Council of Nicaea

Nicea, Nicæa

(325 A.D.)

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The two councils of Nicaea or Nicæa were ecumenical councils of the Christian church held in 325 and 787, respectively. The First Council of Nicæa, the first ecumenical council held by the church, is best known for its formulation of the Nicene Creed, the earliest dogmatic statement of Christian orthodoxy. The council was convened in 325 by the Roman emperor Constantine I in an attempt to settle the controversy raised by Arianism over the nature of the Trinity. Nearly all those who attended came from the eastern Mediterranean region.

It was the decision of the council, formalized in the Nicene Creed, that God the Father and God the Son were consubstantial and coeternal and that the Arian belief in a Christ created by and thus inferior to the Father was heretical. Arius himself was excommunicated and banished. The council was also important for its disciplinary decisions concerning the status and jurisdiction of the clergy in the early church and for establishing the date on which Easter is celebrated.

The Second Council of Nicæa, the seventh ecumenical council of the Christian church, was convoked by the Byzantine empress Irene in 787 to rule on the use of saints' images and icons in religious devotion. At that time a strong movement known as Iconoclasm, which opposed the pictorial representation of saints or of the Trinity, existed in the Greek church. At the prompting of Irene, the council declared that whereas the veneration of images was legitimate and the intercession of saints efficacious, their veneration must be carefully distinguished from the worship due God alone.

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T Tackett

A E Burn, The Council of Nicaea (1925); G Forell, Understanding the Nicene Creed (1965); E J Martin, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy (1930).

Council of Nicaea or Nicæa (325)

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The first ecumenical council in the history of the church was convened by the emperor Constantine at Nicaea in Bithynia (now Isnik, Turkey). The main purpose of the council was to attempt to heal the schism in the church provoked by Arianism. This it proceeded to do theologically and politically by the almost unanimous production of a theological confession (the Nicene Creed) by over three hundred bishops representing almost all the eastern provinces of the empire (where the heresy was chiefly centered) and by a token representation from the West. The creed thus produced was the first that could legally claim universal authority as it was sent throughout the empire to receive the agreement of the churches (with the alternative consequences of excommunication and imperial banishment).

The issue which culminated at Nicaea arose out of an unresolved tension within the theological legacy of Origen concerning the relation of the Son to the Father. On the one hand there was the attribution of deity to the Son in a relationship with the Father described as eternal generation. On the other hand there was clear subordinationism. Almost appropriately, the dispute erupted at Alexandria about 318, with Arius, a popular presbyter of the church district of Baucalis, developing the latter strain of Origenism against Bishop Alexander, who advocated the former line of thinking. Arius was a quite capable logician who attacked Alexander (with motives not entirely scholarly) on the charge of Sabellianism. After a local synod heard his own views and dismissed them and him as unsound, Arius demonstrated his popularizing literary and political talents, gathering support beyond Alexandria.

His theological views appealed to left - wing Origenists, including the respected Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea. His closest and most helpful ally was his former fellow student in the school of Lucian, Eusebius, bishop at the imperial residence of Nicomedia. After Constantine's personal envoy, Hosius of Cordova, failed to effect a reconciliation in 322 between the two parties in Alexandria, the emperor decided to convene an ecumenical council.

The teaching of Arianism is well documented. The central controlling idea is the unique, incommunicable, indivisible, transcendent nature of the singular divine being. This is what the Arians referred to as the Father. Logically pressing this definition of the Father and making use of certain biblical language, the Arians argued that if the error of Sabellius was to be avoided (and everyone was anxious to avoid it), then certain conclusions about the Son were inescapable. And it is this view of the Son which is the central significance of Arianism. He cannot be of the Father's being or essence (otherwise that essence would be divisible or communicable or in some way not unique or simple, which is impossible by definition). He therefore exists only by the Father's will, as do all other creatures and things. The biblical description of his being begotten does imply a special relationship between the Father and the Word or Son, but it cannot be an ontological relationship.

"Begotten" is to be taken in the sense of "made," so that the Son is a ktisma or poiema, a creature. Being begotten or made, he must have had a beginning, and this leads to the famous Arian phrase, "there was when he was not." Since he was not generated out of the Father's being and he was, as they accorded him, the first of God's creation, then he must have been created out of nothing. Not being of perfect or immutable substance, he was subject to moral change. And because of the extreme transcendence of God, in the final respect the Son has no real communion or knowledge of the Father at all. The ascription of theos to Christ in Scripture was deemed merely functional.

The council of Nicaea opened June 19, 325, with Hosius of Cordova presiding and the emperor in attendance. Despite the absence of official minutes a sketch of the proceedings can be reconstructed. Following an opening address by the emperor in which the need for unity was stressed, Eusebius of Nicomedia, leading the Arian party, presented a formula of faith which candidly marked a radical departure from traditional formularies. The disapproval was so strong that most of the Arian party abandoned their support of the document and it was torn to shreds before the eyes of everyone present. Soon thereafter Eusebius of Caesarea, anxious to clear his name, read a lengthy statement of faith that included what was probably a baptismal creed of the church of Caesarea. Eusebius had been provisionally excommunicated earlier in the year by a synod in Antioch for refusing to sign an anti - Arian creed. The emperor himself pronounced him orthodox with only the suggestion that he adopt the word homoousios.

For a long time the confession of Eusebius was believed to have formed the basis of the Nicene Creed, which was then modified by the council. However, it seems clear that such was not the case, the structure and content of the latter being significantly different from the former. Most likely a creed was introduced under the direction of Hosius, discussed (especially the term homoousia), and drafted in its final form requiring the signatures of the bishops. All those present (including Eusebius of Nicomedia) signed except two who were subsequently exiled.

It should be noted that this creed is not that which is recited in churches today as the Nicene Creed. Although similar in many respects, the latter is significantly longer than the former and is missing some key Nicene phrases.

The theology expressed in the Nicene Creed is decisively anti-Arian. At the beginning the unity of God is affirmed. But the Son is said to be "true God from true God." Although confessing that the Son is begotten, the creed adds the words, "from the Father" and "not made." It is positively asserted that he is "from the being (ousia) of the Father" and "of one substance (homoousia) with the Father." A list of Arian phrases, including "there was when he was not" and assertions that the Son is a creature or out of nothing, are expressly anathematized. Thus an ontological rather than merely functional deity of the Son was upheld at Nicaea. The only thing confessed the Spirit, however, is faith in him.

Among other things achieved at Nicaea were the agreement on a date to celebrate Easter and a ruling on the Melitian Schism in Egypt. Arius and his most resolute followers were banished, but only for a short time. In the majority at Nicaea was Athanasius, then a young deacon, soon to succeed Alexander as bishop and carry on what would become a minority challenge to a resurgent Arianism in the East. However, the orthodoxy of Nicaea would eventually and decisively be reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

C A Blaising
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Athanasius, Defense of the Nicene Council; Eusebius, The Life of Constantine; Socrates, Ecclesiastical History; Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History; Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History; A E Burn, The Council of Nicea; J Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, I; H M Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism; R C Gregg and D E Groh, Early Arianism; A Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition; J N D Kelly, Early Christian Creeds and Early Christian Doctrines; C Luibheid, Eusebius of Caesarea and the Arian Crisis.

The First General Council of Nicaea, Nicæa 325

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It is more than sixteen hundred years since the first of the General Councils of the Church met. This is so long ago that the very names of the places connected with its history have quite disappeared from common knowledge and the atlases. They have about them an air of the fabulous; Nicaea, Bithynia, Nicomedia, and the rest. The very unfamiliarity of the sounds is a reminder that even for the purpose of the slight consideration which is all that these pages allow, a considerable adjustment of the mind is called for. We must, somehow, revive the memory of a world that has wholly passed away, that had disappeared, indeed, well nigh a thousand years already when Columbus and his ships first sighted the coasts of the new continent.

The business that brought the three hundred or so bishops to Nicaea in 325 from all over the Christian world was to find a remedy for the disturbances that had seriously troubled the East for now nearly two years. The cause of these disturbances was a new teaching about the basic mystery of the Christian religion.

Let our expert summarise the position, and say what it was that the new leader, Arius by name, had lately been popularising, through sermons, writings, and popular hymns and songs. "It was the doctrine of Arianism that our Lord was a pure creature, made out of nothing, liable to fall, the Son of God by adoption, not by nature, and called God in Scripture, not as being really such, but only in name. At the same time [Arius] would not have denied that the Son and the Holy Ghost were creatures transcendently near to God, and immeasurably distant from the rest of creation.

"Now, by contrast, how does the teaching of the Fathers who preceded Arius, stand relatively to such a representation of the Christian Creed? Is it such, or how far is it such, as to bear Arius out in so representing it? This is the first point to inquire about.

"First of all, the teaching of the Fathers was necessarily directed by the form of Baptism, as given by our Lord Himself to His disciples after His resurrection. To become one of His disciples was, according to His own words, to be baptized 'into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'; that is, into the profession, into the service, of a Triad. Such was our Lord's injunction: and ever since, before Arianism and after, down to this day, the initial lesson in religion taught to every Christian, on his being made a Christian, is that he thereby belongs to a certain Three, whatever more, or whether anything more, is revealed to us in Christianity about that Three.

"The doctrine then of a Supreme Triad is the elementary truth of Christianity; and accordingly, as might have been expected, its recognition is a sort of key-note, on which centre the thoughts and language of all theologians, from which they start, with which they end."[1]

Examination of a chain of pre-Arian writers, from every part of Christendom, reveals that "there was during the second and third centuries a profession and teaching concerning the Holy Trinity, not vague and cloudy, but of a certain determinate character," and that this teaching "was contradictory and destructive of the Arian hypothesis."[2] And from all this literature the fact emerges that, from the beginning, "some doctrine or other of a Trinity lies at the very root of the Christian conception of the Supreme Being, and of his worship and service": and that "it is impossible to view historical Christianity apart from the doctrine of the Trinity."[3]

It was round about the year 323 that the Arian crisis developed. The struggle between the advocates of the new theory and the Church authorities who stood by the tradition was to continue thence onward for a good fifty years and more. And now, for the first time in the history of the Church, the State intervened in what was, of itself, a dispute about belief. A second point to note is that the State, on the whole, sided with the innovators, and was hostile to the defenders of the traditional truth.

The history of those fifty-six years (325-81), that followed the Council of Nicaea and closed with the next General Council (Constantinople I), is part of the history of both these councils. And its complexity defies any summary simplification. If we turn to Newman for a clue to the meaning of it all, he will tell us that this long and stubborn struggle is nothing else than a particular passage in the conflict that never ceases between the Church and the secular power. "The same principle of government which led the emperors to denounce Christianity while they were pagans, led them to dictate to its bishops, when they had become Christians." Such an idea as that "religion should be independent of state authority" was, in the eyes of all these princes, contrary to the nature of things. And not only was this conflict "inevitable," but, Newman continues, it might have been foreseen as probable that the occasion of the conflict would be a controversy within the Church about some fundamental doctrine. Newman's last remarkable words may usefully warn us that in Church History things are not always so simple as we expect.[4]

Even the full history of a General (i.e., world-wide) Council called in such circumstances, the first council of its kind--which had no precedents to guide its procedure, or to instruct the generality about the special value attaching to its decisions--even this would inevitably present difficulties to minds sixteen hundred years later; minds bred in a detailed, centuries-old tradition about the kind of thing General Councils are, and furnished with definite ideas about their nature, procedure, and authority.

But we are very far from possessing anything like a full history of this first Council of Nicaea. Of any official record of the day-today proceedings--the acta of the council--there is no trace. The earliest historians, from whose accounts our knowledge must derive, were in large measure partisan writers. And of the two writers who were present at the council, the one who was a historian[5] was an ally of the heretics and the quasi-official panegyrist of the emperor Constantine who called the council; and the other,[6] though he has much indeed to say about the council, does not anywhere profess to be writing a record of its acts.

Nowhere, of course, is our knowledge of the history of these first centuries of the Church anything like so complete as is our knowledge of, let us say, any part of it during the last eight or nine hundred years. In the matter of Nicaea, as in other questions, scholars are still disputing-- and not on religious grounds--whether, for example, certain key documents were really written by the personages whose names they bear. About the details of the history of all these early councils, because of the insufficiency of our information, there is inevitably much confusion, great obscurity. Yet there are compensations for those who study it. "History does not bring clearly upon the canvas the details which were familiar to the ten thousand minds of whose combined movements and fortunes it treats. Such is it from its very nature; nor can the defect ever fully be remedied. This must be admitted . . . still no one can mistake its general teaching in this matter, whether he accept it or stumble at it. Bold outlines, which cannot be disregarded, rise out of the records of the past, when we look to see what it will give up to us: they may be dim, they may be incomplete, but they are definite; there is that which they are not, which they cannot be."[7]

The state, or political society, in which the Arian troubles arose and developed was that which we know as the Roman Empire. This state, for its inhabitants, was one and the same thing as civilisation, and not surprisingly. As the accession of Constantine to the sole rulership, in 324, found the empire, so it had endured for three hundred years and more. History does not record any political achievement even remotely parallel to this. For the empire took in, besides Italy, the whole of Europe west of the Rhine and south of the Danube and also the southern half of the island of Britain. In the east it included the whole of the modern state we call Turkey, with Syria also, Palestine, and Egypt, and the lands on the southern shore of the Mediterranean westward thence to the Atlantic.

Races as varied as the peoples who today inhabit these lands, with just as little to unite them naturally, lived then for some four hundred years under the rule of the emperors, with a minimum of internal disturbance and in almost entire freedom from foreign war. The stresses and strains of the internal life of the empire were, of course, a constant menace to this marvellous unity. The supreme ruler, with whom lay the fullness of legislative power, who was the final judge in all lawsuits, and the head of the national religion, was the ruler because he was the commander in chief of the army: his very title imperator, which we translate "emperor," means just this.[8] And for the imperator, it was one of the chief problems of government to maintain his military prestige with the vast armies. No man could long rule the Roman world who did not first hold the legions true to himself by his own professional worth. All the great rulers who, in the course of these four centuries, developed and adapted and reformed the complex life of the state, its finances, its law, its administration, were in the first place great soldiers, highly successful generals: Trajan, for example, Hadrian, Septimius Severus, Decius, Diocletian.

And Constantine, the first emperor to abandon the pagan religion and to profess himself a Christian, stood out to his own generation primarily as a highly successful soldier, triumphant in a series of contests with rivals for the supreme place. Such wars, fights between rival generals for the imperial throne, were the chief curse of Roman political life, and especially so in what we reckon as the third century, the century in the last quarter of which Constantine himself was born. He would have been a little boy of nine or ten when the great Diocletian became emperor in 284, who, to put an end to these suicidal wars, immediately associated another soldier with himself, as joint emperor, the one to rule the East, the other the West. In 293 Diocletian took this devolution of power a step further With each emperor there was now associated a kind of assistant emperor, with the title of Caesar, the actual ruler of allotted territories and destined to be, in time, his principal's successor. The soldier chosen in 293 as the first western Caesar was Constantine's father, Constantius, commonly called Chlorus (the Pale) from his complexion. His territory was the modern countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, and England.

These details of political reorganisation have a direct connection with our story. The reader knows--who does not?--that one feature of the history of this Roman state was its hostility to the Christian religion Scarcely a generation went by without some serious persecution. And Diocletian ended his reign with the most dreadful persecution of all (303). This was largely due to the influence of his colleague, the Caesar, Galerius who, in 305, was to succeed him as emperor in the East. And of all the territories, it was Egypt that provided most of the victims in the eight years the terror lasted--Egypt which was to be the principal scene of the Arian troubles and, par excellence, of the Catholic resistance to them. In the West the persecution was, by comparison, mild, and in the domains of Constantius Chlorus there was no persecution at all. This emperor's personal religious history, and his attitude towards the Christian religion, is full of interest. His views were also the views of his son Constantine, and they perhaps provide a clue to the strange and baffling story, not only of the long successful Arian defiance of the decisions of the Council of Nicaea, but of that first Christian emperor's seeming unawareness of the defiance.

Constantine's own character is, of course, an element of the first importance in the history of the council he convoked; and so also is the kind of thing which his "conversion" to Christianity was, some twelve years before the Arian problem arose. At the time of the council he was nearing his fiftieth year, and he had been emperor for almost twenty. History seems to reveal him as intelligent indeed, but passionate and headstrong; a bold campaigner and, as an administrator, "magnificent" in the Aristotelian sense. That is to say, he loved great schemes, supported them always with princely generosity, improvised readily, and delighted to dazzle by the scale of his successes. It was a natural part of the character that he was ambitious, confident of success, and--a less obvious trait--his ambition was linked with a "mystical" belief that he was destined to succeed, and a sure, if confused, notion that the heavenly powers were on his side. Be it remembered here, once more, that this man was omnipotent in public affairs, as no ruler has been even in the recent revolutions of our own time; for the Roman emperor's omnipotence was universally accepted by his millions of subjects as his right, as something belonging to the very nature of things.

It is less easy to say exactly what Constantine knew or believed about the religion of Christ, twelve years after he had, as emperor, publicly made it his own. Certainly it would be a gross error to consider the business of his mystical dream on the eve of his victory at the Milvian Bridge (312), that made him supreme master of the West, as parallel to what happened to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. His own personal religion at the time was that of his pagan father, the cult suddenly promoted to the supreme place as the official religion about the time that Constantine was born, by the then emperor, Aurelian (269-75). This was the cult of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), the worship of the divine spirit by whom the whole universe is ruled, the spirit whose symbol is the sun; a symbol in which this spirit in some way specially manifests itself. Under Aurelian this cult was organised with great splendour. The temple of the Sun which he built at Rome must have been one of the wonders of the world. Aurelian's coins bear the inscription The Sun is the Lord of the Roman Empire. The whole cult is penetrated with the idea that there is a single spirit who is supreme, with the idea of an overruling divine monarchy. Moreover, the cult was in harmony with a philosophical religion steadily growing, in the high places of the administration, throughout this same century, the cult of Summus Deus--the God who is supreme.

Constantine's father remained faithful to this cult of Sol Invictus even when his seniors, Diocletian and Maximian, reverted to the old cults of Jupiter and Hercules. And once Constantine--no more than Caesar on his father's death (306)--felt himself really master in the West, Hercules and Jupiter disappeared from his coinage, and Sol Invictus was restored, while the official panegyrics laud "that divine spirit which governs this whole world." This in 311.

What Constantine gathered from his famous dream in September 312 was that this supreme divinity was promising him salvation in this military crisis, had despatched a messenger to assure him of it and to tell him how to act, and that this messenger was Christ, the God whom the Christians worshipped, and that the badge his soldiers must wear was the sign of Christ, the cross. He did not, on the morrow of his victory, ask for baptism, nor even to be enrolled as a catechumen. Constantine was never so much as even this. And not until he lay dying, twenty-five years later, was he baptised.

It was, then, an all but uninstructed, if enthusiastic, convert who now, with all the caution of an experienced politician, set his name to the Edict of Milan ( 313 ), set up the Christian religion as a thing legally permissible, endowed its chief shrines with regal munificence, showered civic privileges, honours, and jurisdiction on its bishops, and even began the delicate task of introducing Christian ideas into the fabric of the law. It was an all but uninstructed convert who, also, in these next ten years--and in the turbulent province of Africa--plunged boldly into the heat of a religious war, the Donatist Schism, with the instinctive confidence that his mere intervention would settle all problems. Between the truce with the Donatists, 321, and the appearance of Arius in Egypt the interval is short indeed. What had Constantine learned from the Donatist experience? What had it taught him about the kind of thing the divine society was in which he so truly believed? Very little, it would seem.

The great see of Alexandria in Egypt, of which Arius was a priest had for many years before his appearance as a heretic been troubled by schism. One of the suffragan bishops--Meletius by name--had accused his principal of giving way during the persecution; and, declaring all the bishop of Alexandria's acts invalid, had proceeded to consecrate bishops in one place after another, in opposition to him. Nor did Meletius cease his activities when this particular bishop of Alexandria died. In many places there were soon two sets of Catholic clergy, the traditional line and the "Meletian"; the confusion was great and the contest bitter everywhere, the faithful people as active as their pastors. "It was out of the Meletian schism that Arianism was born and developed," one historian[9] will tell us. Arius had been a "Meletian" in his time, but the new bishop, Alexander, had received him back and had promoted him to an important church. And here his learned eloquence and ascetic life soon gave his novel teaching as wide publicity as he could desire.

The bishop's first act, as the news spread, was to arrange a public disputation. In this Arius was worsted. He next disobeyed the bishop's natural injunction to be silent, and began to look for support outside Egypt. Meanwhile the bishop called a council of the hundred bishops subject to his see; ninety-eight voted to condemn Arius; and his two supporters, along with a handful of other clerics were deposed. Arius fled to Palestine, to an old friend generally regarded as the greatest scholar of the day, Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea. And from Caesarea the two began a vast correspondence to engage the support of bishops expected to be friendly to the cause, as far away as the imperial capital, Nicomedia.

Already there was a bond between Arius and many of those to whom he wrote. They like himself were pupils of the same famous teacher of the last generation, Lucian of Antioch, whose school--and not Alexandria--was the real birthplace of this new theological development. And Arius could address such prelates as "Dear Fellow-Lucianist." Of all those to whom he now wrote, none was so important as a second Eusebius, the bishop of the imperial city itself, and a possible power with the emperor through his friendship with Constantine's sister, the empress Constantia, consort of the eastern emperor, Licinius. The Lucianist bishop of Nicomedia rose to the occasion, "as though upon him the whole fate of the Church depended," the bishop of Alexandria complained. For Eusebius, too, circularised the episcopate generally and summoned a council of bishops, and they voted that Arius should be reinstated, and wrote to beg this of the bishop of Alexandria.

Arius' bishop, meanwhile, had been active also. We know of seventy letters which he wrote to bishops all over the Christian world; amongst others to whom he wrote was the pope. And since all these episcopal letters were copied and passed round, made up into collections and, as we should say, published, the whole of the East was soon aflame, fighting and rioting in one city after another. Few indeed of these enthusiasts could have understood the discussions of the theologians, but all grasped that what Arius was saying was that Christ was not God. And if this were so, what about the saving death on the Cross? And what was sinful man to hope for when he died? When the bishop of Alexandria stigmatised his rebellious priest as Christomachos (fighter against Christ), he clinched the matter in such a way that all, from the Christian emperor to the meanest dock hand in the port, must be personally interested, and passionately.

During these first months of agitation Constantine had, however, other matters to occupy him, and, to begin with, the agitation was none of his business. At the moment when the great movement began, none of the lands affected came under his jurisdiction. But in that same year, 323, war broke out between himself and his eastern colleague, his brother-in-law, Licinius. In July 324 Constantine, invader of Licinius territory, defeated him heavily at Adrianople, and in September he gained a second victory at Chrysopolis.[10] Later Licinius was put to death. When the victor entered his new capital in the ensuing weeks, there was in his household a Spanish prelate who had dwelt with Constantine for some years now, Hosius, bishop of Cordova. It was to him that Constantine, with the new Arian crisis confronting him, now turned.

Arius, by now, had returned to Alexandria, fortified with the vote of the council at Nicomedia and of a second (more peremptory) council at Caesarea, to demand the decreed reinstatement. His arrival, and the campaign of propaganda now launched, set the whole city ablaze. And Constantine despatched Hosius to make a personal investigation of the affair. When he returned to make his report, Alexander and Arius soon followed. The crisis next moved to the third great city of the empire, Antioch. The bishop there had recently died, and when the fifty-six bishops subject to Antioch came in from Palestine, Arabia, Syria, and elsewhere to elect a successor (January 325, probably), they took the opportunity to notice the Arian development. All but unanimously (53-3) they condemned the new teaching, and excommunicated--provisionally--the three dissidents. One of these was the bishop of Caesarea.

And now, sometime in the early spring of 325, it was decided to summon a council representative of all the bishops in the world. Who was it that first put out this grandiose, if simple, plan? We do not know. Within a matter of months--not indeed simultaneously, but with impressive nearness in time--councils had been held at Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, Nicomedia, in which a good half of the bishops of the East must have taken part, i.e., a good proportion of the vastly more numerous half of the entire episcopate. Whoever it was to whom the idea of a council of the Christian universe first occurred, it was Constantine who decided it should be held, and who chose the place and sent out the invitations to the bishops, offering to all free passage in the imperial transportation service.

The council opened, in the imperial summer palace at Nicaea,[11] May 20, 325, with something over three hundred bishops present, the vast bulk of them from the Greek-speaking lands where the trouble was raging, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. But there were bishops also from Persia and the Caucasus, from the lands between the Danube and the Aegean, and from Greece. There was one from Africa and one from Spain, one from Gaul and one from Italy, and since the great age of the Bishop of Rome forbade his making the journey he was represented by two of his priests.

Eusebius of Caesarea who has described the great moments of the council was evidently moved, as we too may be, by his recollection of the scene when, the bishops all assembled in the great hall of the palace, some of them lame and blind from the tortures undergone in the persecutions, the Christian master of the whole Roman world entered, robed in scarlet and gold, and before taking his place at the throne, bade them be seated. Constantine came with a minimum of pomp, and in his brief address he did no more than welcome the bishops, exhort them to peaceful conference, and admit that the spectacle of "sedition" within the Church caused him more anxiety than any battle.

The little we know of the actual history of the council is soon told. The theology of Arius was condemned unanimously--though he is said to have had twenty-two supporters among the bishops. But if it was a simple matter for the episcopate to testify to its belief that the Divine Word was truly God, it was less easy to agree about the best way to phrase a declaration of this faith, i.e., to construct a statement to which no subtlety could give a heretical Arian meaning also. One section of the bishops was anxious that no terms should be used which were not already used in Scripture. But the Scriptures had not been written for the purpose of confuting philosophically minded heretics. It was now necessary to say that the accepted Scripture meant just "this" and not "that" as well. And if this were to be accomplished, the technique must be adopted of coining a special word for the purpose.

The statement as the council finally passed it--the creed of the council of Nicaea--states: "We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, born of the Father, the sole-begotten; that is to say, of the substance of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; born, not made, consubstantial with the Father [in the Greek original, homo- ousion toi patri], through whom all things were made, which are in heaven and on earth . . ."[11a] The word homo-ousion is the special non-Scriptural word which the council adopted to characterise the true, traditional belief, a word it was impossible to square with any kind of Arian theory, a test word that would always make it clear that any Arian theory was incompatible with the Christian tradition, and which would serve the practical purpose of preventing any further infiltration of these enemies of Christ within the Church, and defeat any endeavour to change the belief from within.

