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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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87.

 A woman who has abandoned her husband is an adulteress if she has betaken herself to another man, according to sacred and divine Basil, who most excellently and aptly extracted this item of knowledge from the prophecy of Jeremiah, which says that “if a wife transfers herself to another man, she shall not return to her husband, but by polluting herself she shall remain polluted” (Jer. 3:1); and again, “Whosoever hath an adulteress (as his wife), is foolish and impious” (Prov. 18:22). If, therefore, a woman appears to have departed from her husband without a good reason, the man deserves to be pardoned, while the woman deserves a penance. The pardon shall be given to him so that he may have communion with the Church. Any husband, however, who abandons his lawful wife, and takes another, according to the Lord’s decision, is subject to the judgment attached to adultery. It has been canonically decreed by our Fathers that such men shall serve a year as weepers, two years as listeners, three years as kneelers, and during the seventh year shall stand together with the faithful, and thus be deemed worthy to partake of the prosphora if indeed they verily repent with tears.

 

Interpretation.

The present Canon is composed of three Canons of St. Basil the Great. Thus, the commencement of this Canon is gleaned from c. IX of Basil. It says in effect that any wife who leaves her husband and takes another is an adulteress, just as divine Basil wisely concluded both from the prophecy of Jeremiah which says in effect that if a wife takes another man, she can no longer return to her first husband (without his wanting her, that is to say, according to Zonaras), since she has become polluted: and from the Proverbs of Solomon, who says that any man is impious and wanting in sense who keeps his wife in his house after she has been adulterously employed by another man. The rest of this Canon is gleaned from c. XXXV of St. Basil. It says: If, therefore, it should appear that a wife has departed from her husband without a good reason and cause (which means without the reason based on fornication; so that from this it is easy to understand by contradistinction that a wife may with good reason leave her husband: but no other occasion is a good reason except the reason of fornication or adultery), the husband deserves to be pardoned on the ground that he has afforded no just cause for this unreasonable departure of his wife, and he can take another wife. But the wife, on the contrary, deserves the penances attached to the commission of adultery, on the ground that she has become the cause of this departure. The pardon which the husband shall receive because thereof is that he may stand along with the faithful in the church and not be excommunicated, though he is not entitled to partake of the divine Mysteries. The rest of this Canon is word for word c. LXXVII of St. Basil the Great. It says: He, however, who (except on grounds of fornication) leaves his lawful wife and takes another is subject to the penance attached to adultery, in accordance with the Lord’s decision, which says: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, save on account of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery.” By concession, however, if he repent with tears, such a man and his likes are canonized by the Fathers (assembled, that is to say, in Ancyra, in their c. XX; and by St. Basil the Great, in his c. LXXVII) to abstain from Communion for seven years,[224] passing two of them with the weepers, two with the listeners, three with the kneelers, and during seventh year standing together with the co-standers, or consistentes, and thus acquiring the right to commune. Read also the Interpretation and Footnote of Ap. c. XLVIII, and c. XX of Ancyra.[225]

 

 




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