1st Ecumenical Council: Upholding the First Council of Nicaea

1 council of Nicaea

Embrace the True Faith Established in 325 AD

Welcome to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, where we continue to uphold the teachings and decisions made during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Our faith is rooted in the rich history, and theological wisdom passed down through the centuries, guided by the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea to address the Arian controversy and establish a unified Christian doctrine. It was the first of the seven ecumenical councils, bringing bishops from across the Christian world to discuss and define the core tenets of our faith.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ

Central to the Council of Nicaea was the affirmation of Jesus Christ’s divine nature. The council rejected the teachings of Arius, who claimed that Jesus was a created being, subordinate to God the Father. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a staunch defender of the Nicene faith, wrote, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (On the Incarnation, 54).

The council produced the original Nicene Creed, which proclaimed, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

Unity in Christ

By affirming the divinity of Christ, the First Council of Nicaea laid the foundation for a unified Christian Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch emphasized this unity when he wrote, “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8). We strive to uphold this unity by adhering to the teachings of the early Church Fathers and the decisions made at Nicaea.

The council also established the principle of apostolic succession, ensuring that the teachings and authority of the Church would be passed down through the generations of bishops who followed in the footsteps of the apostles.

The Foundation of Our Faith

The First Council of Nicaea is a cornerstone of our faith, guiding our beliefs and practices. St. Augustine of Hippo, a renowned theologian, famously stated, “The verdict of the whole world is conclusive” (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus, 4). Our Church embraces this conviction and continues to follow the path set forth at Nicaea.

We celebrate the liturgical feasts, sacraments, and traditions handed down from the early Church. These practices, rooted in the decisions of the First Council of Nicaea, connect us to the larger Christian tradition and help us grow in our faith.

Join Us on Our Journey

We invite you to join our community and deepen your faith by participating in our worship services, educational programs, and outreach activities. As we celebrate the Eucharist and study the Scriptures together, we draw closer to the teachings of the early Church Fathers and the divine truth revealed at the First Council of Nicaea.

Our church offers resources to help you learn more about the Nicene faith, including Bible studies, historical documents, and writings from the Church Fathers. By engaging with these texts, you will grow in your understanding of the theological and historical foundations that underpin our beliefs. Our community is committed to supporting you on your spiritual journey, providing guidance, encouragement, and opportunities for fellowship with fellow believers.

Witnessing the World

As members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we are called to witness the truth established at the First Council of Nicaea. St. Paul wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). By living out our faith, we testify to the transformative power of the Gospel and the divine truth affirmed by the early Church Fathers. Join us as we continue to uphold the teachings of the First Council of Nicaea, proclaiming the divinity of Christ and the unity of the Church to the world.

The Dogmas

The primary doctrinal statement from the Council of Nicaea is the original Nicene Creed. While the exact wording of the original creed has been lost, it was later revised at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Here is a translation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which retains much of the original content:

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father [and the Son], and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.

It is important to note that the phrase “and the Son” (known as the Filioque) was not part of the original creed and was added later by the Western Church, which remains a point of contention between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. We are not called on to change tradition handed down from the Ecumenical Councils.

The First Ecumenical Council

Excerpt From The Rudder

The First Ecumenical Council was held in Nicea, Asia Minor, in 325 on the occasion of the heresy of Arius (Arianism). In order to expedite the assembling of the Council, the emperor Constantine placed at the disposal of the bishops the public conveyances and posts of the empire; moreover, while the Council lasted he provided abundantly for the maintenance of the members. The choice of Nicaea was favourable to the assembling of a large number of bishops. It was easily accessible to the bishops of nearly all the provinces, but especially to those of Asia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Thrace. The sessions were held in the principal church, and in the central hall of the imperial palace. A large place was indeed necessary to receive such an assembly, though the exact number is not known with certainty. St. Athanasius, a member of the council speaks of 300, and in his letter “Ad Afros” he says explicitly 318. This figure is almost universally adopted. Most of the bishops present were Greeks; among the Latins we know only Hosius of Cordova, Cecilian of Carthage, Mark of Calabria, Nicasius of Dijon, Donnus of Stridon in Pannonia, and the two Roman priests, Victor and Vincentius, representing the pope. The assembly numbered among its most famous members St. Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Nicholas of Myra. Some had suffered during the last persecution; others were poorly enough acquainted with Christian theology. Among the members was a young deacon, Athanasius of Alexandria, for whom this Council was to be the prelude to a life of conflict and of glory.

The Council was opened by Constantine with the greatest solemnity. The emperor began by making the bishops understand that they had a greater and better business in hand than personal quarrels and interminable recriminations. Nevertheless, he had to submit to the infliction of hearing the last words of debates which had been going on previous to his arrival. Eusebius of Caesarea and his two abbreviators, Socrates and Sozomen, as well as Rufinus and Gelasius of Cyzicus, report no details of the theological discussions. Rufinus tells us only that daily sessions were held and that Arius was often summoned before the assembly; his opinions were seriously discussed and the opposing arguments attentively considered. The majority, especially those who were confessors of the Faith, energetically declared themselves against the impious doctrines of Arius. St. Athanasius assures us that the activities of the Council were nowise hampered by Constantine’s presence. To St. Athanasius may be attributed a preponderant influence in the formulation of the symbol of the First Ecumenical Council, of which the following is a literal translation:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made our of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes.

The adhesion was general and enthusiastic. All the bishops save five declared themselves ready to subscribe to this formula, convince that it contained the ancient faith of the Apostolic Church. The opponents were soon reduced to two, Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais, who were exiled and anathematized. Arius and his writings were also branded with anathema, his books were cast into the fire, and he was exiled to Illyria.

Other matters dealt with by this council were the controversy as to the time of celebrating Easter and the Meletian schism.

Of all the Acts of this Council, which, it has been maintained, were numerous, only three fragments have reached us: the creed, or symbol, given above; the canons; the synodal decree. In reality there never were any official acts besides these. But the accounts of Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Rufinus may be considered as very important sources of historical information, as well as some data preserved by St. Athanasius, and a history of the Council of Nicaea written in Greek in the fifth century by Gelasius of Cyzicus. There has long existed a dispute as to the number of the canons of First Nicaea. All the collections of canons, whether in Latin or Greek, composed in the fourth and fifth centuries agree in attributing to this Council only the twenty canons, which we possess today. Of these the following is a brief résumé:

Canon 1: On the admission, or support, or expulsion of clerics mutilated by choice or by violence.

Canon 2: Rules to be observed for ordination, the avoidance of undue haste, the deposition of those guilty of a grave fault.

Canon 3: All members of the clergy are forbidden to dwell with any woman, except a mother, sister, or aunt.

Canon 4: Concerning episcopal elections.

Canon 5: Concerning the excommunicate.

Canon 6: Concerning patriarchs and their jurisdiction.

Canon 7: confirms the right of the bishops of Jerusalem to enjoy certain honours.

Canon 8: concerns the Novatians.

Canon 9: Certain sins known after ordination involve invalidation.

Canon 10: Lapsi who have been ordained knowingly or surreptitiously must be excluded as soon as their irregularity is known.

Canon 11: Penance to be imposed on apostates of the persecution of Licinius.

Canon 12: Penance to be imposed on those who upheld Licinius in his war on the Christians.

Canon 13: Indulgence to be granted to excommunicated persons in danger of death.

Canon 14: Penance to be imposed on catechumens who had weakened under persecution.

Canon 15: Bishops, priests, and deacons are not to pass from one church to another.

Canon 16: All clerics are forbidden to leave their church. Formal prohibition for bishops to ordain for their diocese a cleric belonging to another diocese.

Canon 17: Clerics are forbidden to lend at interest.

