7th Ecumenical Council: Upholding the Second Council of Nicaea

The Second Council of Nicaea

Embrace the Rich History of the Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD)

The Second Council of Nicaea convened in 787 AD, affirmed the significance of icons in Christian worship and devotion. As the seventh of the Ecumenical Councils recognized by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, it marked a turning point in the history of iconography and the Church’s approach to visual representation.

Discover the Roots of Icon Veneration

From the earliest days of Christianity, believers have created and revered images that represent Jesus, Mary, and the saints. St. John of Damascus, a prominent Church Father, once said, “In former times, God, without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see.”

The Struggle Against Iconoclasm

In the 8th century, the Byzantine Empire experienced a wave of iconoclasm, a movement that sought to destroy religious images and prohibit their veneration. This movement was driven by the belief that icons were idolatrous and went against the Second Commandment’s prohibition of graven images.

Defending the Sacred Images: Quotes from Church Fathers

In response to the iconoclastic movement, the Second Council of Nicaea was convened. Church Fathers such as St. John of Damascus and St. Theodore the Studite defended the veneration of icons, drawing on Scripture and tradition. St. John of Damascus wrote, “I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of the matter who became a matter for my sake.”

The Theology Behind Icon Veneration

The council argued that icons were not idols but windows into the divine. They served as visual reminders of God’s presence and His work in the lives of His people. By venerating icons, believers were not worshiping the material image but rather the person it represented.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy

The Second Council of Nicaea ended the era of iconoclasm, and the veneration of icons was restored. This decisive victory is commemorated annually in the Orthodox Church as the “Triumph of Orthodoxy,” a celebration that highlights the significance of the council’s decisions and the unity of the Church.

The Beauty and Spiritual Significance of Icons

Icons are not merely decorative art; they are integral to the life and worship of the Church. Their unique style and deep symbolism invite believers into a deeper relationship with God and the saints.

The Role of Icons in Prayer and Worship

Icons serve as focal points for prayer and meditation, helping the faithful to draw closer to God. As St. Gregory of Nyssa once said, “The image is a memorial, just what words are to a listening ear. What a book is to the literate, that an image is to the illiterate. The image speaks to the sight as words to the ear.”

The Legacy of the Second Council of Nicaea Today

The decisions made at the Second Council of Nicaea continue to influence the Church’s theology and practice. The veneration of icons remains a vital part of worship and devotion, reflecting the council’s wisdom and the richness of the Church’s tradition.

Join Us in Celebrating the Second Council of Nicaea

We invite you to explore the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, where the teachings of the Second Council of Nicaea are cherished and upheld. Discover iconography’s beauty and spiritual depth, and learn how these sacred images can enrich your faith journey.

Embody the Spirit of the Second Council of Nicaea

As a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, you will join a community that honors and preserves the decisions of the Second Council of Nicaea. Together, we embrace the veneration of icons and uphold the rich theological heritage of our faith.

Experience the Beauty and Depth of Iconography

We welcome you to delve into the world of iconography and experience its transformative power. Explore the history, theology, and spiritual significance of icons, and allow them to guide you toward a deeper relationship with God and His saints.

Join us today and become a part of a vibrant community that upholds the teachings of the Second Council of Nicaea and the timeless wisdom of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Dogmas

The main dogmas established by the Seventh Ecumenical Council can be summarized as follows:

  1. Affirmation of the use and veneration of holy icons: The council declared that it is appropriate to venerate and honor holy icons, as they represent Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. This veneration does not equate to worshipping the icons but rather the person they depict.
  2. Rejection of iconoclasm: Iconoclasm, the belief that the use of religious images or icons is idolatrous and should be prohibited, was condemned as heretical. The council decreed that the destruction of icons and opposition to their veneration constituted a denial of the Incarnation of Christ.
  3. Theology of icons: The council established that icons should be understood as a means to express the divine reality and presence of the person they represent. Icons serve as a reminder of the incarnation of Christ, his presence in the world, and the saints’ participation in divine grace.
  4. The distinction between worship and veneration: The council clearly distinguished between worship (latreia) and veneration (proskynesis). Worship is reserved for God alone, while veneration is an expression of honor and reverence towards the saints and holy figures depicted in icons. This distinction was important to counter accusations of idolatry in using icons.
  5. Restoration of icons: Following the council’s decision, icons were restored to churches and public places, and their veneration was encouraged to express and deepen the Christian faith.

The dogmas of the Seventh Ecumenical Council were significant in resolving the iconoclastic controversy and establishing the theological basis for using religious images within the Christian tradition. The decisions made during this council continue to influence the practices of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Catholic Churches to this day.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council

Excerpt From The Rudder

“The holy and Ecumenical Seventh Council was held in Nicaea, Bithynia, the second to convene in that city, during the reign of Constantine and his mother Irene, A.D. 783. Of the Fathers attending it, 350 were Orthodox, but seventeen others joined it who had formerly been iconomachs, but who later repented and were accepted by it. So that in all there were 367. Outstanding and distinguished ones among them were Tarasius the Patriarch of Constantinople, Peter the Archpresbyter of Rome, and Peter, he too another presbyter and the abbot of the monastery of St. Sabbas in Rome, all of them acting as representatives of Pope Adrian. Thomas the Syncellus and hieromonach and John the hieromonach, filling the places of the Apostolic thrones, or, more explicitly, acting instead of Apollinarius of Alexandria, Theodoret of Antioch, and Elias of Jerusalem. The monks also exercised great influence in this Council, seeing that there were 136 of them present as archimandrites of monasteries. This Council was assembled against the ungodly iconomachs who used to disparage the Christians. The Council anathematized them, and especially Anastasius, Constantine, and Nicetas, the pseudopatriarchs who held office during the time of the iconomachs, on the ground that they not only refused to kiss and bow down in adoration before the holy icons, but they even called them idols, and burned them up, and trod them underfoot, and dragged them about in the streets, and in every way treated them insultingly and contemptuously. After abrogating (Act 6) the falsely so-called definition of the pseudo-council held in the reign of Constantine Copronymus in Blachernae, with deacons Epiphanius and John reading it; and after proclaiming St. Germanus, and John Damascene, and George Cyprius Orthodox and Saints, it issued a definition in its Act 7 worded as follows: “We define the rule with all accuracy and diligence, in a manner not unlike that befitting the shape of the precious and vivifying Cross, that the venerable and holy icons, painted or mosaic, or made of any other suitable material, be placed in the holy churches of God upon sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, houses and streets, both of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and of our intemerate Lady the holy Theotoke, and also of the precious Angels, and of all Saints. For the more frequently and oftener they are continually seen in pictorial representation, the more those beholding are reminded and led to visualize anew the memory of the originals which they represent and for whom moreover they also beget a yearning in the soul of the persons beholding the icons. Accordingly, such persons are prompted not only to kiss these and to pay them honorary adoration, what is more important, they are imbued with the true faith which is reflected in our worship which is due to God alone and which befits only the divine nature (worship is defined by St. Basil the Great as being an intense and continual and non-avolating culture respecting the object worshiped: see his Epitomized Definitions, p. 850). But this worship must be paid in the way suggested by the form of the precious and vivifying Cross, and the holy Gospels, and the rest of sacred institutions, and the offering of wafts of incense, and the display of beams of light, to be done for the purpose of honoring them, just as it used to be the custom to do among the ancients by way of manifesting piety. For any honor paid to the icon (or picture) redounds upon the original, and whoever bows down in adoration before the icon, is at the same time bowing down in adoration to the substance (or hypostasis) of the one therein painted. For thus the doctrine of our Holy Fathers, it was the tradition of the universal Church. The 7th Ec. C. is recognized by the c. of Holy Wisdom and all interpreters of the c. The proceedings of this 7th are found in vol. 11 of the Synods, pg. 719.


