Friday, May 29, 2020

St. Simplician in Milan

NLM

A Display of "Ecumenical Spirit"

Ο Θεός ήλθοσαν έθνη


Patrick Viscuso Reviews Kevin Schembri's Oikonomia

Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies (temporary free access)

The reviewer is a priest and canonist for GOARCH:
The Reverend Dr. Patrick Viscuso is a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and a canonist specializing in marriage and gender issues. His doctorate in historical theology from The Catholic University of American concentrated on Byzantine and Oriental canon law, patristic studies, and church history. He also holds a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. Fr. Viscuso is the author of a large number of scholarly publications in the field of Late Byzantine Canon Law and is a specialist in marriage legislation and theology. His most recent writings focus on the relationship of marriage to ordination, purity issues, divorce, and women's superstitions in late Byzantium.

Perhaps he has written something on the Byzantine canons on marriage and divorce.

In his review of Oikonomia: Divorce and Remarriage in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, he notes

Another point repeatedly made is that the "Orthodox tradition" invests the indissolubility of marriage with an eternal character and consequently views remarriage as a concession or expression of ecclesial oikonomia. The absence of the Eucharist and crowning during late Byzantine celebration of second and third marriages is said to imply that Orthodoxy regarded or still regards these unions as less than sacramental in some way.

However, the author fails to show any articulation of marriage as an eternal bond in Orthodox canonical or theological literature prior to the twentieth century, when this theological opinion came to be expressed at the Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge. In fact, there are substantial Byzantine texts that articulate a contrary view affirming that marriage is ended by death, an example being the Scriptural commentaries of Theophylaktos, archbishop of Ohrid (b. ca. 1055-d. after 1126), specifically on Luke 20:34–36.

The assertions regarding the non-sacramental nature of second and third unions within Orthodoxy do not adequately address the facts. For instance, there was no uniform practice regarding crowning of a second or third marriage in Byzantium. Second unions were definitely crowned according to the usage of the Great Church; the presence or absence of crowning did not mean that a sacerdotal blessing of the marriage did not take place; and, since the Eucharist was not a constitutive element in the establishment of the marriage, the canonical restriction of the second and third married from the Eucharist during a period of penance did not mean that the union, as established by sacerdotal blessing, was not regarded as sacramental and incapable of sanctification.

Furthermore, in considering such questions, the absence of the Eucharist from the marriage service is completely irrelevant to its sacramental nature. As is obvious to those who have ever attended a contemporary ceremony, Orthodox marriages today are considered blessed and sacramental without the reception of the Eucharist during their celebration, even the so-called mixed marriages of Roman Catholics and Orthodox. Also, the author's emphasis on the penitential nature of second and third unions does not adequately address contemporary practice, where such penances are no longer imposed.

A dominant theologoumenon is not the same as dogma... and the opinion that marriage is eternal may not even be dominant in the various Byzantine ecclesial traditions.

So second and third "marriages" may be deemed "sacramental"? And yet a period of penance might be required. Is there a authoritative work discussing penances in the canons and their rationale?

I will have to eventually get a Byzantine textbook on marriage but probably at least one that covers a range of opinions among the various ecclesial traditions, or several textbooks. I don't think I would rely on a Greek one alone.