Canon 18: recalls to deacons their subordinate position with regard to priests.

Canon 19: Rules to be observed with regard to adherents of Paul of Samosata who wished to return to the Church.

Canon 20: On Sundays and during the Paschal season prayers should be said standing. 


1. If anyone has been operated upon by surgeons for a disease, or has been excised by barbarians, let him remain in the clergy. But if anyone has excised himself when well, he must be dismissed even if he is examined after being in the clergy. And henceforth no such person must be promoted to holy orders. But as is self-evident, though such is the case as regards those who affect the matter and dare to excise themselves, if any persons have been eunuchized by barbarians or their lords, but are otherwise found to be worthy, the Canon admits such persons to the clergy.

(Ap. cc. XXI, XXII, XXIII; c. VIII of the lst-&-2nd.)


Various Canons of the Apostles include decrees concerning eunuchism. But since they were disregarded, as it would appear, on this account it became necessary that it be made the subject of the present Canon, which says: Whoever has been made a eunuch by surgeons because of a disease or ailment, or by barbarians during the time of an invasion, if he is a clergyman, let him perform the functions of the clergy. But whoever while in good health has made himself a eunuch, even though he is a clergyman, must cease from the activities of the clergy. And of as many such persons as are laymen not even one must henceforth be made a clergyman. But as we say this in regard to those who affectedly and wilfully dare to make themselves eunuchs, in the same vein again we say that if there be any persons that have been made eunuchs by barbarians or by their masters (or owners), that is to say, against their will and tyranically, but that are worthy, the Canon (either the present Canon, that is to say, or Apostolical Canon XXI) allows them to be admitted to the clergy. Read also the Interpretation of Ap. c. XXI.

2. Inasmuch as many things, whether of necessity or otherwise urgently demanded by men, have been done contrary to the ecclesiastical Canon, so that men who have but recently come to the faith from a heathen life, and have been catechized for only a short time, have been conducted directly to the spiritual bath, and as soon as baptized have been given an episcopate or a presbytery, it has seemed well henceforth to have no such thing occur. For the catechumen needs more time and a longer trial after baptism. The Apostolical letter, too, is plain which says, “not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the Devil’s snare” (1 Tim. 3:6). If, on the other hand, in the course of time any psychical (i.e., animal) sin be found against the person, and it is exposed by two or three witnesses, let such a person be dismissed from the clergy. As for anyone acting contrary hereto, as having the hardihood to do things opposed to the great council, he himself shall be in danger of losing his standing in the clergy.

(Ap. c. LXXX; c. XVII of the lst-&-2nd; c. X of Sardican; c. III of Laodicea; c. IV of Cyril.)


The present Canon commands what Ap. c. LXXX ordains. For it says: Since in times past many things have occurred that were contrary to the ecclesiastical Canon (that is to say, Ap. c. LXXX), whether of necessity, or on account of persons motivated by other considerations, so that they have almost immediately baptized persons that before had been converted to the Orthodox faith from the life of a heathen and infidel only a short while before, and had been catechized only a short time in the mystery of piety (i.e., of the Christian religion), and right after baptism they promoted them to an episcopate or a presbytery, which is to say, they ordained them presbyters or bishops; since, I say, these things formerly used to be done thus illegally, it has appeared reasonable that from now on they should not be done. For a catechumen needs sufficient time even before being baptized to be properly catechized and instructed concerning all the dogmas of the faith; and after being baptized he again needs to undergo a long trial as a test of his worthiness. For the Apostle says to Timothy: “Let not a novice (be ordained, that is to say), or one newly catechized and recently planted in the vineyard of Christ, lest, after being puffed up with pride, he fall into the same sin and into the same snare as the Devil fell into, or, in other words, into pride. If, on the other hand, with the passage of time, in the subsequent interval of trial and after he has been catechized and baptized and ordained, it should happen that he is found to have committed any animal (i.e., soul-wrought) sin and is convicted thereof by two or three witnesses, he shall cease officiating in holy orders. As for anyone that does otherwise, he shall be in danger of forfeiting his claim to holy orders, that is to say, he shall be deposed from office, on the ground that he has impudently defied the great council. See also the Interpretation of Ap. c. LXXX.

3. The great Council has forbidden generally any Bishop or Presbyter or Deacon, and anyone else at all among those in the clergy, the privilege of having a subintroducta. Unless she is either a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or a person above suspicion.

(c. V of the 6th; c. XXIII of the 7th; c. XIX of Ancyra; C. XIX of Carthage; c. LXXXVIII of Basil.)


Men in holy orders and clergymen ought not to cause the laity any suspicion or scandal. On this account the present Canon ordains that this great Council — the First Ecumenical, that is to say — has entirely forbidden any bishop or presbyter or deacon or any other clergyman to have a strange woman in his house, and to live with her, excepting only a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or other persons that do not arouse any suspicion.

The ordinance of the first title of the Novels, which is Justinian Novel 123, says as follows: “We too forbid, in accordance with the power of the divine Canons presbyters and deacons and subdeacons and all other clergymen that have no lawful wife to keep any strange woman in their house. Except that they may keep a mother, a daughter, and a sister, and any other persons that are exempt from suspicion. If, however, anyone fails to observe these rules, but, even after reminded by the prelate or by his fellow clergymen, he refuses to throw the woman out whom he has been keeping, or, after being accused, he is proved to be associating with her indecently, such a man shall be deposed, and shall be turned over to the civil authorities of that city where he is serving as a clergyman.” But if a bishop lives with a woman at all, he shall be deposed. Note two things here, though: one, that those who have unsuspectable persons in their home, as we have said, namely, a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or other, must not at the same time have also suspicious persons serving, not them, but those unsuspectable persons; because again in this manner they become violators and incur the penalties prescribed by the Canons. Instead, they ought either to serve themselves, or have servants to serve them who are unsuspectable. Another thing is that monks ought not to live with unsuspectable persons alone when they have such. Because if the above-mentioned c. XXII of the 7th prohibits one from eating with his female relatives only, who are unsuspectable, how much more does it not prohibit them from living with them? For Basil the Great says (in his discussion of virginity) that the pleasure of flesh has overcome even brothers and sisters born of the same mother and has led to every sort of sin against mothers and daughters, just as it stigmatized also Amnon, the son of David, as a result of his debauching his own sister Tamar (II Sam. ch. 13), because the seductive and magnetic power of sexual love of men for women, which has been placed in men’s bodies, in defiance, he says, of every right reasoning — such as, let us say, that she is a mother, or a sister, or an aunt — spontaneously and all on their own initiative prompts the mingling of bodies of men with bodies of women, regardless of whether they are strangers or relatives, and in spite of the fact that their inward thoughts struggling against it are averse thereto.

4. 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 travelled, 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. c. I; c. III of the 7th; c. XIX of Antioch; c. VI of Sardican; c. XII of Laodicea; and cc. XII, LVIII, LIX of Carthage.)