Who it was that proposed to the council this precise word, we do not know. An Arian historian says it was the bishop of Alexandria and Hosius of Cordova. St. Athanasius, who was present at the council, says it was Hosius. What seems clearer is that the bishops, solidly determined that the heresy should be rooted out, were yet by no means happy about the means chosen. The word homoousion was known to them already. Since long before the time of Arius and Lucian it had a bad history in the East, as will be explained. But Constantine definitely declared himself in favour of the uniquely useful instrument, and the council accepted it, each bishop rising in his place and giving his vote. Two bishops only refused their assent. With Arius, and a few priest supporters, they were promptly sent into exile by the emperor's command.

The bishops then passed to other problems. In the first place the twenty- year-old Meletian schism. Its leaders had appealed to Constantine, and the emperor left it to the council to judge. The bishops supported their brother of Alexandria, but offered the schismatics very easy terms, restoring Meletius himself to his see of Lycopolis. But he was not, ever again, to confer Holy Orders, and all those whom he had unlawfully ordained were to be reordained before again officiating. Moreover they were to be subject henceforward to the true, i.e., Catholic, bishop of the place. Those whom Meletius had made bishops might be elected to sees in the future, as vacancies arose--always with the consent of the bishop of Alexandria, the traditional head of this extensive episcopate.

A second practical problem, that had teased the eastern churches for generations, was now finally solved, viz., how the date of the Easter feast should be calculated. "All our good brothers of the East[12] who until now have been used to keep Easter at the Jewish Passover, will henceforward keep it at the same time as the Romans and you," so the bishops of Egypt announced in a letter to their people.

Finally the bishops promulgated twenty laws--canons--for general observance. Like the solution proposed for the Meletians they are notable for a new mildness of tone, a quality more Roman than Oriental, it may be said. They are, in great part, a repetition of measures enacted eleven years earlier in the Latin council held at Arles, in Gaul.[13] Five canons deal with those who fell away in the recent persecution. If any such have since been admitted to ordination they are to be deposed. Those who apostatised freely--that is, without the compulsion of fear--are to do twelve years' penance before being admitted to Holy Communion. If, before the penance is completed, they fall sick and are in danger of death they may receive Holy Viaticum. Should they then recover they are to take place with the highest class of the penitents--those who are allowed to hear mass, though not to receive Holy Communion. Catechumens who fell away-- i.e., Christians not yet baptised--are to do three years' penance and then resume their place as catechumens. Finally, the Christians who, having once left the army, had re-enlisted in the army of the persecutor, the lately destroyed emperor Licinius, are to do thirteen years' penance, or less if the bishop is satisfied of the reality of their repentance, but always three years' penance at least.

There are two canons about the readmission of heretical schismatics. First of all there are the remnants of the schism begun in Rome by the antipope Novatian, some seventy-five years before the council. Novatian was one of that fairly numerous class for whom the rulers of the Church deal far too mildly with repentant sinners. He ended by denying that the Church had the power to absolve those who fell away in times of persecution; and his followers, self-styled "the Pure," extended this disability to all sins of idolatry, sex sins, and murder. They also regarded second marriage as a sex sin. At this time there were many Novatians in Asia Minor, and the council offered generous terms to those who wished to be reconciled, recognising the orders of their clergy, and the dignity of their bishops, but exacting written declarations that they will regard as fellow Catholics those who have contracted a second marriage and those doing penance for apostasy.

To a second class of schismatics the same generosity was shown. These were the sect that descended from the notorious bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata, deposed in 268 by a council of bishops, for various crimes and for his heretical teaching that there is no distinction between the three persons of the Holy Trinity. But these "Paulinians," so to call them, are to be rebaptised. Those who had functioned as clergy may be reordained if the Catholic bishop to whom they are now subject thinks fit.

On various aspects of clerical life there are as many as ten canons. No one is to be ordained who has had himself castrated, nor anyone only recently converted to the faith. "Yesterday a catechumen, today a bishop," says St. Jerome; "in the evening at the circus and next morning at the altar; just lately a patron of comedians, now busy consecrating virgins." It is the canon itself which speaks of ordination, and episcopal consecration, following immediately on baptism. Bishops are not to ordain another bishop's subject without his consent. No clerics--bishops, priests, or deacons--are to move from one diocese to another. Clerics are forbidden to take interest for money loans, and for this offence they must be deposed.

Finally there are two canons regarding three famous sees: Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem. The council confirms the ancient custom that gives the bishop of Alexandria jurisdiction over the bishops of the civil provinces of Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis. And likewise the ancient privileges of the see of Antioch and of [the chief sees] of the other provinces. Jerusalem is a city apart, the Holy City par excellence, and although its bishop remains as much as ever the subject of the metropolitan bishop at Caesarea, he is allowed what canon 7 calls a precedence of honour, without a hint to say in what this consists.

All this variety of business was rapidly despatched, for the council held its final session barely four weeks after it opened, June 19, 325.

As the date all but coincided with the celebrations that marked the twentieth year of Constantine's reign, the emperor entertained the prelates at a banquet in full imperial style, and as they passed before the guards, presenting arms in salute, they asked themselves, says Eusebius, if the Kingdom of Heaven on earth had not finally come to pass.

Save for the letter of the bishops of Egypt, mentioned already, and two letters of the emperor, the one general, announcing the new rule about Easter, the other telling the people of Egypt that the bishops had confirmed the traditional belief and that Arius was the tool of the devil, we know nought of what might be called "the promulgation" of the council's decisions. But the breakup of the great gathering was by no means followed by the silence that accompanies peace perfectly attained. The real troubles had not yet begun.


1. Newman, Causes of the Rise and Successes of Arianism (February 1872) in Tracts, Theological and Ecclesiastical, pp. 103-4.

2. Ibid., 116. For Newman's "examination," 103-11.

3. Ibid., 112.

4. Ibid., 96, 97 for the passages quoted.

5. Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (?265-338).

6. St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria ( 328-73); born ?295.

7. Newman, The Development of Christian Doctrine, 1st ed., 1845, pp. 7, 5; with one sentence ("Still no one," etc.) from ibid., rev. ed., p. 7.

8 A standard Latin dictionary will give as a first basic equivalent, "commander in chief."

9. J. Lebreton, S.J., Histoire de Eglise, edited by A. Fliche and Msgr. V. Martin (henceforward referred to as F. and M.), vol. 2, p. 343.

10. The modern Scutari, on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus.

11. A city 60 to 70 miles from Constantinople, on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus, at the head of Lake Iznik. It was about 25 miles south from the then capital, Nicomedia.

11a. Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 54, prints the Greek text; Barry, Readings in Church History, p. 85, gives a translation.

12. The word has here a special meaning as the name of the (civil) diocese of which Antioch was the chief city, Oriens: the modern Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria, the coast of Turkey thence north and west for a good 200 miles with a vast territory in the interior that went beyond the Euphrates.

13. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils (1937), prints the text and a translation. This note serves for all the councils down to the Fifth Lateran of 1512-17. Barry, no 16, gives a translation.

From: THE CHURCH IN CRISIS: A History of the General Councils: 325-1870
Mgr. Philip Hughes

First Council of Nicaea, Nicæa (325)

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The Profession Of Faith Of The 318 Fathers
The Letter Of The Synod In Nicaea To The Egyptians


This council opened on 19 June in the presence of the emperor, but it is uncertain who presided over the sessions. In the extant lists of bishops present, Ossius of Cordova, and the presbyters Vitus and Vincentius are listed before the other names, but it is more likely that Eustathius of Antioch or Alexander of Alexandria presided. (see Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner S.J.)

The bold text in the profession of faith of the 318 fathers constitutes, according to Tanner "The additions made by the council to an underlying form of the creed", and that the underlying creed was most likely "derived from the baptismal formula of Caesarea put forward by the bishop of that city Eusebius" or that it "developed from an original form which existed in Jerusalem or at any rate Palestine". "A direct descent from the creed of Eusebius of Caesarea is manifestly out of the question." Vol. 1, p2)

The figure of 318 given in the heading below is from Hilary of Poitier and is the traditional one. Other numbers are Eusebius 250, Eustathius of Antioch 270., Athanasius about 300, Gelasius of Cyzicus at more than 300.

The Profession Of Faith Of The 318 Fathers

1. We believe in one God the Father all powerful, maker of all things both seen and unseen. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten begotten from the Father, that is from the substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten [Gr. gennethenta, Lat. natum] not made [Gr. poethenta, Lat. factum], Consubstantial [Gr. homoousion, Lat. unius substantiae (quod Graeci dicunt homousion)] with the Father, through whom all things came to be, both those in heaven and those in earth; for us humans and for our salvation he came down and became incarnate, became human, suffered and rose up on the third day, went up into the heavens, is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the holy Spirit.

2. And those who say

1. "there once was when he was not", and "before he was begotten he was not", and that
2. he came to be from things that were not, or from another hypostasis [Gr. hypostaseos] or substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia], affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration these the catholic and apostolic church anathematises.


1. If anyone in sickness has undergone surgery at the hands of physicians or has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy. But if anyone in good health has castrated himself, if he is enrolled among the clergy he should be suspended, and in future no such man should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this refers to those who are responsible for the condition and presume to castrate themselves, so too if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians or by their masters, but have been found worthy, the canon admits such men to the clergy.

2. Since, either through necessity or through the importunate demands of certain individuals, there have been many breaches of the church's canon, with the result that men who have recently come from a pagan life to the faith after a short catechumenate have been admitted at once to the spiritual washing, and at the same time as their baptism have been promoted to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it is agreed that it would be well for nothing of the kind to occur in the future. For a catechumen needs time and further probation after baptism, for the apostle's words are clear: "Not a recent convert, or he may be puffed up and fall into the condemnation and the snare of the devil". But if with the passage of time some sin of sensuality is discovered with regard to the person and he is convicted by two or three witnesses, such a one will be suspended from the clergy. If anyone contravenes these regulations, he will be liable to forfeit his clerical status for acting in defiance of this great synod.

3. This great synod absolutely forbids a bishop, presbyter, deacon or any of the clergy to keep a woman who has been brought in to live with him, with the exception of course of his mother or sister or aunt, or of any person who is above suspicion.

4. It is by all means desirable that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops of the province. But if this is difficult because of some pressing necessity or the length of the journey involved, let at least three come together and perform the ordination, but only after the absent bishops have taken part in the vote and given their written consent. But in each province the right of confirming the proceedings belongs to the metropolitan bishop.

5. Concerning those, whether of the clergy or the laity, who have been excommunicated, the sentence is to be respected by the bishops of each province according to the canon which forbids those expelled by some to be admitted by others. But let an inquiry be held to ascertain whether anyone has been expelled from the community because of pettiness or quarrelsomeness or any such ill nature on the part of the bishop. Accordingly, in order that there may be proper opportunity for inquiry into the matter, it is agreed that it would be well for synods to be held each year in each province twice a year, so that these inquiries may be conducted by all the bishops of the province assembled together, and in this way by general consent those who have offended against their own bishop may be recognised by all to be reasonably excommunicated, until all the bishops in common may decide to pronounce a more lenient sentence on these persons. The synods shall be held at the following times: one before Lent, so that, all pettiness being set aside, the gift offered to God may be unblemished; the second after the season of autumn.

6. The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome. Similarly in Antioch and the other provinces the prerogatives of the churches are to be preserved. In general the following principle is evident: if anyone is made bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, this great synod determines that such a one shall not be a bishop. If however two or three by reason of personal rivalry dissent from the common vote of all, provided it is reasonable and in accordance with the church's canon, the vote of the majority shall prevail.

7. Since there prevails a custom and ancient tradition to the effect that the bishop of Aelia is to be honoured, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honour, saving the dignity proper to the metropolitan.

8. Concerning those who have given themselves the name of Cathars, and who from time to time come over publicly to the catholic and apostolic church, this holy and great synod decrees that they may remain among the clergy after receiving an imposition of hands. But before all this it is fitting that they give a written undertaking that they will accept and follow the decrees of the catholic church, namely that they will be in communion with those who have entered into a second marriage and with those who have lapsed in time of persecution and for whom a period [of penance] has been fixed and an occasion [for reconciliation] allotted, so as in all things to follow the decrees of the catholic and apostolic church. Accordingly, where all the ordained in villages or cities have been found to be men of this kind alone, those who are so found will remain in the clergy in the same rank; but when some come over in places where there is a bishop or presbyter belonging to the catholic church, it is evident that the bishop of the church will hold the bishop's dignity, and that the one given the title and name of bishop among the so-called Cathars will have the rank of presbyter, unless the bishop thinks fit to let him share in the honour of the title. But if this does not meet with his approval, the bishop will provide for him a place as chorepiscopus or presbyter, so as to make his ordinary clerical status evident and so prevent there being two bishops in the city.

9. If any have been promoted presbyters without examination, and then upon investigation have confessed their sins, and if after their confession men have imposed hands upon such people, being moved to act against the canon, the canon does not admit these people, for the catholic church vindicates only what is above reproach.

10. If any have been promoted to ordination through the ignorance of their promoters or even with their connivance, this fact does not prejudice the church's canon; for once discovered they are to be deposed.

11. Concerning those who have transgressed without necessity or the confiscation of their property or without danger or anything of this nature, as happened under the tyranny of Licinius, this holy synod decrees that, though they do not deserve leniency, nevertheless they should be treated mercifully. Those therefore among the faithful who genuinely repent shall spend three years among the hearers, for seven years they shall be prostrators, and for two years they shall take part with the people in the prayers, though not in the offering.

12. Those who have been called by grace, have given evidence of first fervour and have cast off their [military] belts, and afterwards have run back like dogs to their own vomit, so that some have even paid money and recovered their military status by bribes; such persons shall spend ten years as prostrators after a period of three years as hearers. In every case, however, their disposition and the nature of their penitence should be examined. For those who through their fear and tears and perseverance and good works give evidence of their conversion by deeds and not by outward show, when they have completed their appointed term as hearers, may properly take part in the prayers, and the bishop is competent to decide even more favourably in their regard. But those who have taken the matter lightly, and have thought that the outward form of entering the church is all that is required for their conversion, must complete their term to the full.

13. Concerning the departing, the ancient canon law is still to be maintained namely that those who are departing are not to be deprived of their last, most necessary viaticum. But if one whose life has been despaired of has been admitted to communion and has shared in the offering and is found to be numbered again among the living, he shall be among those who take part in prayer only [here a variant reading in Les canons des conciles oecumeniques adds "until the term fixed by this great ecumenical synod has been completed"]. But as a general rule, in the case of anyone whatsoever who is departing and seeks to share in the eucharist, the bishop upon examining the matter shall give him a share in the offering.

14. Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, this holy and great synod decrees that, after they have spent three years as hearers only, they shall then be allowed to pray with the catechumens.

15. On account of the great disturbance and the factions which are caused, it is decreed that the custom, if it is found to exist in some parts contrary to the canon, shall be totally suppressed, so that neither bishops nor presbyters nor deacons shall transfer from city to city. If after this decision of this holy and great synod anyone shall attempt such a thing, or shall lend himself to such a proceeding, the arrangement shall be totally annulled, and he shall be restored to the church of which he was ordained bishop or presbyter or deacon.

16. Any presbyters or deacons or in general anyone enrolled in any rank of the clergy who depart from their church recklessly and without the fear of God before their eyes or in ignorance of the church's canon, ought not by any means to be received in another church, but all pressure must be applied to them to induce them to return to their own dioceses, or if they remain it is right that they should be excommunicated. But if anyone dares to steal away one who belongs to another and to ordain him in his church without the consent of the other's own bishop among whose clergy he was enrolled before he departed, the ordination is to be null.

17. Since many enrolled [among the clergy] have been induced by greed and avarice to forget the sacred text, "who does not put out his money at interest", and to charge one per cent [a month] on loans, this holy and great synod judges that if any are found after this decision to receive interest by contract or to transact the business in any other way or to charge [a flat rate of] fifty per cent or in general to devise any other contrivance for the sake of dishonourable gain, they shall be deposed from the clergy and their names struck from the roll.

18. It has come to the attention of this holy and great synod that in some places and cities deacons give communion to presbyters, although neither canon nor custom allows this, namely that those who have no authority to offer should give the body of Christ to those who do offer. Moreover it has become known that some of the deacons now receive the eucharist even before the bishops. All these practices must be suppressed. Deacons must remain within their own limits, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and subordinate to the presbyters. Let them receive the eucharist according to their order after the presbyters from the hands of the bishop or the presbyter. Nor shall permission be given for the deacons to sit among the presbyters, for such an arrangement is contrary to the canon and to rank. If anyone refuses to comply even after these decrees, he is to be suspended from the diaconate.

19. Concerning the former Paulinists who seek refuge in the catholic church, it is determined that they must be rebaptised unconditionally. Those who in the past have been enrolled among the clergy, if they appear to be blameless and irreproachable, are to be rebaptised and ordained by the bishop of the catholic church. But if on inquiry they are shown to be unsuitable, it is right that they should be deposed. Similarly with regard to deaconesses and all in general whose names have been included in the roll, the same form shall be observed. We refer to deaconesses who have been granted this status, for they do not receive any imposition of hands, so that they are in all respects to be numbered among the laity.

20. Since there are some who kneel on Sunday and during the season of Pentecost, this holy synod decrees that, so that the same observances may be maintained in every diocese, one should offer one's prayers to the Lord standing.

The Letter Of The Synod In Nicaea To The Egyptians

The bishops assembled at Nicaea, who constitute the great and holy synod, greet the church of the Alexandrians, by the grace of God holy and great, and the beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis.

Since the grace of God and the most pious emperor Constantine have called us together from different provinces and cities to constitute the great and holy synod in Nicaea, it seemed absolutely necessary that the holy synod should send you a letter so that you may know what was proposed and discussed, and what was decided and enacted.

First of all the affair of the impiety and lawlessness of Arius and his followers was discussed in the presence of the most pious emperor Constantine. It was unanimously agreed that anathemas should be pronounced against his impious opinion and his blasphemous terms and expressions which he has blasphemously applied to the Son of God, saying "he is from things that are not", and "before he was begotten he was not", and "there once was when he was not", saying too that by his own power the Son of God is capable of evil and goodness, and calling him a creature and a work.

Against all this the holy synod pronounced anathemas, and did not allow this impious and abandoned opinion and these blasphemous words even to be heard.

Of that man and the fate which befell him, you have doubtless heard or will hear, lest we should seem to trample upon one who has already received a fitting reward because of his own sin. Such indeed was the power of his impiety that Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais shared in the consequences, for they too suffered the same fate.

But since, when the grace of God had freed Egypt from this evil and blasphemous opinion, and from the persons who had dared to create a schism and a separation in a people which up to now had lived in peace, there remained the question of the presumption of Meletius and the men whom he had ordained, we shall explain to you, beloved brethren, the synod's decisions on this subject too. The synod was moved to incline towards mildness in its treatment of Meletius for strictly speaking he deserved no mercy. It decreed that that he might remain in his own city without any authority to nominate or ordain, and that he was not to show himself for this purpose in the country or in another city, and that he was to retain the bare name of his office.

It was further decreed that those whom he had ordained, when they had been validated by a more spiritual ordination, were to be admitted to communion on condition that they would retain their rank and exercise their ministry, but in every respect were to be second to all the clergy in each diocese and church who had been nominated under our most honoured brother and fellow minister Alexander; they were to have no authority to appoint candidates of their choice or to put forward names or to do anything at all without the consent of the bishop of the catholic church, namely the bishop of those who are under Alexander. But those who by the grace of God and by our prayers have not been detected in any schism, and are spotless in the catholic and apostolic church, are to have authority to appoint and to put forward the names of men of the clergy who are worthy, and in general to do everything according to the law and rule of the church.

In the event of the death of any in the church, those who have recently been accepted are thereupon to succeed to the office of the deceased, provided that they appear worthy and are chosen by the people; the bishop of Alexandria is to take part in the vote and confirm the election. This privilege, which has been granted to all others, does not apply to the person of Meletius because of his inveterate seditiousness and his mercurial and rash disposition, lest any authority or responsibility should be given to one who is capable of returning to his seditious practices.

These are the chief and most important decrees as far as concerns Egypt and the most holy church of the Alexandrians. Whatever other canons and decrees were enacted in the presence of our lord and most honoured fellow minister and brother Alexander, he will himself report them to you in greater detail when he comes, for he was himself a leader as well as a participant in the events.

The following is not found in the Latin text, but is found in the Greek text :

We also send you the good news of the settlement concerning the holy Pasch, namely that in answer to your prayers this question also has been resolved. All the brethren in the East who have hitherto followed the Jewish practice will henceforth observe the custom of the Romans and of yourselves and of all of us who from ancient times have kept Easter together with you. Rejoicing then in these successes and in the common peace and harmony and in the cutting off of all heresy, welcome our fellow minister, your bishop Alexander, with all the greater honour and love. He has made us happy by his presence, and despite his advanced age has undertaken such great labour in order that you too may enjoy peace.

Pray for us all that our decisions may remain secure through almighty God and our lord Jesus Christ in the holy Spirit, to whom is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner
Provided Courtesy of Eternal Word Television Network

Documents from the First Council of Nicaea, Nicæa - 325 A.D.

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SOURCE: Henry R. Percival, ed., _The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church_, Vol XIV of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, edd. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, (repr. Edinburgh: T&T Clark; Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988)

The value of the Percival edition is that it not only provides basic texts, but also has a number of well informed excursuses on significant topics, as well as, after each canon commentaries by later writers on the meaning.



(Found in the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, in the Epistle of Eusebius of Coesarea to his own Church, in the Epistle of St. Athanasius Ad Jovianum Imp., in the Ecclesiastical Histories of Theodoret and Socrates, and elsewhere, The variations in the text are absolutely without importance.)

The Synod at Nice set forth this Creed.(1)

The Ecthesis of the Synod at Nice.(2)

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, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten ([Gr. gennhq],[Gr. ent] s201), not made, being of one substance ([Gr. omoousion], consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not ([Gr. hn] [Gr. pote] [Gr. ote] [Gr. ouk] [Gr. h] [Gr. n]), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion(3)--all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.


The Creed of Eusebius of Caesarea, which he presented to the council, and which some suppose to have suggested the creed finally adopted.

(Found in his Epistle to his diocese; vide: St. Athanasius and Theodoret.)

We believe in one only God, Father Almighty, Creator of things visible and invisible; and in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, life of life, his only Son, the first- born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all time, by whom also everything was created, who became flesh for our redemption, who lived and suffered amongst men, rose again the third day, returned to the Father, and will come again one day in his glory to judge the quick and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Ghost We believe that each of these three is and subsists; the Father truly as Father, the Son truly as Son, the Holy Ghost truly as Holy Ghost; as our Lord also said, when he sent his disciples to preach: Go and teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.


The Fathers of the Council at Nice were at one time ready to accede to the request of some of the bishops and use only scriptural expressions in their definitions. But, after several attempts, they found that all these were capable of being explained away. Athanasius describes with much wit and penetration how he saw them nodding and winking to each other when the orthodox proposed expressions which they had thought of a way of escaping from the force of. After a series of attempts of this sort it was found that something clearer and more unequivocal must be adopted if real unity of faith was to be attained; and accordingly the word homousios was adopted. Just what the Council intended this


expression to mean is set forth by St. Athanasius as follows: "That the Son is not only like to the Father, but that, as his image, he is the same as the Father; that he is of the Father; and that the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and his immutability, are different from ours: for in us they are something acquired, and arise from our fulfilling the divine commands. Moreover, they wished to indicate by this that his generation is different from that of human nature; that the Son is not only like to the Father, but inseparable from the substance of the Father, that he and the Father are one and the same, as the Son himself said: 'The Logos is always in the Father, and, the Father always in the Logos,' as the sun and its splendour are inseparable."(1)

The word homousios had not had, although frequently used before the Council of Nice, a very happy history. It was probably rejected by the Council of Antioch,(2) and was suspected of being open to a Sabellian meaning. It was accepted by the heretic Paul of Samosata and this rendered it very offensive to many in the Asiatic Churches. On the other hand the word is used four times by St. Irenaeus, and Pamphilus the Martyr is quoted as asserting that Origen used the very word in the Nicene sense. Tertullian also uses the expression "of one substance" (unius substanticoe) in two places, and it would seem that more than half a century before the meeting of the Council of Nice, it was a common one among the Orthodox.

Vasquez treats this matter at some length in his Disputations, (3) and points out how well the distinction is drawn by Epiphanius between Synousios and Homousios, "for synousios signifies such an unity of substance as allows of no distinction: wherefore the Sabellians would admit this word: but on the contrary homousios signifies the same nature and substance but with a distinction between persons one from the other. Rightly, therefore, has the Church adopted this word as the one best calculated to confute the Arian heresy."(4)

It may perhaps be well to note that these words are formed like [Gr. omobios] and [Gr. omoiobios], [Gr. omognwmwn] and [Gr. omoiognwmwn], etc., etc.

The reader will find this whole doctrine treated at great length in all the bodies of divinity; and in Alexander Natalis (H.E. t. iv., Dies. xiv.); he is also referred to Pearson, On the Creed; Bull, Defence of the Nicene Creed; Forbes, An Explanation of the Nicene Creed; and especially to the little book, written in answer to the recent criticisms of Professor Harnack, by H. B. Swete, D.D., The Apostles' Creed.

EXCURSUS ON THE WORDS [Gr. gennhqeta] [Gr. ou] [Gr. poihqenta]] (J. B. Lightfoot. The Apostolic Fathers--Part II. Vol. ii. Sec. I. pp. 90, et seqq.) The Son is here [Ignat. Ad. Eph. vii.] declared to be [Gr. gennh][Gr. os] as man and [Gr. a],[Gr. ennhtos] as God, for this is clearly shown to be the meaning from the parallel clauses. Such language is not in accordance with later theological definitions, which carefully distinguished between [Gr. genhtos] and [Gr. gennhtos] between [Gr. agenhtos] and [Gr. agennhtos]; so that [Gr. genhtos], [Gr. agenhtos] respectively denied and affirmed the eternal existence, being equivalent to [Gr. ktistos], [Gr. aktistos], while [Gr. gennhtos], [Gr. agen][Gr. htos] described certain ontological relations, whether in time or in eternity. In the later theological language, therefore, the Son was [Gr. gennhtos] even in his Godhead. See esp. Joann. Damasc. de Fid. Orth. i. 8 [where he draws the conclusion that only the Father is [Gr. agennhtos], and only the Son [Gr. gennhtos] .

