2nd Ecumenical Council: Upholding the First Council of Constantinople

second ecumenical council

We invite you to explore the rich history and enduring teachings of the Second Ecumenical Council. Held in Constantinople in 381 AD, this pivotal gathering solidified the Church’s commitment to the divine nature of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity. Delve into the wisdom of Church Fathers, historical insights, and the significance of this council in shaping the faith we profess today.

Historical Context

The Second Ecumenical Council, also known as the First Council of Constantinople, was convened by Emperor Theodosius I to resolve theological controversies dividing the Christian community. Building upon the foundation laid by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, this assembly brought bishops from across the Roman Empire to reaffirm and clarify critical tenets of the faith.

The Holy Spirit

The Council’s central focus was to establish the divine nature of the Holy Spirit. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus eloquently stated, “The Holy Spirit is truly divine, proceeding from the Father and the Son, making the Holy Trinity one God in three persons.” This doctrine became a cornerstone of Christian theology, asserting the full divinity of the Holy Spirit alongside the Father and the Son.

Condemnation of Heresies

The Second Ecumenical Council condemned the heresy of Macedonianism (also known as Pneumatomachianism), which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. By affirming the Spirit’s divinity, the Council helped to dispel confusion and ensure the unity of belief among Christians.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed

The Council expanded upon the Nicene Creed, resulting in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which clearly articulated the divinity of the Holy Spirit: “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”

St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great, a prominent Church Father, contributed significantly to the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In his work “On the Holy Spirit,” he defended the Spirit’s divine nature, stating, “The Holy Spirit is of the same essence as the Father and the Son.”

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as the Theologian, played a critical role in the Second Ecumenical Council. As the Patriarch of Constantinople, he passionately defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit, saying, “We worship the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, understanding that He is of the same essence as the Father and the Son.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Gregory of Nyssa, another Cappadocian Father and brother of St. Basil the Great, contributed to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit by emphasizing the Spirit’s role in the life of the Church: “The Holy Spirit is the source of holiness, the giver of life, and the one who sanctifies the Church.”

Impact on the Church

The Second Ecumenical Council’s decisions had a profound impact on the Church. By defining the Holy Spirit’s divinity and role in the Holy Trinity, the Council helped to solidify the Church’s beliefs and promote unity among Christians.

Enduring Legacy

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed remains an essential element of Christian worship, embodying the timeless significance of the Second Ecumenical Council’s teachings. Recited in liturgical services worldwide, the Creed unites believers in a shared profession of faith, reminding us of the fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Theological Education

The Second Ecumenical Council serves as a reminder of the importance of theological education and the preservation of the faith. By drawing from the teachings of the Church Fathers and engaging in thoughtful dialogue, the Council was able to foster understanding and uphold the truth of the Holy Trinity.

Unity in Diversity

The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is a diverse community of believers united by the shared understanding of the Holy Trinity. The Second Ecumenical Council demonstrates the power of unity in the face of theological differences, highlighting the importance of coming together to explore and affirm the core tenets of our faith.

Continuing the Journey

The Second Ecumenical Council is just one chapter in the rich history of the Christian Church. We invite you to continue exploring the teachings, writings, and wisdom of the Church Fathers, as well as the decisions and impact of the other Ecumenical Councils, to deepen your understanding and strengthen your faith.


As you reflect on the Second Ecumenical Council and the divine nature of the Holy Spirit, we hope you find inspiration in the unwavering faith and wisdom of the Church Fathers. Through their teachings, we are reminded of the beauty and depth of our faith and the importance of staying true to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. May the Holy Trinity guide and inspire you on your spiritual journey.

The Dogmas

The Second Ecumenical Council, also known as the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD), expanded and clarified the Nicene Creed established during the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325 AD). It primarily addressed the divinity of the Holy Spirit and solidified the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Here is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which is the result of the First Council of Constantinople:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made;

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;

And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;

And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;

And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

In one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;

We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;

We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.

