John the Faster (?) (d. 595)
from Migne PG 88, 1893-1896
Trans. in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and
John Nesteutes (the Faster), was Patriarch of Constantinople
582-595. This is from a penitential usually ascribed to him.
The priest stands by [the penitent's] side and questions him as
cheerfully and kindly as possible, and if he can, he kisses him
and puts the penitent's arms around him, especially if he sees
that he is overcome with grief and shame, which might wrongly
dominate his thoughts, and he speaks to him in a soft and serene
"In what way, my brother, did you first lose your virginity
? By fornication, lawful wedlock, masturbation ["malakia"],
or one of those sins which are against nature ["para phusin"]
When he has confessed and said thus and such, [the priest] questions
him further: How many women had he had when he was married, and
how many of these were slaves, how many were vidows, how many
were married, how many were nuns - for some who wear the habit
indulge in such things - and so forth. It is a small matter if
the women were whores ["pornai"] a great one if they
were married. . .Before all else the number of persons should
be ascertained, and the types of person. There are six types:
it is one penance if they were slaves, another if freeborn; one
if they were whores, another if virgins; one thing if they were
widows another if married; one thing if they were nuns, and another
if they were married to priests.
Likewise one must inquire about arsenokoita ["anal intercourse"
is Boswell's suggestion] of which there are three varieties. For
it is one thing to get it from someone, which is the least serious
another to do it to someone else, which is more serious than having
it done to you; another to do it to someone and have it done to
you, which is more serious than either of the other two. For to
be passive only, or active only, is not so grave as to be both.
One must inquire into which of these [practices] the penitent
has fallen, and how often, and for how long, and if it happened
before marriage or after, if before the age of thirty or after.
It must be ascertained further whether he has penetrated an animal,
of which sin there is only grade.
Likewise there are two types of masturbation [malakia]: one wherein
he is aroused by his own hand and another by someone else's hand,
which is unfortunate, since what the parties begin by themselves
ends up also harming others to whom they teach the sin.
One must also ask about the perplexing, beguiling , and shadowy
sin of incest, of which there are not just one or two varieties
but a great many very different ones. One type is committed with
two sisters of the same father or mother (or both). Another involves
a cousin; another the daughter of a cousin; another the wife of
one's son; another the wife of one's brother. It is one thing
with a mother-in-law or the sister of a mother-in-law, another
with a stepmother or a father's concubine. Some even do it with
their own mothers, and others with foster sisters or goddaughters.
In fact, many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their
[Note: Boswell argues against "arsenokoitia" meaning
"homosexuality". It must mean, he argues, "anal
sex". The Latin translation in PG, insisting that it means
"homosexual sex with other men", ends up translating
the text "Many men even commit the sin of sleeping with men
with their own wives"!
[The priest] should also inquire in this way about murder, voluntray
or and then about whether [the penitent] has injured his parents,
either physically or with harsh words, and whether he has taken
communion after eating or drinking, has defiled himself during
Lent, or has received communion indifferently after having sex
with a woman. Has he contracted a secret marriage or indulged
in kissing and fondling without going all the way? Has he seduced
a boy [epaidophthoresen], prevented someone from receiving his
pay, spoken against someone, or injured someone wrongly ? Has
he eaten blood, or something strangled, something killed by an
animal [Lev.5:2], a carcass [Lev. 11:8], or something slain by
birds? Or has he been involved with divination, magic, or potions
. . . ?
For discussion of the authorship of this penitential see
Emilio Herman, "Il più antico penitentiziale greco",
Oreientalia Christiana periodica 19 (1953), 71-127