There can be little doubt however, that Ignatius wrote [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agennhtos], though his editors frequently alter it into [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agennhtos]. For (1) the Greek MS. still retains the double [Greek nun] v, though the claims of orthodoxy would be a temptation to scribes to


substitute the single v. And to this reading also the Latin genitus et ingenitus points. On the other hand it cannot be concluded that translators who give factus et non factus had the words with one v, for this was after all what Ignatius meant by the double v, and they would naturally render his words so as to make his orthodoxy apparent. (2) When Theodoret writes [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. ex] [Gr. agennhtou], it is clear that he, or the person before him who first substituted this reading, must have read [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agennhtos], for there would be no temptation to alter the perfectly orthodox [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agenhtos], nor (if altered) would it have taken this form. (3) When the interpolator substitutes [Gr. o] [Gr. monos] [Gr. alhqinos] [Gr. Qeos] [Gr. o] [Gr. agennhtos] . . . [Gr. tou] [Gr. de] [Gr. monogonous] [Gr. pathr] [Gr. kai] [Gr. gennhtwr], the natural inference is that he too, had the forms in double v, which he retained, at the same time altering the whole run of the sentence so as not to do violence to his own doctrinal views; see Bull Def. Fid. Nic. ii. 2 (s) 6. (4) The quotation in Athanasius is more difficult. The MSS. vary, and his editors write [Gr. genhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agenhtos]. Zahn too, who has paid more attention to this point than any previous editor of Ignatius, in his former work (Ign. v. Ant. p. 564), supposed Athanasius to have read and written the words with a single v, though in his subsequent edition of Ignatius (p. 338) he declares himself unable to determine between the single and double v. I believe, however, that the argument of Athanasius decides in favour of the vv. Elsewhere he insists repeatedly on the distinction between [Gr. ktixein] and [Gr. gennan], justifying the use of the latter term as applied to the divinity of the Son, and defending the statement in the Nicene Creed [Gr. gennhton] [Gr. ek] [Gr. ths] [Gr. ousias] [Gr. tou] [Gr. patros] [Gr. ton] [Gr. uion] [Gr. omoousion] (De Synod. 54, 1, p. 612). Although he is not responsible for the language of the Macrostich (De Synod. 3, 1, p. 590), and would have regarded it as inadequate without the [Gr. omoousion] yet this use of terms entirely harmonizes with his own. In the passage before us, ib. (s)(s) 46, 47 (p. 607), he is defending the use of homousios at Nicaea, notwithstanding that it had been previously rejected by the council which condemned Paul of Samosata, and he contends that both councils were orthodox, since they used homousios in a different sense. As a parallel instance he takes the word [Gr. agennhtos] which like homousios is not a scriptural word, and like it also is used in two ways, signifying either (1) T[Gr. o] [Gr. on] [Gr. men], [Gr. mhte] [Gr. de] [Gr. gennhqen] [Gr. mhte] [Gr. olws] [Gr. ekon] [Gr. ton] [Gr. aition] or(2) T[Gr. o] [Gr. aktiston]. In the former sense the Son cannot be called [Gr. agennhtos], in the latter he may be so called. Both uses, he says, are found in the fathers. Of the latter he quotes the passage in Ignatius as an example; of the former he says, that some writers subsequent to Ignatius declare [Gr. en] [Gr. to] [Gr. agennhton] [Gr. o] [Gr. pathr], [Gr. kai] [Gr. eis] [Gr. o] [Gr. ex] [Gr. autou] [Gr. uios] [Gr. gnhsios], [Gr. gennhma] [Gr. alhqinon] [Gr. k]. [Gr. t]. [Gr. l]. [He may have been thinking of Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 7, which I shall quote below.] He maintains that both are orthodox, as having in view two different senses of the word [Gr. agennhton], and the same, he argues, is the case with the councils which seem to take opposite sides with regard to homousios. It is dear from this passage, as Zahn truly says, that Athanasius is dealing with one and the same word throughout; and, if so, it follows that this word must be [Gr. agennhton], since [Gr. agenhton] would be intolerable in some places. I may add by way of caution that in two other passages, de Decret. Syn. Nic. 28 (1, p. 184), Orat. c. Arian. i. 30 (1, p. 343), St. Athanasius gives the various senses of [Gr. agenhton] (for this is plain from the context), and that these passages ought not to be treated as parallels to the present passage which is concerned with the senses of [Gr. agennhton]. Much confusion is thus created, e.g. in Newman's notes on the several passages in the Oxford translation of Athanasius (pp. 51 sq., 224 sq.), where the three passages are treated as parallel, and no attempt is made to discriminate the readings in the several places, but "ingenerate" is given as the rendering of both alike. If then Athanasius who read [Gr. gennhtos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. agennhtos] in Ignatius, there is absolutely no authority for the spelling with one v. The earlier editors (Voss, Useher, Cotelier, etc.), printed it as they found it in the MS.; but Smith substituted the forms with the single v, and he has been followed more recently by Hefele, Dressel, and some other. In the Casatensian copy of the MS., a marginal note is added, [Gr. anagnwsteon]


[Gr. agenhtos] [Gr. tout] [Gr. esti] [Gr. mh] [Gr. poihqeis]. Waterland (Works, III., p. 240 sq., Oxf. 1823) tries ineffectually to show that the form with the double v was invented by the fathers at a later date to express their theological conception. He even "doubts whether there was any such word as [Gr. agennhtos] so early as the time of Ignatius." In this he is certainly wrong.

The MSS. of early Christian writers exhibit much confusion between these words spelled with the double and the single v. See e.g. Justin Dial. 2, with Otto's note; Athenag. Suppl. 4 with Otto's note; Theophil, ad Autol. ii. 3, 4; Iren. iv. 38, 1, 3; Orig. c. Cels. vi. 66; Method. de Lib. Arbitr., p. 57; Jahn (see Jahn's note 11, p. 122); Maximus in Euseb. Praep. Ev. vii. 22; Hippol. Haer. v. 16 (from Sibylline Oracles); Clem. Alex. Strom v. 14; and very frequently in later writers. Yet notwithstanding the confusion into which later transcribers have thus thrown the subject, it is still possible to ascertain the main facts respecting the usage of the two forms. The distinction between the two terms, as indicated by their origin, is that [Gr. agenhtos] denies the creation, and [Gr. agennhtos] the generation or parentage. Both are used at a very early date; e.g. [Gr. agenhtos] by Parmenides in Clem. Alex. Strom. v. l4, and by Agothon in Arist. Eth. Nic. vii. 2 (comp. also Orac. Sibyll. prooem. 7, 17); and [Gr. agennhtos] in Soph. Trach. 61 (where it is equivalent to [Gr. dusgenwn]. Here the distinction of meaning is strictly preserved, and so probably it always is in Classical writers; for in Soph. Trach. 743 we should after Porson and Hermann read [Gr. agenhton] with Suidas. In Christian writers also there is no reason to suppose that the distinction was ever lost, though in certain connexions the words might be used convertibly. Whenever, as here in Ignatius, we have the double v where we should expect the single, we must ascribe the fact to the indistinctness or incorrectness of the writer's theological conceptions, not to any obliteration of the meaning of the terms themselves. To this early father for instance the eternal [Gr. gennhsis] of the Son was not a distinct theological idea, though substantially he held the same views as the Nicene fathers respecting the Person of Christ. The following passages from early Christian writers will serve at once to show how far the distinction was appreciated, and to what extent the Nicene conception prevailed in ante-Nicene Christianity; Justin Apol. ii. 6, comp. ib. (s) 13; Athenag. Suppl. 10 (comp. ib. 4); Theoph. ad. Aut. ii. 3; Tatian Orat. 5; Rhodon in Euseb. H. E. v. 13; Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 7; Orig. c. Cels. vi. 17, ib. vi. 52; Concil. Antioch (A.D. 269) in Routh Rel. Sacr. III., p. 290; Method. de Creat. 5. In no early Christian writing, however, is the distinction more obvious than in the Clementine Homilies, x. 10 (where the distinction is employed to support the writer's heretical theology): see also viii. 16, and comp. xix. 3, 4, 9, 12. The following are instructive passages as regards the use of these words where the opinions of other heretical writers are given; Saturninus, Iren. i. 24, 1; Hippol. Haer. vii. 28; Simon Magus, Hippol. Haer. vi. 17, 18; the Valentinians, Hippol. Haer. vi. 29, 30; the Ptolemaeus in particular, Ptol. Ep. ad. Flor. 4 (in Stieren's Ireninians, Hipaeus, p. 935); Basilides, Hippol. Haer. vii. 22; Carpocrates, Hippol. Haer. vii. 32.

From the above passages it will appear that Ante-Nicene writers were not indifferent to the distinction of meaning between the two words; and when once the othodox Christology was formulated in the Nicene Creed in the words [Gr. gennhqenta] [Gr. ou] [Gr. poihqenta], it became henceforth impossible to overlook the difference. The Son was thus declared to be [Gr. gennhtos] but not [Gr. genhtos]. I am therefore unable to agree with Zahn (Marcellus, pp. 40, 104, 223, Ign. von Ant. p. 565), that at the time of the Arian controversy the disputants were not alive to the difference of meaning. See for example Epiphanius, Haer. lxiv. 8. But it had no especial interest for them. While the orthodox party clung to the homousios as enshrining the doctrine for which they fought, they had no liking for the terms [Gr. agennhtos] and [Gr. gennhtos] as applied to the Father and the Son respectively, though unable to deny their propriety, because they were affected by the Arians and applied in their own way. To the orthodox mind the Arian formula [Gr. ouk] [Gr. hn] [Gr. prin] [Gr. gennhqhnai] or some Semiarian formula hardly less dangerous, seemed


always to be lurking under the expression [Gr. Qeos] [Gr. g][Gr. nnhtos] as applied to the Son. Hence the language of Epiphanius Haer. lxxiii. 19: "As you refuse to accept our homousios because though used by the fathers, it does not occur in the Scriptures, so will we decline on the same grounds to accept your [Gr. ag][Gr. nnhtos]." Similarly Basil c. Eunom. i., iv., and especially ib. further on, in which last passage he argues at great length against the position of the heretics, [Gr. ei] [Gr. ag][Gr. nnhtos], [Gr. fasin], [Gr. o] [Gr. pathr], [Gr. genntos] [Gr. de] [Gr. o] [Gr. ui][Gr. s], [Gr. ou] [Gr. ths] [Gr. auths] [Gr. ous][Gr. as]. See also the arguments against the Anomoeans in[Athan.] Dial. de Trin. ii. passim. This fully explains the reluctance of the orthodox party to handle terms which their adversaries used to endanger the homousios. But, when the stress of the Arian controversy was removed, it became convenient to express the Catholic doctrine by saying that the Son in his divine nature was [Gr. g][Gr. nnhtos] but not [Gr. g][Gr. nhtos]. And this distinction is staunchly maintained in later orthodox writers, e.g. John of Damascus, already quoted in the beginning of this Excursus.





IF any one in sickness has been subjected by physicians to a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy; but, if any one in sound health has castrated himself, it behoves that such an one, if [already] enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who wilfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men the Canon admits to the clergy.



Eunuchs may be received into the number of the clergy, but those who castrate themselves shall not be received.


The divine Apostolic Canons xxi., xxii., xxiii., and xxiv., have taught us sufficiently what ought to be done with those who castrate themselves, this canon provides as to what is to be done to these as well as to those who deliver themselves over to others to be emasculated by them, viz., that they are not to be admitted among the clergy nor advanced to the priesthood.


(Smith and Cheetham, Dict. Christ. Ant.) The feeling that one devoted to the sacred ministry should be unmutilated was strong in the Ancient Church. This canon of Nice, and those in the Apostolic Canons and a later one in the Second Council of Arles(canon vii.) were aimed against that perverted notion of piety, originating in the misinterpretation of our Lord's saying (Matt. xix. 12) by which Origen, among others, was misled, and their observance was so carefully enforced in later times that not more than one or two instances of the practice which they condemn are noticed by the historian. The case was different if a man was born an eunuch or had suffered mutilation at the hands of persecutors; an instance of the former, Dorotheus, presbyter of Antioch, is mentioned by Eusebius(H. E. vii., c. 32); of the latter, Tigris, presbyter of Constantinople, is referred to both by Socrates(H. E. vi. 16) and Sozomen(H. E. vi. 24) as the victim of a barbarian master.


We know, by the first apology of St. Justin(Apol. c. 29) that a century before Origen, a young man had desired to be mutilated by physicians, for the purpose of completely refuting the charge of vice which the heathen brought against the worship of Christians. St. Justin neither praises nor blames this young man: he only relates that he could not obtain the permission of the civil authorities for his project, that he renounced his intention, but nevertheless remained virgo all his life. It is very probable that the Council of Nice was induced by some fresh similar cases to renew the old injunctions; it was perhaps the Arian bishop, Leontius, who was the principal cause of it.(1)


Constantine forbade by a law the practice condemned in this canon. "If anyone shall anywhere in the Roman Empire after this decree make eunuchs, he shall be punished with death. If the owner of the place where the deed was perpetrated was aware of it and hid the fact, his goods shall be confiscated."(Const. M. 0pera. Migne Patrol. vol. viii., 396.)


The Nicene fathers in this canon make no new enactment but only confirm by the authority of an Ecumenical synod the Apostolic Canons, and this is evident from the wording of this canon. For there can be no doubt that they had in mind some earlier canon when they said, "such men the canon admits to the clergy." Not, [Gr. outos] [Gr. ok?nwn], but [Gr. o] [Gr. kanwn], as if they had said "the formerly set forth


and well-known canon" admits such to the clergy. But no other canon then existed in which this provision occurred except apostolical canon xxi. which therefore we are of opinion is here cited.

[In this conclusion Hefele also agrees.] This law was frequently enacted by subsequent synods and is inserted in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Decretum Gratiani. Pars. I. Distinctio LV., C vii.


(Bright: Notes on the Canons, pp. 2 and 3.)

K[Gr. anwn], as an ecclesiastical term, has a very interesting history. See Westcott's account of it, On the New Testament Canon, p. 498 if. The original sense, "a straight rod" or "line," determines all its religious applications, which begin with St. Paul's use of it for a prescribed sphere of apostolic work(2 Cor. x. 13, 15), or a regulative principle of Christian life(Gal. vi. 16). It represents the element of definiteness in Christianity and in the order of the Christian Church. Clement of Rome uses it for the measure of Christian attainment(Ep. Cor. 7). Irenaeus calls the baptismal creed "the canon of truth"(i. 9, 4): Polycrates(Euseb. v. 24) and probably Hippolytus(ib. v. 28) calls it "the canon of faith;" the Council of Antioch in A.D. 269, referring to the same standard of orthodox belief, speaks with significant absoluteness of "the canon"(ib. vii. 30). Eusebius himself mentions "the canon of truth" in iv. 23, and "the canon of the preaching" in iii. 32; and so Basil speaks of "the transmitted canon of true religion"(Epist. 204-6). Such language, like Tertullian's "regula fidei," amounted to saying, "We Christians know what we believe: it is not a vague 'idea' without substance or outline: it can be put into form, and by it we 'test the spirits whether they be of God.' " Thus it was natural for Socrates to call the Nicene Creed itself a "canon," ii. 27. Clement of Alexandria uses the phrase "canon of truth" for a standard of mystic interpretation, but proceeds to call the harmony between the two Testaments "a canon for the Church," Strom. vi. 15, 124, 125. Eusebius speaks of "the ecclesiastical canon" which recognized no other Gospels than the four(vi. 25). The use of the term and its cognates in reference to the Scriptures is explained by Westcott in a passive sense so that "canonized" books, as Athanasius calls them(Fest. Ep. 39), are books expressly recognized by the Church as portions of Holy Scripture. Again, as to matters of observance, Clement of Alexandria wrote a book against Judaizers, called "The Churches Canon"(Euseb. vi. 13); and Cornelius of Rome, in his letter to Fabius, speaks of the "canon" as to what we call confirmation(Euseb. vi. 43), and Dionysius of the "canon" as to reception of converts from heresy(ib, vii. 7). The Nicene Council in this canon refers to a standing "canon" of discipline(comp. Nic. 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 16, 18), but it does not apply the term to its own enactments, which are so described in the second canon of Constantinople(see below), and of which Socrates says "that it passed what are usually called 'canons' "(i. 13); as Julius of Rome calls a decree of this Council a "canon"(Athan. Apol. c. Ari. 25); so Athanasius applies the term generally to Church laws(Encycl. 2; cp. Apol. c. Ari. 69). The use of [Gr. kanwn] for the clerical body(Nic. 16, 17, 19; Chalc. 2) is explained by Westcott with reference to the rule of clerical life, but Bingham traces it to the roll or official list on which the names of clerics were enrolled(i. 5, 10); and this appears to be the more natural derivation, see "the holy canon" in the first canon of the Council of Antioch, and compare Socrates(i. 17), "the Virgins enumerated [Gr. en] [Gr. tw] [Gr. ekklhsiwn] [Gr. kan] [Gr. ni]," and(ib. v. 19) on the addition of a penitentiary "to the canon of the church;" see also George of Laodicea in Sozomon, iv. 13. Hence any cleric might be called [Gr. kan][Gr. nikos], see Cyril of Jerusalem, Procatech.(4); so we read of "canonical singers." Laodicea, canon xv. The same notion of definiteness appears in


the ritual use of the word for a series of nine "odes" in the Eastern Church service(Neale, Introd. East. Ch. if. 832), for the central and unvarying element in the Liturgy, beginning after the Tersanctus(Hammond, Liturgies East and West, p. 377); or for any Church office(Ducange in v.); also in its application to a table for the calculation of Easter(Euseb. vi. 29; vii. 32); to a scheme for exhibiting the common and peculiar parts of the several Gospels(as the "Eusebian canons") and to a prescribed or ordinary payment to a church, a use which grew out of one found in Athanasius' Apol. c. Ari. 60.

In more recent times a tendency has appeared to restrict the term Canon to matters of discipline, but the Council of Trent continued the ancient use of the word, calling its doctrinal and disciplinary determinations alike "Canons."


FORASMUCH as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to the Ecclesiastical canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed but a little while, are straightway brought to the spiritual layer, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it has seemed right to us that for the time to come no such thing shall be done. For to the catechumen himself there is need of time and of a longer trial after baptism. For the apostolical saying is clear, "Not a novice; lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil." But if, as time goes on, any sensual sin should be found out about the person, and he should be convicted by two or three witnesses, let him cease from the clerical office. And whoso shall transgress these[enactments] will imperil his own clerical position, as a person who presumes to disobey fie great Synod.



Those who have come from the heathen shall not be immediately advanced to the presbyterate. For without a probation of some time a neophyte is of no advantage([Gr. kakos]). But if after ordination it be found out that he had sinned previously, let him then be expelled from the clergy.


It may be seen by the very text of this canon, that it was already forbidden to baptize, and to raise to the episcopate or to the priesthood anyone who had only been a catechumen for a short time: this injunction is in fact contained in the eightieth(seventy-ninth) apostolical canon; and according to that, it would be older than the Council of Nicaea. There have been, nevertheless, certain cases in which, for urgent reasons, an exception has been made to the rule of the Council of Nicaea--for instance, that of S. Ambrose. The canon of Nicaea does not seem to allow such an exception, but it might be justified by the apostolical canon, which says, at the close: "It is not right that any one who has not yet been proved should be a teacher of others, unless by a peculiar divine grace." The expression of the canon of Nicaea, [Gr. yukikon] [Gr. ti] [Gr. amarthma], is not easy to explain: some render it by the Latin words animale peccatam, believing that the Council has here especially in view sins of the flesh; but as Zonaras has said, all sins are [Gr. yukika] [Gr. amarthmata]. We must then understand the passage in question to refer to a capital and very serious offence, as the penalty of deposition annexed to it points out.

These words have also given offence, [Gr. ei] [Gr. de] [Gr. proiontos] [Gr. tou] [Gr. krono],[Gr. n]; that is to say, "It is necessary henceforward," etc., understanding that it is only those who have been too quickly ordained who are threatened with deposition in case they are guilty of crime; but the canon is framed, and ought to be understood, in a general manner: it applies to all other clergymen, but it appears also to point out that greater severity should be shown toward those who have been too quickly ordained.

Others have explained the passage in this manner: "If it shall become known that any one who has been too quickly ordained was guilty before his baptism of any serious offence, he ought to be deposed." This is the interpretation given by Gratian, but it must


be confessed that such a translation does violence to the text. This is, I believe, the general sense of the canon, and of this passage in particular: "Henceforward no one shall be baptized or ordained quickly. As to those already in orders(without any distinction between those who have been ordained in due course and those who have been ordained too quickly), the rule is that they shall be de posed if they commit a serious offence. Those who are guilty of disobedience to this great Synod, either by allowing themselves to be ordained or even by ordaining others prematurely, are threatened with deposition ipso facto, and for this fault alone." We consider, in short, that the last words of the canon may be understood as well of the ordained as of the ordainer.


THE great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.



No one shall have a woman in his house except his mother, and sister, and persons altogether beyond suspicion.


Who these mulieres subintroductae were does not sufficiently appear . . . but they were neither wives nor concubines, but women of some third kind, which the clergy kept with them, not for the sake of offspring or lust, but from the desire, or certainly under the pretence, of piety.


For want of a proper English word to render it by, I translate "to retain any woman in their houses under pretence of her being a disciple to them."


translates: And his sisters and aunts cannot remain unless they be free from all suspicion.

Fuchs in his Bibliothek der kirchenver sammlungen confesses that this canon shews that the practice of clerical celibacy had already spread widely. In connexion with this whole subject of the subintroductae the text of St. Paul should be carefully considered. 1 Cor. ix. 5.


It is very terrain that the canon of Nice forbids such spiritual unions, but the context shows moreover that the Fathers had not these particular cases in view alone; and the expression [Gr. sun][Gr. isaktos] should be understood of every woman who is introduced([Gr. sun][Gr. isaktos]) into the house of a clergyman for the purpose of living there. If by the word [Gr. sun][Gr. isaktos] was only intended the wife in this spiritual marriage, the Council would not have said, any [Gr. sun][Gr. isaktos], except his mother, etc.; for neither his mother nor his sister could have formed this spiritual union with the cleric. The injunction, then, does net merely forbid the [Gr. sun][Gr. isaktos] in the specific sense, but orders that "no woman must live in the house of a cleric, unless she be his mother," etc.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's Decretum, Pars I., Distinc. XXXII., C. xvi.


IT is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent[bishops] also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place. But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan.



A bishop is to be chosen by all the bishops of the province, or at least by three, the rest giving by letter their assent ; but this choice must be confirmed by the Metropolitan.


The present Canon might seem to be opposed to the first canon of the Holy Apostles, for the latter enjoins that a bishop ordained by two or three bishops, but this by


three, the absent also agreeing and testifying their assent by writing. But they are not contradictory; for the Apostolical canon by ordination ([Gr. keirotonian]) means consecration and imposition of hands, but the present canon by constitution ([Gr. katastasin]) and ordination means the election, and enjoins that the election of a bishop do not take place unless three assemble, having the consent also of the absent by letter, or a declaration that they also will acquiesce in the election(or vote,([Gr. yhfw]) made by the three who have assembled. But after the election it gives the ratification or completion of the matter--the imposition of hands and consecration--to the metropolitan of the province, so that the election is to be ratified by him. He does so when with two or three bishops, according to the apostolical canon, he consecrates with imposition of hands the one of the elected persons whom he himself selects.


also understands [Gr. kaqistasqai] to mean election by vote.


The Greek canonists are certainly in error when they interpret [Gr. keirotonia] of election. The canon is akin to the 1st Apostolic canon which, as the canonists admit, must refer to the consecration of a new bishop, and it was cited in that sense at the Council of Cholcedon--Session xiii.(Mansi., vii. 307). We must follow Rufinus and the old Latin translators, who speak of "ordinari" "ordinatio" and "manus impositionem."


The Council of Nice thought it necessary to define by precise rules the duties of the bishops who took part in these episcopal elections. It decided(a) that a single bishop of the province was not sufficient for the appointment of another;(b) three at least should meet, and(c) they were not to proceed to election without the written permission of the absent bishops; it was necessary(d) to obtain afterward the approval of the metropolitan. The Council thus confirms the ordinary metropolitan division in its two most important points, namely, the nomination and ordination of bishops, and the superior position of the metropolitan. The third point connected with this division--namely, the provincial synod--will be considered under the next canon.

Meletius was probably the occasion of this canon. It may be remembered that he had nominated bishops without the concurrence of the other bishops of the province, and without the approval of the metropolitan of Alexandria, and had thus occasioned a schism. This canon was intended to prevent the recurrence of such abuses. The question has been raised as to whether the fourth canon speaks only of the choice of the bishop, or whether it also treats of the consecration of the newly elected. We think, with Van Espen, that it treats equally of both,--as well of the part which the bishops of the province should take in an episcopal election, as of the consecration which completes it.

This canon has been interpreted in two ways. The Greeks had learnt by bitter experience to distrust the interference of princes and earthly potentates in episcopal elections. Accordingly, they tried to prove that this canon of Nice took away from the people the right of voting at the nomination of a bishop, and confined the nomination exclusively to the bishops of the province.

The Greek Commentators, Balsamon and others, therefore, only followed the example of the Seventh and[so-called] Eighth(Ecu- menical Councils in affirming that this fourth canon of Nice takes away from the people the right previously possessed of voting in the choice of bishops and makes the election depend entirely on the decision of the bishops of the province.

The Latin Church acted otherwise. It is true that with it also the people have been removed from episcopal elections, but this did not happen till later, about the eleventh century; and it was not the people only who were removed, but the bishops of the province as well, and the election was conducted entirely by the clergy of the Cathedral Church. The Latins then interpreted the canon of Nice as though it said nothing of the rights of the bishops of the province in the election of their future colleague(and it does not speak of it in a very explicit manner), and as though it determined these two points only;(a) that for the ordination of a bishop three bishops at least are necessary;(b) that the right of confirmation rests with the metropolitan.

The whole subject of episcopal elections is treated fully by Van Espen and by Thomassin, in Ancienne et Nouvelle Discipline de l' Eglise, P. II. 1. 2.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's Decretum, Pars I. Dist. LXIV. c. j.



CONCERNING those, whether of the clergy or of the laity, who have been excommunicated in the several provinces, let the provision of the canon be observed by the bishops which provides that persons cast out by some be not readmitted by others. Nevertheless, inquiry should be made whether they have been excommunicated through captiousness, or contentiousness, or any such like ungracious disposition in the bishop. And, that this matter may have due investigation, it is decreed that in every province synods shall be held twice a year, in order that when all the bishops of the province are assembled together, such questions may by them be thoroughly examined, that so those who have confessedly offended against their bishop, may be seen by all to be for just cause excommunicated, until it shall seem fit to a general meeting of the bishops to pronounce a milder sentence upon them. And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and let the second be held about autumn.



Such as have been excommunicated by certain bishops shall not be restored by others, unless the excommunication was the result of pusillanimity, or strife, or some other similar cause. And that this may be duly attended to, there shall be in each year two synods in every province--the one before Lent, the other toward autumn.

There has always been found the greatest difficulty in securing the regular meetings of provincial and diocesan synods, and despite the very explicit canonical legislation upon the subject, and the severe penalties attached to those not answering the summons, in large parts of the Church for centuries these councils have been of the rarest occurrence. Zonaras complains that in his time "these synods were everywhere treated with great contempt," and that they had actually ceased to be held.