This creed builds on the original Nicene Creed by more explicitly asserting the divinity and role of the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity, thereby affirming the doctrine of the Triune God.

The Second Ecumenical Council

Excerpt From The Rudder


The holy and ecumenical Second Council was held during the reign of Theodosius the Great, A.D. 381, and is also referred to as the First Ecumenical Council in Constantinople. Of the Fathers attending it the most notable were Nectarius the bishop of Constantinople, Timothy the bishop of Alexandria, Meletius the bishop of Antioch, Cyril the bishop of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa; and many other bishops from the East made up a total number of 150. Not even one bishop from the West attended it; nor did Pope Damasus in person or by a legate, nor does even a conciliar letter of his appear therein. Later, however, they agreed and acceded to the things it decreed, including Damasus and the whole Western Church, and even to this day they accept and recognize this Council as a truly ecumenical council. It was held primarily against Macedonius, who was blasphemously declaring that the Holy Spirit was a thing constructed or created by the Son, secondarily against Apollinaris, and against the Eunomians, including the Eudoxians and the Sabellians, and against the Marcellians, and against the Photinians, and in general anathematized every heresy that had risen during the reign of Constantius, of Julian, and of Valens, emperors preceding it. After correcting the glorification and adoration of the Holy Trinity which had been altered by the Arians, it renewed the doctrine of the Nicene Council, on the ground of its being thoroughly Orthodox in all respects. Hence, in order to let it appear that it professed the same beliefs as the Council held in Nicaea, it did not draw up a creed of its own, but, by simply making a small change in the Creed adopted by the Nicene Council, and adding the clause “of whose kingdom there shall be no end,” on account of the heresy of Apollinaris the millenarian, and by developing the meaning of Article 8 in reference to the Holy Spirit, and also by supplying what was missing in the remaining four articles to the end, it made identically the same as that which is now read by all Orthodox Christians, as it is seen in this Second Council (p. 286 of vol. i of the collection of the Councils) and in the fifth act of the same council (p. 155 of the same volume). Nevertheless, although this Second Council did make these additions to and changes in the Creed adopted by the First Council held in Nicaea, yet the Councils held thereafter accepted the Creed of the First and Second Councils as a single Creed. As to why this Council made these additions, see the Footnote to c. VII of the Third. In addition to all these things, it also adopted and promulgated the present seven Canons pertaining to the organization and discipline of the Church, indefinitely confirmed by c. I of the 4th, but definitely by c. II of the 6th and by c. I of the 7th. (See Dositheus, p. 222 of the Dodecabiblus.)


1. The holy Fathers assembled in Constantinople have decided not to set aside the faith of the three hundred and eighteen Fathers who met in Nicaea, Bithynia, but to let it remain sovereign, and that every heresy be anathematized, and especially and specifically that of the Eunomians, including that of the Eudoxians, and that of the Semi-Arians, including that of the Pneumatomachs, and that of the Sabellians, and that of the Marcellians, and that of the Photinians, and that of the Apollinarians.

(c. V of the 2nd; cc. I and V of the 6th; c. II of Car.)


This first Canon of the present Council asserts that the 150 Holy Fathers who convened in Constantinople decided that the Orthodox faith, meaning the creed adopted by the 318 Fathers who had convened in Nicaea, Bithynia, should remain solid and inviolable, and that every heresy should be anathematized. In particular, the heresy of the Eunomians, or of those called Eudoxians, the heresy of the Semi-Arians, or of those known as Pneumatomach (i.e., spirit-fighters), the heresy of the followers of Sabellius, the heresy of the adherents of Marcellus, the heresy of the pupils of Photinus, and the heresy of those of Apollinaris.