1. For those who have been allotted a sacerdotal dignity, the representations of canonical ordinances amount to testimonies and directions. Gladly accepting these, we sing to the Lord God with David, the spokesman of God, the following words: “I have delighted in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all wealth,” and “thy testimonies which thou hast commanded witness righteousness, . . . . Thy testimonies are righteousness forever: give me understanding, and I shall live” (Ps. 119:14, 138 and 144). And if forever the prophetic voice commands us to keep the testimonies of God, and to live in them, it is plain that they remain unwavering and rigid. For Moses, too, the beholder of God, says so in the following words: “To them there is nothing to add, and from them there is nothing to remove” (Deut. 12:32). And the divine Apostle Peter, exulting in them, cries: “which things the angels would like to peep into” (1 Pet. 1:12). And Paul says: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel besides that which ye have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). Seeing that these things are so and are attested to us, and rejoicing at them “as one that findeth great spoil” (Ps. 119:162), we welcome and embrace the divine Canons, and we corroborate the entire and rigid fiat of them that have been set forth by the renowned Apostles, who were and are trumpets of the Spirit, and those both of the six holy Ecumenical Councils and of the ones assembled regionally for the purpose of setting forth such edicts, and of those of our holy Fathers. For all those men, having been guided by the light dawning out of the same Spirit, prescribed rules that are to our best interest. Accordingly, we too anathematize whomsoever they consign to anathema; and we too depose whomsoever they consign to deposition; and we too excommunicate whomsoever they consign to excommunication; and we likewise subject to a penance anyone whom they make liable to a penance. For “Let your conduct be free from avarice; being content with such things as are at hand” (Heb. 13:5), explicitly cries the divine apostle Paul, who ascended into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words (2 Cor. 12:2-4).

(c. I of the 4th; c. II of the 6th.)


The divine Canons are testimonies so far as concerns those in holy orders in that they attest and reveal to them how they ought to conduct themselves both publicly and privately. They are directions in that when they are observed by them they direct and steer their life. Joyfully accepting these Canons through the present Canon, this Council offers up those prophetic words of David as a song to God which run as follows in paraphrase: “I have rejoiced, O Lord, in Thy testimonies just as I should rejoice if I owned all the wealth of the world. And Thou hast commanded me to keep Thy testimonies forever, wherewith be Thou pleased to wisen me, and I shall live in them.” And if this utterance of the prophet’s commands us to keep the testimonies of God forever, and to live in them, it is manifest that they themselves are permanent and rigid (for, according to Zonaras, the Greek word for “unwavering” denotes the weak and fragile branch of a fig-tree; unwavering things, therefore, are things that are solid and unmovable). That is the reason, too, why Moses says that no one is to add anything to the words of the Law, nor to take anything out of them. The Coryphaeus of Apostles, St. Peter, exulting in them, says that the angels would like to look into those things, viz. which the apostles preaching the gospel in a spirit of God have revealed to us. And St. Paul anathematizes anyone, even though he be an angel, that preaches anything as gospel that lies outside of what has been handed down and delivered as the faith. For this reason, rejoicing in the divine Canons just as soldiers rejoice when they happen to find a great amount of booty on their vanquished enemies, as David says, we too joyfully embrace them, and corroborate them, and confirm them all, including those set forth by the holy apostles, as well as those of the six ecumenical councils and of the regional councils, and those of the individual Fathers; anathematizing those whom they anathematize; deposing those whom they depose; and excommunicating those whom they excommunicate — and, generally speaking, disciplining those whom they discipline. For, just as those who are not of an avaricious disposition are content with whatever money they have at hand, as St. Paul says, so too do we refrain from adding or removing anything, but, on the contrary, content ourselves with the Canons which have been enacted by the holy Fathers. See also c. I of the 4th, and what has been said in the beginning of this book in the Prolegomena to the Canons.

2. Since as a matter of fact we are binding ourselves to God by chanting: “I will meditate in thy rights; I will not forget they words” (Ps. 119:16), it behooves all Christians to keep this for their own salvation, but more eminently so those invested with a sacerdotal dignity. Hence we decree that anyone who is about to be promoted to the rank of bishop shall by all means know the psalter, in order that he may be able to admonish all the clergy about him to become initiated; and that he be scrupulously examined by the metropolitan as to whether he is cheerfully willing to read searchingly and not cursorily the sacred Canons and the holy Gospel, the book of the divine Apostle, and all the divine Scripture, and in accordance with the divine commandments to hold intercourse with and teach the laity about him. For the essentiality of our prelacy is the words taught by God, or, at any rate, the true science of the divine Scriptures, just as great Dionysius declared. But if he should be in doubt, and not care to do and teach thus, he must not be ordained. For God has said prophetically: “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from acting as my priest” (Hos. 4:6).

(c. XXIV of Carthage.)


While all Christian laymen ought to meditate in the rights of God, and not forget His words, just as they chant and promise every day with the prophet, this is eminently so in the case of those in holy orders. For this reason the present Canon decrees that anyone who intends to become a bishop must without fail be acquainted with the thoughts in the psalter, in order to teach his laity therefrom so that they may learn them too. Likewise any such person must be examined by the metropolitan scrupulously as to whether he is cheerfully willing to read, not superficially and as to the words alone, but with regard to depth and with understanding of the thoughts, the sacred Canons, which we have enumerated above, the holy Gospel, the Apostle, and all the divine Scripture, and not only to know these, but also to conduct himself both publicly and privately just as they prescribe, and to teach his fold in accordance with them. For, as Dionysius the Areopagite declares, the essence and structure of the ecclesiastical prelacy is the words taught by God., or, more precisely speaking, the true comprehension and exact knowledge of the divine Scriptures. If not, and he is in doubt, and is not minded to do these things himself, and to teach others too, let him not be made a bishop; for God says through the prophet Hosea (in paraphrase): “Since thou hast spurned knowledge of my laws, I too will spurn thee as a priest of mine.”