Possibly the opinion of St. Gregory Nazianzen had grown common, for it will be remembered that in refusing to go to the latter sessions of the Second Ecumenical he wrote, "I am resolved to avoid every meeting of bishops, for I have never seen any synod end well, nor assuage rather than aggravate disorders."(1)


Gelasius has given in his history of the Council of Nice, the text of the canons passed by the Council; and it must be noticed that there is here a slight difference between his text and ours. Our reading is as follows: "The excommunication continues to be in force until it seem good to the assembly of bishops ([Gr. tw] [Gr. koinw]) to soften it." Gelasius, on the other hand, writes: [Gr. mekris] [Gr. an] [Gr. tp] [Gr. koinp] [Gr. h] [Gr. tp] [Gr. episkopw], [Gr. k]. [Gr. t]. [Gr. l]., that is to say, "until it seem good to the assembly of bishops, or to the bishop (who has passed the sentence)," etc.

Dionysius the Less has also followed this vacation, as his translation of the canon shows. It does not change the essential meaning of the passage; for it may be well understood that the bishop who has passed the sentence of excommunication has also the right to mitigate it. But the variation adopted by the Prisca alters, on the contrary, the whole sense of the canon: the Prisca has not [Gr. ew] [Gr. koinp], but only [Gr. episkopw]: it is in this erroneous form that the canon has passed into the Corpus jurisc an.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's Decretum, Pars II., Causa XI, Quaest. III., Canon lxxiii., and the latter part in Pars I., Distinc. XVIII., c. iii.

EXCURSUS ON THE WORD [Gr. Prosferein]. (Dr. Adolph Harnack: Hist. of Dogma [Eng. Tr.] Vol. I. p. 209.)

The idea of the whole transaction of the Supper as a sacrifice, is plainly found in the dache, (c. 14), in Ignatius, and above all, in Justin (I. 65f.) But even Clement of Rome presupposes it, when (in cc. 40- 44) he draws a parallel between bishops and deacons and the


Priests and Levites of the Old Testament, describing as the chief function of the former (44.4) [Gr. prosferein]. This is not the place to enquire whether the first celebration had, in the mind of its founder, the character of a sacrificial meal; but, certainly, the idea, as it was already developed at the time of Justin, had been created by the churches. Various reasons tended towards seeing in the Supper a sacrifice. In the first place, Malachi i. 11, demanded a solemn Christian sacrifice: see my notes on Didache, 14.3. In the second place, all prayers were regarded as a sacrifice, and therefore the solemn prayers at the Supper must be specially considered as such. In the third place, the words of institution [Gr. touto] [Gr. poieite], contained a command with regard to a definite religious action. Such an action, however, could only be represented as a sacrifice, and this the more, that the Gentile Christians might suppose that they had to understand [Gr. poiein] in the sense of [Gr. quein]. In the fourth place, payments in kind were necessary for the "agapae" connected with the Supper, out of which were taken the bread and wine for the Holy celebration; in what other aspect could these offerings in the worship be regarded than as [Gr. prosforai] for the purpose of a sacrifice? Yet the spiritual idea so prevailed that only the prayers were regarded as the [Gr. qusia] proper, even in the case of Justin (Dial. 117). The elements are only [Gr. dpra], [Gr. prosforai], which obtain their value from the prayers, in which thanks are given for the gifts of creation and redemption, as well as for the holy meal, and entreaty is made for the introduction of the community into the Kingdom of God (see Didache, 9. 10). Therefore, even the sacred meal itself is called [Gr. eukaristia] (Justin, Apol. I. 66: [Gr. h] [Gr. trofh] [Gr. auth] [Gr. kaleitai] [Gr. par] [Gr. hmin] [Gr. eukaristia]. Didache, 9. 1: Ignat.), because it is [Gr. trafh] [Gr. eukaristhqeisa]. It is a mistake to suppose that Justin already understood the body of Christ to be the object of [Gr. poiein],(1) and therefore thought of a sacrifice of this body (I. 66). The real sacrificial act in the Supper consists rather, according to Justin, only in the [Gr. eukaristian] [Gr. poiein] whereby the[Gr. koinos] [Gr. artos] becomes the [Gr. artos] [Gr. ths] [Gr. eukaristias].(2) The sacrifice of the Supper in its essence, apart from the offering of alms, which in the practice of the Church was closely united with it, is nothing but a sacrifice of prayer: the sacrificial act of the Christian here also is nothing else than an act of prayer (See Apol. I. 14, 65-67; Dial. 28, 29, 41, 70, 116-118).

Harnack (lib. cit. Vol. II. chapter III. p. 136) says that "Cyprian was the first to associate the specific offering, i.e. the Lord's Supper with the specific priesthood. Secondly, he was the first to designate the passio Domini, nay, the sanguis Christi and the dominica hostia as the object of the eucharistic offering." In a foot-note (on the same page) he explains that "Sacrificare, Sacrificium celebrare in all passages where they are unaccompanied by any qualifying words, mean to celebrate the Lord's Supper." But Harnack is confronted by the very evident objection that if this was an invention of St. Cyprian's, it is most extraordinary that it raised no protest, and he very frankly confesses (note 2, on same page) that "the transference of the sacrificial idea to the consecrated elements which in all probability Cyprian already found in existence, etc." Harnack further on (in the same note on p. 137) notes that he has pointed out in his notes on the Didache that in the "Apostolic Church Order" occurs the expression [Gr. h] [Gr. prosqora] [Gr. tou] [Gr. swmatos] [Gr. kai] [Gr. tou] [Gr. aimatos] .



LET the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.



The Bishop of Alexandria shall have jurisdiction over Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis. As also the Roman bishop over those subject to Rome. So, too, the Bishop of Antioch and the rest over those who are under them. If any be a bishop contrary to the judgment of the Metropolitan, let him be no bishop. Provided it be in accordance with the canons by the suffrage of the majority, if three object, their objection shall be of no force.

Many, probably most, commentators have considered this the most important and most interesting of all the Nicene canons, and a whole library of works has been written upon it, some of the works asserting and some denying what are commonly called the Papal claims. If any one wishes to see a list of the most famous of these works he will find it in Phillips's Kirchenrecht (Bd. ii. S. 35). I shall reserve what I have to say upon this subject to the notes on a canon which seems really to deal with it, confining myself here to an elucidation of the words found in the canon before us.


The object and intention of this canon seems clearly to have been, not to introduce any new powers or regulations into the Church, but to confirm and establish ancient customs already existing. This, indeed, is evident from the very first words of it: "Let the ancient customs be maintained." It appears to have been made with particular reference to the case of the Church of Alexandria, which had been troubled by the irregular proceedings of Miletius, and to confirm the ancient privileges of that see which he had invaded. The latter part of it, however, applies to all Metropolitans, and confirms all their ancient privileges.


(Dict. Christ. Antiq. voce Council of Nicaea). The first half of the canon enacts merely that what had long been customary with respect to such persons in every province should become law, beginning with the province where this principle had been infringed; while the second half declares what was in future to be received as law on two points which custom had not as yet expressly ruled. Nobody disputes the meaning of this last half; nor, in fact, would the meaning of the first half have been questioned, had it not included Rome. Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called. It is on this clause ["since the like is customary for the Bishops of Rome also"] standing parenthetically between what is decreed for the particular cases of Egypt and Antioch, and in consequence of the interpretation given to it by Rufinus, more particularly, that so much strife has been raised. Rufinus may rank low as a translator, yet, being a native of Aquileia, he cannot have been ignorant of Roman ways, nor, on the other hand, had he greatly misrepresented them, would his version have waited till the seventeenth century to be impeached.


The sense of the first words of the canon is as follows: "This ancient right is assigned to the Bishop of Alexandria which places under his jurisdiction the whole diocese of Egypt." It is without any reason, then, that the French Protestant Salmasius (Saumaise), the Anglican Beveridge, and the Gallican Launoy, try to show that the Council of Nice granted to the Bishop of Alexandria only the rights of ordinary metropolitans.


I do confess there was something peculiar in the case of the Bishop of Alexandria, for all the provinces of Egypt were under his immediate care, which was Patriarchal as to extent, but Metropolical in the administration.



This authority ([Gr. exousia]) is that of a Metropolitan which the Nicene Fathers decreed to be his due over the three provinces named in this canon, Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, which made up the whole diocese of Egypt, as well in matters civil as ecclesiastical.

On this important question Hefele refers to the dissertation of Dupin, in his work De Antiqua Ecclesoe Disciplina. Hefele says: "It seems to me beyond a doubt that in this canon there is a question about that which was afterward calm the patriarchate of the Bishop of Alexandria; that is to say that he had a certain recognized ecclesiastical authority, not only over several civil provinces, but also over several ecclesiastical provinces (which had their own metropolitans);" and further on (p. 392) he adds: "It is incontestable that the civil provinces of Egypt, Libya, Pentapolis and Thebais, which were all in subjection to the Bishop of Alexandria, were also ecclesiastical provinces with their own metropolitans; and consequently it is not the ordinary fights of metropolitans that the Sixth Canon of Nice confers on the Bishop of Alexandria, but the rights of a superior Metropolitan, that is, of a Patriarch."

There only remains to see what were the bounds of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antioch. The civil diocese of Oriens is shown by the Second Canon of Constantinople to be conterminous with what was afterward called the Patriarchate of Antioch. The see of Antioch had, as we know, several metropolitans subject to it, among them Caesarea, under whose jurisdiction was Palestine. Justellus, however, is of opinion that Pope Innocent I. was in error when he asserted that all the Metropolitans of Oriens were to be ordained by him by any peculiar authority, and goes so far as to stigmatize his words as "contrary to the mind of the Nicene Synod."(1)


Although, as Hefele well says, "It is evident that the Council has not in view here the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the whole Church, but simply his power as a patriarch," yet it may not be unimportant to consider what his patriarchal limits may have been.

(Hefele, Hist. Councils, Vol. I., p. 397.) The translation of this [VI.] canon by Rufinus has been especially an apple of discord. Et ut apud Alexandriam et in urbe Roma vetusta consuetudo servetur, ut vel ille Egypti vel hic suburbicariarum ecclesiarum sollicitudinem gerat. In the seventeenth century this sentence of Rufinus gave rise to a very lively discussion between the celebrated jurist, Jacob Gothfried (Gothofredus), and his friend, Salmasius, on one side, and the Jesuit, Sirmond, on the other. The great prefecture of Italy, which contained about a third of the whole Roman Empire, was divided into four vicariates, among which the vicariate of Rome was the first. At its head were two officers, the proefectus urbi and the vicarius urbis. The proefectus urbi exercised authority over the city of Rome, and further in a suburban circle as far as the hundredth milestone, The boundary of the vicarins urbis comprised ten provinces--Campania, Tuscia with Ombria, Picenum, Valeria, Samnium, Apulia with Calabria, Lucania and that of the Brutii, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Gothfried and Salmasius maintained, that by the regiones suburbicarioe the little territory of the proefectus urbi must be understood; while, according to Sirmond, these words designate the whole territory of the vicarius urbis. In our time Dr. Maasen has proved in his book,(2) already quoted several times, that Gothfried and Salmasius were right in maintaining that, by the regiones suburbicarioe, the little territory of the proefectus urbi must be alone understood.

Hefele thinks that Phillips "has proved" that the Bishop of Rome had patriarchal rights over places outside the limits of the ten provinces of the vicarius urbis; but does not agree


with Phillips in thinking Rufinus in error. As a matter of fact the point is a difficult one, and has little to do with the gist of the meaning of the canon. One thing is certain: the early Latin version of the canons, called the Prisca, was not satisfied with the Greek wording and made the Canon read thus: "It is of ancient custom that the bishop of the city of Rome should have a primacy (principatum), so that he should govern with care the suburban places, AND ALL HIS OWN PROVINCE."(1) Another interesting reading is that found in several MSS. which begins, "The Church of Rome hath always had a primacy (primatum)," and as a matter of fact the early date of this addition is evinced by the fact that the canon was actually quoted in this shape by Paschasinus at the Council of Chalcedon.

Hefele further on says, "The Greek commentators Zonaras and Balsamon (of the twelfth century) say very explicitly, in their explanation of the Canons of Nice, that this sixth canon confirms the rights of the Bishop of Rome as patriarch over the whole West," and refers to Beveridge's Syodicon, Tom. I., pp. 66 and 67. After diligent search I can find nothing to warrant the great amplitude of this statement. Balsamon's interpretation is very vague, being simply that the Bishop of Rome is over the Western Eparchies ([Gr. tpn] [Gr. esperiwn] [Gr. eparkiwn]) and Zonaras still more vaguely says that [Gr. tpn] [Gr. esperiwn] [Gr. arkein] [Gr. eqos] [Gr. ekrathse]. That the whole West was in a general way understood to be in the Roman Patriarchate I have no doubt, that the Greek scholiasts just quoted deemed it to be so I think most probably the case, but it does not seem to me that they have said so in the particular place cited. It seems to me that all they meant to say was that the custom observed at Alexandria and Antioch was no purely Eastern and local thing, for a similar state of affairs was found in the West.


SINCE custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of AElia [i.e., Jerusalem] should be honoured, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honour.



Let the Bishop of AElia be honoured, the rights of the Metropolis being preserved intact.

There would seem to be a singular fitness in the Holy City Jerusalem holding a very exalted position among the sees of Christendom, and it may appear astonishing that in the earliest times it was only a suffragan see to the great Church of Caesarea. It must be remembered, however, that only about seventy years after our Lord's death the city of Jerusalem was entirely destroyed and ploughed as a field according to the prophet. As a holy city Jerusalem was a thing of the past for long years, and it is only in the beginning of the second century that we find a strong Christian Church growing up in the rapidly increasing city, called no longer Jerusalem, but aelia Capitolina. Possibly by the end of the second century the idea of the holiness of the site began to lend dignity to the occupant of the see; at all events Eusebius(2) tells us that "at a synod held on the subject of the Easter controversy in the time of Pope Victor, Theophilus of Caesarea and Narcissus of Jerusalem were presidents."

It was this feeling of reverence which induced the passing of this seventh canon. It is very hard to determine just what was the "precedence" granted to the Bishop of AElia, nor is it clear which is the metropolis referred to in the last clause. Most writers, including Hefele, Balsamon, Aristenus and Beveridge consider it to be Caesarea; while Zonaras thinks Jerusalem to be intended, a view recently adopted and defended by Fuchs; [3] others again suppose it is Antioch that is referred to.



The narrative of the successive steps by which the See of Jerusalem rose from being nothing but AElia, a Gentile city, into one of the five patriarchal sees is sad reading for a Christian. It is but the record of ambition and, worse still, of knavery. No Christian can for a moment grudge to the Holy City of the old dispensation the honour shewn it by the Church, but he may well wish that the honour had been otherwise obtained. A careful study of such records as we possess shews that until the fifth century the Metropolitan of Caesarea as often took precedence of the Bishop of Jerusalem as vice versa, and Beveridge has taken great pains to shew that the learned De Marca is in error in supposing that the Council of Nice assigned to Jerusalem a dignity superior to Caesarea, and only inferior to Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. It is true that in the signatures the Bishop of Jerusalem does sign before his metropolitan, but to this Beveridge justly replies that the same is the case with the occupants of two other of his suffragan sees. Bishop Beveridge's opinion is that the Council assigned Jerusalem the second place in the province, such as London enjoys in the Province of Canterbury. This, however, would seem to be as much too little as De Marca's contention grants too much. It is certain that almost immediately after the Council had adjourned, the Bishop of Jerusalem, Maximus, convoked a synod of Palestine, without any reference to Caesarea, which consecrated bishops and acquitted St. Athanasius. It is true that he was reprimanded for doing so,(1) but yet it clearly shews how lie intended to understand the action of Nice. The matter was not decided for a century more, and then through the chicanery of Juvenal the bishop of Jerusalem.

(Canon Venables, Dict. Christ. Biography.) Juvenalis succeeded Praylius as bishop of Jerusalem somewhere about 420 A.D. The exact year cannot be determined. The episcopate of Praylius, which commenced in 417 A.D., was but short, and we can hardly give it at most more than three years. The statement of Cyril of Scythopolis, in his Life of St. Euthymius (c. 96), that Juvenal died "in the forty-fourth year of his episcopate," 458 A.D., is certainly incorrect, as it would make his episcopate begin in 414 A.D., three years before that of his predecessor. Juvenal occupies a prominent position during the Nestorian and Eutychian troubles towards the middle of the fifth century. But the part played by him at the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, as well as at the disgraceful [Gr. lhstrikh] of 449, was more conspicuous than creditable, and there are few of the actors in these turbulent and saddening scenes who leave a more unpleasing impression. The ruling object of Juvenal's episcopate, to which everything else was secondary, and which guided all his conduct, was the elevation of the see of Jerusalem from the subordinate position it held in accordance with the seventh of the canons of the council of Nicaea, as suffragan to the metropolitan see of Caesarea, to a primary place in the episcopate. Not content with aspiring to metropolitan rank, Juvenal coveted patriarchal dignity, and, in defiance of all canonical authority, he claimed jurisdiction over the great see of Antioch, from which he sought to remove Arabia and the two Phoenicias to his own province. At the council of Ephesus, in 431, he asserted for "the apostolic see of Jerusalem the same rank and authority with the apostolic see of Rome" (Labbe, Concil. iii. 642). These falsehoods he did not scruple to support with forged documents ("insolenter ausus per commentitia scripta firmare," Leo. Mag. Ep. 119 [92]), and other disgraceful artifices. Scarcely had Juvenal been consecrated bishop of Jerusalem when he proceeded to assert his claims to the metropolitan rank by his acts. In the letter of remonstrance against the proceedings of the council of


Ephesus, sent to Theodosius by the Oriental party, they complain that Juvenal, whose "ambitious designs and juggling tricks" they are only too well acquainted with, had ordained in provinces over which he had no jurisdiction (Labbe, Concil. iii. 728). This audacious attempt to set at nought the Nicene decrees, and to falsify both history and tradition was regarded with the utmost indignation by the leaders of the Christian church. Cyril of Alexandria shuddered at the impious design ("merito perhorrescens," Leo. u. s.), and wrote to Leo, then archdeacon of Rome, informing him of what Juvenal was undertaking, and begging that his unlawful attempts might have no sanction from the apostolic See ("ut nulla illicitis conatibus praeberetur assensio," u. s.). Juvenal, however, was far too useful an ally in his campaign against Nestorius for Cyril lightly to discard. When the council met at Ephesus Juvenal was allowed, without the slightest remonstrance, to take precedence of his metropolitan of Caesarea, and to occupy the position of vice-president of the council, coming next after Cyril himself (Labbe, Concil. iii. 445), and was regarded in all respects as the second prelate in the assembly. The arrogant assertion of his supremacy over the bishop of Antioch, and his claim to take rank next after Rome as an apostolical see, provoked no open remonstrance, and his pretensions were at least tacitly allowed. At the next council, the disgraceful Latrocinium, Juvenal occupied the third place, after Dioscorus and the papal legate, having been specially named by Theodosius, together with Thalassius of Caesarea (who appears to have taken no umbrage at his suffragan being preferred before him), as next in authority to Dioscorus (Labbe, Concil. iv. 109), and he took a leading part in the violent proceedings of that assembly. When the council of Chalcedon met, one of the matters which came before it for settlement was the dispute as to priority between Juvenal and Maximus Bishop of Antioch. The contention was long and severe. It ended in a compromise agreed on in the Seventh Action, [Gr. meta] [Gr. pollhn] [Gr. filoneikian]. Juvenal surrendered his claim to the two Phoenicias and to Arabia, on condition of his being allowed metropolitical jurisdiction over the three Palestines (Labbe, Concil. iv. 613). The claim to patriarchal authority over the Bishop of Antioch put forward at Ephesus was discreetly dropped. TIle difficulty presented by the Nicene canon does not appear to have presented itself to the council, nor was any one found to urge the undoubted claims of the see of Caesarea. The terms arranged between Maximus and Juvenal were regarded as satisfactory, and received the consent of the assembled bishops (ibid. 618). Maximus, however, was not long in repenting of his too ready acquiescence in Juvenal's demands, and wrote a letter of complaint to pope Leo, who replied by the letter which has been already quoted, dated June 11, 453 A.D., in which he upheld the binding authority of the Nicene canons, and commenting in the strongest terms on the greediness and ambition of Juvenal, who allowed no opportunity of forwarding his ends to be lost, declared that as far as he was concerned he would do all he could to maintain the ancient dignity of the see of Antioch (Leo Magn. Ep. ad Maximum, 119 [92]). No further action, however, seems to have been taken either by Leo or by Maximus. Juvehal was left master of the situation, and the church of Jerusalem has from that epoch peaceably enjoyed the patriarchal dignity obtained for it by such base means.


CONCERNING those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of


penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wheresoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop's dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.



If those called Cathari come over, let them first make profession that they are willing to communicate with the twice married, and to grant pardon to the lapsed. And on this condition he who happens to be in orders, shall continue in the same order, so that a bishop shall still be bishop. Whoever was a bishop among the Cathari let him, however, become a Chorepiscopus, or let him enjoy the honour of a presbyter or of a bishop. For in one church there shall not be two bishops.

The Cathari or Novatians were the followers of Novatian, a presbyter of Rome, who had been a Stoic philosopher and was delivered, according to his own story, from diabolical possession at his exorcising by the Church before his baptism, when becoming a Catechumen. Being in peril of death by illness he received clinical baptism, and was ordained priest without any further sacred rites being administered to him. During the persecution he constantly refused to assist his brethren, and afterwards raised his voice against what he considered their culpable laxity in admitting to penance the lapsed. Many agreed with him in this, especially of the clergy, and eventually, in A.D. 251, he induced three bishops to consecrate him, thus becoming, as Fleury remarks,(1) "the first Anti-Pope." His indignation was principally spent upon Pope Cornelius, and to overthrow the prevailing discipline of the Church he ordained bishops and sent them to different parts of the empire as the disseminators of his error. It is well to remember that while beginning only as a schismatic, he soon fell into heresy, denying that the Church had the power to absolve the lapsed. Although condemned by several councils his sect continued on, and like the Montanists they rebaptized Catholics who apostatized to them, and absolutely rejected all second marriages. At the time of the Council of Nice the Novatian bishop at Constantinople, Acesius, was greatly esteemed, and although a schismatic, was invited to attend the council. After having in answer to the emperor's enquiry whether he was willing to sign the Creed, assured him that he was, he went on to explain that his separation was because the Church no longer observed the ancient discipline which forbade that those who had committed mortal sin should ever be readmitted to communion. According to the Novatians he might be exhorted to repentance, but the Church had no power to assure him of forgiveness but must leave him to the judgment of God. It was then that Constantine said, "Acesius, take a ladder, and climb up to heaven alone."(2)


If any of them be bishops or chorepiscopi they shall remain in the same rank, unless perchance in the same city there be found a bishop of the Catholic Church, ordained before their coming. For in this case he that was properly bishop from the first shall have the preference, and he alone shall retain the Episcopal throne. For it is not right that in the same city there should be two bishops. But he who by the Cathari was called bishop, shall be honoured as a presbyter, or (if it so please the bishop), he shall be sharer of the title bishop; but he shall exercise no episcopal jurisdiction.

Zonaras, Balsamon, Beveridge and Van Espen, are of opinion that [Gr. keiroqetoumenous] does not mean that they are to receive a new laying on of hands at their reception into the Church, but that it refers to their already condition of being ordained, the meaning being that as they have had Novatian ordination they must be reckoned among the clergy. Dionysius Exiguus takes a different view, as does also the Prisca version, according to which the


clergy of the Novatians were to receive a laying on of hands, [Gr. keiroqetoumenous], but that it was not to be a reordination. With this interpretation Hefele seems to agree, founding his opinion upon the fact that the article is wanting before [Gr. keiroqetoumenous], and that [Gr. autous] is added. Gratian(1) supposes that this eighth canon orders a re- ordination.


There has been much difference of opinion among the learned touching the status of the Chorepiscopus in the early Church. The main question in dispute is as to whether they were always, sometimes, or never, in episcopal orders. Most Anglican writers, including Beveridge, Hammond, Cave, and Routh, have affirmed the first proposition, that they were true bishops, but that, out of respect to the bishop of the City they were forbidden the exercise of certain of their episcopal functions, except upon extraordinary occasions. With this view Binterim(2) also agrees, and Augusti is of the same opinion.(3) But Thomassinus is of a different mind, thinking, so says Hefele,(4) that there were "two classes of chorepiscopi, of whom the one were real bishops, while the other had only the title without consecration."

The third opinion, that they were merely presbyters, is espoused by Morinus and Du Cange, and others who are named by Bingham.(5) This last opinion is now all but universally rejected, to the other two we shall now devote our attention.

For the first opinion no one can speak more learnedly nor more authoritatively than Arthur West Haddon, who writes as follows;

(Haddon, Dict. Christ. Antiq. s. v. Chorepiscopus.) The chorepiscopus was called into existence in the latter part of the third century, and first in Asia Minor, in order to meet the want of episcopal supervision in the country parts of the now enlarged dioceses without subdivision. [They are] first mentioned in the Councils of Ancyra and Neo-Caesarea A. D. 314, and again in the Council of Nice (which is subscribed by fifteen, all from Asia Minor or Syria). [They became] sufficiently important to require restriction by the time of the Council of Antioch, A. D. 341; and continued to exist in the East until at least the ninth century, when they were supplanted by [Gr. exarkoi]. [Chorepiscopi are] first mentioned in the West in the Council of Riez, A. D. 439 (the Epistles of Pope Damasus I. and of Leo. M. respecting them being forgeries), and continued there (but not in Africa, principally in France) until about the tenth century, after which the name occurs (in a decree of Pope Damasus II. ap. Sigeb. in an. 1048) as equivalent to archdeacon, an office from which the Arabic Nicene canons expressly distinguish it. The functions of chorepiscopi, as well as their name, were of an episcopal, not of a presbyterial kind, although limited to minor offices. They overlooked the country district committed to them, "loco episcopi," ordaining readers, exorcists, subdeacons, but, as a rule, not deacons or presbyters (and of course not bishops), unless by express permission of their diocesan bishop. They confirmed in their own districts, and (in Gaul) are mentioned as consecrating churches (vide Du Cange). They granted [Gr. eirenikai], or letters dimissory, which country presbyters were forbidden to do. They had also the honorary privilege ([Gr. timwmenoi]) of assisting at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the mother city church, which country presbyters had not (Conc. Ancyr. can. xiii.; Neo- Caesar. can. xiv.; Antioch, can. x.; St. Basil M. Epist. 181; Rab. Maur. De Instit. Cler. i. 5, etc. etc.). They were held therefore to have power of ordination, but to lack jurisdiction, save subordinately. And the actual ordination of a presbyter by Timotheus, a chorepiscopus, is recorded (Pallad., Hist. Lausiac. 106).