2. Bishops must not leave their own diocese and go over to churches beyond its boundaries; but, on the contrary, in accordance with the Canons, let the Bishop of Alexandria administer the affairs of Egypt only, let the Bishops of the East govern the Eastern Church only, the priorities granted to the church of the Antiochians in the Nicene Canons being kept inviolate, and let the Bishops of the Asian diocese (or administrative domain) administer only the affairs of the Asian church, and let those of the Pontic diocese look after the affairs of the diocese of Pontus only, and let those of the Thracian diocese manage the affairs of the Thracian diocese only. Let Bishops not go beyond their own province to carry out an ordination or any other ecclesiastical services unless (officially) summoned thither. When the Canon prescribed in regard to dioceses (or administrative provinces) is duly kept, it is evident that the synod of each province will confine itself to the affairs of that particular province, in accordance with the regulations decreed in Nicaea. But the churches of God that are situated in territories belonging to barbarian nations must be administered in accordance with the customary practice of the Fathers.

(Ap. cc. XXXIV, XXXV; cc. VI, VII of the 1st; c. VIII of the 3rd; c. XXVIII of the 4th; cc. XX, XXX, XXXIX of the 6th; c. IX of Antioch; cc. III, XI, and XII of Sardica.)


Since, as is attested by Socrates (Book 5, ch. 8), officiation beyond the boundaries of one’s own diocese was formerly a matter of indifference on account of persecutions, and, as Theodoret says, blessed Eusebius of Samosata did it as a matter of extraordinary zeal. On this account, when peace reappeared in the Church as a whole, the present Canon was adopted and promulgated. It relates neither to autocephalous Metropolitans alone, as Balsamon interpreted it, nor to Patriarchs alone, but to both these classes of dignitaries alike, according to Dositheus (p. 233 of “Those who have served as Patriarchs”), in order that each of them may serve his own province and diocese, and not interfere in one that is alien, and not confound the rights of the churches; but, on the contrary, in accordance with the Canons (cc. VI and VII, that is to say of the First, and much more in accordance with Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV), that the bishop of Alexandria may manage only the parishes in Egypt (the Council expressly mentioned the bishop of Alexandria because the Bishop of Alexandria with his party cooperated to have Maximus the Cynic ordained in Constantinople, while, on the other hand, great St. Gregory was ousted from office in spite of its being his diocese and parish). The metropolitans of the East are to attend to the affairs of the East, with the proviso that the prerogatives of the bishop of Antioch be duly respected, in accordance with the Canon (sc. VI) of the Nicene Council; and the metropolitans of the Asian, Pontic and Thracian domains are to manage only the provinces belonging to them (these dignitaries, according to c. XXVIII of the 4th, have to be ordained after the bishop of Constantinople). It commands, in addition, that both patriarchs and metropolitans alike refrain from interloping beyond their own dioceses and provinces with the object of ordaining others or performing other ecclesiastical services in the parishes of others, without being invited to do so; and that the synod of each particular province shall manage the ecclesiastical matters of each province of the metropolitans, whether they be elections, or ordinations, or penances, or absolutions, or any other such matters; likewise, as regarding the affairs of each diocese of the patriarchs, the diocesan synod shall govern such matters of the diocese in question, as the Nicene Council has decreed (c. VI). For the same thing is involved in the decree of the Nicene Council that no bishop shall be ordained without the consent of the metropolitan, and in which the present Council says to the effect that the synod of each province (of the metropolitan, that is to say) shall govern the affairs of each province, respectively. As for the churches of God that are situated in the midst of barbarian nations, where there either were not enough bishops to make up a synod, or it was necessary for some scholarly bishop to go there in order to bolster up the Christians in their faith. These churches, I say, ought to be managed in accordance with the prevailing custom of the Fathers. To be more explicit, neighboring and abler bishops ought to go to them, in order to supply what is missing for a local synod. Which, though contrary to Canons, yet as a matter of necessity was allowed by the Council. Read Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV, and c. I of the Sixth.

3. Let the Bishop of Constantinople, however, have the priorities of honor after the Bishop of Rome, because of its being New Rome.


The preceding Canon dealt with patriarchs as a group (and especially with those of Alexandria and of Antioch), whereas the present Canon deals with the Patriarch of Constantinople specially, and says that he is to share the prerogatives of honor after the Pope and Patriarch of Rome, since Constantinople itself is also called New Rome.

