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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
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As from now on we decree that no double monastery is to be made, because this becomes a scandal and offense to many persons. But if certain persons with their relatives choose to renounce the world and to follow a solitary life, the men must retire to a monastery for men, and the women must enter a nunnery (or monastery for women). For it is in this that God takes pleasure. As for those which have been double hitherto, let them be maintained, in accordance with the Canon of our Holy Father St. Basil, and in accordance with his injunction let them be so formulated. Let not monks and nuns dwell in a single monastery. For adultery will creep in where there is a chance due to their dwelling together. Let no monk have the liberty to address a nun, or a nun to address a monk, with a view to speaking in private. Let no monk look into a nunnery, nor let any nun eat with a monk alone. And when the necessaries of life are being conveyed from the men’s quarters to those of the canonesses, let the abbess of the nunnery receive these outside the gates with some aged nun. If it should happen that any nun should want to see a monk who is her relative, let him speak with her briefly and in a few words in the presence of the abbess.
(cc. XLVI, XLVII of the 6th; cc. XVIII, XX, XXII of the 7th.)
Zonaras asserts that a double monastery was two neighboring monasteries so near together that voices could be heard from one to the other. Some other authorities, with whom Balsamon agrees, say that it was one and the same monastery, within which men and women lived in the same building, though not strangers to another in respect of the flesh, but relatives of one another. I would say that this second opinion seems nearer the truth, in so far as it is confirmed by the style in the beginning and the context of this Canon. But the injunction which the Canon cites further below of St. Basil the Great, concerning double monasteries, proves the first opinion to be most true and incontestable. But whether one takes it this way or that, the present Canon commands that henceforth such double monasteries are not to be made, on the ground that they are causes of scandal. If, nevertheless, certain men and women, who are relatives of one another, wish to become monks or nuns, as the case may be let the men go apart to monasteries for men and let the women go to a nunnery, or monastery exclusively for women; for it is in this way that God is pleased. But as for all monasteries that have survived till now and are double, let them live in accordance with the injunction and legislation of St. Basil the Great, which is as follows, that is to say: monks and nuns are not to be allowed to dwell together in one and the same monastery, because adultery will follow in the wake of this dwelling together. Let no monk have the liberty to speak privately with a nun, or a nun with a monk. Let no monk sleep in a nunnery, nor let one eat with a nun. And when monks from a monastery are conveying the necessaries of life to the nuns, they are to leave them outside the doors of the nunnery, and from there the abbess with some other aged nun is to take them in. But if any monk wishes to see a nun who is a relative of his, let him see her, and let him speak a few words to her, with the abbess present, and let him depart quickly.
The second ordinance of Title I of the Novels also decrees that monks and nuns must not remain together (Photius, Title XI, ch. 1). Perhaps, too, it may be that even the prophet Zechariah says on this account for the tribes of Israel to mourn, men separately and women separately, hinting by means of the word “mourn” at the mournful life of monks and nuns, and by means of the word “separately” at the fact that men and women cannot live together in one and the same monastery, according to the decree of the present Canon. “And the land shall mourn, every tribe separately; the tribe of the house of David separately, and their wives apart; . . . and the tribe of the house of Levi separately, and their wives apart” (Zech. 12:12-13). See also cc. XLVI and XLVII of the 6th.