In the West, i.e. chiefly in Gaul, the order appears to have prevailed more widely, to have usurped episcopal functions without due subordination to the diocesans, and to have been also taken advantage of by idle or worldly diocesans. In consequence it seems to have aroused a strong feeling of hostility, which showed itself, first in a series of papal bulls, condemning them; headed, it is true, by two forged letters respectively of Damasus I. and Leo. M. (of which the latter is merely an interpolated version of Conc. Hispal. II. A.D. 619, can. 7, adding chorepiscopi to presbyteri, of which latter the council really treats), but continuing in a more genuine form, from Leo III. down to Pope Nicholas I. (to Rodolph, Archbishop of Bourges, A.D. 864); the last of whom, however, takes the more moderate line of affirming chorepiscopi to be really bishops, and consequently refusing to annul their ordinations of presbyters and deacons (as previous popes had done), but orders them to keep within canonical limits; and secondly, in a series of conciliar decrees, Conc. Ratispon. A.D. 800, in Capit. lib. iv. c. 1, Paris. A.D. 829, lib. i.c. 27; Meld. A.D. 845, can. 44; Metens. A.D. 888, can. 8, and Capitul. v. 168, vi. 119, vii. 187, 310, 323, 324, annulling all episcopal acts of chorepiscopi, and ordering them to be repeated by "true" bishops; and finally forbidding all further appointments of chorepiscopi at all.

That chorepiscopi as such--i.e. omitting the cases of reconciled or vacant bishops above mentioned, of whose episcopate of course no question is made--were at first truly bishops both in East and West, appears almost certain, both from their name and functions, and even from the arguments of their strong opponents just spoken of. If nothing more could be urged against them, than that the Council of Neo- Caesarea compared them to the Seventy disciples, that the Council of Antioch authorises their consecration by a single bishop, and that they actually were so consecrated (the Antiochene decree might mean merely nomination by the word [Gr. ginesqai], but the actual history seems to rule the term to intend consecration, and the [one] exceptional case of a chorepiscopus recorded [Actt. Episc. Cenoman. ap. Du Cange] in late times to have been ordained by three bishops [in order that he might be a full bishop] merely proves the general rule to the contrary)--and that they were consecrated for "villages," contrary to canon,--then they certainly were bishops. And Pope Nicholas expressly says that they were so. Undoubtedly they ceased to be so in the East, and were practically merged in archdeacons in the West.

For the second opinion, its great champion, Thomassinus shall speak.

(Thomassin, Ancienne et Nouvelle Discipline de l'Eglise, Tom. I. Livre II. chap 1. iii.) The chorepiscopi were not duly consecrated bishops, unless some bishop had consecrated a bishop for a town and the bishop thus ordained contrary to the canons was tolerated on condition of his submitting himself to the diocesan as though he were only a chorepiscopus. This may be gathered from the fifty-seventh canon of Laodicea.

From this canon two conclusions may be drawn, 1st. That bishops ought not to be ordained for villages, and that as Chorepiscopi could only be placed in villages they could not be bishops. 2d. That sometimes by accident a chorepiscopus might be a bishop, but only through having been canonically lowered to that rank.

The Council of Nice furnishes another example of a bishop lowered to the rank of a chorepiscopus in Canon viii. This canon shows that they should not have been bishops, for two bishops could never be in a diocese, although this might accidentally be the case when a chorepiscopus happened to be a bishop.

This is the meaning which must be given to the tenth canon of Antioch, which directs that chorepiscopi, even if they have received episcopal orders, and have been consecrated bishops, shall keep within the limits prescribed by the canon; that in cases of necessity, they ordain


the lower clergy; but that they be careful not to ordain priests or deacons, because this power is absolutely reserved to the Diocesan. It must be added that as the council of Antioch commands that the Diocesan without any other bishop can ordain the chorepiscopus, the position can no longer be sustained that the chorepiscopi were bishops, such a method of consecreting a bishop being contrary to canon xix. of the same council, moreover the canon does not say the chorepiscopus is to be ordained, but uses the word [Gr. genesqai] by the bishop of the city (canon x.). The Council of Neocaesarea by referring them to the seventy disciples (in Canon XIV.) has shown the chorepiscopi to be only priests.

But the Council of Ancyra does furnish a difficulty, for the text seems to permit chorepiscopi to ordain priests. But the Greek text must be corrected by the ancient Latin versions. The letter attributed to pope Nicholas, A.D. 864, must be considered a forgery since he recognises the chorepiscopi as real bishops.

If Harmenopulus, Aristenus, Balsamon, and Zonaras seem to accord to the chorepiscopi the power to ordain priests and deacons with the permission of the Diocesan, it is because they are explaining the meaning and setting forth the practice of the ancient councils and not the practice of their own times. But at all events it is past all doubt that before the seventh century there were, by different accidents, chorepiscopi who were really bishops and that these could, with the consent of the diocesan, ordain priests. But at the time these authors wrote, there was not a single chorepiscopus in the entire East, as Balsamon frankly admits in commenting on Canon xiii. of Ancyra.

Whether in the foregoing the reader will think Thomassinus has proved his point, I do not know, but so far as the position of the chorepiscopi in synods is concerned there can be no doubt whatever, and I shall allow Hefele to speak on this point.

(Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. I. pp. 17, 18.)

The Chorepiscopi ([Gr. kwrepiskopoi]), or bishops of country places, seem to have been considered in ancient times as quite on a par with the other bishops, as far as their position in synod was concerned. We meet with them at the Councils of Neocaesarea in the year 314, of Nicaea in 325, of Ephesus in 431. On the other hand, among the 600 bishops of the fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451, there is no chorepiscopus present, for by this time the office had been abolished; but in the Middle Ages we again meet with chorepiscopi of a new kind at Western councils, particularly at those of the French Church, at Langres in 830, at Mayence in 847, at Pontion in 876, at Lyons in 886, at Douzy in 871.


IF any presbyters have been advanced without examination, or if upon examination they have made confession of crime, and men acting in violation of the canon have laid hands upon them, notwithstanding their confession, such the canon does not admit; for the Catholic Church requires that [only] which is blameless.



Whoever are ordained without examination, shall be deposed if it be found out afterwards that they had been guilty.


The crimes in question are those which were a bar to the priesthood-- such as blasphemy, bigamy, heresy, idolatry, magic, etc.--as the Arabic paraphrase of Joseph explains. It is clear that these faults are punishable in the bishop no less than in the priest, and that consequently our canon refers to the bishops as well as to the [Gr. presbuteroi] in the more restricted sense. These words of the Greek text, "In the case in which any one might be


induced, in opposition to the canon, to ordain such persons," allude to the ninth canon of the Synod of Neocaesarea. It was necessary to pass such ordinances; for even in the fifth century, as the twenty-second letter to Pope Innocent the First testifies, some held that as baptism effaces all former sins, so it takes away all the impedimenta ordinationis which are the results of those sins.


Some say that as baptism makes the baptized person a new man, so ordination takes away the sins committed before ordination, which opinion does not seem to agree with the canons.

This canon occurs twice in the Corpus Juris Canonici. Decretum Pars I. Dist. xxiv. c. vii., and Dist. lxxxi., c. iv.


IF any who have lapsed have been ordained through the ignorance, or even with the previous knowledge of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the canon of the Church for when they are discovered they shall be deposed.



Whoso had lapsed are to be deposed whether those who ordained and promoted them did so conscious of their guilt or unknowing of it.


The tenth canon differs from the ninth, inasmuch as it concerns only the lapsi and their elevation, not only to the priesthood, but to any other ecclesiastical preferment as well, and requires their deposition. The punishment of a bishop who should consciously perform such an ordination is not mentioned; but it is incontestable that the lapsi could not be ordained, even after having performed penance; for, as the preceding canon states, the Church requires those who were faultless. It is to be observed that the word [Gr. prokeirizein] is evidently employed here in the sense of "ordain," and is used without any distinction from [Gr. keirizein], whilst in the synodal letter of the Council of Nicaea on the subject of the Meletians, there is a distinction between these two words, and [Gr. prokeirizein] is used to signify eliger.

This canon is found in Corpus Juris Canonici. Decretum. Pars I. Dist. lxxxi. c.v.


CONCERNING those who have fallen without compulsion, without the spoiling of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Synod declares that, though they have deserved no clemency, they shall be dealt with mercifully. As many as were communicants, if they heartily repent, shall pass three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation.



As many as fell without necessity, even if therefore undeserving of indulgence, yet some indulgence shall be shown them and they shall be prostrators for twelve years.

On the expression "without oblation" ([Gr. kwris]

[Gr. prosforas]) see the notes to Ancyra, Canon V. where the matter is treated at some length.


The usual position of the hearers was just inside the church door. But Zonaras (and Balsamon agrees with him), in his comment on this canon, says, "they are ordered for three years to be hearers, or to stand without the church in the narthex."

I have read "as many as were communicants" ([Gr. oi] [Gr. pistoi]) thus following Dr. Routh.


Vide his Opuscula. Caranza translates in his Summary of the Councils "if they were faithful" and seems to have read [Gr. ei] [Gr. pistoi], which is much simpler and makes better sense.


The prostrators stood within the body of the church behind the ambo [i.e. the reading desk] and went out with the catechumens.


(Taken chiefly from Morinus, De Disciplina in Administratione Sacramenti Poenitentioe; Bingham, Antiquities; and Hammond, The Definitions of Faith, etc. Note to Canon XI. of Nice.) "In the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend."

The foregoing words from the Commination Service of the Church of England may serve well to introduce this subject. In the history of the public administration of discipline in the Church, there are three periods sufficiently distinctly marked. The first of these ends at the rise of Novatianism in the middle of the second century; the second stretches down to about the eighth century; and the third period shews its gradual decline to its practical abandonment in the eleventh century. The period with which we are concerned is the second, when it was in full force.

In the first period it would seem that public penance was required only of those convicted of what then were called by pre-eminence "mortal sins" (crimena mortalia(1)), viz: idolatry, murder, and adultery. But in the second period the list of mortal sins was greatly enlarged, and Morinus says that "Many Fathers who wrote after Augustine's time, extended the necessity of public penance to all crimes which the civil law punished with death, exile, or other grave corporal penalty."(2) In the penitential canons ascribed to St. Basil and those which pass by the name of St. Gregory Nyssen, this increase of offences requiring public penance will be found intimated.

From the fourth century the penitents of the Church were divided into four classes. Three of these are mentioned in the eleventh canon, the fourth, which is not here referred to, was composed of those styled [Gr. sugklaiontes], flentes or weepers. These were not allowed to enter into the body of the church at all, but stood or lay outside the gates, sometimes covered with sackcloth and ashes. This is the class which is sometimes styled [Gr. keimozomenoi], hybernantes, on account of their being obliged to endure the inclemency of the weather.

It may help to the better understanding of this and other canons which notice the different orders of penitents, to give a brief account of the usual form and arrangement of the ancient churches as well as of the different orders of the penitents.

Before the church there was commonly either an open area surrounded with porticoes, called [Gr. mesaulion] or atrium, with a font of water in the centre, styled a cantharus or phiala, or sometimes only an open portico, or [Gr. propulaion]. The first variety may still be seen at S. Ambrogio's in Milan, and the latter in Rome at S. Lorenzo's, and in Ravenna at the two S. Apollinares. This was the place at which the first and lowest order of penitents, the weepers, already referred to, stood exposed to the weather. Of these, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus says: "Weeping takes place outside the door of the church, where the sinner must stand and beg the prayers of the faithful as they go in."

The church itself usually consisted of three divisions within, besides these exterior courts


and porch. The first part after passing through "the great gates," or doors of the building, was called the Narthex in Greek, and Faerula in Latin, and was a narrow vestibule extending the whole width of the church. In this part, to which Jews and Gentiles, and in most places even heretics and schismatics were admitted, stood the Catechumens, and the Energumens or those afflicted with evil spirits, and the second class of penitents (the first mentioned in the Canon), who were called the [Gr. akowmenoi], audientes, or hearers. These were allowed to hear the Scriptures read, and the Sermon preached, but were obliged to depart before the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, with the Catechumens, and the others who went by the general name of hearers only.

The second division, or main body of the church, was called the Naos or Nave. This was separated from the Narthex by rails of wood, with gates in the centre, which were called "the beautiful or royal gates." In the middle of the Nave, but rather toward the lower or entrance part of it, stood the Ambo, or reading-desk, the place for the readers and singers, to which they went up by steps, whence the name, Ambo. Before coming to the Ambo, in the lowest part of the Nave, and just after passing the royal gates, was the place for the third order of penitents, called in Greek [Gr. gonuklinontes], or [Gr. upopiptontes],and in Latin Genuflectentes or Prostrati, i.e., kneelers or prostrators, because they were allowed to remain and join in certain prayers particularly made for them. Before going out they prostrated themselves to receive the imposition of the bishop's hands with prayer. This class of penitents left with the Catechumens.

In the other parts of the Nave stood the believers or faithful, i.e., those persons wire were in full communion with the Church, the men and women generally on opposite sides, though in some places the men were below, and the women in galleries above. Amongst these were the fourth class of penitents, who were called [Gr. sunestwtes], consistentes, i.e., co-standers, because they were allowed to stand with the faithful, and to remain and hear the prayers of the Church, after the Catechumens and the other penitents were dismissed, and to be present while the faithful offered and communicated, though they might not themselves make their offerings, nor partake of the Holy Communion. This class of penitents are frequently mentioned in the canons, as "communicating in prayers," or "without the oblation;" and it was the last grade to be passed through previous to the being admitted again to full communion. The practice of "hearing mass" or "non-communicating attendance" clearly had its origin in this stage of discipline. At the upper end of the body of the church, and divided from it by rails which were called Cancelli, was that part which we now call the Chancel. This was anciently called by several names, as Bema or tribunal, from its being raised above the body of the church, and Sacrarium or Sanctuary. It was also called Apsis and Concha Bematis, from its semicircular end. In this part stood the Altar, or Holy Table (which names were indifferently used in the primitive Church), behind which, and against the wall of the chancel, was the Bishop's throne, with the seats of the Presbyters on each side of it, called synthronus. On one side of the chancel was the repository for the sacred utensils and vestments, called the Diaconicum, and answering to our Vestry; and on the other the Prothesis, a side-table, or place, where the bread and wine were deposited before they were offered on the Altar. The gates in the chancel rail were called the holy gates, and none but the higher orders of the clergy, i.e., Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, were allowed to enter within them. The Emperor indeed was permitted to do so for the purpose of making his offering at the Altar, but then he was obliged to retire immediately, and to receive the communion without.


(Thomassin. Ancienne et Nouvelle Discipline de l'Eglise. Tom. I. Livre II. chap. xvi. somewhat abridged.) In the West there existed always many cases of public penance, but in the East it is more difficult to find any traces of it, after it was abolished by the Patriarch Nectarius in the person of the Grand Penitentiary.

However, the Emperor Alexis Comnenus, who took the empire in the year 1080, did a penance like that of older days, and one which may well pass for miraculous. He called together a large number of bishops with the patriarch, and some holy religious; be presented himself before them in the garb of a criminal; he confessed to them his crime of usurpation with all its circumstances. They condemned the Emperor and all his accomplices to fasting, to lying prostrate upon the earth, to wearing haircloth, and to all the other ordinary austerities of penance. Their wives desired to share their griefs and their sufferings, although they had had no share in their crime. The whole palace became a theatre of sorrow and public penance. The emperor wore the hairshirt under the purple, and lay upon the earth for forty days, having only a stone for a pillow.

To all practical purposes Public Penance was a general institution but for a short while in the Church. But the reader must be careful to distinguish between this Public Penance and the private confession which in the Catholic Church both East and West is universally practised. What Nectarius did was to abolish the office of Penitentiary, whose duty it had been to assign public penance for secret sin;(1) a thing wholly different from what Catholics understand by the "Sacrament of Penance." It would be out of place to do more in this place than to call the reader's attention to the bare fact, and to supply him, from a Roman Catholic point of view, with an explanation of why Public Penance died out. "It came to an end because it was of human institution. But sacramental confession, being of divine origin, lasted when the penitential discipline had been changed, and continues to this day among the Greeks and Oriental sects."(2) That the reader may judge of the absolute can-dour of the writer just quoted, I give a few sentences from the same article: "An opinion, however, did prevail to some extent in the middle ages, even among Catholics, that confession to God alone sufficed. The Council of Chalons in 813 (canon xxxiii.), says: 'Some assert that we should confess our sins to God alone, but some think that they should be confessed to the priest, each of which practices is followed not without great fruit in Holy Church. Confession made to God purges sins, but that made to the priest teaches how they are to be purged.' This former opinion is also mentioned without reprobation by Peter Lombard (In Sentent. Lib. iv. dist. xvii.)."


As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, (so that some spent money and by means of gifts regained their military stations); let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretence, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers; and after that the bishop may determine yet more favourably concerning them. But those who take [the matter] with indifference, and who think the form of [not] entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfil the whole time.




Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded go wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years. But in every case the way in which they do their penance must be scrutinized. And if anyone who is doing penance shews himself zealous in its performance, the bishop shall treat him more lentently than had he been cold and indifferent.


The abuse of this power, namely, of granting under certain circumstances a relaxation in the penitential exercises enjoined by the canons--led, in later times, to the practice of commuting such exercises for money payments, etc.

In his last contests with Constantine, Licinius had made himself the representative of heathenism; so that the final issue of the war would not be the mere triumph of one of the two competitors, but the triumph or fall of Christianity or heathenism. Accordingly, a Christian who had in this war supported the cause of Licinius and of heathenism might be considered as a lapsus, even if he did not formally fall away. With much more reason might those Christians be treated as lapsi who, having conscientiously given up military service (this is meant by the soldier's belt), afterwards retracted their resolution, and went so far as to give money and presents for the sake of readmission, on account of the numerous advantages which military service then afforded. It must not be forgotten that Licinius, as Zonaras and Eusebius relate, required from his soldiers a formal apostasy; compelled them, for example, to take part in the heathen sacrifices which were held in the camps, and dismissed from his service those who would not apostatize.


This canon (which in the Prisca and the Isidorian version stands as part of canon 11) deals, like it, with cases which had arisen under the Eastern reign of Licinius, who having resolved to "purge his army of all ardent Christians" (Mason, Persec. of Diocl. p. 308), ordered his Christian officers to sacrifice to the gods on pain of being cashiered (compare Euseb. H. E. x. 8; Vit. Con. i. 54). It is to be observed here that military life as such was not deemed unchristian. The case of Cornelius was borne in mind. "We serve in your armies," says Tertullian, Apol. 42 (although later, as a Montanist, he took a rigorist and fanatical view, De Cor. 11), and compare the fact which underlies the tale of the "Thundering Legion,"--the presence of Christians in the army of Marcus Aurelius. It was the heathenish adjuncts to their calling which often brought Christian soldiers to a stand (see Routh. Scr. Opusc. i. 410), as when Marinus' succession to a centurionship was challenged on the ground that he could not sacrifice to the gods (Euseb. H. E. vii. 15). Sometimes, indeed, individual Christians thought like Maximilian in the Martyrology, who absolutely refused to enlist, and on being told by the proconsul that there were Christian soldiers in the imperial service, answered, "Ipsi sciunt quod ipsis expediat" (Ruinart, Act. Sanc. p. 341). But, says Bingham (Antiq. xi. 5, 10), "the ancient canons did not condemn the military life as a vocation simply unlawful. I believe there is no instance of any man being refused baptism merely because he was a soldier, unless some unlawful circumstance, such as idolatry, or the like, made the vocation sinful." After the victory of Constantine in the West, the Council of Aries excommunicated those who in time of peace "threw away their arms" (can. 2). In the case before us, some Christian officers had at first stood firm under the trial imposed on them by Licinius. They had been "called by grace" to an act of self-sacrifice (the phrase is one which St. Augustine might have used); and had shown "their eagerness at the outset" ("primum suum ardorem," Dionysius; Philo and Evarestus more laxly, "primordia bona;" compare [Gr. thn] [Gr. agaphn] [Gr. sou] [Gr. thn] [Gr. prwthn], Rev. ii. 4). Observe here how beautifully the ideas of grace and free will are harmonized. These men had responded to a Divine impulse: it might seem that they had committed themselves to a noble course: they had cast aside the "belts" which were their badge of office (compare the cases of Valentinian and Valens, Soc. iii. 13, and of Benevoins throwing down his belt at the feet of Justina, Soz. vii. 13). They had done, in fact, just what Auxentius, one of Licinius' notaries, had done when, according to the graphic anecdote of Philostorgius (Fragm. 5), his master bade him place a bunch of grapes before a statue of Bacchus in the palace- court; but their zeal, unlike his, proved to be too impulsive--they reconsidered their position, and


illustrated the maxim that in morals second thoughts are not best (Butler, Serm. 7), by making unworthy attempts--in some cases by bribery--to recover what they had worthily resigned. (Observe the Grecised Latinism [Gr. benefikiois] and compare the Latinisms of St. Mark, and others in Euseb. iii. 20, vi. 40, x. 5.) This the Council describes in proverbial language, probably borrowed from 2 Pet. ii. 22, but, it is needless to say, without intending to censure enlistment as such. They now desired to be received to penance: accordingly they were ordered to spend three years as Hearers, during which time "their purpose, and the nature ([Gr. eidos]) of their repentance" were to be carefully "examined." Again we see the earnest resolution of the Council to make discipline a moral reality, and to prevent it from being turned into a formal routine; to secure, as Rufinus' abridgment expresses it, a repentance "fructuosam et attentam." If the penitents were found to have "manifested their conversion by deeds, and not in outward show ([Gr. skhmati]), by awe, and tears, and patience, and good works" (such, for instance, Zonaras comments, as almsgiving according to ability), "it would be then reasonable to admit them to a participation in the prayers," to the position of Consistentes, "with permission also to the bishop to come to a yet more indulgent resolution concerning them," by admitting them to full communion. This discretionary power of the bishop to dispense with part of a penance-time is recognized in the fifth canon of Ancyra and the sixteenth of Chalcedon, and mentioned by Basil, Epist. 217, c. 74. It was the basis of "indulgences "in their original form (Bingham, xviii. 4, 9). But it was too possible that some at least of these "lapsi" might take the whole affair lightly, "with indifference" [Gr. adiakorws]-not seriously enough, as Hervetas renders- -just as if, in common parlance, it did not signify: the fourth Ancyrene canon speaks of lapsi who partook of the idol-feast [Gr. adiakorws] as if it involved them in no sin (see below on Eph. 5, Chalc. 4). It was possible that they might "deem" the outward form of "entering the church" to stand in the narthex among the Hearers (here, as in c. 8, 19, [Gr. skhma] denotes an external visible fact) sufficient to entitle them to the character of converted penitents, while their conduct out of church was utterly lacking in seriousness and self-humiliation. In that case there could be no question of shortening their penance, time, for they were not in a state to benefit by indulgence: it would be, as the Roman Presbyters wrote to Cyprian, and as he himself wrote to his own church, a "mere covering over of the wound" (Epist. 30, 3), an "injury" rather than "a kindness" (De Lapsis, 16); they must therefore "by all means" go through ten years as Kneelers, before they can become Consistentes.

There is great difficulty about the last phrase and Gelasius of Cyzicus, the Prisca, Dionysius Exiguus, the pseudo-Isidore, Zonaras and most others have considered the "not" an interpolation. I do not see how dropping the "not" makes the meaning materially clearer.


CONCERNING the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him.



The dying are to be communicated. But if any such get well, he must be placed in the number of those who share in the prayers, and with these only.


It cannot be denied that antiquity used the name "Viaticum "not only to denote the Eucharist which was given to the dying, but also to denote the reconciliation, and imposition of penance, and in general, everything that could be conducive to the happy death of the person concerned, and this has been shown by Aubespine (lib. 1, Obs. cap. ii.). But while this is so, the more usual sense of the word is the Eucharist. For this cannot be denied that the faithful of the first ages of the Church looked upon the Eucharist as the complement of Christian perfection, and as the last seal of


hope and salvation. It was for tiffs reason that at the beginning of life, after baptism and confirmation, the Eucharist was given even to infants, and at the close of life the Eucharist followed reconciliation and extreme unction, so that properly and literally it could be styled "the last Viaticum." Moreover for penitents it was considered especially necessary that through it they might return to the peace of the Church; for perfect peace is given by that very communion of the Eucharist. [A number of instances are then cited, and various ancient versions of the canon.] Balsamon and Zonaras also understand the canon as I have done, as is evident from their commentaries, and so did Josephus AEgyptius, who in his Arabic Paraphrase gives the canon this title: "Concerning him who is excommunicated and has committed some deadly sin, and desires the Eucharist to be granted to him."

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian, Decretum Pars. II. causa xxvi, Quaes. VI., c. ix.


There is nothing upon which the ancient church more strenuously insisted than the oral reception of the Holy Communion. What in later times was known as "Spiritual Communion" was outside of the view of those early days; and to them the issues of eternity were considered often to rest upon the sick man's receiving with his mouth "his food for the journey," the Viaticum, before he died. No greater proof of how important this matter was deemed could be found than the present canon, which provides that even the stern and invariable canons of the public penance are to give way before the awful necessity of fortifying the soul in the last hour of its earthly sojourn.

Possibly at first the Italy Sacrament may have been consecrated in the presence of the sick person, but of this in early times the instances are rare and by was considered a marked favour that such a thing should be allowed, and the saying of mass in private houses was prohibited (as it is in the Eastern and Latin churches still to-day) with the greatest.

The necessity of having the consecrated bread and wine for the sick led to their reservation, a practice which has existed in the Church from the very beginning, so far as any records of which we are in possession shew.

St. Justin Martyr, writing less than a half century after St. John's death, mentions that "the deacons communicate each of those present, and carry away to the absent the blest bread, and wine and water."(1) It was evidently a long established custom in his day.

Tertullian tells us of a woman whose husband was a heathen and who was allowed to keep the Holy Sacrament in her house that she might receive every morning before other food. St. Cyprian also gives a most interesting example of reservation. In his treatise "On the Lapsed" written in A.D. 251, (chapter xxvi), he says: "Another woman, when she tried with unworthy hands to open her box, in which was the Holy of the Lord, was deterred from daring to touch it by fire rising from it."

It is impossible with any accuracy to fix the date, but certainly before the year four hundred, a perpetual reservation for the sick was made in the churches. A most interesting incidental proof of this is found in the thrilling description given by St. Chrysostom of the great riot in Constantinople in the year 403, when the soldiers "burst into the place where the Holy Things were stored, and saw all things therein," and "the most holy blood of Christ was spilled upon their clothes."(2) From this incident it is evident that in that church the Holy Sacrament was reserved in both kinds, and separately.