In agreement with the present Canon, c. XXIV of Carthage expresses the following decree: that those who intend to ordain a bishop, or a clergyman, must first teach him the Canons of the sacred Councils, in order that, by acting in accordance with the definitions and canons of the Fathers, they who are to be ordained may not repent later, as transgressors of them. For this reason, too, God commands the one who has become a ruler of the people not only to read the book of Deuteronomy throughout his life, in order to learn therefrom to fear the Lord, and to keep all His commandments, but He even makes it necessary for him to copy it himself with his own hand. “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write himself a copy of this Deuteronomy in a book obtained from the priests who are Levites” (Deut. 17:18). And the reason why He commands him to copy it himself is that a person who merely reads it easily forgets the thoughts that are read, whereas a person who also writes it impresses the thoughts upon his memory, because he takes time and leisure to think about each particular one of them, and until he has comprehended a sentence well he takes care not to write another: thus does Philo Judaeus interpret the matter. And if God compels secular rulers to do this, much more does He the ecclesiastical prelates who are the shepherds of his people.

3. Every appointment of a bishop, or of a presbyter, or of a deacon made by (civil) rulers shall remain void in accordance with the Canon which says: “If any bishop comes into possession of a church by employing secular rulers, let him be deposed from office, and let him be excommunicated. And all those who communicate with him too.” For it behooves anyone who is going to be promoted to a bishopric to be appointed by bishops, as was decreed by the holy Fathers assembled in Nicaea, in the Canon saying: “It is most fitting that a bishop should be installed by all those in his province. But if such a thing is difficult either because of the urgency of circumstances, or because of the distance to be traveled, at least three should meet together somewhere and by their votes combined with those of the ones absent and joining in the election by letter they should carry out the ordination thereafter. But as for the ratification of the proceedings, let it be entrusted in each province to the Metropolitan.”

(Ap. cc. I, II, XXX, LXI; c. IV of the 1st; cc. V, XIII of Laodicea; c. LIX of Carthage; c. VII of Timothy.)


The present Canon is composed of Ap. c. XXX and c. IV of the 1st. Since we have already explained these Canons, see the interpretation of them there, in order to spare us from repeating the same things about them here. The only thing in this Canon that is not found there, is that every appointment or election of a bishop, or of a presbyter, or of a deacon that is made by authority and power of civil rulers shall remain void and invalid; and that bishops are to be elected by bishops, in accordance with a process previously described; that is to say, on the other hand, that the fact that both presbyters and deacons are elected is made plain indeed by the present Canon, concerning which see the Footnote to Ap. c. II; as for the fact, moreover, that Christians ought to vote subsequently after the bishops for those about to be admitted to holy orders, this is made plain in the Interpretation of Ap. c. LXI. See also Ap. cc. I and II, and the Footnote to c. V of Laodicea.

4. The preacher of the truth Paul, the divine Apostle, as if laying down a Canon to the presbyters of the Ephesians, but rather to every sacerdotal aggregate, spoke openly and aboveboard as follows: “I have coveted no one’s silver, or gold, or apparel. I have shown you in all things that by thus laboring you ought to assist the weak, and remember that . . . It is more blissful to give than to receive” (Acts 20:33, 35). Wherefore we too, having become pupils and disciples of His, decree that no bishop shall devise or think of ways of making shameful profits, alleging lame excuses such as are offered in the case of sins in general, to the effect that bishops, or clergymen, or monks serving under him demand gold, or silver, or any other commodity. For the Apostle says: “The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9), and “children ought not to lay up treasure for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Cor. 12:14). If, therefore, on account of any demand for gold, or for any other commodity, or on account of any idiosyncrasy, anyone be found to be excluding from the liturgy and excommunicating anyone among the clergymen under him, or shutting a venerable temple, to prevent liturgies of God from being conducted therein, venting his rage upon insentient objects, he himself is in reality insentient, and will become subject to self-torture, and “his mischief shall return upon his own head” (Ps. 7:16), as transgressor of a commandment of God, and of the Apostolic Ordinances. For Peter, the coryphaean summit of the Apostles, also commands: “Tend the flock of God which is among you, not coercingly, but voluntarily after the manner of God. Not for the sake of shameful profits, but willingly. Not as lording it over the charges allotted to you, but as having become models for the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear in person, ye shall receive the reward of an unwithering crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).


Because great St. Paul both by word and by deed commanded the bishops of the Ephesians, and through them all bishops subsequent thereto, not to desire silver, or gold, or clothes, but by labor of their own hands to assist the weak and needy, and to bear in mind that it is more blissful to give than to receive, therefore the present Canon commands that no prelate or bishop shall seek to extort gold or silver or anything else of value, with a view to shameful profits, from bishops, or clergymen, or monks that are subject to his jurisdiction, since any such demand is unjust and unrighteous, but “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” according to the Apostle; and since children are not obliged to amass treasure to give to their parents, but, on the contrary, parents ought to give to their children. So any bishop who is found suspending or excommunicating any priest or clergyman, or closing a church in order to obtain money or on account of any other personal animus, let him suffer what he is doing, to wit, let him be suspended, and “let him be excommunicated, if he is a bishop by his Metropolitan, or if he is a Metropolitan by his Patriarch. For the Coryphaeus of Apostles St. Peter gives the following orders to prelates: “Tend the flock of God, not coercingly and tyrannically, but voluntarily and after the manner of God; not for the sake of shameful profits, but with cheerful willingness; not as domineering over the clergy, but as furnishing models and examples to the flocks, in order that when the chief shepherd Christ becomes manifest in His second advent, you may receive from Him the reward of an unwithering crown of glory.” Read also Ap. c. XXIX.