The preposition after here does not denote being later in point of time, as some say in company with Aristenus, but neither does it denote any abasement and diminution, as Zonaras incorrectly interprets it (because, in view of the fact that the bishop of Alexandria is after the bishop of Constantinople, and the bishop of Antioch is after the bishop of Alexandria, and the bishop of Jerusalem is after the bishop of Antioch, according to c. XXXVI of the Sixth Ec. C., there would result four removes of honor, and consequently five different degrees of honor one higher than the other, which is contrary to all the catholic Church, and acceptable only to the Latins and the Latin-minded); but, on the contrary, it denotes equality of honor, and an order of disposition according to which one is first and another second. The fact that it denotes equality of honor is to be seen in the fact that the Fathers assembled in Chalcedon, in their c. XXVIII, assert that these 150 Bishops gave equal priorities to the Bishop of old Rome and to the Bishop of new Rome; and in the fact that the Bishops who convened in the Trullus (i.e. the First Trullan Council, herein designated the Sixth Ecumenical), in their c. XXXVI, say for the Bishop of Constantinople to enjoy equal priorities with the Bishop of Rome. That it refers to order of disposition is to be seen in the fact that both the former and the latter in the same Canons call the Bishop of Constantinople second after the Bishop of Rome, not the second in point of honor, but the second in order of honor. For in the very nature of things it is impossible for there to be any two equal beings called first and second with respect to one another, without any order. That is why Justinian, in Novel 130 to be found in Book V of the Basilica, Title III, calls the Bishop of Rome first, and the Bishop of Constantinople second, coming in order after the one of Rome. Note that inasmuch as Zonaras, however, in interpreting the Canon, prefixed this decree of Justinian, it is evident that as for the diminution and abasement which he ascribed above to the Bishop of Constantinople with respect to the one of Rome, was ascribed only with reference to the order of honor, and not with reference to the honor in general, according to which the one precedes and the other follows both in the matter of signatures and in the matter of seats as well as in the matter of mentioning their names. Some, it is true, assert that the present Canon grants only an honor to the Bishop of Constantinople, but that later urgent need gave him also the authority to ordain the Metropolitans in Asia and Pontus and Thrace. But the Council held in Chalcedon in its letter to Leo says that he held such authority to ordain them by virtue of an ancient custom; but its c. XXVIII (i.e., of the Fourth Ec. C). merely confirmed this. Read also c. XXVIII of the Fourth.

4. As concerning Maximus the Cynic, and the disturbance caused by him in Constantinople, it is hereby decreed that Maximus neither became nor is a Bishop, and that neither are those ordained by him entitled to hold any clerical rank whatsoever. Let everything connected with him or done by him be annulled.


The present Canon decrees that this Maximus is to be regarded as never having been a bishop at all nor as being one; and any persons ordained by him to any rank whatever are to be regarded as never having been ordained at all: because all has been annulled, including the ordination conferred upon him by the Egyptians in violation of parish and contrary to canons, as well as ordinations he conferred upon others.

5. As concerning the Tome of the Westerners, we have accepted also those in Antioch who confess a single divinity of Father and of Son and of Holy Spirit.

(c. I of the 2nd; c. I of the 6th; cc. I, II of Car.)


This Canon is a special and particular one. For it says that, just as the Fathers of this Council accepted the Tome of the Westerners, that is to say, the definition confirming the holy Creed of the Nicene Fathers and anathematizing all those who hold beliefs contrary thereto, which definition the Western Fathers assembled at Sardica adopted and promulgated, so and in like manner they accepted also the definition of the faith set forth by those assembled at Antioch. Who confess one divinity of Father, and of Son, and of Holy Spirit, in the same manner, that is to say, as the Fathers who assembled in Nicaea.

