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Adelphopoiesis: The Myth of the “Gay” Byzantine Marriage Rite

The Church is in the midst of a battle between warring ideologies in the secular and ecclesiastical courts. One combatant is a certain confederation of groups that push for the normalization of homosexuality in the Church and the redefining of sacramental marriage. The other combatant is the traditional, orthodox wing of the Church that promotes the complementarity of the sexes and the sanctity of marriage, together with those who minister to individuals with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. The former groups, including full-blown lobbyists, challenge the uninterrupted teaching of the Church. They often downplay the work of orthodox Catholic apostolates, such as Courage, and those with same-sex attraction who speak on their behalf, such as Avera Maria Santo.

Against this ideology, I profess the doctrine contained in the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Christ: Our Pascha, 863, which states:

Any selfish exploitation of another person as a means for obtaining sexual pleasure contradicts God’s gift of love, deforms the essence of sexuality, and deeply wounds the person. It opposes the sixth and ninth commandments. Therefore, sexual activity outside the Mystery of Matrimony … [including] homosexual acts … demean human dignity and are grave sins. [1]

I also profess the doctrine of the 2016 Pastoral Letter of the Synod of Bishops of the Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halych on Gender Ideology, which states (emphasis mine):

27. All people of good will should work together to defend the dignity of each person, to affirm their natural and God-given characteristics and freedoms, and also for the full protection and development of the family community on the foundation of God’s revelation, which is the real guarantor of human society’s development and worthy future. [2]

Consider the icon featured above: it shows two heroic early martyrs, Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, and an image of the glorified Christ. They were soldiers from between the late 300s and early 400s. These Roman soldiers were united closely by the heat of battle and their faith.[3] They are celebrated on October 7 in the liturgical calendar and have a number of churches and basilicas made in their honor, including in what was once Constantinople and in Rome.

During the early Christian persecutions, it was understandable for Christians to be in expectation of the Parousia, the Second Coming of our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In preparation for this, many sincerely committed themselves to imitating the example and doctrine of St. Paul, who said: “to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I” (Douay-Rheims Bible) and remain unwed. Anticipating, in a spiritual manner, the coming of the Desert Fathers and monasticism in succeeding centuries, individuals would bind themselves together in holy, chaste, and virtuous brotherhoods that extended beyond blood, tribe, or citizen relations and deepened their bond as Christians.

These are the “spiritual brothers” (πνευματικους αδελφους, “pneumatikous adelphous”), who would be united in solemn liturgical rites and be bound in this life and the next as inseparable members of the Body of Christ. Sts. Sergius and Bacchus are commemorated in this rite of adelphopoiesis (lit. “brother-making”) as being examples of spiritual brothers, but it is unclear whether this ritual existed during their lifetimes. What we do know comes from the Passion of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, which recounts, among other things, how these two fearless Catholics faced horrendous humiliations (including being dressed up as female prostitutes and paraded down the streets of Rome) before being brutally martyred for their faith.

In a world that is so individualistic, hedonistic, and perverted, the memory of these men has become a megaphone for unfaithful, disingenuous homosexualist Catholics to lobby for the acceptance of same-sex unions as equal to marriage, and therefore of being sacramental in nature. (May God forbid!) As committed orthodox Catholics, we need to do everything in our power to take back the tradition of holy, masculine fraternity and reclaim these manly patrons, and adelphopoiesis, as our own.

The problem of the rewriting of the history of these saints has become especially bad in our day and age. The claim that adelphopoiesis was a same sex-union ceremony was first hypothesized by John Boswell in his work Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (New York: Villard, 1994). In this text, he provides his own translation of one of the extant manuscripts of the rite, which claims that the priest blesses the homosexual men by saying:

Forasmuch as Thou, O Lord and Ruler, art merciful and loving, who didst establish humankind after thine image and likeness, who didst deem it meet that thy holy apostles Philip and Bartholomew be united, bound one unto the other not by nature but by faith and the spirit. As Thou didst find thy holy martyrs Serge and Bacchus worthy to be united together [adelphoi genesthai] (emphasis added), bless also these thy servants, N. and N., joined together (emphasis added) not by the bond of nature but by faith and in the mode of the spirit [ou desmoumenous desmi physeis alla pisteis kai pneumatikos tropi], granting unto them peace [eirene] and love [agape] and oneness of mind. Cleanse from their hearts every stain and impurity and vouchsafe unto them to love one other [to agapan allelous] without hatred and without scandal all the days of their lives, with the aid of the Mother of God and all thy saints, forasmuch as all glory is thine. [4]

Boswell goes on to claim that according to his “proper” interpretation of the Greek, together with the exchange of the “kiss of peace” (as if this weren’t an asexual liturgical rite already!), one finds here an affirmation of homosexual unions.