5. It is a deadly sin when any sinners remain incorrigible. But what is worse than this happens if they insist upon rising up against piety and truth, preferring Mammon to obedience to God, and failing to cling fast to His canonical ordinances. Among those persons God is not the Lord, unless by any chance they be humiliated and again become sober enough to see their own mistake. For it rather behooves them to approach God, and with a contrite heart to ask for remission of this particular sin, and for pardon, instead of pluming themselves on their lawless behavior. For “the Lord is nigh unto them that are contrite of heart” (Ps. 34:18). As for those boasting that by giving gold they have obtained some rank in the Church and trusting to this wicked custom, which is alien to God and alienates men from God, and from every holy order; and as a result thereof with an impudent face and unbridled mouth dishonoring by reproachful words those who have been elected and installed through virtuousness of life by the Holy Spirit, without the giving of any money, those who have been doing this at first, are to receive the lowest rank in their own battalion. But if they insist and persist, they are to be corrected by means of a penance. If, on the other hand, anyone ever should appear to have done this with a view to ordination, let him suffer in accordance with the Apostolic Canon which says: “If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon gain possession (of this dignity by means of money, let both him and the one who ordained him be deposed from office, and exscinded, or cut off, altogether from communion, as was Simon by me Peter.” Likewise also in accordance with the second Canon of the devout Fathers assembled in Chalcedon, which says: “If any bishop ordain anyone for money, and make merchandise of the unvendible grace, and perform the ordination of a Bishop, Auxiliary Bishop, Presbyter, Deacon, or anyone on the roll of the Clergy, with a view to gain; or nominate any Steward, Ecdicus, or Paramonarius, or anyone else that belongs to the canon, for money, with the object of making a shameful profit for himself: let him who is found guilty of having undertaken this stand in peril of his office; and let him who has been thus ordained have no benefit from such traffic in ordinations or nominations, but, on the contrary, let him be without any claim upon the dignity or job which he has thus obtained by means of money. If, in fact, anyone even appear as a middleman or factor or intermediary for such shameful and illicit deals, let him too, if he be a clergyman, forfeit his office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be anathematized.”

(Ap. c. XXIX; c. II of the 4th; John 1:16.)


Some persons who intended to get themselves enrolled in the clergy of a certain church, offered money to it of their own free will with a God-loving frame of mind, not in order to get the clergyship therewith, but as devoting or consecrating the money to God, according to Balsamon. But later, boasting of giving the money, and preferring mammon and wealth to the sacred canons, they sought and asked for chief seats (Matt. 23:6), and shamelessly and brazenly reproached those clergymen who, being elected by the Holy Spirit, on account of their virtuous conduct in life, were enrolled in the clergy without giving any money. So for this reason the present Canon commands that those who boast of this money and reproach the others because they gave none be reduced to the lowest rank of the clergymen of the same order. But if they persist in this any further, they are to be corrected by the chief priest with a suitable severer penalty. Referring to the passage in the Epistle of St. John, these Fathers call the incorrigible boasting of such clergymen about money a deadly sin; and they call their shameless and insolent treatment of the other clergymen a worse than deadly sin, and assert that among those men the God is no Lord, in accordance with the Bible; while, on the other hand, they call their giving of money lawless, not in itself — for it was good at first and God-loving — but on account of the later boasting of the givers and their brazen shamelessness. So take care not to take this gift of money for ordination, since this Canon appears to consist of two parts. The first part forbids them to give money, not to be ordained, for this comes in later but to get themselves enrolled in the parish of a certain church, and afterwards to wax insolent and to hold the poor and reverent clergymen in contempt: so it is this kind of giving that it forbids as lawless. Then it goes on to present the second part, by saying that if they should offer such money for ordination they must be deposed from office, in accordance with Canons already issued. But this Canon adds that whoever should give money to be ordained a clergyman or a priest is to receive the penalties provided by Ap. c. XXIX and c. II of the 4th, both of which are quoted verbatim: and see the Interpretation of them there.

6. Since there actually is a Canon which says canonical discussions must be held twice a year in each province through an assembly of Bishops, but on account of the inconvenience and the lack of means of traveling those who were called upon to assemble had to face, the devout Fathers of the Sixth Council decreed that one assembly be held each year, by all means and on any pretext, and wrong things be corrected: therefore we renew this latter Canon. Accordingly, if any (civil) ruler be found attempting to prevent this, let him be excommunicated. If, on the other hand, any one of the Metropolitans should fail to see that this is done, except in case of necessity and violence, or some reasonable excuse, he is to be liable to the penalties. When a Council has been convoked in regard to canonical and evangelical matters, the Bishops assembled must engage in meditation and careful consideration of how the divine and vivifying commandments of God are to be kept. For “in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11); and seeing that “the commandment is a lamp; and the law is a light and reproof with instruction in the way of life” (Prov. 6:23), and “the commandment of the Lord shineth afar, illuminating the eyes” (Ps. 19:8). But no Metropolitan shall have any right to demand a beast or other possession among the chattels which a Bishop takes along with him. But if he be proved to have done so, he shall pay back the value of it fourfold.

(App. c. XXXVII; c. V of the 1st; c. XIX of the 4th; c. VIII of the 6th.)


The present Canon renews c. VIII of the 6th, which decrees that inasmuch as two Councils of bishops cannot be held each year in regard to ecclesiastical canonical questions, as the Canons prescribe — Ap. c. XXXVII, that is to say, c. V of the 1st, and c. XIX of the 4th — owing to the difficulty of traveling, one Council must be held by all means every year, in order to correct incidental mistakes. But this Canon adds that any one among the (civil) rulers that tries to prevent the holding of such a Council is to be excommunicated; and that any Metropolitan that is remiss in regard to this (unless it be prevented by reason of some necessity or logical reason), he shall become liable to penalties. But since the object of holding a Council is to investigate whether the canonical rules are being observed, relating, say, to excommunications, administrations of ecclesiastical affairs, and other matters, as well as evangelical decrees, therefore the bishops assembled must see to it that the vivifying commandments of the Gospel are kept by their laities, because for the keeping of them a great reward is given, according to David; and because, furthermore, the commandment and law of God are a lamp and a light, and a way of life, according to the author of the Book of Proverbs. But no Metropolitan has any permission to demand of any bishop of his any animal or any other thing that he may have with him: but if he should nevertheless do so, he must pay the bishop the fourfold amount of its value. See also Ap. c. XXXVII.

7. Paul the divine Apostle said: “Some men’s sins are plainly evident, . . . whereas those of other men follow inferentially” (1 Tim. 5:24). Sins, therefore, being committed in advance, other sins follow them. Thus the impious heresy of accusers of the Christians was followed by other acts of impiety. For precisely as they removed the face in the venerable icons from the Church, they have also abandoned certain other customs which must be renewed, and in accordance with both the written and the unwritten law they must thus prevail. As to any venerable temples, therefore, that have been consecrated without holy relics of Martyrs, we decree that in them there shall be made a deposit of relics together with the usual prayer. Let anyone, then, that consecrates a temple without holy relics be deposed from office, on the ground that he has transgressed ecclesiastical traditions.

(c. XCI of Carthage.)


St. Basil the Great interpreted this apostolic saying otherwise, but the present Council has taken it more naively, since it says that the previous sins one commits are followed by other sins, just as happened in the case of the iconomachs who used to accuse the Christians and who, just as they deprived the Church of the holy icons, also flouted some other things of the Church and cast them out, which things must be renewed, in order that both the written legislation and the unwritten tradition may prevail. So all the divine temples that have been consecrated by them without relics of martyrs are to have such relics deposited in them, while at the same time the prayer is said which relates thereto in the ceremony of dedication. As for any prelate that consecrates a temple hereafter without holy relics of martyrs, let him be deposed from office as a transgressor of ecclesiastical traditions.