Whether this at the time was usual it is hard to say, but there can be no doubt that even in the earliest times the Sacrament was given, on rare occasions at least, in one kind,


sometimes under the form of bread alone, and when the sick persons could not swallow under the form of wine alone. The practice called "intinction," that is the dipping of the bread into the wine and administering the two species together, was of very early introduction and still is universal in the East, not only when Communion is given with the reserved Sacrament, but also when the people are communicated in the Liturgy from the newly consecrated species. The first mention of intinction in the West, is at Carthage in the fifth century.(1) We know it was practised in the seventh century and by the twelfth it had become general, to give place to the withdrawal of the chalice altogether in the West.(2) "Regino(De Eccles. Discip. Lib. I. c. lxx.) in 906, Burchard(Decr. Lib. V. cap. ix. fol. 95. colon. 1560.) in 996, and Ivo(Decr. Pars. II. cap. xix. p. 56, Paris 1647) in 1092 all cite a Canon, which they ascribe to a council of Tours ordering 'every presbyter to have a pyx or vessel meet for so great a sacrament, in which the Body of the Lord may be carefully laid up for the Viaticum to those departing from this world, which sacred oblation ought to be steeped in the Blood of Christ that the presbyter may be able to say truthfully to the sick man, The Body and Blood of the Lord avail thee, etc.'"(3)

The reservation of the Holy Sacrament was usually made in the church itself, and the learned W. E. Scudamore is of opinion that this was the case in Africa as early as the fourth century.(4)

It will not be uninteresting to quote in this connection the "Apostolic Constitutions," for while indeed there is much doubt of the date of the Eighth Book, yet it is certainly of great antiquity. Here we read, "and after the communion of both men and women, the deacons take what remains and place it in the tabernacle."(5)

Perhaps it may not be amiss before closing the remark that so far as we are aware the reservation of the Holy Sacrament in the early church was only for the purposes of communion, and that the churches of the East reserve it to the present day only for this purpose.

Those who wish to read the matter treated of more at length, can do so in Muratorius's learned "Dissertations" which are prefixed to his edition of the Roman Sacramentaries(chapter XXIV) and in Scudamore's Notitia Eucharistica, a work which can be absolutely relied upon for the accuracy of its facts, however little one may feel constrained to accept the logical justness of its conclusions.


CONCERNING catechumens who have lapsed, the holy and great Synod has decreed that, after they have passed three years only as hearers, they shall pray with the catechumens.



If any of the catechumens shall have fallen for three years he shall be a hearer only, and then let him pray with the catechumens.


The people formerly were divided into three classes in the church, for there were catechumens, faithful, and penitents; but it is clear from the present canon there were two kinds of catechumens: one consisting of those who heard the Word of God, and wished to become Christians, but had not yet desired baptism; these were called "hearers." Others who were of long standing, and were properly trained in the faith, and desired baptism--these were called "competentes."


There is difference of opinion among the learned as to whether there was not a third or even a fourth class of catechumens. Bingham and Card. Bona, while not agreeing in particular points, agree in affirming that there were more than two classes. Bingham's first class are those not allowed to enter the church, the [Gr. exwqoumenoi], but the affirmation of the existence of such a class rests only on a very forced explanation of canon five of Neocaesarea. The second class, the hearers, audientes, rests on better evidence. These were not allowed to stay while the Holy Mysteries were celebrated, and their expulsion gave rise to the distinction between the "Mass of the Catechumens"(Missa Catechumenorum) and the "Mass of the Faithful"(Missa Fidelium). Nor were they suffered to hear the Creed or the Our Father. Writers who multiply the classes insert here some who knelt and prayed, called Prostrati or Genuflectentes(the same name as was given to one of the grades of penitence). (Edw. H. Plumptre in Dict. Christ. Antiq. s. v. Catechumens.)

After these stages had been traversed each with its appropriate instruction, the catechumens gave in their names as applicants for baptism, and were known accordingly as Competentes [Gr. sunaitountes]. This was done commonly at the beginning of the Quadragesimal fast, and the instruction, carried on through the whole of that period, was fuller and more public in its nature (Cyril Hieros. Catech. i. 5; Hieron. Ep. 61, ad Pammach. c. 4:). To catechumens in this stage the great articles of the Creed, the nature of the Sacraments, the penitential discipline of the Church, were explained, as in the Catechetical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem, with dogmatic precision. Special examinations and inquiries into character were made at intervals during the forty days. It was a time for fasting and watching and prayer(Constt. Apost. viii. 5; 4 C. Carth. c. 85; Tertull. De Bapt. c. 20; Cyril. 1. c.) and, in the case of those who were married, of the strictest continence(August. De fide et oper. v. 8). Those who passed through the ordeal were known as the perfectiores [Gr. teleiwterot]the electi, or in the nomenclature of the Eastern Church as [Gr. baptizomenoi] or [Gr. fwtizowenoi], the present participle being used of course with a future or gerundial sense. Their names were inscribed as such in the album or register of the church. They were taught, but not till a few days before their baptism, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer which they were to use after it. The periods for this registration varied, naturally enough, in different churches. At Jerusalem it was done on the second(Cyril. Catech. iii.), in Africa on the fourth Sunday in Lent(August. Serm. 213), and this was the time at which the candidate, if so disposed, might lay aside his old heathen or Jewish name and take one more specifically Christian(Socrat. H. E. vii. 21). . . .It is only necessary to notice here that the Sacramentum Catechumenorum of which Augustine speaks(De Peccat. Merit. ii. 26) as given apparently at or about the time of their first admission by imposition of hands, was probably the [Gr. eul][Gr. giai] or panis benedictus, and not, as Bingham and Augusta maintain, the salt which was given with milk and honey after baptism.


ON account of the great disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to the Church for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter.



Neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. But they shall be sent back, should they attempt to do so, to the Churches in which they were ordained.


The translation of a bishop, priest, or deacon from one church to another, had already been forbidden in the primitive Church. Nevertheless, several translations had taken place, and even at the Council of Nice several eminent men were present who had left their first bishoprics to take others: thus Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, had been before Bishop of Berytus; Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, had been before Bishop of Berrhoea in Syria. The Council of Nice thought it necessary to


forbid in future these translations, and to declare them invalid. The chief reason of this prohibition was found in the irregularities and disputes occasioned by such change of sees; but even if such practical difficulties had not arisen, the whole doctrinal idea, so to speak, of the relationship between a cleric and the church to which he had been ordained, namely, the contracting of a mystical marriage between them, would be opposed to any translation or change. In 341 the Synod of Antioch renewed, in its twenty-first canon, the prohibition passed by the Council of Nice; but the interest of the Church often rendered it necessary to make exceptions, as happened in the case of St. Chrysostom. These exceptional cases increased almost immediately after the holding of the Council of Nice, so that in 382, St. Gregory of Nazianzum considered this law among those which had long been abrogated by custom. It was more strictly observed in the Latin Church; and even Gregory's contemporary, Pope Damasus, declared himself decidedly in favour of the rule of Nice.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici. Decretum, Pars II. Causa VII, Q. 1, c. xix.


There are few points upon which the discipline of the Church has so completely changed as that which regulated, or rather which forbade, the translation of a bishop from the see for which he was consecrated to some other diocese. The grounds on which such prohibition rested were usually that such changes were the outcome of ambition, and that if tolerated the result would be that smaller and less important sees would be despised, and that there would be a constant temptation to the bishops of such sees to make themselves popular with the important persons in other dioceses with the hope of promotion. Besides this objection to translation, St. Athanasius mentions a spiritual one, that the diocese was the bishop's bride, and that to desert it and take another was an act of unjustifiable divorce, and subsequent adultery.(1) Canon XIV. of the Apostolic Canons does not forbid the practice absolutely, but allows it for just cause, and although the Council of Nice is more stringent so far as its words are concerned, apparently forbidding translation under any circumstances, yet, as a matter of fact, that very council did allow and approve a translation.(2) The general feeling, however, of the early Church was certainly very strong against all such changes of Episcopal cure, and there can be no doubt that the chief reason why St. Gregory Nazianzen resigned the Presidency of the First Council of Constantinople, was because he had been translated from his obscure see Sasima(not Nazianzum as Socrates and Jerome say) to the Imperial City.(3)

From the canons of some provincial councils, and especially from those of the Third and of the Fourth Council of Carthage, it is evident that despite the conciliar and papal prohibitions, translations did take place, being made by the authority of the provincial Synods, and without the consent of the pope,(4) but it is also evident that this authority was too weak, and that the aid of the secular power had often to be invoked.

This course, of having the matter decided by the synod, was exactly in accordance with the Apostolic Canon(no. xiv.). In this manner, for example, Alexander was translated from Cappadocia to Jerusalem, a translation made, so it is narrated, in obedience to heavenly revelation. It will be noticed that the Nicene Canon does not forbid Provincial Councils to translate


bishops, but forbids bishops to translate themselves, and the author of the tract De Translationibus in the Jus Orient.(i. 293, Cit. Haddon. Art. "Bishop," Smith and Cheetham, Dict. Chr. Antiq.) sums up the matter tersely in the statement that [Gr. h] [Gr. metabasis] [Gr. kekwlutak],[Gr. ou] [Gr. mhn] [Gr. h] [Gr. metaqesis]: i.e., the thing prohibited is "transmigration"(which arises from the bishop himself, from selfish motives) not "translation"(wherein the will of God and the good of the Church is the ruling cause); the "going," not the "being taken" to another see. And this was the practice both of East and West, for many centuries. Roman Catholic writers have tried to prove that translations, at least to the chief sees, required the papal consent, but Thomassinus, considering the case of St. Meletius having translated St. Gregory of Nazianzum to Constantinople, admits that in so doing he "would only have followed the example of many great bishops of the first ages, when usage had not yet reserved translations to the first see of the Church."(1)

But the same learned author frankly confesses that in France, Spain, and England, translations were made until the ninth century without consulting the pope at all, by bishops and kings. When, however, from grounds of simple ambition, Anthimus was translated from Trebizonde to Constantinople, the religious of the city wrote to the pope, as also did the patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and as a result the Emperor Justinian allowed Anthimus to be deposed.(2)

Balsamon distinguishes three kinds of translations. The first, when a bishop of marked learning and of equal piety is forced by a council to pass from a small diocese to one far greater where he will be able to do the Church the most important services, as was the case when St. Gregory of Nazianzum was transferred from Sasima to Constantinople, [Gr. ?eta], [Gr. esis]; the second when a bishop, whose see has been laid low by the barbarians, is transferred to another see which is vacant, [Gr. metabasis]; and the third when a bishop, either having or lacking a see, seizes on a bishopric which is vacant, on his own proper authority [Gr. anabasis]it is this last which the Council of Sardica punishes so severely. In all these remarks of Balsamon there is no mention of the imperial power.

Demetrius Chomatenus, however, who was Archbishop of Thessalonica, and wrote a series of answers to Cabasilas, Archbishop of Durazzo, says that by the command of the Emperor a bishop, elected and confirmed, and even ready to be ordained for a diocese, may be forced to take the charge of another one which is more important, and where his services will be incomparably more useful to the public. Thus we read in the Book of Eastern Law that "If a Metropolitan with his synod, moved by a praiseworthy cause and probable pretext, shall give his approbation to the translation of a bishop, this can, without doubt, be done, for the good of souls and for the better administration of the church's affairs, etc."(3) This was adopted at a synod held by the patriarch Manuel at Constantinople, in the presence of the imperial commissioners.

The same thing appears also in the synodal response of the patriarch Michael, which only demands for translation the authority of the Metropolitan and "the greatest authority of the Church."(4) But, soon after this, translation became the rule, and not the exception both in East and West.

It was in vain that Simeon, Archbishop of Thessalonica, in the East raised his voice against the constant translations made by the secular power, and the Emperors of Constantinople were often absolute masters of the choice and translations of bishops; and Thomassinus sums up the matter, "At the least we are forced to the conclusion that no translations could


be made without the consent of the Emperor, especially when it was the See of Constantinople that was to be filled."

The same learned writer continues: "It was usually the bishop or archbishop of another church that was chosen to ascend the patriarchal throne of the imperial city. The Kings of England often used this same power to appoint to the Primatial See of Canterbury a bishop already approved in the government of another diocese."(1)

In the West, Cardinal Bellarmine disapproved the prevailing custom of translations and protested against it to his master, Pope Clement VIII., reminding him that they were contrary to the canons and contrary to the usage of the Ancient Church, except in cases of necessity and of great gain to the Church. The pope entirely agreed with these wise observations, and promised that he would himself make, and would urge princes to make, translations only "with difficulty." But translations are made universally, all the world over, today, and no attention whatever is paid to the ancient canons and discipline of the Church.(2)


NEITHER presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, nor regarding the ecclesiastical Canon, shall recklessly remove from their own church, ought by any means to be received by another church; but every constraint should be applied to restore them to their own parishes; and, if they will not go, they must be excommunicated. And if anyone shah dare surreptitiously to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, from whom although he was enrolled in the clergy list he has seceded, let the ordination be void.



Such presbyters or deacons as desert their own Church are not to be admitted into another, but are to be sent back to their own diocese. But if any bishop should ordain one who belongs to another Church without the consent of his own bishop, the ordination shall be cancelled.

"Parish" in this canon, as so often elsewhere, means "diocese."


It seemed right that the clergy should have no power to move from city to city and to change their canonical residence without letters dimissory from the bishop who ordained them. But such clerics as are called by the bishops who ordained them and cannot be persuaded to return, are to be separated from communion, that is to say, not to be allowed to concelebrate [Gr. sunierourgein] with them, for this is the meaning of "excommunicated" in this place, and not that they should not enter the church nor receive the sacraments. This decree agrees with canon xv. of the Apostolical canons, which provides that such shall not celebrate the liturgy. Canon xvi. of the same Apostolical canons further provides that if a bishop receive a cleric coming to him from another diocese without his bishop's letters dimissory, and shall ordain him, such a bishop shall be separated. From all this it is evident that the Chartophylax of the Great Church for the time does rightly in refusing to allow priests ordained in other dioceses to offer the sacrifice unless they bring with them letters commendatory and dimissory from those who ordained them.

Zonaras had also in his Scholion given the same explanation of the canon.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, divided into two. Decretum. Pars II, Causa VII. Quaest. I. c. xxiii.; and Pars I. Dist. LXXI., c. iii.



FORASMUCH as many enrolled among the Clergy, following covetousness and lust of gain, have forgotten the divine Scripture, which says, "He hath not given his money upon usury," and in lending money ask the hundredth of the sum[as monthly interest], the holy and great Synod thinks it just that if after this decree any one be found to receive usury, whether he accomplish it by secret transaction or otherwise, as by demanding the whole and one half, or by using any other contrivance whatever for filthy lucre's sake, he shall be deposed from the clergy and his name stricken from the list.



If anyone shall receive usury or 150 per cent. he shall be cast forth and deposed, according to this decree of the Church.


Although the canon expresses only these two species of usury, if we bear in mind the grounds on which the prohibition was made, it will be manifest that every kind of usury is forbidden to clerics and under any circumstances, and therefore the translation of this canon sent by the Orientals to the Sixth Council of Carthage is in no respect alien to the true intent of the canon; for in this version no mention is made of any particular kind of usury, but generally the penalty is assigned to any clerics who "shall be found after this decree taking usury" or thinking out any other scheme for the sake of filthy lucre.

This Canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, in the first part of the Decretum, in Dionysius's version. Dist. xlvii, c. ii, and again in Isidore's version in Pars II, Causa xiv. Quaes. iv., c. viii.


The famous canonist Van Espen defines usury thus: "Usura definitur lucrum ex mutuo exactum aut speratum;"(1) and then goes on to defend the proposition that, "Usury is forbidden by natural, by divine, and by human law. The first is proved thus. Natural law, as far as its first principles are concerned, is contained in the decalogue; but usury is prohibited in the decalogue, inasmuch as theft is prohibited; and this is the opinion of the Master of the Sentences, of St. Bonaventura, of St. Thomas and of a host of others: for by the name of theft in the Law all unlawful taking of another's goods is prohibited; but usury is an unlawful, etc." For a proof of usury's being contrary to divine law he cites Ex. xxii. 25, and Deut. xxiii. 29; and from the New Testament Luke vi. 34. "The third assertion is proved thus. Usury is forbidden by human law: The First Council of Nice in Canon VII. deposed from the clergy and from all ecclesiastical rank, clerics who took usury; and the same thing is the case with an infinite number of councils, in fact with nearly all e.g. Elvira, ii, Arles j, Carthage iii, Tours iii, etc. Nay, even the pagans themselves formerly forbid it by their laws." He then quotes Tacitus(Annal. lib. v.), and adds, "with what severe laws the French Kings coerced usurers is evident from the edicts of St. Louis, Philip IV., Charles IX., Henry III., etc."

There can be no doubt that Van Espen in the foregoing has accurately represented and without any exaggeration the universal opinion of all teachers of morals, theologians, doctors, Popes, and Councils of the Christian Church for the first fifteen hundred years. All interest exacted upon loans of money was looked upon as usury, and its reception was esteemed a form of theft and dishonesty. Those who wish to read the history of the matter in all its details are referred to Bossuet's work on the subject, Traite de l'Usure,(2) where they will find


the old, traditional view of the Christian religion defended by one thoroughly acquainted with all that could be said on the other side.

The glory of inventing the new moral code on the subject, by which that which before was looked upon as mortal sin has been transfigured into innocence, if not virtue, belongs to John Calvin! He made the modern distinction between "interest" and "usury," and was the first to write in defence of this then new-fangled refinement of casuistry.(1) Luther violently opposed him, and Melancthon also kept to the old doctrine, though less violently(as was to be expected); today the whole Christian West, Protestant and Catholic alike, stake their salvation upon the truth of Calvin's distinction! Among Roman Catholics the new doctrine began to be defended about the beginning of the eighteenth century, the work of Scipio Maffei, Dell' impiego dell danaro, written on the laxer side, having attracted a widespread attention. The Ballerini affirm that the learned pope Benedict XIV. allowed books defending the new morals to be dedicated to him, and in 1830 the Congregation of the Holy Office with the approval of the reigning Pontiff, Plus VIII., decided that those who considered the taking of interest allowed by the state law justifiable, were "not to be disturbed." It is entirely disingenuous to attempt to reconcile the modern with the ancient doctrine; the Fathers expressly deny that the State has any power to make the receiving of interest just or to fix its rate, there is but one ground for those to take who accept the new teaching, viz. that all the ancients, while true on the moral principle that one must not defraud his neighbour nor take unjust advantage of his necessity, were in error concerning the facts, in that they supposed that money was barren, an opinion which the Schoolmen also held, following Aristotle. This we have found in modern times, and amid modern circumstances, to be an entire error, as Gury, the famous modern casuist, well says, "fructum producit et multiplicatur per se."(2)

That the student may have it in his power to read the Patristic view of the matter, I give a list of the passages most commonly cited, together with a review of the conciliar action, for all which I am indebted to a masterly article by Wharton B. Marriott in Smith and Cheetham's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities(s. v. Usury).

Although the conditions of the mercantile community in the East and the West differed materially in some respects, the fathers of the two churches are equally explicit and systematic in their condemnation of the practice of usury. Among those belonging to the Greek church we find Athanasius(Expos. in Ps. xiv); Basil the Great(Hom. in Ps. xiv). Gregory of Nazianzum(Orat. xiv. in Patrem tacentem). Gregory of Nyssa(Orat. cont. Usurarios); Cyril of Jerusalem(Catech. iv. c. 37), Epiphanius(adv. Haeres. Epilog. c. 24), Chrysostom(Hom. xli. in Genes), and Theodoret(Interpr. in Ps. xiv. 5, and liv. 11). Among those belonging to the Latin church, Hilary of Poitiers(in Ps. xiv); Ambrose(de Tobia liber unus). Jerome(in Ezech. vi. 18); Augustine de Baptismo contr. Donatistas, iv. 19); Leo the Great(Epist. iii. 4), and Cassiodorus {in Ps. xiv. 10).

The canons of later councils differ materially in relation to this subject, and indicate a distinct tendency to mitigate the rigour of the Nicaean interdict. That of the council of Carthage of the year 348 enforces the original prohibition, but without the penalty, and grounds the veto on both Old and New Testament authority, "nemo contra prophetas, nemo contra evangelia facit sine periculo"(Mansi, iii. 158). The language, however, when compared with that of the council of Carthage of the year 419, serves to suggest that, in the interval, the lower clergy had occasionally been found having recourse to the forbidden practice, for the general terms of the earlier canon, "ut non liceat clericis fenerari," are enforced with


greater particularity in the latter, "Nec omnino cuiquam clericorum liceat de qualibet re foenus accipere"(Mansi, iv. 423). This supposition is supported by the language of the council of Orleans(A.D. 538), which appears to imply that deacons were not prohibited from lending money at interest, "Et clericus a diaconatu, et supra, pecuniam non commodet ad usuras"(ib. ix. 18). Similarly, at the second council of Trullanum(A.D. 692) a like liberty would appear to have been recognised among the lower clergy(Hardouin, iii. 1663). While, again, the Nicaean canon requires the immediate deposition of the ecclesiastic found guilty of the practice, the Apostolical canon enjoins that such deposition is to take place only after he has been admonished and has disregarded the admonition.

Generally speaking, the evidence points to the conclusion that the Church imposed no penalty on the layman. St. Basil(Epist. clxxxviii. can. 12), says that a usurer may even be admitted to orders, provided he gives his acquired wealth to the poor and abstains for the future from the pursuit of gain(Migne, Patrol. Groec. xxxii. 275). Gregory of Nyssa says that usury, unlike theft, the desecration of tombs, and sacrilege [Gr. ierosulia], is allowed to pass unpunished, although among the things forbidden by Scripture, nor is a candidate at ordination ever asked whether or no he has been guilty of the practice(Migne, ib. xlv. 233). A letter of Sidonius Apollinaris(Epist. vi. 24) relating an experience of his friend Maximus, appears to imply that no blame attached to lending money at the legal rate of interest, and that even a bishop might be a creditor on those terms. We find also Desideratus, bishop of Verdun, when applying for a loan to king Theodebert, for the relief of his impoverished diocese, promising repayment, "cure usuris legitimis," an expression which would seem to imply that in the Gallican church usury was recognised as lawful under certain conditions(Greg. Tur. Hist. Franc. iii. 34). So again a letter(Epist. ix. 38) of Gregory the Great seems to shew that he did not regard the payment of interest for money advanced by one layman to another as unlawful. But on the other hand, we find in what is known as archbishop Theodore's "Penitential"(circ. A.D. 690) what appears to be a general law on the subject, enjoining "Sie quis usuras undecunque exegerit . . . tres annos in pane et aqua"(c. xxv. 3); a penance again enjoined in the Penitential of Egbert of York(c. ii. 30). In like manner, the legates, George and Theophylact, in reporting their proceedings in England to pope Adrian I.(A.D. 787), state that they have prohibited "usurers," and cite the authority of the Psalmist and St. Augustine(Haddan and Stubbs, Conc. iii. 457). The councils of Mayence, Rheims, and Chalons, in the year 813, and that of Aix in the year 816, seem to have laid down the same prohibition as binding both on the clergy and the laity(Hardouin, Conc. iv. 1011, 1020, 1033, 1100).

Muratori, in his dissertation on the subject(Antichita, vol. i.), observes that "we do not know exactly how commerce was transacted in the five preceding centuries," and consequently are ignorant as to the terms on which loans of money were effected.


IT has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer. And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now touch the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be utterly done away, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter administer to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the presbyters, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the diaconate.




Deacons must abide within their own bounds. They shall not administer the Eucharist to presbyters, nor touch it before them, nor sit among the presbyters. For all this is contrary to canon, and to decent order.


Four excesses of deacons this canon condemns, at least indirectly. The first was that they gave the holy Communion to presbyters. To understand more easily the meaning of the canon it must be remembered that the reference here is not to the presbyters who were sacrificing at the altar but to those who were offering together with the bishop who was sacrificing; by a rite not unlike that which to-day takes place, when the newly ordained presbyters or bishops celebrate mass with the ordaining bishop; and this rite in old times was of daily occurrence, for a full account of which see Morinus De SS. Ordinat. P. III. Exercit. viii. . . . The present canon does not take away from deacons the authority to distribute the Eucharist to laymen, or to the minor clergy, but only reproves their insolence and audacity in presuming to administer to presbyters who were concelebrating with the bishop or another presbyter.

The second abuse was that certain deacons touched the sacred gifts before the bishop. The vulgar version of Isidore reads for "touched" "received," a meaning which Balsamon and Zonaras also adopt, and unless the Greek word, which signifies "to touch," is contrary to this translation, it seems by no means to be alien to the context of the canon.

"Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let the bishop or the presbyter administer to them." In these words it is implied that some deacons had presumed to receive Holy Communion before the presbyters, and this is the third excess of the deacon which is condemned by the Synod.

And lastly, the fourth excess was that they took a place among the presbyters at the very time of the sacrifice, or "at the holy altar," as Balsamon observes.

From this canon we see that the Nicene, fathers entertained no doubt that the faithful in the holy Communion truly received "the body of Christ." Secondly, that that was "offered" in the church, which is the word by which sacrifice is designated in the New Testament, and therefore it was at that time a fixed tradition that there was a sacrifice in which the body of Christ was offered. Thirdly that not to all, nor even to deacons, but only to bishops and presbyters was given the power of offering. And lastly, that there was recognized a fixed hierarchy in the Church, made up of bishops and presbyters and deacons in subordination to these.

Of course even at that early date there was nothing new in this doctrine of the Eucharist. St. Ignatius more than a century and a half before, wrote as follows: "But mark ye those who hold strange doctrine touching the grace of Jesus Christ which came to us, how that they are contrary to the mind of God. They have no care for love, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the afflicted, none for the prisoner, none for the hungry or thirsty. They abstain from eucharist(thanksgiving) and prayer, because they allow not that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father of his goodness raised up."(1)

In one point the learned scholiast just quoted has most seriously understated his case. He says that the wording of the canon shews "that the Nicene fathers entertained no doubt that the faithful in the holy Communion truly received 'the body of Christ.'" Now this statement is of course true because it is included in what the canon says, but the doctrinal statement which is necessarily contained in the canon is that "the body of Christ is given" by the minister to the faithful. This doctrine is believed by all Catholics and by Lutherans, but is denied by all other Protestants; those Calvinists who kept most nearly to the ordinary Catholic phraseology only admitting that "the sacrament of the Body of Christ" was given in the supper by the minister, while "the body of Christ," they taught, was present only in the soul of the worthy communicant(and in no way connected with the form of bread, which was but the divinely appointed sign and assurance of the heavenly gift), and therefore could not be "given" by the priest.(2)

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Decretum. Pars I. Dist. XCIII., c. xiv.



CONCERNING the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.