6. Because many men, in a spirit of enmity and for purposes of slander being desirous to confound and subvert ecclesiastical discipline, connive to fabricate certain charges against Orthodox Bishops managing the churches, in an attempt designing nothing else but to sully the reputation of the priests and to raise disturbances among peoples who are at peace; on this account it has pleased the holy Council of the Bishops who have convened in Constantinople to decree that informers are not to be admitted without examination, nor are all men to be allowed to bring accusations against those managing the churches, nor yet are all to be excluded. But if anyone lay a personal grievance, that is, a private complaint, against a Bishop, on the ground that he has been a victim of the Bishop’s greed or other unjust treatment, in the case of such accusations neither the personality nor the religion of the accuser is to be inquired into. For then the conscience of the Bishop must be clear in every respect, and the man who claims to have been wronged should receive justice whatever be his religion. But if the indictment brought against the Bishop be of an ecclesiastical nature, then the personality of the informers must be considered, in order, first of all, not to allow heretics to make charges against Orthodox Bishops in regard to ecclesiastical matters. We call heretics those who have of old been proscribed from the Church, and those who have thereafter been anathematized by us; and in addition to these those who, though pretending to confess the sound faith, have schismatically separated and have gathered congregations in opposition to our canonical Bishops. Further, as regarding those who have previously been condemned by the Church on certain charges and have been ousted therefrom or excluded from communion, whether they belong to the clergy or to the ranks of laymen, neither shall these persons be allowed to accuse a Bishop until they have first cleared themselves of their own indictment. Likewise as regarding those who are themselves being accused from before, they are not to be permitted to accuse a Bishop, or other clergymen, until they have first proved themselves innocent of the charges placed against them. If, however, certain persons are neither heretics nor excluded from communion, nor condemned, nor previously charged with any offenses, should declare that they have an accusation of an ecclesiastical nature against a Bishop, the holy Council bids these persons to lodge their accusations before all the Bishops of the province and before them to prove the charges against the Bishop involved in the case. But if it so happen that the provincial Bishops are unable to or incompetent to decide the case against the Bishop and make the correction due, then they are to go to a greater synod of the Bishops of this diocese summoned to try this case. And they are not to lodge the accusation until they themselves have in writing agreed to incur the same penalty if in the course of the trial it be proved that they have been slandering the accused Bishop. But if anyone, scorning what has been decreed in the foregoing statements, should dare either to annoy the emperor’s ears or to trouble courts of secular authorities or an ecumenical council to the affrontment of all the Bishops of the diocese, let no such person be allowed to present any information whatever, because of his having thus roundly insulted the Canons and ecclesiastical discipline.


What the present Canon says may be stated as follows. Since many men wishing to confound the discipline and good order of the Church inimically slander Orthodox bishops, without accomplishing any other result than that of blackening the reputations of those in holy orders and disturbing the laity, on this account it has pleased this holy Council to decree that neither all accusers of Bishops be admitted nor again that all be excluded or refused admission. But if the charges are personal ones involving only financial loss, or, more specifically speaking, if anyone accuse a Bishop by complaining that he has treated him unjustly or greedily, by depriving him perhaps of some real or personal property, in such cases the person of the accuser must not be examined into, nor his religion; but, on the contrary, no matter what may be his religious views, he must have justice done to him in any circumstances. But if his accusations are of a criminal nature, such, that is to say, as might lower his ecclesiastical standing, as, for instance, sacrilege, the performance of sacred rites outside the confines of the parish, and the like, then and in that case the accusers ought to be examined, in the first place as to whether they are heretics, mistaken in doctrine, including both those who were anathematized by the Church long ago and those who have but now recently been anathematized by us. Secondly, as to whether they are schismatics or not, or, more specifically speaking, whether or not they have separated from the Church on account of any curable habits, according to c. I of Basil the Great, and contrary to the Canons, or, in other words, the catholic Bishops who have been ordained in the Orthodox manner and in accordance with the Canons, while they themselves are congregating apart by themselves. Thirdly, whether they are entirely excommunicated from the Church for some misdeeds of theirs, or have been temporarily excommunicated from the clergymen or the laymen. As for those, however, who have already been accused by others, they are not to be permitted to accuse a Bishop or other clergymen until they prove themselves innocent of the crimes imputed to them. In case, however, those bringing these ecclesiastical and criminal accusations against a bishop happen to be free from all the above enumerated defects, the holy Council commands that these persons first present their indictments of the accused bishop before the synod of all the bishops of that particular province. But if the synod of the province cannot dispose of such a case of crimes, then the accusers may carry the matter up to the greater synod of the bishops of the Diocese, and have the case terminate there. Because of the fact that in Book LX of the Basilica, Title XXVI, ch. 6, it is written that whosoever turns out to be a traitor and liar in the accusations which he makes, when it comes to the matter of punishment for this crime, shall receive that punishment which the accused one would have received if he had been found guilty, the present Canon pursuant to the civil law adds that provision that the accuser is not to commence a recital of his allegations unless he first gives a written promise to accept the same sentence and punishment as a rightly and truly and justly accused bishop would have to undergo, if it be proved that he accused him unjustly and falsely. Whoever scorns these regulations and affronts all the bishops of the Diocese, and should dare to appeal his case to the Emperor, or to civil courts of secular authorities, or to appeal to an ecumenical council, shall be completely estopped from lodging an information, seeing that he has insulted the Sacred Canons and has violated ecclesiastical discipline.