Canon XCI of Carthage decrees that those sacrificial altars in which there is treasured no body or relics of martyrs are to be wrecked or disapproved.

8. Inasmuch as some persons who have been misled by their inferences from the religion of the Jews have seen fit to sneer at Christ our God, while pretending to be Christians, but secretly and clandestinely keeping the Sabbath and doing other Jewish acts, we decree that these persons shall not be admitted to communion, nor to prayer, nor to church, but shall be Jews openly in accordance with their religion; and that neither shall their children be baptized, nor shall they buy or acquire a slave. But if any one of them should be converted as a matter of sincere faith, and confess with all his heart, triumphantly repudiating their customs and affairs, with a view to censure and correction of others, we decree that he shall be accepted and his children shall be baptized, and that the latter shall be persuaded to hold themselves aloof from Jewish peculiarities. If, on the other hand, the case is not thus, they are not to be accepted under any other circumstances whatever.


The present Canon decrees that no one is to join in communion or prayer with, or even admit into church, those Jews who only hypocritically have become Christians and have joined the Orthodox faith, but secretly deny and mock Christ our God, while keeping the Sabbath and other Jewish customs (or, more explicitly, circumcising their sons, deeming anyone unclean that takes hold of a corpse or leper, and other similar vagaries); but, on the contrary, such persons are to be Jews as they were before, and no one shall baptize their children nor let them buy a slave or acquire one by exchange or gift or in any other fashion. But if any Jew should be actually converted in good and guileless faith and with all his heart confess the orthodoxy of Christians, openly disparaging the religion of the Jews, in order that other Jews may be reproved and corrected, we ought to accept such a person, and baptize his children, ordering them persuasively to abstain from Jewish superstitions. But as for those who do not become converted in such a manner, we must not admit them on any account whatever.


In agreement with the present Canon ch. 44 of Title I of Book I of the Basilica decrees that if any Jew accused of any crime or owing a debt should on account thereof pretend that he has become willing to be a Christian, he is not to be accepted thus until he has paid his debt or has been acquitted of the crimes of which he has been accused. Likewise ch. 47 of the same Title and Book decrees that no Jew shall have a slave who is a Christian, nor circumcise anyone who is being catechized; neither shall any other heretic have a slave who is a Christian, but the moment he acquires him, the slave shall become free. Read also the Footnote to c. II of the 1st.

9. All boyish whimwhams and mad bacchanalia, the false writings that have been brought forth against the venerable icons, must be turned in to the Bishopric of Constantinople to be put away together with the rest of heretical books. If, on the other hand, anyone should be found hiding these, if he be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated.

(Ap. c. LX; cc. II and LXIII of the 6th; c. LI of Laodicea.)


The present Canon decrees that all the false writings which the iconomachists composed against the holy icons and which are flimsy as children’s toys, and as crazy as the raving and insane bacchantes — those women who used to dance drunken at the festival of the tutelar of intoxication Dionysus — all those writings, I say, must be surrendered to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to be put together with the other books by heretics — in such a place, that is to say, that no one will ever be able to take them therefrom with a view to reading them. As for anyone who should hide them, with a view to reading them himself or providing them for others to read, if he be a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated. See also Ap. c. LX.

10. Inasmuch as some of the Clergymen, flouting the canonical ordinance and leaving their own parish, run off into another parish, and for the most part into this God-guarded and imperial city, and become attached to civil magistrates, conducting services in their oratories, it is therefore not allowable to receive these persons in any house or church without the permission of their own bishop and of that of Constantinople. If anyone should do so persistently, let him be deposed from office. As for any of the Priests who do this notwithstanding what has been said in the foregoing, it is not for them to undertake secular and mundane cares, as they are forbidden to do so by the divine Canons. But if anyone be caught red-handed in the employ of the so-called magnates (meizoteri), let him be dismissed, or let him be deposed from office. To come at once to the point, therefore, let him keep re-reading the divine Scriptures with the object of teaching children and servants and slaves. For it was to this that he was called when holy orders fell to his lot.

(Ap. cc. XV, LXXXI, LXXXIII; cc. III, V, X, XXIII; c. XI of the lst-&-2nd; cc. XVIII, LXIII, XCVIII of Carthage; cc. XV, XVI of the 1st; cc. XVII, XVIII of the 6th; c. III of Antioch; cc. XV, XVI, XIX of Sardica.)


The present Canon forbids two unlawful things in the same paragraph: the action of clergymen in going from city to city, and especially to Constantinople; and that of their applying to civil magistrates and officiating in their prayer-houses without the permission both of their own bishop, from whom they have gone away, and of the Patriarch, into whose parish they have resorted, as both are contrary to the prescription of the divine Canons. So it commands that any clergyman is to be deposed from office if without permission of the above he comes to Constantinople, or officiates in oratories, and persists in doing so. Clergymen, on the other hand, who have been admitted with their permission must not undertake secular cares, but rather let them teach the children and slaves and servants of Christians. If any clergyman should engage in superintending the lati-fundia of civil magistrates (as this same thing is decreed in c. XI of the lst-&-2nd), the superintendents of which used to be called meizoteri (i.e., magnates), perhaps owing to their superintending the largest and most profitable estates, either let him leave this employment or, if he will not leave it, let him be deposed from office. See also Ap. cc. VI and XV.

11. All of us being obliged to keep the divine Canons, we ought to maintain by all means inviolable the one saying that there should be Stewards in every church. Accordingly if each Metropolitan appoints a Steward in his church, it is well and good; but if not the Bishop of Constantinople is given permission to appoint a Steward in the same church ex officio. Like permission is given also to Metropolitans if the Bishops under them do not care to appoint Stewards in their own churches. The same rule is to be observed also in the case of Monasteries.

(Ap. cc. XXXVIII, XLI; c. XXVI of the 4th; c. XII of the 7th; c. VII of the lst-&-2nd; c. XV of Ancyra; c. VII of Gangra; cc. XXIV, XXV of Antioch; cc. XXXIV, XLI of Carthage; c. X of Theophilus; c. II of Cyril.)


Inasmuch as c. XXVI of the 4th commands that every church shall have a steward to manage its affairs with permission and approval of the bishop, therefore the present Canon, while confirming that one, adds that if any Metropolitan appoints a steward of his own accord, it will be all right; but if he fail to do so, the Patriarch of Constantinople has authority to appoint a steward for that same Metropolis and for other ones, too, which are subject to him, that is to say. Likewise in case bishops fail to appoint a steward for their bishoprics their Metropolitan is to be allowed to appoint them. This same thing is to be done also in the case of monasteries that have no steward — that is to say, stewards are to be appointed for them by their abbot, or, if he will not do this, by the bishop, or if he will not appoint one in this event by the Metropolitan, or if even the Metropolitan neglects to take care of the matter, by the Patriarch. See also Ap. c. XXXVIII.