Paulianists must be rebaptised, and if such as are clergymen seem to be blameless let then, be ordained. If they do not seem to be blameless, let them be deposed. Deaconesses who have been led astray, since they are not sharers of ordination, are to be reckoned among the laity.


(Dict. Chr. Ant. s.v. Nicaea, Councils of.) That this is the true meaning of the phrase [Gr. oros] [Gr. ekteqeitai], viz. "a decree has now been made," is clear from the application of the words [Gr. oros] in Canon xvii., and [Gr. wrisen], in Canon vi. It has been a pure mistake, therefore, which Bp. Hefele blindly follows, to understand it of some canon previously passed, whether at Aries or elsewhere.


Here [Gr. keiroqesia] is taken for ordination or consecration, not for benediction, for neither were deaconesses, sub-deacons, readers, and other ministers ordained, but a blessing was merely pronounced over them by prayer and imposition of hands.


Their(the Paulicians') deaconesses also, since they have no imposition of hands, if they come over to the Catholic Church and are baptized, are ranked among the laity.

With this Zonaras and Balsamon also agree.


By Paulianists must be understood the followers of Paul of Samosata the anti-Trinitarian who, about the year 260, had been made bishop of Antioch, but had been deposed by a great Synod in 269. As Paul of Samosata was heretical in his teaching on the Holy Trinity the Synod of Nice applied to him the decree passed by the council of Arles in its eighth canon. "If anyone shall come from heresy to the Church, they shall ask him to say the creed; and if they shall perceive that he was baptized into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, (1) he shall have a hand laid on him only that he may receive the Holy Ghost. But if in answer to their questioning he shall not answer this Trinity, let him be baptized."

The Samosatans, according to St. Athanasius, named the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in administering baptism(Oral. ii, Contra Arian. No. xliii), but as they gave a false meaning to the baptismal formula and did not use the words Son and Holy Spirit in the usual sense, the Council of Nice, like St. Athanasius himself, considered their baptism as invalid.

There is great difficulty about the text of the clause beginning "Likewise in the case, etc.," and Gelasius, the Prisca, Theilo and Thearistus,(who in 419 translated the canons of Nice for the African bishops), the PseudoIsidore, and Gratian have all followed a reading [Gr. diakonwn], instead of [Gr. diakonisspn]. This change makes all clear, but many canonists keep the ordinary text, including Van Espen, with whose interpretation Hefele does not agree.

The clause I have rendered "And we mean by deaconesses" is most difficult of translation. I give the original, 'E [Gr. mnhsqhm] [Gr. n] [Gr. tpn] [Gr. en] [Gr. tp] [Gr. skhmati] [Gr. exetasqeispn], [Gr. epei]. Hefele's translation seems to me impossible, by [Gr. skhmati] he understands the list of the clergy just mentioned.



It has been supposed by many that the deaconess of the Early Church had an Apostolic institution and that its existence may be referred to by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans(xvi. 1) where he speaks of Phoebe as being a [Gr. diakonos] of the Church of Cenchrea. It moreover has been suggested that the "widows" of 1 Tim. v. 9 may have been deaconesses, and this seems not unlikely from the fact that the age for the admission of women to this ministry was fixed by Tertullian at sixty years(De Vel. Virg. Cap. ix.), and only changed to forty, two centuries later by the Council of Chalcedon, and from the further fact that these "widows" spoken of by St. Paul seem to have had a vow of chastity, for it is expressly said that if they marry they have "damnation, because they have cast off their first faith"(1 Tim. v. 12).

These women were called [Gr. diakonissbi], [Gr. Presbutides](which must be distinguished from the [Gr. presbuterai], a poor class referred to in the Apostolic Constitutions(ii. 28) who are to be only invited frequently to the love- feasts, while the [Gr. pr],[Gr. sbutioes] had a definite allotment of the offerings assigned to their support), [Gr. khrai], diaconissoe, presbyteroe, and viduce.

The one great characteristic of the deaconess was that she was vowed to perpetual chastity.(1) The Apostolical Constitutions(vi. 17) say that she must be a chaste virgin([Gr. parqenos] [Gr. agnh]) or else a widow. The writer of the article "Deaconess" in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities says: "It is evident that the ordination of deaconesses included a vow of celibacy." We have already seen the language used by St. Paul and of this the wording of the canon of Chalcedon is but an echo(Canon xv). "A woman shall not receive the laying on of hands as a deaconess under forty years of age, and then only after searching examination. And if, after she has had hands laid on her, and has continued for a time to minister, she shall despise the Grace of God and give herself in marriage, she shall be anathematized and the man who is united to her." The civil law went still further, and by Justinian's Sixth Novel(6) those who attempted to marry are subjected to forfeiture of property and capital punishment. In the collect in the ancient office there is a special petition that the newly admitted deaconess may have the gift of continence.

The principal work of the deaconess was to assist the female candidates for holy baptism. At that time the sacrament of baptism was always administered by immersion(except to those in extreme illness) and hence there was much that such an order of women could be useful in. Moreover they sometimes gave to the female catechumens preliminary instruction, but their work was wholly limited to women, and for a deaconess of the Early Church to teach a man or to nurse him in sickness would have been an impossibility. The duties of the deaconess are set forth in many ancient writings, I cite here what is commonly known as the XII Canon of the Fourth Council of Carthage, which met in the year 398:

"Widows and dedicated women(sanctimoniales) who are chosen to assist at the baptism of women, should be so well instructed in their office as to be able to teach aptly and properly unskilled and rustic women how to answer at the time of their baptism to the questions put to them, and also how to live godly after they have been baptized." This whole matter is treated clearly by St. Epiphanius who, while indeed speaking of deaconesses as an order([Gr. tagma]), asserts that "they were only women-elders, not priestesses in any sense, that their


mission was not to interfere in any way with Sacerdotal functions, but simply to perform certain offices in the care of women"(Hoer. lxxix, cap. iii). From all this it is evident that they are entirely in error who suppose that "the laying on of hands" which the deaconesses received corresponded to that by which persons were ordained to the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate at that period of the church's history. It was merely a solemn dedication and blessing and was not looked upon as "an outward sign of an inward grace given." For further proof of this I must refer to Morinus, who has treated the matter most admirably.(De Ordinationibus, Exercitatio X.)

The deaconesses existed but a short while. The council of Laodicea as early as A.D. 343-381, forbade the appointment of any who were called [Gr. presbutides](Vide Canon xi); and the first council of Orange, A.D. 441, in its twenty-sixth canon forbids the appointment of deaconesses altogether, and the Second council of tile same city in canons xvii and xviii, decrees that deaconesses who married were to be excommunicated unless they renounced the men they were living with, and that, on account of the weakness of the sex, none for the future were to be ordained.

Thomassinus, to whom I refer tim reader for a very full treatment of the whole subject, is of opinion that the order was extinct in the West by the tenth or twelfth century, but that it lingered on a little later at Constantinople but only in conventual institutions.(Thomassin, Ancienne et Nouvelle Discipline de l' Eglise, I Partie, Livre III.)


FORASMUCH as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.



On Lord's days and at Pentecost all must pray standing and not kneeling.


Although kneeling was the common posture for prayer in the primitive Church, yet the custom had prevailed, even from the earliest times, of standing at prayer on the Lord's day, and during the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. Tertullian, in a passage in his treatise De Corona Militis, which is often quoted, mentions it amongst other ohservances which, though not expressly commanded in Scripture, yet were universally practised upon the authority of tradition. "We consider it unlawful," he says, "to fast, or to pray kneeling, upon the Lord's day; we enjoy the same liberty from Easter-day to that of Pentecost." De Cor. Mil. s. 3, 4. Many other of the Fathers notice the same practice, the reason of which, as given by Augustine; and others, was to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord, and to signify the rest and joy of our own resurrection, which that of our Lord assured. This canon, as Beveridge observes, is a proof of the importance formerly attached to an uniformity of sacred rites throughout the Church, which made the Nicene Fathers thus sanction and enforce by their authority a practice which in itself is indifferent, and not commanded directly or indirectly in Scripture, and assign this as their reason for doing so: "In order that all things may be observed in like manner in every parish" or diocese.


All the churches did not, however, adopt this practice; for we see in the Acts of the Apostles(xx. 36 and xxi. 5) that St. Paul prayed kneeling during the time between Pentecost and Easter.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici. Decretum, Pars III, De Cone. Dist. III. c. x.



There has come down to us a Latin letter purporting to have been written by St. Athanasius to Pope Marcus. This letter is found in the Benedictine edition of St. Athanasius's works(ed. Patav. ii. 599) but rejected as spurious by Montfaucon the learned editor. In this letter is contained the marvellous assertion that the Council of Nice at first adopted forty canons, which were in Greek, that it subsequently added twenty Latin canons, and that afterwards the council reassembled and set forth seventy altogether. A tradition that something of the kind had taken place was prevalent in parts of the East, and some collections did contain seventy canons.

In the Vatican Library is a MS. which was bought for it by the famous Asseman, from the Coptic Patriarch, John, and which contains not only seventy, but eighty canons attributed to the council of Nice. The MS. is in Arabic, and was discovered by J. B. Romanus, S. J., who first made its contents known, and translated into Latin a copy he had made of it. Another Jesuit, Pisanus, was writing a history of the Nicene Council at the time and he received the eighty newly found canons into his book; but, out of respect to the pseudo-Athanasian letter, he at first cut down the number to seventy; but in later editions he followed the MS. All this was in the latter half of the sixteenth century; and in 1578 Turrianus, who had had Father Romanus's translation revised before it was first published, now issued an entirely new translation with a Proemium(1) containing a vast amount of information upon the whole subject, and setting up an attempted proof that the number of the Nicene Canons exceeded twenty. His argument for the time being carried the day.

Hefele says, "it is certain that the Orientals(2) believed the Council of Nice to have promulgated more than twenty canons: the learned Anglican, Beveridge,(3) has proved this, reproducing an ancient Arabic paraphrase of the canons of the first four Ecumenical Councils. According to this Arabic paraphrase, found in a MS. in the Bodleian Library, the Council of Nice must have put forth three books of canons. . . . The Arabic paraphrase of which we are speaking gives a paraphrase of all these canons, but Beveridge took only the part referring to the second book--that is to say, the paraphrase of the twenty genuine canons; for, according to his view, which was perfectly correct, it was only these twenty canons which were really the work of the Council of Nice, and all the others were falsely attributed to it."(4)

Hefele goes on to prove that the canons he rejects must be of much later origin, some being laws of the times of Theodosius and Justinian according to the opinion of Renaudot.(5)

Before leaving this point I should notice the profound research on these Arabic canons of the Maronite, Abraham Echellensis. He gives eighty-four canons in his Latin translation of 1645, and was of opinion that they had been collected from different Oriental sources, and sects; but that originally they had all been translated from the Greek, and were collected by James, the celebrated bishop of Nisibis, who was present at Nice. But this last supposition is utterly untenable.

Among the learned there have not been wanting some who have held that the Council of Nice passed more canons than the twenty we possess, and have arrived at the conclusion independently of the Arabic discovery, such are Baronius and Card. d'Aguirre, but their arguments have been sufficiently answered, and they cannot present anything able to weaken the conclusion that flows from the consideration of the following facts.


(Hefele: History of the Councils, Vol. I. pp. 355 et seqq.[2ded.]) Let us see first what is the testimony of those Greek and Latin authors who lived about the time of the Council, concerning the number.

a. The first to be consulted among the Greek authors is the learned Theodoret, who lived about a century after the Council of Nicaea. He says, in his History of the Church: "After the condemnation of the Arians, the bishops assembled once more, and decreed twenty canons on ecclesiastical discipline."

b. Twenty years later, Gelasius, Bishop of Cyzicus, after much research into the most ancient documents, wrote a history of the Nicene Council. Gelasius also says expressly that the Council decreed twenty canons; and, what is more important, he gives the original text of these canons exactly in the same order, and according to the tenor which we find elsewhere.

c. Rufinus is more ancient than these two historians. He was born near the period when the Council of Nicaea was held, and about half a century after he wrote his celebrated history of the Church, in which he inserted a Latin translation of the Nicene canons. Rufinus also knew only of these twenty canons; but as he has divided the sixth and the eighth into two parts, he has given twenty-two canons, which are exactly the same as the twenty furnished by the other historians.

d. The famous discussion between the African bishops and the Bishop of Rome, on the subject of appeals to Rome, gives us a very important testimony on the true number of the Nicene canons. The presbyter Apiarius of Sicca in Africa, having been deposed for many crimes, appealed to Rome. Pope Zosimus(417-418) took the appeal into consideration, sent legates to Africa; and to prove that he had the right to act thus, he quoted a canon of the Council of Nicaea, containing these words: "When a bishop thinks he has been unjustly deposed by his colleagues he may appeal to Rome, and the Roman bishop shall have the business decided by judices in partibus." The canon quoted by the Pope does not belong to the Council of Nicaea, as he affirmed; it was the fifth canon of the Council of Sardica(the seventh in the Latin version). What explains the error of Zosimus is that in the ancient copies the canons of Nicaea and Sardica are written consecutively, with the same figures, and under the common title of canons of the Council of Nicaea; and Zosimus might optima fide fall into an error-- which he shared with Greek authors, his contemporaries, who also mixed the canons of Nicaea with those of Sardica. The African bishops, not finding the canon quoted by the Pope either in their Greek or in their Latin copies, in vain consulted also the copy which Bishop Cecilian, who had himself been present at the Council of Nicaea, had brought to Carthage. The legates of the Pope then declared that they did not rely upon these copies, and they agreed to send to Alexandria and to Constantinople to ask the patriarchs of these two cities for authentic copies of the canons of the Council of Nicaea. The African bishops desired in their turn that Pope Boniface should take the same step(Pope Zosimus had died meanwhile in 418)--that he should ask for copies from the Archbishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. Cyril of Alexandria and Atticus of Constantinople, indeed, sent exact and faithful copies of the Creed and canons of Nicaea; and two learned men of Constantinople, Theilo and Thearistus, even translated these canons into Latin. Their translation has been preserved to us in the acts of the sixth Council of Carthage, and it contains only the twenty ordinary canons. It might be thought at first sight that it contained twenty-one canons; but on closer consideration we see, as Hardouin has proved, that this twenty-first article is nothing but an historical notice appended to the Nicene canons by the Fathers of Carthage. It is conceived in these terms: "After the bishops had decreed these rules at Nicaea, and after the holy Council had decided what was the ancient rule for the celebration of Easter, peace and unity of faith were re-established between the East and the West. This is what we(the African bishops) have thought it right to add according to the history of the Church."


The bishops of Africa despatched to Pope Boniface the copies which had been sent to them from Alexandria and Constantinople, in the month of November 419; and subsequently in their letters to Celestine I. (423-432), successor to Boniface, they appealed to the text of these documents.

e. All the ancient collections of canons, either in Latin or Greek, composed in the fourth, or quite certainly at least in the fifth century, agree in giving only these twenty canons to Nicaea. The most ancient of these collections were made in the Greek Church, and in the course of time a very great number of copies of them were written. Many of these copies have descended to us; many libraries possess copies; thus Montfaucon enumerates several in his Bibliotheca Coisliniana. Fabricius makes a similar catalogue of the copies in his Bibliotheca Groeca to those found in the libraries of Turin, Florence, Venice, Oxford, Moscow, etc.; and he adds that these copies also contain the so-called apostolic canons, and those of the most ancient councils. The French bishop John Tilius presented to Paris, in 1540, a MS. of one of these Greek collections as it existed in the ninth century. It contains exactly our twenty canons of Nicaea, besides the so-called apostolic canons, those of Ancyra, etc. Elias Ehmger published a new edition at Wittemberg in 1614, using a second MS. which was found at Augsburg; but the Roman collection of the Councils had before given in 1608, the Greek text of the twenty canons of Nicaea. This text of the Roman editors, with the exception of some insignificant variations, was exactly the same as that of the edition of Tilius. Neither the learned Jesuit Sirmond nor his coadjutors have mentioned what manuscripts were consulted in preparing this edition; probably they were manuscripts drawn from several libraries, and particularly from that of the Vatican. The text of this Roman edition passed into all the following collections, even into those of Hardouin and Mansi; while Justell in his Bibliotheca juris Canonici and Beveridge in his Synodicon(both of the eighteenth century), give a somewhat different text, also collated from MSS., and very similar to the text given by Tilius. Bruns, in his recent Bibliotheca Ecclesiastica, compares the two texts. Now all these Greek MSS, consulted at such different times, and by all these editors, acknowledge only twenty canons of Nicaea, and always the same twenty which we possess.

The Latin collections of the canons of the Councils also give the same result--for example, the most ancient and the most remarkable of all, the Prisca, and that of Dionysius the Less, which was collected about the year 500. The testimony of this latter collection is the more important for the number twenty, as Dionysius refers to the Groeca auctoritas.

f. Among the later Eastern witnesses we may further mention Photius, Zonaras and Balsamon. Photius, in his Collection of the Canons, and in his Nomocanon, as well as the two other writers in their commentaries upon the canons of the ancient Councils, quote only and know only twenty canons of Nicaea, and always those which we possess.

g. The Latin canonists of the Middle Ages also acknowledge only these twenty canons of Nicaea. We have proof of this in the celebrated Spanish collection, which is generally but erroneously attributed to St. Isidore(it was composed at the commencement of the seventh century), and in that of Adrian(so called because it was offered to Charles the Great by Pope Adrian I). The celebrated Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, the first canonist of the ninth century, in his turn attributes only twenty canons to the Council of Nicaea, and even the pseudo-Isidore assigns it no more.

I add for the convenience of the reader the captions of the Eighty Canons as given by Turrianus, translating them from the reprint in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. II. col. 291. The Eighty-four Canons as given by Echellensis together with numerous Constitutions and Decrees attributed to the Nicene Council are likewise to be found in Labbe(ut supra, col. 318).



CANON I. (1)

Insane persons and energumens should not be ordained


Bond servants are not to be ordained.


Neophytes in the faith are not to be ordained to Holy Orders before they have a knowledge of Holy Scripture. And such, if convicted after their ordination of grave sin, are to be deposed with those who ordained them.


The cohabitation of women with bishops, presbyters, and deacons prohibited on account of their celibacy.

We decree that bishops shall not live with women; nor shall a presbyter who is a widower; neither shall they escort them; nor be familiar with them, nor gaze upon them persistently. And the same decree is made with regard to every celibate priest, and the same concerning such deacons as have no wives. And this is to be the case whether the woman be beautiful or ugly, whether a young girl or beyond the age of puberty, whether great in birth, or an orphan taken out of charity under pretext of bringing her up. For the devil with such arms slays religious, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and incites them to the fires of desire. But if she be an old woman, and of advanced age, or a sister, or mother, or aunt, or grandmother, it is permitted to live with these because such persons are free from all suspicion of scandal.(2)


Of the election of a bishop and of the confirmation of the election.


That those excommunicated by one bishop are not to be received by another; and that those whose excommunication has been shown to have been unjust should be absolved by the archbishop or patriarch.


That provincial Councils should be held twice a year, for the consideration of all things affecting the churches of the bishops of the province.


Of the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, and of their jurisdiction.


Of one who solicits the episcopate when the people do not wish him; or if they do desire him, but without the consent of the archbishop.


How the bishop of Jerusalem is to be honoured, the honour, however, of the metropolitan church of Caesarea being preserved intact, to which he is subject.


Of those who force themselves into the order of presbyters without election or examination.


Of the bishop who ordains one whom he understands has denied the faith; also of one ordained who after that he had denied it, crept into orders.


Of one who of his own will goes to another church, having been chosen by it, and does not wish afterwards to stay there.

Of taking pains that he be transferred from his own church to another.


No one shall become a monk without the bishop's license, and why a license is required.


That clerics or religious who lend on usury should be cast from their grade.


Of the honour to be paid to the bishop and to a presbyter by the deacons.


Of the system and of the manner of receiving those who are converted from the heresy of Paul of Samosata.



Of the system and manner of receiving those who are converted from the heresy the Novatians.


Of the system and manner of receiving those who return after a lapse from the faith, and of receiving the relapsed, and of those brought into peril of death by sickness before their penance is finished, and concerning such as are convalescent.


Of avoiding the conversation of evil workers and wizards, also of the penance of them that have not avoided such.


Of incestuous marriages contrary to the law of Spiritual relationship, and of the penance of such as are in such marriages.

[The time of penance fixed is twenty years, only godfather and godmother are mentioned, and nothing is said of separation.]


Of sponsors in baptism.

Men shall not hold females at the font, neither women males; but women females, and men males.


Of the prohibited marriages of spiritual brothers and sisters from receiving them in baptism.


Of him who has married two wives at the same time, or who through lust has added another woman to his wife; and of his punishment.

Part of the canon. If he be a priest he is forbidden to sacrifice and is cut off from the communion of the faithful until he turn out of the house the second woman, and he ought to retain the first.


That no one should be forbidden Holy Communion unless such as are doing penance.


Clerics are forbidden from suretyship or witness-giving in criminal causes.


Of avoiding the excommunicate, and of not receiving the oblation from them; and of the

excommunication of him who does not avoid the excommunicated.


How anger, indignation, and hatred should be avoided by the priest, especially because he has the power of excommunicating others.


Of not kneeling in prayer.


Of giving[only] names of Christians in baptism, and of heretics who retain the faith in the Trinity and the perfect form of baptism; and of others not retaining it, worthy of a worse name, and of how such are to be received when they come to the faith.


Of the system and manner of receiving converts to the Orthodox faith from the heresy of Arius and of other like.


Of the system of receiving those who have kept the dogmas of the faith and the Church's laws, and yet have separated from us and afterwards come back.


Of the place of residence of the Patriarch, and of the honour which should be given to the bishop of Jerusalem and to the bishop of Seleucia.


Of the honour to be given to the Archbishop of Seleucia in the Synod of Greece.


Of not holding a provincial synod in the province of Persia without the authority of the patriarch of Antioch, and how the bishops of Persia are subject to the metropolitans of Antioch.


Of the creation of a patriarch for Ethiopia, and of his power, and of the honour to be paid him in the Synod of Greece.


Of the election of the Archbishop of Cyprus, who is subject to the patriarch of Antioch.


That the ordination of ministers of the Church by bishops in the dioceses of strangers is forbidden.



Of the care and power which a Patriarch has over the bishops and archbishops of his patriarchate; and of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over all.

Let the patriarch consider what things are done by the archbishops and bishops in their provinces; and if he shall find anything done by them otherwise than it should be, let him change it, and order it, as seemeth him fit: for he is the father of all, and they are his sons. And although the archbishop be among the bishops as an elder brother, who hath the care of his brethren, and to whom they owe obedience because he is over them; yet the patriarch is to all those who are under his power, just as he who holds the seat of Rome, is the head and prince of all patriarchs; in-asmuch as he is first, as was Peter, to whom power is given over all Christian princes, and over all their peoples, as he who is the Vicar of Christ our Lord over all peoples and over the whole Christian Church, and whoever shall contradict this, is excommunicated by the Synod.(1)

[I add Canon XXXVII. of Echellensis's Nova Versio LXXXIV. Arabic. Canonum Conc. Nicoeni, that the reader may compare it with the foregoing.]

Let there be only four patriarchs in the whole world as there are four writers of the Gospel, and four rivers, etc. And let there be a prince and chief over them, the lord of the see of the Divine Peter at Rome, according as the Apostles commanded. And after him the lord of the great Alexandria, which is the see of Mark. And the third is the lord of Ephesus, which is the see of John the Divine who speaks divine things. And the fourth and last is my lord of Antioch, which is another see of Peter. And let all the bishops be divided under the hands of these four patriarchs; and the bishops of the little towns which are under the dominion of the great cities let them be under the authority of these metropolitans. But let every metropolitan of these great cities appoint the bishops of his province, but let none of the bishops appoint him, for he is greater than they. Therefore let every man know his own rank, and let him not usurp the rank of another. And whosoever shall contradict this law which we have established the Fathers of the Synod subject him to anathema.(2)


Of the provincial synod which should be held twice every year, and of its utility; together with the excommunication of such as oppose the decree.


Of the synod of Archbishops, which meets once a year with the Patriarch, and of its utility; also of the collection to be made for the support of the patriarch throughout the provinces and places subject to the patriarch.


Of a cleric or monk who when fallen into sin, and summoned once, twice, and thrice, does not present himself for trial.


What the patriarch should do in the case of a defendant set at liberty unpunished by the decision of the bishop, presbyter, or even of a deacon, as the case may be.


How an archbishop ought to give trial to one of his suffragan bishops.


Of the receiving of complaints and condemnation of an archbishop against his patriarch.


How a patriarch should admit a complaint; or judgment of an Archbishop against an Archbishop.


Of those excommunicated by a certain one, when they can be and when they cannot be absolved by another.


No bishop shall choose his own successor.


No simoniacal ordinations shall be made.


There shall be but one bishop of one city, and one parochus of one town; also the incumbent, whether bishop or parish priest, shall not be removed in favour of a successor desired by some of the people unless he has been convicted of manifest crime.


Bishops shall not allow the separation of a wife from her husband on account of discord--[in American, "incompatibility of temper"].



Usury and the base seeking of worldly gain is forbidden to the clergy, also conversation and fellowship with Jews.


Marriages with infidels to be avoided.


Of the election of a chorepiscopus, and of his duties in towns, and villages, and monasteries.


How a chorepiscopus should visit the churches and monasteries which are under his jurisdiction.


Of how the presbyters of the towns and villages should go twice a year with their chorepiscopus to salute the bishop, and how religious should do so once a year from their monasteries, and how the new abbot of a monastery should go thrice.


Of the rank in sitting during the celebration of service in church by the bishop, the archdeacon and the chorepiscopus; and of the office of archdeacon, and of the honour due the archpresbyter.


Of the honour flue the archdeacon and the chorepiscopus when they sit in church during the absence of the bishop, and when they go about with the bishop.


How all the grades of the clergy and their duties should be publicly described and set forth.


Of how men are to be chosen from the diocese for holy orders, and of how they should be examined.


Of the honour due to the deacons, and how the clerics must not put themselves in their way.


The number of presbyters and deacons is to be adapted to the work of the church and to its means.


Of the Ecclesiastical Economist and of the others who with him care for the church's possessions.


Of the offices said in the church, the night and day offices, and of the collect for all those who rule that church.


Of the order to be observed at the funeral of a bishop, of a chorepiscopus and of an archdeacon, and of the office of exequies.


Of taking a second wife, after the former one has been disowned for any cause, or even not put away, and of him who falsely accuses his wife of adultery.