The present Canon decrees that a bishop ought to be ordained by all the bishops in the province whenever this is feasible; but in case it is difficult for all of them to be gathered together at a meeting for this purpose, whether on account of some urgent necessity, or because of the long distance of travel involved, let at least three bishops meet together in any event, and let those absent contribute their votes by letter in the ordination, and then let them ordain him. As for the validity and ratification of everything that has been done — that is to say, the validity of the election held by all the bishops, and the appointment of the one of the three candidates — because three must be voted for, according to ecclesiastical formality — the appointment, I say, of the one to receive notification of the ordination, must be left and referred to the metropolitan of each province as the supreme authority. But inasmuch as the annotators, namely, Zonaras and Balsamon, explain the text as meaning to be appointed, instead of meaning to be voted for; and others say that instead of ordination we ought to know that previous thereto and properly necessary thereto the election signifies installation. Accordingly, I prefer the word install to the word make. So even here the expression “it is fitting that he should be installed” as previously necessary is a comprehensive term denoting that he should be elected, chosen, ordained by all of them. I said “previously” and “comprehensive” because this order of procedure is sacred: that is to say, one must first be voted for and afterwards be ordained. Accordingly, we thus obtain a most complete understanding that he has been installed; that is to say, that he has actually been made a bishop. There hence appear to be two significations inherent in the words of the expression “to be installed,” just as there are also in the words of the expression “to be elected”: one implying action by all, and the other implying action by three, both in accordance with the present Canon and in accordance with Ap. c. I. This is about the same as the explanation given by the Seventh Ecum. C. in its own c. III: therefore when only three carry out the ordination, it must previously have been voted for by all of them, those absent signifying their choice by letter.

5. As regards those who have been denied communion, whether they be members of the clergy or belong to a lay order, by the bishops in each particular province, let the opinion prevail which expressed in the Canon prescribing that those rejected by some are not to be received by others. But let an investigation be made as to whether or not they have been unchurched on account of small-mindedness or quarrelsomeness or any other such disgustfulness of the Bishop. In order, therefore, that a proper investigation may be made, it has seemed well that synods be held every year twice a year in each province and in a common discussion held by all the Bishops of the province assembled together for this purpose let such questions be thrashed out. And thus those who have admittedly clashed with the Bishop would seem to be reasonably excluded from communion until such time as by common consent of the bishops it may seem better to let a more philanthropic vote be given in their behalf. As for these synods, let one of them be held before Lent, in order that, with the elimination of all small-mindedness, the gift may be offered to God in all its purity; and let the second one be held sometime in autumn.

(Ap. cc. XII, XIII, XXXII, XXXVII; c. XIX of the 4th; c. VIII of the 6th; cc. VI, XX of Antioch; cc. X, XX of Sardican; cc. XXVI, XXXVII, CIV, CXVI, and CXLI of Carthage.)


The present Canon decrees the following things: In regard to clergymen and laymen who have been excommunicated by the bishops of any particular province, let the opinion prevail and remain in force and effect which has already been expressed in legislation, just as that old Canon (i.e., Ap. c. XXXII or even XII) decrees, to wit, that persons excommunicated by the bishops of one province must not be admitted to communion by other bishops. Yet let an investigation be made as to the possibility that the ones excommunicated have been excommunicated because of some small-mindedness or quarrelsomeness or some other grudge on the part of the bishop. Hence, in order that this matter and other such questions may be properly investigated, it has appeared reasonable to hold local synods twice a year in each province, and to assemble all the bishops together in a common meeting for the express purpose of considering them. And thus, after such an investigation has been made, as touching those who have been sinning against the bishop and who have been rightly and justly excommunicated, by him, let them remain excommunicated, in accordance with grounds of congruity and justice, also by all the rest of the bishops, until it appear reasonable to the common assembly of the bishops to render a more philanthropic (or more humane) decision regarding those who have been excommunicated. For if the one who excommunicated them, let us assume, is so hardened even after some time as to refuse to liberate them from the excommunication, or if he should die in the meantime, permission is given to the synod to release them from it after it deems that a sufficient length of time has been passed in penance. These synods are to be held one sometime before Lent, in order to take advantage of the fact that at this time every small-mindedness and mistake that either the prelate has made in dealing with the clergy and the laity, or, conversely, that the clergy and the laity have shown towards the prelate, is dissolved, in order to allow a pure and unblemished gift of fasting to be offered to God. Let the second synod be held in the time of autumn. Read also Ap. cc. XXXII and XXXVII.

6. Let the ancient customs prevail which were in vogue in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis, to allow the bishop of Alexandria to have authority over all these parts, since this is also the treatment usually accorded to the bishop of Rome. Likewise with reference to Antioch, and in other provinces, let the seniority be preserved to the Churches. In general it is obvious that in the case in which anyone has been made a bishop without the Metropolitan’s approval, the great Council has prescribed that such a person must not be a Bishop. If, however, to the common vote of all, though reasonable and in accordance with an ecclesiastical Canon, two or three men object on account of a private quarrel, let the vote of the majority prevail.

(Ap. c. XXXIV; cc. II of the 2nd; c. VIII of the 3rd; c. XXVIII of the 4th; c. XXXVI of the 6th; c. XIX of Laodicea; c. XIII of Carthage.)


The present Canon ordains that the old customs of the three Patriarchs are to be kept in vogue, chiefly and mainly as regarding the Patriarch of Alexandria, and secondly as regarding the Patriarch of Antioch, and the Patriarch of Rome, succinctly and comprehensively. (Concerning the Patriarch of Jerusalem the present Council devote special and separate treatment in its c. VII; and concerning the Patriarch of Constantinople the Second Council set forth its views in its c. III). So that the Patriarch (whom it calls a Bishop here, owing to the fact that it had not yet become customary to designate one by calling him the Patriarch) of Alexandria came to have authority over all the bishops and metropolitans in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis. In fact, the same custom also came to prevail with regard to the Patriarch of Rome in that he was allowed to have authority and presidency over all the occidental bishops and metropolitans. Likewise the Patriarch of Antioch is given authority over the bishops and metropolitans of Syria, of Middle Syria, of each of the two regions called Cilicia, of Mesopotamia, and of all the other dioceses subject to his jurisdiction. The present Canon, in fact, commands that not only the privileges of these Patriarchs are to be preserved, but even the privileges of other provinces and churches that are subject to the metropolitans. What is said of the Patriarchs in existence is also true of the independent Patriarchs, then and now — that is to say, the autocephalous Patriarchs, such as those of Asia, of Pontus, of Thrace, of Cyprus, of Africa, and of other countries. (Though others say that the Canon names here also other provinces, embraced, concisely speaking, in the dioceses subordinate to the other two Patriarchs, of Constantinople and of Jerusalem; and that of metropolitans it names only patriarchs. But the first interpretation is better; see also Dositheus, in the Dodecabiblus, pp. 117, 123.) Thus the effect of this Canon is that nothing relating to the administration of church affairs can be done without their consent and approval or sanction. Now, inasmuch as the greatest and chiefest of all ecclesiastical affairs is ordination, the Canon accordingly adds that if anyone is made a bishop without the approval of his own metropolitan, as this great Council has decreed, he is not to be a bishop, because in spite of the fact that the multitude of bishops voted for the bishop, the ratification of the election had to be made by the Metropolitan, and whoever was approved by the Metropolitan had to be made a bishop (and see the footnote to the present Council’s c. IV). Yet if all the bishops in common elect a candidate to an episcopate in accordance with ecclesiastical Canons, but two or three object to his election, not for a good reason and justly, but cavilously and spitefully, the vote of the majority shall decide the matter. Canon XIX of Antioch decrees the same thing. Canon XIII of Carthage says that if any one of those who took part in the voting and signed should afterwards oppose his own confession and signature, he shall deprive himself of the honor of (being) a bishop. Read also the Interpretation of Ap. c. XXXIV.

7. Inasmuch as a custom has prevailed, and an ancient tradition, for the Bishop in Aelia to be honored, let him have the sequence of honor, with the Metropolitan having his own dignity preserved.

(Ap. c. XXXIV; cc. II, III of the 2nd; c. VIII of the 3rd; c. XXVIII of the 4th; c. XXXVI of the 6th; and c. XIX of Antioch.)