12. If any Bishop or any Abbot be found disposing of productive property of the bishopric or monastery respectively into the hands of lay rulers, or of any other person, the transfer is to be invalid and void, in accordance with the Apostolic Canon saying: “Let the Bishop have the care of all ecclesiastical matters and let him manage them on the understanding that God is overseeing and supervising. Let him not be allowed to appropriate anything therefrom or to give God’s things to his relatives. If they be indigent, let him provide for them as indigents, but let him not trade off things of the Church under this pretext.” If it be alleged as an excuse that the property is actually a liability involving a loss or overall expense and that the fields are not rendering any profit or benefit, even so the place must not be sold or let out to the civil rulers of the region, but to Clergymen or to farmers (i.e., husbandmen). But if by employing some cunning rascality, a civil ruler should buy the fields from a Clergyman or a farmer, even so let the sale be invalid and void, and let the property be restored to the Bishopric, or to the Monastery, as the case may be, and let the Bishop, or the Abbot, respectively, who does this be driven out — the Bishop out of the Bishopric, and the Abbot out of the Monastery — on the ground that they are plundering wrongfully what they did not gather together.

(Ap. cc. XXXVIII, XLI; c. XXVI of the 4th; c. XI of the 7th; c. VII of the lst-&-2nd; c. XV of Ancyra; c. VII of Gangra; cc. XXIV, XXV of Antioch; cc. XXXIV, XLI of Carthage; c. X of Theophilus; c. II of Cyril.)


By the phrase “productive property” is meant all those things that produce an income, and especially real estate: such as arable fields, vineyards, olive groves, etc. So as concerning these things the present Canon decrees that if anyone who should alienate them, as bishop from the bishopric, or an abbot from a monastery, and turn them over to civil rulers, either by sale or by exchange, any such transfer is to remain invalid and of no effect, and the things are to revert to the bishopric or monastery, as the case may be, just as Ap. c. XXXVIII decrees, which the present Canon quotes verbatim and in full. But if it should happen that the bishop or abbot alleges that such or such a field, or vineyard, is not producing any income or profit, but rather a loss, let them sell it, not to civil rulers and autocrats, but to clergymen or farmers, men, that is to say, who are humble and paltry. But if by employing some villainy they should first have given them to the latter with the object of letting them be taken from them later by a civil ruler, this sale is to be invalid and void, while the bishop who has sold the property in such a manner is to be ousted from the bishopric, and any abbot who has done so is to be ousted from the monastery, because they have wrongfully dissipated and lost the property which had been rightfully gathered together and consecrated by others. See also the Interpretation of Ap. c. XXXVIII.

13. In view of the fact that on account of the disaster attending our sins certain charitable institutions have been pillaged by men, including both bishoprics and monasteries, and have been made into common resorts; if those who now have possession of them are willing to return them, in order that they may be restored to their pristine condition, it is well and good: but if not, in case those men who now have them in their possession are on the sacerdotal list, we command that they be deposed from office, or, if they be monks or laymen, that they be excommunicated, on the ground that they stand condemned by the Father, and by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit; and let them be relegated thither where “their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched” (Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48), since they are opposed to the Lord’s utterance saying: “Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16).

(cc. IV, XXIV of the 4th; c. XLIX of the 6th; cc. XII, XIX of the 7th; c. I of the lst-&-2nd; c. II of Cyril.)


In the time of the iconomachists, besides other evils that occurred, many prelates were ousted by them on account of the holy icons from their bishoprics and metropoleis, and many monks were ousted from their monasteries. These institutions being left in a state of desolation certain secular persons snatched hold of them and converted them into secular habitations. So for this reason the present Canon commands that in case those holding possession of these bishoprics and monasteries are willing to give them back, in order that they may be restored again as bishoprics and monasteries to their former condition, it is all right. But if they are unwilling, in case they are clerics let them be deposed from office, but in case they are monks or laymen let them be excommunicated, as persons condemned on this account by the Holy Trinity; and let them be relegated to that region where “their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched,” according to the utterance of Isaiah and of the Gospel, since they are opposing the words of the Lord which say, “Make not the house of my Father a house of merchandise,” etc. Read also cc. IV and XXIV of the 4th.

14. It is perfectly plain to everybody that order reigns in the Church, and that it is pleasing to God for the transactions of the Priesthood to be maintained with rigorousness. Since, then, we behold some persons receiving the tonsure of the Clergy from infancy and without imposition of hands, and reading from the pulpit at the synaxis, but doing so in an uncanonical fashion, we forbid the doing of this from now on. The same rule is to be observed also with reference to Monks. As for the appointment of an Anagnost (or Reader) by imposition of hands, each Abbot is given permission to do this but only in his own Monastery, provided that imposition of hands has been laid upon that very same Abbot himself by a Bishop to enable him to have the presidency of an Abbot — that is to say, more plainly speaking, if he is a Presbyter (or Priest). Likewise also in accordance with the ancient custom, Auxiliary Bishops may only with the permission of the Bishop appoint Anagnosts (with imposition of hands).

(c. XXXIII of the 6th ; c. XXII of Carthage.)


Since some persons have been consecrated from infancy to God, and have donned garments befitting clerics, and have also received the tonsure at the hands of their own parents, in accordance with a certain custom, on the pretext that they have been and are, allegedly, consecrated, and these same children on coming to age have had the temerity to read the divine books to the laity (perhaps trusting to that tonsure received in their infancy), without having had the requisite imposition of hands and without having received the requisite seal and tonsure of an Anagnost from a prelate; therefore the present Canon commands that such a thing be not done, on the ground that it is disorderly and uncanonical. Not only are laymen forbidden to act as Readers without a bishop’s seal, but so are monks too. But it is permissible for the abbot of a monastery, provided he is a priest and has been made an abbot by imposition of the hands of a prelate, to ordain Anagnosts (or Readers), but only in his own monastery, and not elsewhere. Likewise even Auxiliary Bishops (Chorepiscopi) are permitted to ordain Anagnosts, in accordance with an ancient custom (respecting which see also the Footnote to c. VIII of the First). Read also c. XXXIII of the 6th.

