacy,” as Zonaras and Balsamon interpret it. Likewise the expression saying “have to be temperate in all things,” as used by the Carthagenian Council, concerned temperance in curacies as regarding womankind, and not at all times, according to this Council, which captured the thought of that Council in more unambiguous terms, lest as a result of any promise on the part of those in holy orders to abstain permanently from their wives many of them be compelled to fornicate and to indulge in lewdness. There used to be barbarian churches situated in Libya and Barbary. That explains why c. XII of the present Council mentions Libya and Africa by name, for it was there that such a custom prevailed.
 The Latins blaspheme in asserting that the present Council sinned in legislating to the Church in Rome regarding marriages of priests; and they are manifestly clashing with the Holy Spirit, who spoke through this Council. For, being an ecumenical council, this Council legislated officially to all the inhabited earth, without any exception. For even Popes have to obey the (Ecumenical) Councils, like any other prelate, just as Pelagius II states. This Council did not err in what it decreed in regard to the marriage of priests, since it followed the Bible, which declares that a marriage must remain indissoluble; and it also followed the First Ecum. C., which avoided this, the possibility, that is to say, of a forcible divorce in the case of the marriage of priests. But inasmuch as this inviolable custom, or rather canon, in Rome compelled many priests to divorce their wives forcibly (I say forcibly because who loved the value of holy orders and could not secure them when they had wives, were forced for the glory of the office to divorce their wives against their will), and thereafter to fornicate and to indulge in lewdness, and to have housekeepers (as the Latins have indeed even today undisguisedly and by permission), on this account the Council prohibited this. For it had to prohibit prelates from marrying, for the reasons which we have explained in connection with c. XII, and especially in order to prevent them from handing over the affairs of the Church to their children. But as regards priests there is not so much need of such a prohibition, in view of the fact that a priest is ordained to act as the watchman of a small parish, and village, and vicinity. Besides, even if one of the priests, with the consent of his wife, gets a divorce, or abstains for a time, the work is acceptable. But to be forcibly divorced, as was caused by the canon in Rome requiring priests to agree to it, is a violation of the law, and is in fact a counter law enacted in defiance of the Holy Spirit. But then again, if the Latins blame this Council as erring in this respect, why is that they actually practice what it decreed? For when it comes to the nation of the Marionites, situated round about Mt. Lebanon and Phoenicia, and adherents of the Latin faith, they allow the priests to have their wives. So let the wretches blame themselves because they allow the priests of the Marionites to mingle carnally with their wives and on the same day to conduct sacred services, thus clashing with St. Paul and the Canons, including this one and c. III of Dionysius and cc. V and XIII of Timothy, which forbid this; and because they allow Orthodox priests in Lechia who have married twice to remain in holy orders provided they accept Papism, or Roman Catholicism, which is contrary both to the Canons and to all antiquity, and is tantamount to a maxim that one married a second time cannot become a priest.
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