The present Canon is susceptible of two different interpretations. For Balsamon and the Anonymous annotator of the Canons, with whom some Papists (i.e., Roman Catholics, as they are called in common parlance) and Calvinists agree, have interpreted it to mean that inasmuch as an ancient tradition and custom has prevailed for the Bishop of Aelia (i.e., of Jerusalem) to be specially honored on account of the fact that the Lord became incarnate and suffered therein, and the salvatory declaration came forth therefrom through the sacred Apostles into all the world, let him have the honor next after the preceding one, even in subsequent times, yet only honor without any authority and office, because the authority and office ought to be preserved to the Metropolitan of Palestine whose seat was the metropolis called Caesarea of Straton, to whom, as they say, Jerusalem was subject. That is to say, just as c. XII of Chalcedon prescribes that in the case of as many cities as received by virtue of imperial letters the honor of being entitled to the name metropolis, the bishops thereof were the only ones allowed to enjoy the honor, whereas the rights proper thereto were to be preserved to the real metropolis, in the same way as Marcianus (an emperor of the Eastern Empire) honored Chalcedon, and Valentinian (another emperor) honored Nicaea, according to Act 13 of the Council. But Zonaras and others would have it that just as the preceding Canon accorded seniority to the bishops of Alexandria and of Antioch, or rather to say renewed it, as an innovation (for the seniority of Rome was not renewed, because, as we have said, it had been left intact and unchanged), so and in like manner the present Canon bestowed a special honor on Jerusalem. This is tantamount to saying that just as that Canon sanctioned their being granted not only patriarchal privileges and honors, but also the order of precedence of such honors, in that the bishop of Rome came first, the bishop of Alexandria second, the bishop of Antioch third, so did this Canon sanction the granting to Jerusalem not only of patriarchal privileges and honors but also the order of precedence of such honors. On this account it did not say, let him have (special) honor, but “let him have the sequence of honor.” That is the same as saying, let him have fourth place in the sequence of honor after the other three. The expression “with the Metropolis having its own dignity preserved” denotes that this patriarchal honor is not one attaching to the person and individual (concerning which see the second footnote to c. VI of the present Council), but is consecrated to the metropolis of Jerusalem, so as to provide for its devolving to all the bishops successively acceding to the throne, and not to this or that person alone. Witnesses to the fact that Jerusalem was a metropolis are both Josephus, who says, in his book VII on the Jews, that it was a large city and the metropolis of the entire country of the Jews; and Philo, who says that it was the metropolis, not of a single land of Judea, but also of a plurality of lands. For the Apostolic throne of Jerusalem not only stands first in nearly the whole world, but also enjoyed patriarchal privileges from the beginning, and still enjoys them even today. First, because it had provinces subject to it, and a diocese which belonged to the Patriarch. Hence it was that the neighboring officials of the churches, and not the bishop of Caesarea, ordained Dion bishop of Jerusalem when Narcissus departed. But when Narcissus reappeared, again he was called by the brethren, according to Eusebius, and not by the Brother, or the bishop of Caesarea. Narcissus, by the way, held a council with fourteen bishops concerning Easter before the First Ecumenical Council was held. Secondly, because the Bishop of Jerusalem was the first to sign at the First Ecumenical Council, while Eusebius of Caesarea was the fifth. And, generally speaking, metropolitans change round in the order of signatures, and in the places of seats at council meetings, and in the order of addressing emperors, sometimes taking the lead, and sometimes following others. But the Bishop of Jerusalem always comes first among the Fathers attending a council, and on every occasion is numbered with the patriarchs, and never with the metropolitans. Read also Dositheus in the Dodecabiblus, Book II, ch. 4. But even if we grant that Jerusalem was subject to Caesarea, what of it? Just as Byzantium was formerly subject to Heraclea, but later, after Byzantium became the seat of a patriarch, Heraclea was made subject to it; so and in like manner, if we allow (what is not a fact) that Jerusalem was subject to Caesarea, after Jerusalem was honored by being made the seat of a patriarch, Caesarea, true enough, retained its own dignity thereafter, in that it remained a metropolis of Palestine, yet it became subordinate to Jerusalem, since it is merely a metropolis, while Jerusalem is a patriarchate (i.e., the seat and headquarters of a patriarch). Read also Ap. c. XXXIV.

8. As concerning those who call themselves Puritans and who are claiming to be adherents of the catholic and apostolic Church, it has seemed right to the holy and great Council, when they have had hands laid upon them, to let them remain in the clergy. Above all, that it is fitting for them to confess to this in writing, to wit, that they will agree to and will adhere to the dogmas of the catholic and apostolic Church. That is, that they will hold communion with persons married a second time, and with those who in time of persecution have lapsed from the faith; regarding whom a length of time has been fixed, and a due season has been set, for their penance. So that they may adhere to the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. Wherever they are the only ones found to have been ordained, whether in villages or in cities, they shall remain in the same habit (or order). But wherever there is a Bishop of the catholic Church, and some of them are joining it, it is obvious that, as the Bishop of the Church will keep the dignity of bishop, the one called a bishop among the so-called Puritans shall have the honor of a Presbyter, unless it should seem better to the Bishop that he should share in the honor of the name. But if this does not please him, he shall devise a position either of a chorepiscopus or of a presbyter, with the object of having him seem to be wholly in the clergy, lest there should be two bishops in the same city.

(Ap. cc. XLVI, XLVII, LXVIII; c. VII of the 2nd; c. XCV of the 6th; cc. VII, VIII of Laodicea; c. LXVI of Carthage; cc. I, XLVII of Basil; c. XII of Theophilus; c. XIV of the 7th; c. XIII of Ancyra; c. XIV of Neocaesarea; cc. VIII, X. of Antioch.)


The ones called Puritans here were the Novatians. The man Novatian himself was a presbyter in the Church of the Romans who would not accept those who had renegaded in time of persecution, but had repented, nor would he give communion to persons that had married twice. He had also declared that after baptism a sinner could no longer have mercy bestowed upon him, according to Epiphanius, Haer. 59, and Augustine, Haer. 38. So, although this man did not err as respecting the dogmas of the faith, nor was he a heretic, but was instead a schismatic (or sectarian), according to c. I of St. Basil, yet, because of his hatred of brethren, and his being of an unsympathetic frame of mind, and proud, he was anathematized by the Council held in Rome in the time of Pope Cornelius, according to Eusebius, and by the councils held in Carthage in the time of Cyprian, and by the councils held against him in Antioch and in Italy. Those who adhered to his misbelief were called after him Novatians. These facts being assumed to be known, the present Canon asserts that in case any such Novatians join the catholic Church, it has appeared reasonable that they should have hands laid upon them, and thus be received, and be allowed to remain in their clergy, those, that is to say, who really were clergymen in the habit (thus c. LXVI of Carthage accepted the Donatists with an imposition of the hands); nevertheless, they must confess in writing that they have to keep all dogmas of the catholic Church, that they will accept those who have married twice, and those who were forced by necessity to deny Christ, and that they will accomodate them, according to fixed times, with the Canon of repentance applicable to deniers; and thus, wherever they happen to be, whether in cities or in villages, they shall be left in the clergy and rank in which each of them found himself when he was ordained: that is to say, a bishop shall remain a bishop; a presbyter, a presbyter; and a deacon, a deacon. However, a bishop shall remain a bishop where there is no Orthodox bishop of the catholic Church. But if in the same church there is also an Orthodox bishop, the latter shall have the office and dignity, and all the business, and the name of bishop, while the bishop formerly a Novatian shall have only the honor of a presbyter, and the nominal title of bishop, but he shall not perform any priestly act as a bishop, in order to avoid having this improper and absurd situation arise in which two bishops are officiating in one and the same city (concerning which see Ap. c. XXXV, and c. XVI of the lst-&-2nd; in case, however, he refuses to be content with this arrangement, the Orthodox bishop must allow him to have a position as a chorepiscopus, or as a presbyter, in order that he too may be numbered among those who are in holy orders and clergymen, and not appear to be wholly deprived of the clergy.

