Canon 22 of St.

John the Faster

Canon 22, St. John the Faster


One is the immense focus by theologians and Canon 22 of St. nor strike them. or cause them any other pain and annoyance. because all these things may cause their wives to miscarry in which case the poor husbands become murderers. George Mastrantonis. Context “It seems there are two major factors at play in the historical development of the Church’s treatment of miscarriage. those who arc priests already are to be deposed. 2 . when their wives conceive.2 This canon gives us an interpretation regarding first the nature of the miscarriage – involuntarily. receives her penance for a year. to eat whenever they smell the odor of food or anything else. It is equally important that men.Canon 22 of St. John the Faster 1 Rev. Ancient Epitome of The Sacred Canons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. who involuntarily has expelled a baby through miscarriage. has expelled her baby unintentionally as the result of some accidental circumstance). Textbook P. The Text of the Canon A woman. Second.1 B. but those who were going to become priests are barred from the priesthood on account of the murder they committed. pp 945-946 For this reason pregnant women ought to exercise great care not to lift any (heavy) weight ( and especially when they are seven or eight months old). it may implies the difference between abortion and miscarriage and third that the fetus or baby had not given to him or her any opportunity whatsoever to be baptized. that means without pre-meditation due to some accidental circumstance.56 2 The Rudder. being pregnant. Teaching But any woman who. and to be on their guard against everything that would cause them a burden and annoyance. C. John the Faster A. ought not to sleep in the same bed with them nor have sexual intercourse with them any longer. if they do any of these things and their wife miscarries. or expect to get married. Wherefore all priests that are married. is canonized by the present Canon not to commune for a year.

Evidence of this can be seen in the penalties brought against parents whose children died unbaptized. 28 4 Ibid.”4 The Fathers and Canons of the Church were most concerned with preventing women from intentionally killing their children. Patriarch of Constantinople: “if a child dies when it is seven days old or younger. Another was the rampant practice of abortion in Byzantine society. Sexuality.”3 “Because of the high infant mortality rate in ancient times.hol. Peter J. Gillquist. Consider the following canon of St. canon 91 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Synod in Trullo (691/2 A. p. 118 5 http:// business. not to the fate of the babies themselves. Marriage and Celibacy in Byzantine Law.htm. My suggestion : the reader may also have a look on Patrick Demetrios Viscuso’s . 314 A.D). Canon 21 of the Synod of Ancyra ( ca. It seems that amidst the fierce battle to protect the lives of the holy unborn.D). born or unborn. 306 A. 175 3 . Canons 2 and 8 of Basil the Great. as noted in the following section on canon law. p. the parents are to be Canon 22 of St.clergymen to impress upon the faithful the importance of baptism. pp. the issue of babies dying unbaptized was common in Byzantine society. parents of both aborted and miscarried babies were prescribed penance and excommunication for a time. 140-41. John the Faster 3 Fr.D). Consider Canons 63 and 68 of the Synod of Elvira (ca. It is to the nature and duration of their penance that the canonists attend. Beyond that however. 30 Baun. John the Faster. nothing is said about the fate of the children themselves. Baun writes: “The problem [of infants who die before baptism] arises most often with reference to the moral and theological predicament of the parents An Orthodox Pastoral Approach to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss p. and frequently arose in canon law.5 The list of pertinent canons on the subject shows that the protection of such children was obviously of grave concern.

he may read for them the “traditional” Orthodox prayer which speaks of the mother’s guilt and involvement in the killing of her child. Peter J. The Great Book of Needs.excommunicated for only forty days…”6 It is certainly possible that such a penance was meant as a toll for priests to help parents prepare themselves to return to communion following such a loss. In such an environment it is not surprising that the Fathers did not take time to develop canonical literature addressing the fate of babies who died unbaptized. but it also serves to show us the general climate of the day with regard to the baptism of infants. 118 Fr. or how to effectively minister to their parents. for their baby was not really a “member” of the church. Tikhon’s Seminary Press.30 8 St. so they must find a plot somewhere else – a monastery’s cemetery. PA: St.”7 D.p.8 There are no prayers for the baby at forty days or annually. 16-18 4 . committed orthodox Christian couple miscarries. the priest faces a nightmare scenario: He must tell them the Church forbids prayers to be offered for the baby in the Church building. he must inform them that the baby may not be buried on holy ground. Gillquist. An Orthodox Pastoral Approach to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. Finally. Application “The ministry of the Church is of the utmost importance in the face of crisis. But when a God-fearing. Tr. people need to be reassured of the love and mercy of Christ—both of them and for the child that has died. as with any major loss. When they ask him to pray for them. South Canaan. how or where to bury them. potentially far from the rest of the family’s Canon 22 of St. With miscarriage. John the Faster 6 7 Baun. Tikhon‘s Monastery. p. pp.

clergy must be educated about pregnancy loss in seminary. Many priests cannot understand how this approach is supposed to lead to the salvation of the couple.19. Following are three official steps I believe should be taken in the Church. Canon 22 of St. Gillquist. This approach seems so foreign to the orthodox priest who is accustomed to the rich.38 5 . had he lived. Peter J.pp. Second. a sensitive and pastoral witness and support to the bereaved family. pastorally-directed liturgical texts of the Church. Finally. But the child never had the opportunity to choose the right from the wrong. It is easy for an already devastated woman to feel totally alienated and further isolated by a parish who excludes her little innocent one from the dignity of a Christian burial.graves. for rather it seems to lead to further despair. she would have done everything in her power to raise this child in the faith and fear of the lord. First. After all. a living Christ in our midst.32.36. and our current response as a Church would seem to alienate a family from our precious Orthodox faith. John the Faster 9 Fr. An Orthodox Pastoral Approach to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. the idea that the infant children of Orthodox parents who die without baptism are somehow unworthy to be buried on “hallowed ground” must be eliminated. it is very important that an official service of commemoration/burial of a miscarried/stillborn child be developed.”9 In my opinion the Church is moving forward to this direction and you may see it if you talk with many priests who they know how to be a presence of love.

hol. Viscuso. Mastrantonis George. Marriage and Celibacy in Byzantine Law”. 306 A. Oxford.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press. 5. PA: St.D). Canons 2 and 8 of Basil the Great. New York. Brookline. Ancient Epitome of the Sacred Canons of the Eastern Orthodox Church 2. The Great Book of Needs. 2008. Fr. UK: Blackwell Publishers (1994): 115-126. The Rudder 6 . An Orthodox Pastoral Approach to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. Peter J. 7. Consider Canons 63 and 68 of the Synod of Elvira (ca. pp. 2000.D). “The Fate of Babies Dying before baptism in Byzantium. St.” The Church and Childhood: Papers Delivered at the 1993 Summer Meeting and 1994 Winner Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society. Jane.htm. “Sexuality. Rev. MA. 4. Tikhon’s Seminary Press. St. Gillquist. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary 3. South Canaan. Canon 21 of the Synod of Ancyra ( ca. Demetrios P. . 140-41.Bibliography 1. 175 6. 314 A. canon 91 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Synod in Trullo (691/2 A. http:// business. Tikhon’s Monastery. Crestwood. Tr.D).

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