In much the same manner c. IX of the 4th decrees that when clergymen are at variance with one another and quarreling, they are liable to Canonical penances in case they leave their Bishop and resort to civil courts. Canon XIV of Carthage, on the other hand, says that any bishop or presbyter or deacon or clergyman shall forfeit his position in case he leaves an ecclesiastical court and goes to a civil court. But, besides this, c. XII of Antioch expressly decrees that if a presbyter or deacon deposed by his own bishop, or if a bishop deposed by a synod or council, does not resort to a greater synod or council of bishops, but, instead of doing so, annoys the emperor, he shall no longer have any right to submit an apology (i.e., enter a plea in his own defense) or any hope of restoration (sc. to his former ecclesiastical status). Canon XXXVI of Carthage excludes from communion clergymen and bishops that appeal their case to “peramatic” (a Greek word with a signification akin to “crossing” or “fording”), or what are more properly designated “hyperhorial” (a Greek word meaning about the same thing as the word extralimitary derived from the Latin, with reference to passing or going beyond the boundaries of a territory), tribunals, and not to the superiors of their own provinces. This very thing is what is decreed by c. CXXXIV of the same Council. Note, however, that lower ecclesiastical judges are not penalized by the higher ones to whom the decision of a case is appealed, unless they be proved to have judged wrongly and unjustly either by way of favoring someone or because of enmity. See also Ap. c. LXXIV and c. IX of the 4th.

7. As for those heretics who betake themselves to Orthodoxy, and to the lot of the saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom; viz.: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, those calling themselves Cathari (or “Puritans”), and (those calling themselves) Aristeri (Note of Translator. — This designation may be based upon the Greek word aristos, meaning “best,” though as a word it signifies “lefthand.”), and the Quartodecimans (quasi “Fourteenthists,” to use the English language in this connection), otherwise known as Tetradites (though in English this term is applied to an entirely different group of heretics), and Apollinarians we accept when they offer libelli (i.e., recantations in writing) and anathematize every heresy that does not hold the same beliefs as the catholic and apostolic Church of God, and are sealed first with holy myron (more usually called “chrism” in English) on their forehead and their eyes, and nose, and mouth, and ears; and in sealing them we say: “A seal of a free gift of Holy Spirit.” As for Eunomians, however, who are baptized with a single immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and the Sabellians, who teach that Father and Son are the same person, and who do some other bad things, and (those belonging to) any other heresies (for there are many heretics here, especially such as come from the country of the Galatians: all of them that want to adhere to Orthodoxy we are willing to accept as Greeks. Accordingly, on the first day we make (Note of Translator. — The meaning of this word here is more exactly rendered “treat as”) them Christians; on the second day, catechumens; then, on the third day, we exorcize them with the act of blowing thrice into their face and into their ears; and thus do we catechize them, and we make them tarry a while in the church and listen to the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.