9. If some persons have been promoted to Presbyters without due examination, or when given a hearing confessed their sins to them, and after they confessed, the men, acting contrary to the Canon, laid hand upon such persons, the Canon will not admit them. For the catholic Church insists upon irreproachability.

(Ap. cc. XXV, LXI; cc. IX, X of Neocaesaria; cc. III, V, VI of Theophilus).


The present Canon decrees that those who are about to be admitted to holy orders must be clear from sins that preclude holy orders, and that their life and their behavior and conduct must be looked into. If, however, some persons have been made presbyters without being examined, or upon examination confessed their sins, such as preclude admission to holy orders, and the prelates who examined them, acting contrary to the Canons, ordained them priests, such persons, I say, having been invested with holy orders unworthily, are not admitted to the privilege of performing sacred rites. For after being exposed by others, or they themselves confessed to sins incapacitating one for holy orders which they had committed before applying for ordination, they can be defrocked according to Zonaras and Balsamon. Or they may cease to perform sacred rites, according to the Anonymous annotator of the Canons. But the Canon also adds an explanation of the reason why those who have fallen into sins are not admissible to holy orders. Because, it says, the catholic Church demands and wants priests to be irreproachable, or, in other words, exempt from the charge of sins, just as St. Paul commands that a bishop should be, by saying: “A bishop then must be irreproachable” (mistranslated in the Authorized Version “blameless”) (I Tim. 3:2), or, in other words, not only unchargeable at law, but also entirely unimpeachable and free from every accusation, as touching his moral character.

Concordantly with the present Canon c. IX of Neocaesarea also decrees relevantly hereto, by saying: If any presbyter before his ordination committed the sin of carnal mingling, and after his ordination confesses it, let him function in holy orders no more. Likewise if even a deacon has thus sinned, and has confessed after he was ordained, let him serve only in the capacity of a servant, in accordance with c. X of the same Council. Canon III of Theophilus says that if anyone has been ordained a presbyter through ignorance without his being worthy of serving in this capacity, and has been exposed after his ordination, he is to be ousted from holy orders. Likewise in the case of a deacon that has been ordained in spite of his being unworthy, he is to be deposed in accordance with c. V of the same saint. It is also to be observed that all sins that entail deposition from holy orders when committed before admission to holy orders, similarly entail deposition also when committed after admission to holy orders, when exposed, or when confessed after admission to holy orders. Not only do they entail deposition, but they also act as a barrier to becoming a priest.

10. As many persons as have been guilty of serious lapses and have been ordained in ignorance thereof, or even after the ordinators have become aware thereof, will not be admitted under the ecclesiastical Canon. For when they have become known, they shall be deposed.

(Ap. c. LXII; cc. I, III, XII of Ancyra; c. X of Peter.)


All those who have offended by lapsing seriously, i.e., by denying our Lord Jesus Christ, and have afterwards repented, are incapable of becoming priests. For how can anyone become a priest that is prevented according to the canons of the Church from partaking of the divine mysteries until he dies? On this account the present Canon says that as many persons as have been ordained from among God-deniers, either because the prelate who ordained them did not know about the denial, or because, though knowing about it, he blinked or scorned the fact, and thought that ordination would purify them as does baptism, in accordance with the interpretation given by Balsamon — this fact, I say, of their having been ordained, that is to say, in ignorance or in spite of knowledge of the facts, does not offer any bar or obstacle to the application of the ecclesiastical canon, so as, that is to say, to prevent its operating to exclude them from holy orders. Because once they have been detected or have revealed themselves, so as to show in what manner they have been ordained, they have to be deposed. All those persons, on the contrary, who before baptism sacrificed to idols are nevertheless qualified to be admitted to holy orders after they have been baptized, on the ground that they have received a bath of redemption, in accordance with c. XII of Ancyra. All those persons, furthermore, who have undergone torture for the sake of Christ, and for His sake have been imprisoned, and have been forcibly compelled to have their hands defiled with incense or to take sacrificial offers of food in their mouth — all such persons, provided the rest of their life has been fairly good, may be ordained clergymen, according to c. III of the same council. Note also that not only those persons are to be deposed who have denied Christ before ordination and have afterwards been ordained, but also those who have denied Him after ordination; read also Ap. c. LXII.

11. As concerns those persons who have transgressed without any need, or without being deprived of goods, or without being in any peril or in any such strait as obtained during the tyranny of Licinius, it has deemedfit to the Council, notwithstanding that they did not deserve philanthropic (or humane) treatment, to be kind to them. As many, therefore, as genuinely repent and are remorseful shall pass three years among audients as believers, and for seven years they shall do penance as succumbents. In addition, for two years they shall commune without oblation in prayers with the laity.

(c. VI of Ancyra; c. III of Peter; cc. LXXIII, LXXXI of Basil; c. II of Nyssa.)


There are other Canons which deal with those who deny the faith as a result of great violence or dire necessity. The present Canon deals with those persons who deny it without being forced to do so. It says in effect: As for those who have transgressed the faith in Christ without being prompted to do so by any necessity, or peril, or deprivation of their property, as happened to those who lived in the time of the tyrant Licinius, though they, I say, have not deserved to be treated philan-thropically and clemently, it has appeared best nevertheless to the Council to show them mercy. So, as many as truly and from the depth of their heart, and not feignedly and falsely and lyingly, are repentant on account of the sin they committed, shall be obliged to spend three years with the so-called “listeners” (audients). This means that they shall have to stand in the narthex (of the church) at the “beautiful and royal gates” of the temple (or nave), and of the church, in order to listen to the Holy Scriptures until the deacon pronounces the words “All catechumens come forward”; thereupon they shall leave the church. For seven (Note of Translator. — The original says “two,” apparently by mistake) years they shall be succumbent; that is to say, in other words, they shall enter the nave, and shall stand, when there, in the rear of the pulpit, but shall leave along with the catechumens when the deacon pronounces the words “all catechumens come forward.” And for two years they shall join in prayer with the laity. That is to say, in other words, they shall stand together with the faithful and pray, and not leave with the catechumens, though without partaking of the divine mysteries (communion) until the two years are ended.

All those persons who denied the faith simply because the tyrants threatened to torture them, which is tantamount to saying without being forced to do so, are excluded from the divine mysteries for six years, according to c. VI of Ancyra. Those, on the other hand, who have denied the faith of their own accord, without suffering anything terrible, but only cowardice and fear, after showing fruit worthy of repentance over a period of four years, shall be allowed the benefit thereof, according to c. III of Peter. But according to c. II of Nyssa whoever denies Christ of his own accord, shall have his whole lifetime as his term of repentance, without being allowed to pray together with the faithful in the church, or to partake at all of the divine mysteries. In identically the same manner his brother Basil, too, commands the same things in his c. XIII, by saying that anyone that has denied Christ is under obligation to remain all his life long with the “weepers” (called flentes in Latin), or, in other words, to stand outside of even the narthex in the vestibule of temple (or of the nave), and to beg the laity entering the church to pray for him to the Lord. In c. LXXXI of the same saint it says that those who without any great necessity denied the faith and ate of the table of the demons, and swore Greek oaths, are to be excommunicated for three years, and after eight more years are to be allowed to commune. In order to enable you to understand better, O reader, what positions were occupied by “weepers,” by “listeners,” by “kneelers,” and by “costanders,” behold, at the end of this book we have inserted a diagram, or drawing, or architectural plan, of the church building; and you should carefully and diligently examine it. Concerning “weepers,” and concerning penitents in general, a historical account is given by Sozomen, who says (Book VII, ch. 16): “In the beginning it seemed fitting to the priests for sinners to tell about their sins with the congregation of the church acting as witnesses like spectators in a theater. Later, however, the best policy prevailed, which was indeed one of discreetness and sageness, whereby sinners approached and confessed their life deeds . . .” And again he says: “In the church of the Romans the place of penitents is exposed to view . . . So there penitents stand downcast and mournful, and after the divine liturgy is over the poor wretches, instead of partaking of communion, fall to the ground upon their face with much sobbing and wailing. From the other direction comes the Bishop running and he too likewise falls to the ground weeping tears and uttering laments, and along with them the entire congregation burst out crying and shedding copious tears. Afterwards the Bishop is the first to lift himself up from the ground and stand up, and he lifts up the penitents, and after praying aloud to God on account of their sins, he dismissed them and they go their way.”