15. From now on let no Clergyman be attached to two churches. For this is a mark of commerciality and of greediness for profits, and is alien to ecclesiastical usage. For we have been told by the voice of the Lord Himself that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will cling to the one, and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). Each person, therefore, in accordance with the Apostolical utterance, wherever he happens to be, ought to stay there and serve in one church. For things done on account of greediness for profits in connection with ecclesiastical matters are alien to God’s institutes. To supply the needs of this life there are various occupations. Let anyone, therefore, who so wishes gain the needs of the body from them. For the Apostle has said, “these hands have ministered unto my needs, and unto those of them who were with me” (Acts 20:34). Accordingly, what is said here is to be applied in this God-guarded city; but in small towns outside of it, for want of men, let there be concessions.

(Ap. c. XV; cc. XV, XVI of the 1st; cc. X, XX, XXIII of the 4th; cc. XVII, XVIII of the 6th; cc. X, XV of the 7th; c. III of Antioch; cc. XV, XVI, XIX of Sardica; cc. LXIII, XCVIII of Carthage; Matt. 6:24; 1 Cor. 7:20; Acts 20:34.)


The present Canon prohibits the enrolling of any clergyman in the clergy of two churches situated either in the same city or in two cities, because this is being done for the sake of shameful profits, in order, that is to say, that the clergyman so enrolled may gain the emoluments of both churches; but what is done for the sake of shameful profits is foreign both to God and to ecclesiastics. For the Lord says that nobody can serve two masters; for either he will hate and despise one of them, or he will love and embrace the other. And St. Paul commands that everybody stay in the place whither he has been called by God. If these clergymen allege as an excuse that they cannot get along with the emoluments of the one church, why, behold, there are many kinds of manual work in the world that are more decent; accordingly, let them work with their hands to obtain the needs of the body. For even St. Paul obtained his needs and the needs of those with him by the work of his own hands, as he himself says. So for a clergyman to be attached to two churches, in this imperial city at any rate, is not to be tolerated because of the great number of clerics already in it; but as for the villages and towns outside of it, let it be allowed to be done on account of the scarcity of priests and clerics. See also Ap. c. XV.

16. Every luxury and adornment of the body is alien to the sacerdotal order. Bishops or clergymen, therefore, who adorn themselves with splendid and conspicuous clothes need to be corrected; but if they insist upon it, they must be condemned to a penance. Likewise as regards those who anoint themselves with perfumes. But inasmuch as a root of bitterness growing up, the heresy of Christianocategori (i.e., accusers of Christians), has become a pestilence, and those who have joined it not only have deemed iconic representations in paintings to be an abomination, but have even rejected every form of reverence, being inclined to loathe those who live decently and piously, and that which has been written has been fulfilled in them, viz., “Godliness is an abomination to a sinner” (Sirach A.28) I’m not sure what the true citation for this verse is. If, therefore, persons are found laughing at those clothed in cheap and decent vestments, let them be corrected with a penance. For ever since the days of old every priestly man has contented himself with moderate and decent vestments. For everything that is worn not because of any real need or necessity, but for embellishment incurs the discredit of being frippery, as Basil the Great has said. But neither did they put on any garments made of silk fabrics and embroidered with various designs; nor did any of them add any differently colored appendages to the edges of their vestments. For they had been told by the Speaker of God’s language that those who wear soft raiment are in the houses of kings (Matt. 11:8).

(c. XXVII of the 6th; cc. XII, XXI of Gangra.)


The present Canon decrees that bishops and clerics who wear splendid clothes, as well as those who anoint themselves with perfumes, ought to correct this impropriety, since every embellishment and adornment of the human body is foreign to those in holy orders. But if they insist on doing so and will not correct themselves, let them be canonized with a suitable penance. Moreover, the iconomachists, besides rejecting holy icons, rejected also everything making for decency in the matter of clothing, and were wont to laugh at those wearing cheap or paltry garments (that is why they were wont to call monks “darkies,” that is to say, wearers of dark-colored clothes, making fun of the decency of the monkish habit, according to Metaphrastes in his Life of Stephen the Younger); accordingly, I say, let these men be corrected with a penance, for ever since the beginning men in holy orders have been wearing humble clothes. Hence St. Basil the Great (see his Epitomized Def. 49) describes as frippery every piece of clothing that is not designed to meet some need of the body, but only for embellishment or beautification; and they were not accustomed to wear garments embroidered with silk (for silkworms are called in Greek seres after the Seres, or Chinese, who used to cultivate these worms, and from there they were carried to other regions); nor did they attach to the edges of their garments pieces of a different color from that of their garments. For they had heard from the utterance of the Lord that those wearing soft clothes are found in palaces, and not in bishoprics and churches. See also c. XXVII of the 6th.

17. Some of the monks, after leaving their monasteries, having become imbued with a yearning to rule and with a loathness to obey, undertake to build prayer-houses without having the needments to finish them. If, therefore, anyone shall undertake to do this, let him be prevented by the local bishop. But if he has the needments for their completion, let him carry out his plans. The same rule is to be observed also as regards laymen and clerics.

(c. IV of the 4th; c. XXI of the 7th; c. I of the lst-&-2nd.)


Seeing that some ambitious monks inclined to rule and not to obey others, having left their monasteries, attempt to build prayer-houses without having the expenses required to complete them, therefore the present Canon commands that such persons be prevented by the bishop from engaging in such an enterprise. But if they have sufficient capital for this end and the accomplishment of their object, let them undertake the work. This same rule applies also to laymen or clerics if they undertake to build oratories. See also c. IV of the 4th, and c. XXI of the present Council.

18. Be ye unoffending even to outsiders, says the Apostle (1 Cor. 10:32). But for women to be dwelling in bishoprics, or in monasteries, is a cause for everyone’s taking offense. If, therefore, anyone be caught in possession of a female slave or of a free woman in a bishopric, or in a monastery, for the performance of any service, or ministration, let him be penanced; and if he persists, let him be deposed from office. If, on the other hand, it should happen that in the suburbs there are women, and a Bishop, or an Abbot, wants to go to there, while the Bishop or Abbot is present, let no woman perform any sort of service whatever for him during that time, but let her keep to herself in a different place until the Bishop takes his departure, to avoid any reproach.

(c. III of the 1st; c. V of the 6th; c. XXII of the 7th; c. XIX of Ancyra; c. XLV of Carthage; c. LXXXIX of Basil.)


The present Canon prohibits women from being within bishoprics and monasteries in prder to act as servants, since such a thing causes great scandal and brings great discredit upon prelates and monks both among secular Christians and among the heathen. In fact, the Apostle orders us not to give any offense to even Jews and Greeks outside the Church. So if any prelate or abbot should be caught doing this, let him be duly canonized. But if he should persist in doing it and be incorrigible, let him be deposed from office. If, on the other hand, in the latifundia of a bishopric or of a monastery there should be any women, and the prelate or the abbot should go there to any part of them, as long as these men are there the women are not to perform any act of service, but are to keep away until they depart, on account of the necessity of avoiding any offense or reproach. See also c. III of the First.