(Ap. cc. XLVI, XLVII, LXVIII; cc. VIII, XIX of the 1st; c. XCV of the 6th; cc. VII, VIII of Laod.; c. LXVI of Carth.; cc. I, V, XLVII of Basil.)


The present Canon specifies in what way we ought to receive those coming from heresies and joining the Orthodox faith and the portion of the saved. It says that, as for Arians and Macedonians, of whom we have spoken in Canon I of the present Council, and Sabbatians and Quartodecimans, otherwise known as Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we will accept them after they give us libelli, or issue a written document (libellus is a Latin word, interpreted, according to Zonaras, as meaning “publication or issue”) anathematizing both their own heresy as well as every other heresy that does not believe as the holy catholic and apostolic Church of God believes (just as the First Ec. C. demanded this stipulation in writing from Novatians particularly in its c. VIII), whose forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears we first seal with holy myron, saying in each seal, “a seal of a free gift of Holy Spirit.” And we will accept thus all these converts without rebaptizing them, since, according to Zonaras, in respect of holy baptism they nowise differ from us, and baptize themselves likewise as do the Orthodox. But as for Arians and Macedonians, who are manifestly heretics, the Canon accepted them without rebaptism “economically” (Note of Translator. — This term, and the corresponding noun “economy” and verb “economize,” in the peculiar idiom of the Orthodox Church can hardly be said to be translatable into genuine English; as a first approximation they may be taken as signifying something like “managing a disagreeable set of circumstances with tact and shrewdness, instead of insisting upon precision”), the primary reason being the vast multitude of such heretics then prevalent, and a second reason being that they used to baptize themselves in the same way as we do. As regards Eunomians, on the other hand, who practiced baptism with a single immersion, and the Montanists, who there in Constantinople were known as Phrygians; and the Sabellians, who used to say that the Father and the Son were one and the same person, and who used to do other terrible things, and all the other heresies of heretics (a great many of whom were to be found there, and especially those who came from the country of the Galatians); as for all these persons, I say, we accept them as Greeks, or, in other words, as persons totally unbaptized; for these persons either have not been baptized at all or, though baptized, have not been baptized aright and in a strictly Orthodox manner, wherefore they are regarded as not having been baptized at all). Accordingly, on the first day (of their reception) we make them Christians, that is to say, in other words, we make them accept all the dogmas of Christians (while they are standing) outside the Narthex of the church, the priest meantime laying his hand upon them, in accordance with c. XXXIX of the local synod or regional council held in Illiberia, a country in Spain; on the second day we make them catechumens, or, in other words, we place them in the class called catechumens; on the third day we read to them the usual exorcisms, at the same time blowing three times into their face and into their ears. And thus we catechize them in regard to particular aspects of the faith, and make them stay in church a long time and listen to the divine Scriptures, and then we baptize them.

Canon VII of Laodicea too would have Novatians and Quartodecimans returning to Orthodoxy treated economically in exactly the same way as they are in this Canon: that is to say, with anathematization of their heresy, and with the seal of the Myron. But Phrygians returning are required by c. VIII of the same C. to be baptized. But it must be said also that c. XCV of the 6th is nothing else than a repetition of the present Canon, except that it goes on to say that Manichees, and Valentinians, and Marcionists must be baptized when they turn to Orthodoxy; but Eutychians, and Dioscorites, and Severians may be accepted after anathematizing their own heresies — as may also the Novatians, that is to say, and the rest. Canon XIX of the First Ec. C. wants all Paulianists to get baptized in any case without fail, as is also witnessed by c. XCV of the 6th. Canon XLVII of Basil says for Encratites, and Saccophori, and Apotactites (concerning whom see c. XCV of the 6th) to get baptized when they become converted. Canon V of the same saint says for us to accept those heretics who repent at the end of their life, though not to do so indiscriminately, but only after trying them out. Read also Ap. cc. XLVI and XLVII.

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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