12. As for those persons who were summoned by the grace, and after displaying a preliminary enthusiasm and taking off their belts, they returned, like dogs to their vomit, in such a fashion that some of them even wasted money in an effort to re-establish themselves in the army by means of beneficia (a Latin word meaning much the same as the English word gift), let them be succumbents for ten years after devoting three years to “listening” (as audients). But in addition to all these requirements it is requisite to examine into the will (or inclinations) and the kind of repentance. For as regards all those who with fear, and tears, and patience, and the doing of good to others have displayed proofs of their conversion by actual performance and not by mere pretense, after they have fulfilled the time fixed for their “listening” period, they shall participate in prayers unrestrictedly, with the further concession of a right to the Bishop to devise some more philanthropic (or humane) treatment regarding them. But as for those who acted unconcernedly, and who thought the pretense of going to church a sufficient proof of their conversion, let them fulfill the time to the utmost limit.

(cc. IX, XI of Peter; c. CII of the 6th; cc. II, V, VII of Ancyra; cc. I, II of Laodicea; cc. II, III, LXIV, LXXXIV of Basil; cc. IV, V, VII and VIII of Nyssa.)


This Canon, too, appears to be speaking of Christian soldiers living in the time of Licinius. It decrees thus: As regarding all Christian soldiers who having been called and having been strengthened by divine grace displayed at first courage and eagerness for martyrdom, and cast aside their belts, which were their army decorations, but thereafter returned, like dogs to their own vomit, which is to say, repented, and denied the faith, insomuch that some of them even spent money and by means of beneficia, or, more plainly speaking, with gifts and benefactions (for that is what this Latin word signifies) they regained their former status in the army; as for them, I say, after they have done three years in the place assigned to “listeners,” let them do also ten years more in the place assigned to “kneelers.” That is to say, in other words, though allowed to enter the church, they must leave together with catechumens. Besides all this, however, the prelate and the spiritual father ought to examine into the likings and proclivities of such faith-deniers, and the kind and mood of their repentance. For all those who repent with fear of God, and who propitiate God with tears and penetential contrition, and patiently endure hardships, and do good to others in a charitable way, as, for instance, by giving alms, and other virtues, and, generally speaking, who repent truly and genuinely, and not fictitiously and in appearance only; as for these persons, I say, after they fulfill the said three years with “listeners,” they may rightfully pray with the faithful, and need not leave the church (ahead of time). In addition to this concession, the prelate is permitted to show them still more kindly treatment and mercy. But as for all those who repent unconcernedly and carelessly, and think that it is enough evidence of repentance for them to go to church ostensibly with “kneelers” and to leave again with catechumens; as for these persons, I say, let them fulfill all three years of “listening,” and the entire ten years of succumbency.

Canons II, V, and VII of Ancyra, and cc. I and II of Laodicea agree that penances ought to be accomodated to the repentance and complaisance of penitents. So do cc. CII of the 6th and II and III and LXXIV and LXXXIV of Basil, and cc. IV, V, VII, and VIII of Nyssa. In this connection, too, c. XXVIII of Nicephorus says that if a secular person of his own free will confesses his mistakes, the spiritual father (i.e., the confessor) may make him an “economy,” i.e., may allow him an adjustment in regard to the matter of penances. Read also cc. IX and XI of Peter.

13. As concerns those who are making their exit, the old and canonical Law shall be kept even now, so that, if anyone is exciting, let him not be deprived of the final and most necessary equipment (or viaticum). If, however, after all hope has fled, and he has been given communion, he again comes to be looked upon as being among the living, let him stay with those who participate in prayer only. In general, moreover, as concerning anyone at all that is on the point of making his exit, if he asks to partake of the Eucharist, let the Bishop impart to him the oblation with a trial.


After these divine Fathers prescribed concerning penance, and in what way, and for how long a time Christ-deniers ought to be excluded from communion, now in the present Canon they are prescribing that all such persons as are in danger of dying are to be accorded the benefit of the old and canonical law (which appears to be c. VI of the Council held in Ancyra, this being an earlier one than the First Ecumenical). So that, in effect, whoever has been despaired of as being about to die, let him not be deprived of the last and final and most necessary equipment for that journey and departure, which equipment consists in partaking of the divine mysteries. If, however, the one who has been thought to be dying, and has already partaken of the mysteries of communion, again becomes alive and regains his health, let him stand only with the faithful, and let him pray with them, not, however, to partake of communion. But Balsamon says that such a person as this one of whom the Canon is speaking here, if he was occupying the place assigned to consistents (or “costanders”), he ought on this account to be ordered to stay in that place again; but if he was in the place assigned to audients (or “listeners”), again he ought to stay there. And, in general, everyone in danger ought to return to that canon after communion in which he had been before communion. And to lay down a catholic and common canon, let the Bishop, or even the spiritual father, with a trial, impart the divine Mysteries to any person that is in mortal danger and asks to partake of the Holy Eucharist.

14. As concerning catechumens and lapsers, it has seemed proper to the holy great Council to let them off with only three years’ listening and to allow them thereafter to pray together with catechumens.

(c. V of Neocaes, c. XIX of Laod.; c. XX of Basil; c. VI of Timothy; c. V. of Cyril.)


They are called catechumens because this word is one derived from the Greek verb catecho (altered to “catechize” in English), which is defined as meaning to teach beginners the faith by word of mouth, because these persons had to be catechized and taught the dogmas of the Orthodox faith. They were divided into two classes. The first class, which was the more perfect and complete, was called that of “knee-bowers,” they having embraced the faith and having deferred only the rite of baptism. Wherefore they were allowed to come to church and stay there until the time came for the catechumens’ prayer, according to c. XIX of Laodicea, and after they had said this prayer under their breath (or, as the Greek has it, “mystically”) and had had the priest lay his hand upon them, they bowed their knee. But when the time came for the pronouncement of the words “All catechumens come forward,” they had to leave the church. The second class was the more imperfect and incomplete, and was called that of the “listeners,” who stood in the narthex towards the “royal gates” and listened to the Holy Scriptures, and after hearing the divine gospels they would leave, according to Blastaris and the commentator on Armenopoulos in the latter’s Epitome of the Canons (Section 5, Heading 3). These two classes are to be seen clearly depicted in the drawing of the temple which we have traced. Cardinal Bonas (Book I concerning liturgical matters) and some others, in addition to these two classes, enumerate two more classes, which they gleaned from the writings of the Western Fathers. One of these classes was called that of the “co-petitioners” (because they were requesting to be baptized), and the other was known as that of the “elect,” who were thus called after being enrolled in the list of persons to be baptized, who were designated the illuminated, or illuminati, in ch. 7 of Book VIII of the Apostolical Injunctions. The same name is applied to them also by St. Cyril in his catechism. Chapter 8 of the same Book of the Injunctions refers to them as being baptized, and these persons are likewise mentioned in c. VI of Timothy. These facts being as stated, the present Canon proceeds to say: As for all catechumens that belong to the first and higher class and have denied the faith, it has appeared reasonable to this holy great Council for them to stand for three years in the ranks of the second and lower class of catechumens, namely, the audients, or “listeners,” in the narthex of the church, and after three years have passed for them to pray together with the first and higher class of catechumens inside the church. But one likely as not might justifiably wonder why the councils impose penances upon sinful catechumens. St. Basil the Great in his c. XX says: “And in general the events in the life of a catechumen do not entail responsibilities.” By way of solving this apparent contradiction it may be said, according to Zonaras, that St. Basil the Great did not say for the catechumens not to be penanced for sinning before baptism. For in that case he would have been contradicting the Canons of the Councils; but what he really said was simply that the sins of the catechumens did not entail responsibilities, or, in other words, any liability to punishment after they have been baptized, since everything sinful that the catechumens did while they were catechumens, but also even whatever sinful acts they committed before becoming catechumens, i.e., when they were unbelievers, are all pardoned and wiped out by virtue of the rite of holy baptism. But the catechumens are penanced nevertheless, because, though not really in the church nor actually members of the Church, yet, with respect to yearning and willingness of soul and virtually, they are in the Church. For, according to (Gregory) the Theologian (in his Discourse on the Lights) these persons are on the threshold of piety, and have been caught in the faith, even though they have not yet been reborn through baptism (seeing that they are not utterly without hope of salvation, either, in case they should die unbaptized as a matter of necessity), as is shown by the funeral oration of St. Ambrose respecting Emperor Valentinian, who died while still being catechized. So the Councils on this account penance catechumens, on the ground that they already are intimates, and have accepted the faith, and are nominally Christians; accordingly, whatever the law says to them, it is speaking to them as to persons in the law, according to the Apostolic statement (Rom. 3:19).

