"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Marriage, Canonically & Ecclesiologically Understood

Robert Taft has called canon law "the bad side of the good news." This is perhaps never so true as when dealing with marriage. At Orientale Lumen last month, Met. Kallistos Ware, in speaking about the complexity of the problem of treating the papacy in the first millennium, noted that one could find various Eastern appeals to the pope of Rome during that time period, but they were far from straightforward, and it would be exceedingly dangerous to extrapolate from them--a point I have myself made in print before. Ware noted the example of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI, to whom the epithet ''the Wise'' is sometimes suffixed. Leo appealed to Rome against the Ecumenical Patriarch when the latter forbade the emperor from attempting to contract a fourth marriage after his first three wives died without giving him a male heir. (Ware's droll comment was to the effect: How correct is it to call ''wise'' a man who marries four times?) The Roman canonical tradition had no objection to fourth marriages and so the pope blessed the emperor to proceed with a fourth marriage. It would be fatuous to draw from this the conclusion that ''the East'' was therefore always willing to submit to ''papal authority'' in the first millennium, whether on canonical questions or any others. 

David Heith-Stade has recently written a book treating of marriage in the Eastern canonical tradition that looks very interesting:

Marriage as the Arena of Salvation: An Ecclesiological Study of the Marital Regulation in the Canons of the Council in Trullo (Orthodox Research Institute Press, 2011), 206pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
Despite the importance of canon law in the life of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, there has not been a study of the ecclesiology of the canons regulating marriage. Marriage is an object of right regulated both by civil law and the canon law of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Marriage as an object of right is at the intersection of two legal orders - the ecclesial and the civil. The canonical regulation of marriage as an object of right confronts us with a twofold ecclesiological problem: (a) how does the Church perceive the civil legal order in relation to its own legal order; and, (b) how is the self-understanding of the Church, i.e. its ecclesiology, reflected in its canon law? Thus, the ecclesiological problem examined in this study is the question of how the ecclesial polity (politeuma), as the Eucharistic ekklēsia of the people (laos) of the new covenant, actualizes itself as taxis within a concrete society. The hypothesis is that the aim of the ecclesial polity is covenant holiness, and, furthermore, that the aim of the canonical taxis is to establish and maintain covenant holiness within the concrete socio-historical setting of the ecclesial polity. By actualization, this means the diachronic institutional process whereby the ecclesial polity subsists in a society as an institution determined by its finality and institutional potentiality.
I will have a canonist review this for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2012.

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