19. Among the headmen of the Church the hatred of avarice has been abated to such an extent that even some of the men and women called reverent, having forgotten the Lord’s commandment, have been deceived or misled into allowing the admission for money of those joining the Sacerdotal Order, or the monastic life. The result is that, as Basil the Great says, what is disreputable from the start is wholly rejectable. For neither is it possible to serve both God and Mammon. If, therefore, anyone be found doing this, in case he is a Bishop, or an Abbot, or anyone in the Priesthood, either let him cease or let him be deposed in accordance with the second Canon of the holy Council held in Chalcedon; but if the offender is an Abbess, let her be driven out of the Nunnery, and let her be delivered to a different Nunnery for subordination. Likewise, too, in the case of an Abbot who lacks ordination as a Presbyter. As regards property of any kind given by parents to their children by way of dowry or personal belongings that have been donated by donators who acknowledge them to be things consecrated to God, we have decreed that whether they stay or leave, those things are to remain in the monastery, in accordance with his promise, unless his departure has been caused by the Prior.

(Ap. c. XXIX; c. II of the 4th; cc. XXII, XXIII of the 6th; c. XCI of Basil; Epistles of Gennadius and of Tarasius; Matt. 6:24.)


“Headman” is a designation for prelates and priests, and for abbots of monasteries, since they have been appointed to stand at the head of the laymen, both with respect to the right faith and with respect to good works. So the present Canon says that inasmuch as these men have been so overcome by avarice as to take money as an inducement to admit those coming to the Sacerdotal Order or to monastic life; and thus is fulfilled in them the saying of St. Basil the Great to the effect that if the beginning of anything is inefficient and bad, the whole of it thereafter will be inefficient and bad. If any bishop, or abbot in holy orders, or anyone else on the sacerdotal list, does this hereafter, let him either cease or be deposed from office, in accordance with c. II of the 4th C., which decrees that anyone is to be deposed from office who in exchange for money should nominate even a Prosmonarius. But if the person doing this be an abbot not in holy orders or an abbess, let them be driven out of their monasteries and be put in other monasteries, in order to render them obedient, as not being worthy of the abbotship and of the right to subordinate others, seeing that they demand money in advance in order to consent to admit those applying as candidates for the position of caloyer or monk. As for those things (whether they are chattels, that is to say, or real estate of any kind) which a person may possess either as dowry from his parents or as belongings of his own and which he may consecrate to the monastery in which he has decided to take up his abode as a monk, the present Canon decrees that these things are to remain inalienable from the monastery in accordance with the promise or vow of the one who consecrated them, no matter whether he stays in the monastery or departs from it for reasons of his own and of his own free will. But if he should depart from the monastery in consequence of any occasion (such as we shall mention in the Interpretation of the following c. XXI of this same 7th) due to the abbot, he can take them back. 

20. 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.

21. A monk or nun must not leave his or her monastery or nunnery, respectively, and go away to another. But if this should occur, it is necessary that he or she be afforded a hospitable reception as a guest. But it is not fitting that he or she be entered without the approval of his abbot, or of her abbess, as the case may be.

(c. IV of the 4th; c. XIX of the 7th; cc. III, IV, V of the lst-&-2nd; c. LXXXVIII of Carthage.)


The present Canon decrees that a monk or nun must not leave that monastery or nunnery in which he or she, respectively, has been tonsured, and go to another. But if anyone should do this, such a one ought to be received as a guest and hospitably treated by the Fathers of that strange monastery (or the Mothers of that strange nunnery, as the case may be) for some days (lest as one not accorded a proper welcome he or she be compelled to betake himself or herself to the world and to associate with indifferent persons). Nevertheless, he or she must not be held to be enrolled in the brotherhood or sisterhood there, as the case may be, without the approval and a dimissory letter from his own abbot (or from her own abbess, if it be a nun).


Canon IV of the lst-&-2nd C. excommunicates any monk who departs from his monastery and goes to another monastery, or to a worldly shelter, and even the person who welcomes and admits him, except only in case the prelate wished to transfer him to a different location, either for improvement of another monastery or for salvation of some family. For in that case the monks and those admitting him are not responsible. Moreover, c. LXXXVIII of Carthage commands that a stranger must not communicate with a monk unless the laity themselves with that bishop who has admitted him from a monastery belonging to another province and makes him a cleric, or an abbot of his own monastery, and the monk in question, it says, shall be neither a cleric nor an abbot. And c. IV of the 4th decrees that monks must not leave their monasteries unless they be allowed to do so by the bishop for a necessary need. Canon III of the lst-&-2nd, on the other hand, excommunicates any abbot who fails to bring back to his monastery his escaped monks.

22. For everything to be dedicated to God, and not to be slavishly subject to one’s own will, is undoubtedly a great thing in itself. For whether you are eating or you are drinking, the divine Apostle says, you are doing everything for the glory of God. Christ, therefore, our God, in His Gospels has ordered us to cut out the origins of sins. For not only is adultery chastised by Him, but even a mental tendency to attempt adultery is condemned, in that He says: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Taking a cue from this assertion, we ought to purify our thoughts. “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient” (1 Cor. 10:23), we are taught by an Apostolic utterance. It is therefore indispensable for every man to eat in order to live. Accordingly, for those whose life is one of marriage and children and popular amusement it is proper for men and women to eat in mixed company, though to avoid calumny and reproach they ought to take food merely in order to obtain nourishment, and not for the enjoyment of it, and in absence of theatrical arts, or what may be called Satanic songs, music of harps, and whorish twistings of the body. For upon such as participate in these things the prophetic curse descends speaking as follows: “Woe unto them who drink wine with harp and lute, but regard not the work of the Lord, neither have considered the works of his hands comprehendingly” (Isa. 5:12). And if there ever should be such among the Christians, let them correct themselves or be corrected; but if not, let the rules laid down by those before us canonically and promulgated prevail in regard to them. But as for those persons whose life is quiet and monotonous, he who has joined hands with the Lord God “ought to bear the yoke solitary . . . as he sitteth alone and broodeth in silence” (Lam. of Jer. 3:27-28). But what is more even for those who have chosen a priestly life, it is not at all permissible for them to eat privately in the company of women, unless it be somewhere together with God-bearing and reverent men and women, in order that the banquet itself may lead to some spiritual guidance. And in the case of relatives, too, let him do the same. If, again, during a journey a monk or a priestly man should happen to be in want of what he needs, and as a matter of necessity wishes to put up somewhere, be it at an inn or in someone’s home, he is to have the right to do this, on the ground of the exigency.”

Cummings, D. with Agapios, Orthodox Eastern Church, and Nicodemus. The Rudder. Trans. D. Cummings. Chicago, IL: Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957. Print.

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