15. Because of much disturbance and the mutinies which took place, it has seemed best to do away altogether with the custom which obtained contrary to the Apostolical Canon in some places, so as riot to allow either a Bishop or a Presbyter or a Deacon to go from one city to another. If, after the holy and great Council’s definition, anyone should attempt to do such a thing, or has actually undertaken to do such a thing, let the resulting affair be invalidated by all means, and let him be reinstated in the church in which the Bishop or Presbyter in question was ordained.

(Ap. cc. XIV, XV; c. VI of the 4th; cc. III, XXI of Antioch; cc. I, XVI of Sardican, c. LVII of Car.)


The present Canon ordains these decrees: It has seemed reasonable to abolish definitively the custom which had been in vogue in some places contrary to the ordinance and legislation of the Apostolical Canon (namely, Ap. c. XIV, and most especially XV), because of numerous disturbances, and fights with one another, which had ensued as a result of this transgression. That is to say, not to allow a Bishop or Presbyter or Deacon to go from one city to another. If, after this holy Council has laid down the present Canon, anyone should try to do such a thing as this, and go from one city to another, this change of station is to be held void and invalid without fail; and the Bishop or Presbyter or Deacon shall be restored to his original position in that church in which he was ordained, since not only bishops but also presbyters and deacons must be ordained in a definite church, and not detachedly, according to c. VI of the 4th. Read also Ap. cc. XIV and XV.

16. Any Presbyters or Deacons, or other persons covered by the Canon, who take the risk, without having the fear of God before their eyes, or keeping aware of the ecclesiastical Canon, of departing from their own church, they must not be admitted at all in another church, but they must be stringently forced to return to their own parish, or, in case they insist, it is proper for them to be excluded from communion. If, on the other hand, anyone should surreptitiously snatch away one belonging to another and ordain him in his own church, without the consent of his Bishop, from whom the one covered by the Canon departed, let the ordination be invalid.


The Canon next preceding this one ordains for presbyters and deacons to be reinstated in the church in which they were ordained, while the present Canon punishes them with suspension if they refuse to return, by decreeing that any presbyters or deacons, or others enumerated in the Canon along with such persons, and listed among the clergy, without fearing God or knowing the Canon of the Church (i.e., Ap. c. XV), rashly depart from that church in which they were ordained, they must not be admitted to another (without letters commendatory and dimissory, that is to say), but, on the contrary, must be forced to return to their own church; if, however, they insist on having their own way, they are to be denied communion, not with the Mysteries, not with the laymen and faithful in the church (for in this case the present Canon would be contrary to Ap. c. XV, which does not exclude such offenders from communion with laymen in the church), but with their fellow presbyters and deacons in the same order. That is to say, in other words, they are not to be allowed to officiate along with those in holy orders, but are to remain idle, or interdicted. But if any Bishop should dare to grab a strange clergyman fraudulently and ordain him (to a higher rank perhaps) in his own church, without the Bishop of that clergyman being willing to allow this, from whom he departed, such an ordination is to be void and invalid. Read also Ap. c. XV.

17. Because of the fact that many persons covered by the Canon, out of greed and in pursuit of shameful profits (willfully) forgot the divine passage of Holy Writ saying “who hath not lent out his money at interest” (Ps. 15:5), and in lending demanded a percentage commission or profit, the holy and great Council has deemed it just and right that in case anyone is found after the adoption of this definition receiving interest for the use of money, or otherwise exploiting the matter, or demanding commission, or through any other subterfuge contriving to exact shameful profits, he shall be deposed from the clergy and shall be an alien to the Canon.

(Ap. c. XLIV; c. X of 6th; c. IV of Laod.; cc. V, XX of Car.; c. IV of Basil.)


Various Canons prohibit the charging of interest on money, but the present one expressly ordains this, to wit: Since many canonics, or clergymen, being fond of greed and shameful profits, have forgotten the saying in the Psalm of David which says that the chosen man is one “who hath not lent out his money at interest,” meaning the righteous man who is destined to dwell in the holy mountain of the Lord, or, in other words, in the heavenly kingdom, and in lending money have been exacting a percentage charge from their debtors, consisting, for example, of twelve cents, or pennies, say, per hundred (or per dollar), which was an excessive interest — because, I say, clergymen were actually doing this, this holy and great Council deemed it right and just that if hereafter any clergyman should be found to be charging interest, or treating the matter as a commercial proposition, or turning it to his own advantage in any other way (while pretending not to charge interest, that is to say, when lending his money to those in need of it, yet agreeing with them that he too is to receive some part of the interest and profit accruing from the money, thus calling himself, not a lender, but a sharetaker or partner), and be caught doing this, or demanding a commission (or half the percentage, which would amount, in this case, to six cents, or six pennies, instead of the twelve comprised in the full amount of total interest, i.e., of interest at 12%), or should invent any similar means of making a shameful profit, any such person shall be deposed from the clergy and shall be estranged from the canonical order. Read also Ap. c. XLIV.

18. It has come to the notice of the holy and great Council that in some regions and cities Deacons are giving the Eucharist to Presbyters, which is something that neither the Canon nor custom has allowed those who have not the authority to offer, to give the body of Christ to those offering it. It has also further been learned that already some Deacons touch the Eucharist even before the Bishops. Let all these things, therefore, be done away with, and let Deacons conform to their own standards, well knowing that they are servants of the Bishop, and that they are inferior to Presbyters. Let them take the Eucharist in due order after the Presbyters, with either the Bishop or the Presbyters administering it to them. But neither let it be permissible for Deacons to sit among Presbyters, for to do so is contrary to the Canon, and is contrary to due order: if, in disregard of these definitions, anyone refuses to obey, let him be dismissed from his diaconate.

(c. XX of Laodicea; c. VII of the 6th Ecum. C.)