Paul Halsall Mar records the counter-translation of an independent Eastern Orthodox scholar, Nicholas Zymaris, as rendering the text thus (emphasis added):

Let us pray to the Lord. Lord our God, the omnipotent, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, who made man according to Your image and likeness, who was well-disposed to Your holy martyrs Sergius and Bacchus becoming brothers (emphasis added), not bound (emphasis added) by the law of nature but by the example of faith of the Holy Spirit; Master, do send down Your Holy Spirit upon Your servants who have approached this temple to be blessed. Grant them a faith unashamed, a love unfeigned, and that they may be without hatred and scandal all the days of their lives. Through the prayers of Your immaculate Mother and of all the Saints. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages.

(And with the table made ready in the middle of the church, they place the holy Gospel upon it. And they kiss the Holy Gospel, and each other.)[5]

The key phrase difference is regarding the translating of “adelphoi genesthai.” I am admittedly no Greek scholar, although I did teach myself to read Greek. But we can as lay people deduce the following: first, that “adelphoi” is the common Koine word for brother or cousin, as has been explained by others in their defense of the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos as regards the “brethren” of the Lord debate. Second, genesthai, according to a quick Google search, appears in the New Testament 37 times, where it is most often translated as “becoming, occurring, belonging, or joining.” St. Paul makes use of the word in Romans 7:4, where he says: “Therefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ; that you may belong (genesthai) to another, who is risen again from the dead, that we may bring forth fruit to God” (Douay-Rheims Bible).

Clearly, the inspired author of this text is referring to the bond by which the Christian belongs to Christ and not by that which the wife is bonded (genetai) to her husband, as is used in Romans 7:2–3. While the words genetai and genesthai share similar roots (think “genesis”), the two are not used interchangeably, and only genetai is used in reference to marriage, as it is in Romans 7:2–3. I bet Boswell sure wishes he had the power of Google back in 1994!

On the right, you can see a blasphemous Byzantine “anti-icon” (my own word) of two effeminate men, clad in “fabulous” armor and cloaked in pink (a color that used to signify the blood of the martyrs!). Their heads are so close that they nearly touch, and their halos are interlocked, while each of them has an arm hidden from the sight of the viewer.

The “iconographer” is “brother” Robert Lentz, Franciscan friar minor of the Holy Name Province, confrere of the lugubrious Fr. Dan Horan and homosexualist artist extraordinaire (he also created a blasphemous image of pederast Harvey Milk as a canonized saint). This particular image was created in 1994 (coincidentally, the same year as Boswell’s book) and premiered in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade.

Much as the image of St. Sebastian being martyred by arrows is being appropriated by the priest “Grindr” website St. Sebastian’s Angels, so too is the memory of these saintly men dragged through the mud. These warriors were paraded in front of the Roman populace dressed as women; are we going to let homosexuals raise their holy icon and sacrilegiously invoke their blessings in gay pride parades?

I say enough! We Catholic laymen have had enough with the emasculation of Catholic theology and especially the priesthood. We need to stand up for our beloved saints, who are being appropriated by Satan’s minions for the purposes of destroying the sanctity of marriage.

I recommend that all men reading this article consider seriously the ascetical practices they are going to take during the upcoming period of the Great Fast of Holy Lent. I have heard many good things about the fraternity available in such ascetical and catechetical programs as Exodus 90 and Strive 21.

Brothers, make every effort to form meaningful bonds of friendship with your fellow parishioners, and encourage and build up each other in our holy Faith.

I would like to conclude with the powerful Byzantine Lenten prayer by St. Ephrem the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

[1] “863.” Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church: Christ-Our Pascha. Edmonton: Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, 2016.

[2] “Pastoral Letter on the Danger of Gender Ideology.” Synod of Bishops of the Major Archbishopric of Kyiv-Halych. Kyiv: Communications Bureau of the Curia of the Major Archeparchy of Kyiv of the Ukrainians, 2016.

[3] Fr. Patrick Viscuso. “Against the Myth of the Byzantine Gay Marriage Rite.” New Oxford Review, 19 October 2015.

[4] Quoted by Paul Halsall Mar in “Medieval Sourcebook: Two Versions of the Adelphopoiia Rite.” Internet Medieval Source Book.

[5] Ibid.

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