Good order must be observed everywhere, and especially among those in holy orders; for this reason the present seeks to correct anything that is done in disregard of due order. For it says that it has come to the knowledge of this holy and great Council that in some regions and cities the deacons are giving the divine Eucharist to presbyters, a thing which neither any written Canon nor any custom has sanctioned, that is to say, for deacons to administer, or impart, the body of Christ to the priests who conduct the rite connected therewith, seeing that deacons themselves have no authority to perform the office of administering this sacred rite. It has also been revealed in addition to this that some of the deacons are communing before the presbyters have done so. So let all these disorderly proceedings be eliminated, and let deacons remain within their bounds, or, that is to say, let them neither administer the Eucharist to priests, nor partake thereof before the priests do, since they know well enough that they are servants of the Bishop, as is indicated also by their very name (i.e., in Greek the word deacon signifies servant, just as does the word minister in English); for deacon (as a Greek word) really means servant. They are inferior to and lower than presbyters; and what is inferior must be blessed by what is superior, as the Apostle says, and not the opposite way round (Heb. 7:7). Let them receive the divine Eucharist in due order after the presbyters have partaken thereof, letting the Bishop administer it to them, or it may be administered to them by a presbyter (in case the Bishop is not present). But neither have deacons any right to sit among presbyters, since this too is disorderly and contrary to canon; for it tends to intimate that deacons are peers of presbyters, which is not really so. But if, after this Canon has been formulated, any of the deacons should be unwilling to submit to this rule, let them be deprived of their diaconate.

In keeping with the present Canon c. VII of the 6th is also in effect. For it commands that any deacon that has the audacity to take a seat before the presbyters (have done so) is to be lowered in rank and to become the lowest servant and least menial in his own order, no matter what ecclesiastical office he may occupy; except only if he go to another city as the personal representative of his own Patriarch, or Metropolitan, he is then to be honored more than the presbyters. But even c. XX of Laodicea says that a deacon must not sit in front of a presbyter. Canon LVI of the same Council prohibits priests from sitting down in the Bema before the Prelate makes his entrance. Note that according to Zonaras and Balsamon c. XVIII of the present Council has reference to those deacons who during divine service within the Bema sit down before the presbyters have done so, and on this account it punishes them with a severer chastisement, or chastening, by depriving them, that is to say, of their diaconate. Canon VII of the 6th refers to those who sit down before the presbyters do, not in church, but in outside assemblies, and on this account it chastises them more lightly, by merely lowering their proper station.

19. As concerns Paulianists who afterwards took refuge in the catholic Church, it is made a definition that they be rebaptized without fail. If any of them in the past have been covered in the clergy under examination as to whether they appear to be blameless and irreproachable, after being rebaptized let them be ordained by a Bishop of the catholic Church. But if the investigation finds them unfitted, let them be deposed. Likewise as concerning deaconesses, and all those who are embraced by the Canon in any way and are being examined, the same form shall be observed. We have referred to the deaconesses who have been examined under cover of the habit, since they have neither any claim to appointment to any order, so that they are to be examined without fail among the laymen.

(Ap. c. XLVII; c. II of the 1st Ec. C.; c. XCV of the 6th; cc. VII, VIII of Laodicea; c. LXVI of Carth.; c. XV of the 4th; c. XIV and XL of the 6th; c. XLIV of Basil; cc. VI, LI, CXXXV of Carth.)


The present Canon decrees with reference to persons that had been followers of the heresy of Paul of Samosata, but who later resorted to the catholic Church, that the Canon and form requires such heretics to be rebaptized by decision (note that the Council improperly designates the baptism of Paulianists as a baptism, and in comparing it with our baptism, and not with itself, it employed also the verb “rebaptize,” which means to baptize a second time; and see the prolegomena to the Council of Carthagene with respect to their not being baptized in identically the same manner as Orthodox Christians). But if some of them had been ordained clergymen before their Orthodox baptism, because the prelates who ordained them were not aware of the fact that they were heretics or that they had been ordained in the clergy according to the Paulianists; then and in that case, I say, after being rebaptized with an Orthodox baptism, if their life appears to have been blameless and unimpeachable, let them be ordained by a Bishop of the catholic and Orthodox Church, since the former ordination which they had received while heretics is not considered an ordination at all. For how can anyone that has not been baptized in accordance with the Orthodox faith receive a visitation of the Holy Spirit, and grace, in ordination? But if when examined they are found to be unworthy of holy orders, they must be deposed, or, in other words, they must be ousted from the clergy. For the word depose was employed here improperly instead of the word oust, since, properly speaking, one who has previously been elevated to the height of holy orders and of the clergy, is said to be deposed. But as to these men who have never received any ordination at all, from what height shall they be deposed? From none, of course. Or perhaps it means for them to be deposed from the (height? of the) holy orders and clergy claimed by the Paulianists. For just as it called what they instituted baptism, it also called what they had proposed clergy, and by the same token deposition, in the same way as c. VIII of Laodicea calls the ones set up by the Montanists clergy. But this which we have asserted as concerning men must also be observed in identically the same manner in regard to women: that is to say, in other words, if any Orthodox Bishop has ordained any of the women of the Paulianists deaconesses, because of his being unaware of their heresy, or if they had been ordained in the order of deaconesses instituted by the Paulianists, in this case, I say, let them be rebaptized; and thereafter if they appear to be worthy of a diaconate, let them be ordained deaconesses too. (See also Ap. cc. XLVI and XLVII, and c. VII of the 2nd.) As for that which the Canon proceeds to add, to wit, “We have referred to the deaconesses who have been examined under cover of the habit, since they have neither any claim to appointment to any order, so that they are to be examined without fail among the laymen,” notwithstanding that these words are hard to understand, yet their meaning is this: We have referred to deaconesses separately, who wore this habit when they were with Paulianists, or, at any rate, who were following the profession of deaconesses, since they too, like their other clergymen, ought to be reckoned as laymen, because just as those clergymen possessed no real ordination, being destitute of divine grace, so too the deaconesses among them possessed only the habit of deaconesses, but no true appointment impartitive of grace; so that they ought to be reckoned as laywomen after baptism, just as they were prior thereto.

Canon XCV of the 6th says in identically the same manner as does the present Canon: It is made a definition that Paulianists be rebaptized, by which name is meant those who have been adherents of Paul’s heresy ever since they were born. Canon XV of the 4th, however, commands that a deaconess be ordained such when forty years old (as does also c. 14 of the 6th, and c. XL of the same council says the same thing); but it anathematizes her if after staying a short while in the liturgy she later gets married. Canon XLIV of St. Basil excommunicates from the Mysteries any deaconess that commits fornication for a period of seven years, though it does not deprive her of prayer and communion with the faithful. The second ordinance of the first Title of the Novels (Photius, Title VIII, ch. 14) says that a deaconess ought not to live with anyone of the male sex who might arouse a suspicion of immodesty or indecency. If when ordered by the Bishop to oust him from sharing her dwelling or sleeping quarters, she postpones the time, she is deprived of the diaconate and is shut up in a convent for the rest of her life. Read also the footnote to Ap. c. XLVII.

20. Since there are some persons who kneel in church on Sunday and on the days of Pentecost, with a view to preserving uniformity in all parishes, it has seemed best to the holy Council for prayers to be offered to God while standing.

(c. XC of the 6th; c. XV of Peter.)


The customs handed down by the Apostles and the Fathers ought all to be observed in common by all the churches, and not some of them by some churches alone. For this reason the present Canon ordains that inasmuch as some Christians bow their knee even on Sunday and on the days from Easter to Pentecost, which is contrary to the Canons and improper, to the end that all Apostolical and patristic traditions — one of which is not to bow the knee on Sunday and throughout Pentecost — may be kept in all Orthodox churches the world over, it has seemed reasonable to this holy Council for all Christians to offer their prayers to God on these days, not while kneeling, but while standing upright.”

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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