If any priest or deacon shall put away his wife on account of her fornication, or for other cause, as aforesaid, or cast her out of doors for external good, or that he may change her for another more beautiful, or better, or richer, or does so out of his lust which is displeasing to God; and after she has been put away for any of these causes he shall contract matrimony with another, or without having put her away shall take another, whether free or bond; and shall have both equally, they living separately and he sleeping every night with one or other of them, or else keeping both in the same house and bed, let him be deposed. If he were a layman let him be deprived of communion. But if anyone falsely defames his wife charging her with adultery, so that he turns her out of doors, the matter must be diligently examined; and if the accusation was false, he shall be deposed if a cleric, but if a layman shall be prohibited from entering the church and from the communion of the faithful; and shall be compelled to live with her whom he has defamed, even though she be deformed, and poor, and insane; and whoever shall not obey is excommunicated by the Synod.

[Note.--The reader will notice that by this canon a husband is deposed or excommunicated, as the case may be, if he marry another woman, after putting away his wife on account of her adultery. It is curious that in the parallel canon in the collection of Echellensis, which is numbered LXXI., the reading is quite different, although it is very awkward and inconsequent as given. Moreover, it should be remembered that in some codices and editions this canon is lacking altogether, one on the right of the Pope to receive appeals taking its place. As this canon is of considerable length, I only quote the interesting parts.]

Whatever presbyter or deacon shall put away his wife without the offence of fornica-


tion, or for any other cause of which we have spoken above, and shall east her out of doors . . . such a person shall be east out of the clergy, if he were a clergyman; if a layman he shall be forbidden the communion of the faithful. But if that woman[untruly charged by her husband with adultery], that is to say his wife, spurns his society on account of the injury he has done her and the charge he has brought against her, of which she is innocent, let her freely be put away and let a bill of repudiation be written for her, noting the false accusation which had been brought against her. And then if she should wish to marry some other faithful man, it is right for he; to do so, nor does the Church forbid it; and the same permission extends as well to men as to women, since there is equal reason for it for each. But if he shall return to better fruit which is of the same kind, and shall conciliate to himself the love and benevolence of his consort, and shall be willing to return to his pristine friendship, his fault shall be condoned to him after he has done suitable and sufficient penance. And whoever shall speak against this decree the fathers of the synod excommunicate him.


Of having two wives at the same time, and of a woman who is one of the faithful marrying an infidel; and of the form of receiving her to penance.[Her reception back is conditioned upon her leaving the infidel man.]


Of giving in marriage to an infidel a daughter or sister without her knowledge and contrary to her wish.


Of one of the faithful who departs from the faith through lust and love of an infidel; and of the form of receiving him back, or admitting him to penance.


Of the hospital to be established in every city, and of the choice of a superintendent and concerning his duties. [It is interesting to note that one of the duties of the superintendent is--"That if the goods of the hospital are not sufficient for its expenses, he ought to collect all the time and from all Christians provision according to the ability of each."]


Of the placing a bishop or archbishop in his chair after ordination, which is enthronization.


No one is allowed to transfer himself to another church [i.e., diocese] than that in which he was ordained; and what is to be done in the case of one cast out forcibly without any blame attaching to him.


The laity shall not choose for themselves priests in the towns and villages without the authority of the chorepiscopus; nor an abbot for a monastery; and that no one should give commands as to who should be elected his successor after his death, and when this is lawful for a superior.


How sisters, widows, and deaconesses should be made to keep their residence in their monasteries; and of the system of instructing them; and of the election of deaconesses, and of their duties and utility.


How one seeking election should not be chosen, even if of conspicuous virtue; and how the election of a layman to the aforesaid grades is not prohibited, and that those chosen should not afterward be deprived before their deaths, except on account of crime.


Of the distinctive garb and distinctive names and conversation of monks and nuns.


That a bishop convicted of adultery or of other similar crime should be deposed without hope of restoration to the same grade; but shall not be excommunicated.


Of presbyters and deacons who have fallen only once into adultery, if they have never been married; and of the same when fallen as widowers, and those who have fallen, all the while having their own wives. Also of those who return to the same sin as well widowers as those having living wives; and which of these ought not to be received to penance, and which once only, and which twice.


Each one of the faithful while his sin is yet not public should be mended by private exhortation and admonition; if he will not profit by this, he must be excommunicated.


Of the election of a procurator of the poor, and of his duties.



[The Acts are not extant.]


Often the mind of a deliberative assembly is as clearly shown by the propositions it rejects as by those it adopts, and it would seem that this doctrine is of application in the case of the asserted attempt at this Council to pass a decree forbidding the priesthood to live in the use of marriage. This attempt is said to have failed. The particulars are as follows:


(Hist. Councils, Vol. I., pp. 435 et seqq.) Socrates, Sozomen, and Gelasius affirm that the Synod of Nicaea, as well as that of Elvira(can. 33), desired to pass a law respecting celibacy. This law was to forbid all bishops, priests and deacons(Sozomen adds subdeacons), who were married at the time of their ordination, to continue to live with their wives. But, say these historians, the law was opposed openly and decidedly by Paphnutius, bishop of a city of the Upper Thebais in Egypt, a man of a high reputation, who had lost an eye during the persecution under Maximian. He was also, celebrated for his miracles, and was held in so great respect by the Emperor, that the latter often kissed the empty socket of the lost eye. Paphnutius declared with a loud voice, "that too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honourable and undefiled; that the Church ought not to be injured by an extreme severity, for all could not live in absolute continency: in this way(by not prohibiting married intercourse) the virtue of the wife would be much more certainly preserved(viz the wife of a clergyman, because she might find injury elsewhere, if her husband withdrew from her married intercourse). The intercourse of a man with his lawful wife may also be a chaste intercourse. It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be separated from their wives(Gelasius adds, or being only a reader or cantor)." This discourse of Paphnutius made so much the more impression, because he had never lived in matrimony himself, and had had no conjugal intercourse. Paphnutius, indeed, had been brought up in a monastery, and his great purity of manners had rendered him especially celebrated. Therefore the Council took the serious words of the Egyptian bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would.

If this account be true, we must conclude that a law was proposed to the Council of Nicaea the same as one which had been carried twenty years previously at Elvira, in Spain; this coincidence would lead us to believe that it was the Spaniard Hosius who proposed the law respecting celibacy at Nicaea. The discourse ascribed to Paphnutius, and the consequent decision of the Synod, agree very well with the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and with the whole practice of the Greek Church in respect to celibacy. The Greek Church as well as the Latin accepted the principle, that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be married afterwards. In the Latin Church, bishops, priests, deacons. and even subdeacons, were considered to be subject to this law, because the latter were at a very early period reckoned among the higher servants of the Church, which was not the case in the Greek Church. The Greek Church went so far as to allow deacons to marry after their ordination, if previously to it they had expressly obtained from their bishop permission to do so. The Council of Ancyra affirms this(c. 10). We see that the Greek Church wishes to leave the bishop free to decide the matter; but in reference to priests, it also prohibited them from marrying after their ordination. Therefore, whilst the Latin Church exacted of those presenting themselves for ordination, even as subdeacons, that they should not continue to live with their wives if they were married, the Greek Church gave no such prohibition; but if the wife of an ordained clergyman died, the Greek Church allowed no second marriage. The Apostolic Constitutions decided this point in the same way. To leave their wives from a pretext of piety was also forbidden to Greek priests; and the Synod of Gangra(c. 4) took


up the defence of married priests against the Eustathians. Eustathius, however, was not alone among the Greeks in opposing the marriage of all clerics, and in desiring to introduce into the Greek Church the Latin discipline on this point. St. Epiphanius also inclined towards this side. The Greek Church did not, however, adopt this rigour in reference to priests, deacons, and subdeacons, but by degrees it came to be required of bishops and of the higher order of clergy in general, that they should live in celibacy. Yet this was not until after the compilation of the Apostolic Canons(c. 5) and of the Constitutions; for in those documents mention is made of bishops living in wedlock, and Church history shows that there were married bishops. for instance Synesius, in the fifth century. But it is fair to remark, even as to Synesius, that he made it an express condition of his acceptation, on his election to the episcopate, that he might continue to live the married life. Thomassin believes that Synesius did not seriously require this condition, and only spoke thus for the sake of escaping the episcopal office; which would seem to imply that in his time Greek bishops had already begun to live in celibacy. At the Trullan Synod(c. 13.) the Greek Church finally settled the question of the marriage of priests. Baro-nius, Valesius, and other historians, have considered the account of the part taken by Paphnutius to be apocryphal. Baronius says, that as the Council of Nicaea in its third canon gave a law upon celibacy it is quite impossible to admit that it would alter such a law on account of Paphnutius. But Baronius is mistaken in seeing a law upon celibacy in that third canon; he thought it to be so, because, when mentioning the women who might live in the clergyman's house- -his mother, sister, etc.--the canon does not say a word about the wife. It had no occasion to mention her, it was referring to the [Gr. suneisaktoi] whilst these [Gr. suneisaktoi] and married women have nothing in common. Natalis Alexander gives this anecdote about Paphnutius in full: he desired to refute Ballarmin, who considered it to be untrue and an invention of Socrates to please the Novatians. Natalis Alexander often maintains erroneous opinions, and on the present question he deserves no confidence. If, as St. Epiphanius relates, the Novatians maintained that the clergy might be married exactly like the laity, it cannot be said that Socrates shared that opinion, since he says, or rather makes Paphnutius say, that, according to ancient tradition, those not married at the time of ordination should not be so subsequently. Moreover, if it may be said that Socrates had a partial sympathy with the Novatians, he certainly cannot be considered as belonging to them, still less can he be accused of falsifying history in their favour. He may sometimes have propounded erroneous opinions, but there is a great difference between that and the invention of a whole story. Valesius especially makes use of the argument ex silentio against Socrates.(a) Rufinus, he says, gives many particulars about Paphnutius in his History of the Church; he mentions his martyrdom, his miracles, and the Emperor's reverence for him, but not a single word of the business about celibacy.(b) The name of Paphnutius is wanting in the list of Egyptian bishops present at the Synod. These two arguments of Valesius are weak; the second has the authority of Rufinus himself against it, who expressly says that Bishop Paphnutius was present at the Council of Nicaea. If Valesius means by lists only the signatures at the end of the acts of the Council, this proves nothing; for these lists are very imperfect, and it is well known that many bishops whose names are not among these signatures were present at Nicaea. This argument ex silentio is evidently insufficient to prove that the anecdote about Paphnutius must be rejected as false, seeing that it is in perfect harmony with the practice of the ancient Church, and especially of the Greek Church, on the subject of clerical marriages. On the other hand, Thomassin pretends that there was no such practice, and endeavours to prove by quotations from St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, Eusebius, and St. John Chrysostom, that even in the East priests who were married at the time of their ordination were prohibited from continuing to live with their wives. The texts quoted by Thomassin prove only that the Greeks gave especial honour to priests living in perfect continency, but they do not prove that this continence was a duty incumbent upon all priests; and so much the less, as the fifth and twenty-fifth Apostolic canons, the fourth canon of Gangra, and the thirteenth of the Trullan Synod, demonstrate clearly enough what was the universal custom of the Greek Church on this point. Lupus and Phillips explained the words of Paphnutius in another sense. According to them, the Egyptian bishop was not speaking in a general way; he simply desired that the contemplated law should not include the subdeacons. But this explanation does not agree with the extracts quoted from Socrates, Sozomen, and Gelasius, who believe Paphnutius intended deacons and priests as well.



(Found in Gelasius, Historia Concilii Nicaeni, lib. II, cap. xxxiii. ; Socr., H. E., lib. I., cap. 6; Theodor., H. E., lib. I., cap. 9.)

To the Church of Alexandria, by the grace of GOD, holy and great; and to our well-beloved brethren, the orthodox clergy and laity throughout Egypt, and Pentapolis, and Lybia, and every nation under heaven, the holy and great synod, the bishops assembled at Nicea, wish health in the LORD.

FORASMUCH as the great and holy Synod, which was assembled at Niece through the grace of Christ and our most religious Sovereign Constantine, who brought us together from our several provinces and cities, has considered matters which concern the faith of the Church, it seemed to us to be necessary that certain things should be communicated from us to you in writing, so that you might have the means of knowing what has been mooted and investigated, and also what has been decreed and confirmed.

First of all, then, in the presence of our most religious Sovereign Constantine, investigation was made of matters concerning the impiety and transgression of Arias and his adherents; and it was unanimously decreed that he and his impious opinion should be anathematized, together with the blasphemous words and speculations in which he indulged, blaspheming the Son of God, and saying that he is from things that are not, and that before he was begotten he was not, and that there was a time when he was not, and that the Son of God is by his free will capable of vice and virtue; saying also that he is a creature. All these things the holy Synod has anathematized, not even enduring to hear his impious doctrine and madness and blasphemous words. And of the charges against him and of the results they had, ye have either already heard or will hear the particulars, lest we should seem to be oppressing a man who has in fact received a fitting recompense for his own sin. So far indeed has his impiety prevailed, that he has even destroyed Theonas of Marmorica and Secundes of Ptolemais; for they also have received the same sentence as the rest.

But when the grace of God had delivered Egypt from that heresy and blasphemy, and from the persons who have dared to make disturbance and division among a people heretofore at peace, there remained the matter of the insolence of Meletius and those who have been ordained by him; and concerning this part of our work we now, beloved brethren, proceed to inform you of the decrees of the Synod. The Synod, then, being disposed to deal gently with Meletius(for in strict justice he deserved no leniency), decreed that he should remain in his own city, but have no authority either to ordain, or to administer affairs, or to make appointments; and that he should not appear in the country or in any other city for this purpose, but should enjoy the bare title of his rank; but that those who have been placed by him, after they have been confirmed by a more sacred laying on of hands, shall on these conditions be admitted to communion: that they shall both have their rank and the right to officiate, but that they shall be altogether the inferiors of all those who are enrolled in any church or parish, and have been appointed by our most honourable colleague Alexander. So that these men are to have no authority to make appointments of persons who may be pleasing to them, nor to suggest names, nor to do anything whatever, without the consent of the bishops of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, who are serving under our most holy colleague Alexander; while those who, by the grace of God and through your prayers, have been found in no schism, but on the contrary are without spot in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, are to have authority to make appointments and nominations of worthy persons among the clergy, and in short to do all things according to the law and ordinance of the Church. But, if it happen that any of the clergy who are now in the Church should die, then those who have been lately received are to succeed to the office of the deceased; always provided that they shall appear to be worthy, and that the people elect them, and that the bishop of Alexandria shall concur in the election and ratify it. This concession has been made to all the rest; but, on account of his disorderly conduct from the first, and the rashness and precipitation of his character, the same decree was not


made concerning Meletius himself, but that, inasmuch as he is a man capable of committing again the same disorders, no authority nor privilege should be conceded to him.

These are the particulars, which are of special interest to Egypt and to the most holy Church of Alexandria; but if in the presence of our most honoured lord, our colleague and brother Alexander, anything else has been enacted by canon or other decree, he will himself convey it to you in greater detail, he having been both a guide and fellow-worker in what has been done.

We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter, that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning.

Wherefore, rejoicing in these wholesome results, and in our common peace and harmony, and in the cutting off of every heresy, receive ye with the greater honour and with increased love, our colleague your Bishop Alexander, who has gladdened us by his presence, and who at so great an age has undergone so great fatigue that peace might be established among you and all of us. Pray ye also for us all, that the things which have been deemed advisable may stand fast; for they have been done, as we believe, to the well-pleasing of Almighty God and of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.


From the Letter of the Emperor to all those not present at the Council. (Found in Eusebius, Vita Const., Lib. iii., 18-20.)

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom[the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom,(1) we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour's Passion to the present day[according to the day of the week]. We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way; our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course(the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right, they who, after the death of the Saviour, have no longer been led by reason but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question; for, in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are most certainly blinded by error? for to celebrate the passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible. But even if this were not so, it would still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people[the Jews]. Besides, consider well, that in such an important matter, and on a subject of such great solemnity, there ought not to be any division. Our Saviour has left us only one festal day of our redemption, that is to say, of his holy passion, and he desired[to establish] only one Catholic Church. Think, then, how unseemly it is, that on the same day some should be fasting whilst others are seated at a banquet; and that after Easter, some should be rejoicing at feasts, whilst others are still observing a strict fast. For this reason, a Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and everyone, I hope, will agree upon this point. As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord; and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South, and of


the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable, it has appeared good to all; and I have been guarantee for your consent, that you would accept it with joy, as it is followed at Rome, in Africa, in all Italy, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, in all Achaia, and in the dioceses of Asia, of Pontus, and Cilicia. You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews. To sum up in few words: By the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day, and it is not seemly that in so holy a thing there should be any division. As this is the state of the case, accept joyfully the divine favour, and this truly divine command; for all which takes place in assemblies of the bishops ought to be regarded as proceeding from the will of God. Make known to your brethren what has been decreed, keep this most holy day according to the prescribed mode; we can thus celebrate this holy Easter day at the same time, if it is granted me, as I desire, to unite myself with you; we can rejoice together, seeing that the divine power has made use of our instrumentality for destroying the evil designs of the devil, and thus causing faith, peace, and unity to flourish amongst us. May God graciously protect you, my beloved brethren.


(Hefele: Hist. of the Councils, Vol. I., pp. 328 et seqq.) The differences in the way of fixing the period of Easter did not indeed disappear after the Council of Nicea. Alexandria and Rome could not agree, either because one of the two Churches neglected to make the calculation for Easter, or because the other considered it inaccurate. It is a fact, proved by the ancient Easter table of the Roman Church, that the cycle of eighty-four years continued to be used at Rome as before. Now this cycle differed in many ways from the Alexandrian, and did not always agree with it about the period for Easter--in fact(a), the Romans used quite another method from the Alexandrians; they calculated from the epact, and began from the feria prima of January.(b.) The Romans were mistaken in placing the full moon a little too soon; whilst the Alexandrians placed it a little too late.(c.) At Rome the equinox was supposed to fall on March 18th; whilst the Alexandrians placed it on March 21st.(d.) Finally, the Romans differed in this from the Greeks also; they did not celebrate Easter the next day when the full moon fell on the Saturday.

Even the year following the Council of Nicea--that is, in 326--as well as in the years 330, 333, 340, 341, 343, the Latins celebrated Easter on a different day from the Alexandrians. In order to put an end to this misunderstanding, the Synod of Sardica in 343, as we learn from the newly discovered festival letters of S. Athanasius, took up again the question of Easter, and brought the two parties(Alexandrians and Romans) to regulate, by means of mutual concessions, a common day for Easter for the next fifty years. This compromise, after a few years, was not observed. The troubles excited by the Arian heresy, and the division which it caused between the East and the West, prevented the decree of Sardica from being put into execution; therefore the Emperor Theodosius the Great, after the re-establishment of peace in the Church, found himself obliged to take fresh steps for obtaining a complete uniformity in the manner of celebrating Easter. In 387, the Romans having kept Easter on March 21st, the Alexandrians did not do so for five weeks later--that is to say, till April 25th--because with the Alexandrians the equinox was not till March 21st. The Emperor Theodosius the Great then asked Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria for an explanation of the difference. The bishop responded to the Emperor's desire, and drew up a chronological table of the Easter festivals, based upon the principles acknowledged by the Church of Alexandria. Unfortunately, we now possess only the prologue of his work.


Upon an invitation from Rome, S. Ambrose also mentioned the period of this same Easter in 387, in his letter to the bishops of AEmilia, and he sides with the Alexandrian computation. Cyril of Alexandria abridged the paschal table of his uncle Theophilus, and fixed the time for the ninety-five following Easters--that is, from 436 to 531 after Christ. Besides this Cyril showed, in a letter to the Pope, what was defective in the Latin calculation; and this demonstration was taken up again, some time after, by order of the Emperor, by Paschasinus, Bishop of Lilybaeum and Proterius of Alexandria, in a letter written by them to Pope Leo I. In consequence of these communications, Pope Leo often gave the preference to the Alexandrian computation, instead of that of the Church of Rome. At the same time also was generally established, the opinion so little entertained by the ancient authorities of the Church--one might even say, so strongly in contradiction to their teaching--that Christ partook of the passover on the 14th Nisan, that he died on the 15th(not on the 14th, as the ancients considered), that he lay in the grave on the 16th, and rose again on the 17th. In the letter we have just mentioned, Proterius of Alexandria openly admitted all these different points.

Some years afterwards, in 457, Victor of Aquitane, by order of the Roman Archdeacon Hilary, endeavoured to make the Roman and the Alexandrian calculations agree together. It has been conjectured that subsequently Hilary, when Pope, brought Victor's calculation into use, in 456--that is, at the time when the cycle of eighty-four years came to an end. In the latter cycle the new moons were marked more accurately, and the chief differences existing between the Latin and Greek calculations disappeared; so that the Easter of the Latins generally coincided with that of Alexandria, or was only a very little removed from it. In cases when the [Gr. id] fell on a Saturday, Victor did not wish to decide whether Easter should be celebrated the next day, as the Alexandrians did, or should be postponed for a week. He indicates both dates in his table, and leaves the Pope to decide what was to be done in each separate case. Even after Victor's calculations, there still remained great differences in the manner of fixing the celebration of Easter; and it was Dionysius the Less who first completely overcame them, by giving to the Latins a paschal table having as its basis the cycle of nineteen years. This cycle perfectly corresponded to that of Alexandria, and thus established that harmony which had been so long sought in vain. He showed the advantages of his calculation so strongly, that it was admitted by Rome and by the whole of Italy; whilst almost the whole of Gaul remained faithful to Victor's canon, and Great Britain still held the 'cycle of eighty-four years, a little improved by Sulpicius Severus. When the Heptarchy was evangelized by the Roman missionaries, the new converts accepted the calculation of Dionysius, whilst the ancient Churches of Wales held fast their old tradition. From this arose the well-known British dissensions about the celebration of Easter, which were transplanted by Columban into Gaul. In 729, the majority of the ancient British Churches accepted the cycle of nineteen years. It had before been introduced into Spain, immediately after the conversion of Reccared. Finally, under Charles the Great, the cycle of nineteen years triumphed over all opposition; and thus the whole of Christendom was united, for the Quartodecimans had gradually disappeared.(1)

SOURCE: Henry R. Percival, ed., _The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church_, Vol XIV.

Second Council of Nicaea (787)

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The Second Council of Nicaea was the seventh ecumenical council provided the climax (though not yet the end) of the iconoclastic controversy by decisively authorizing the veneration of images of various sorts but especially those of Christ, Mary, the holy angels, and the saints. The controversy had begun when the emperors Leo III (beginning in 725) and his son after him, Constantine V, tried to abruptly end the practice of worshiping images, which had been growing in the church for over three centuries. This seems to have been partly in response to the threat of Islam, which attributed its success to an unidolatrous monotheism. Constantine V convened a council in 754 that rendered an iconoclastic definitio based on the second commandment, the earliest fathers, and the concern that images were attempts to circumscribe the divine nature.

These actions were opposed by certain influential figures in the East, including Germanus of Constantinople and John of Damascus, and also by the Roman popes Gregory II, Gregory III, and Hadrian I. After the death of Constantine V his wife, Irene, reversed his policies while acting as regent for their son, Leo IV (whom she later murdered). She convened the council which met at Nicaea in 787, attended by over three hundred bishops. At this council the iconoclasts were anathematized and the worship of images upheld. But a distinction was drawn between worship defined as proskynesis, which was to be given to images or rather more properly through the images to their prototypes, and worship defined as latria, which was to be given to God alone. The authority for image worship was considered to be the worship of the angel of the Lord in the OT and the incarnate Christ in the NT, the teaching and practice of the latter fathers, and the practice of venerating Mary and the saints that had become so established that not even the iconoclasts opposed it (they only opposed the worship of their images). Despite a brief outbreak of iconoclasm, the position of this council became standard orthodoxy in Greek and Roman churches.

The distinction between proskynesis and latria, or, as later put in the West, between dulia and latria, is so fine as to be imperceptible in common practice. As Calvin argued, the biblical usage of the words certainly does not recognize the distinction that Nicaea attempted to establish. Thus the Reformation rejected the decision of this council as encouraging idolatry.

C A Blaising
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

H. Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church; J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.11-12; J. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, II; E. J. Martin, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy; P. Schaff, History of the Christian Church, IV.

Second Council of Nicaea - 787 A.D.

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A recommendation to summon an ecumenical council, in order to correct the iconoclast heretics, had been addressed to Empress Irene, then acting as regent for her son Emperor Constantine VI (780-797) who was still a minor, both by Patriarch Paul IV of Constantinople (who had repented of his earlier iconoclast views) before his abdication from the see in 784 and by his successor as patriarch, Tarasius. The aim was to unite the church and to condemn the decrees passed by the council of 338 bishops held at Hiereia and St Mary of Blachernae in 754.

The convocation of the council was announced to Pope Hadrian I (772-795) in a letter of Constantine VI and Irene, dated 29 August 784. They urged him either to attend in person or to send legates. Patriarch Tarasius sent the same message in synodal letters to the pope and the three eastern patriarchs. Pope Hadrian I gave his approval for the convocation of the council, stipulating various conditions, and sent as his legates the archpriest Peter and Peter, abbot of the Greek monastery of St Sabas in Rome.

The council, which was summoned by an imperial edict in the summer of 786, met for the first time on 1 August 786, in the presence of Emperor Constantine and Empress Irene. When the proceedings were interrupted by the violent entry of iconoclast soldiers, faithful to the memory of Emperor Constantine V (741-775), the council was adjourned until the arrival of a reliable army under Staurakios. It assembled again at Nicaea on 24 September 787, the papal legates having been recalled from Sicily.

After the bishops suspected of heresy had been admitted, 263 fathers embraced the doctrine concerning the cult of sacred images as explained in the letters of Pope Hadrian I, which were read out at the second session.

The question of the intercession of saints was dealt with in the fourth session.

Once all these matters had been approved, a doctrinal definition was decreed at the seventh session.

At the eighth and last session, which was held at the request of Constantine and Irene in the Magnaura palace in Constantinople, the definition was again decreed and proclaimed and 22 canons were read out. The papal legates presided over the council and were the first to sign the acts; but in reality it was Patriarch Tarasius who presided, and it was he, at the command of the council, who informed Pope Hadrian I about it: "the occasion when the letters of your fraternal holiness were read out and all acclaimed them".

Pope Hadrian I wrote no letter in reply, yet the defence he made of the council in 794 against Charlemagne shows that he accepted what the council had decreed, and that he had sent no acknowledgement because the concessions which he had requested in his letter of 26 October 785 to Constantine and Irene had not been granted to him, especially concerning the restoration of the papacy's patrimony to the state at which it had been prior to 731, that is, before Illyricum had been confiscated by the emperor Leo III. Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene signed the acts of the council but it is unclear whether or not they promulgated a decree on the matter.

The translation is from the Greek text, since this is the more authoritative version. {Material in curly parentheses ,{ }, paragraphing, italicizing and bolding, are added by the hypertext editor. The material in square brackets [ ] is found in the hardcopy book from which the translation was taken.}


The holy, great and universal synod, by the grace of God and by order of our pious and Christ-loving emperor and empress, Constantine and his mother Irene, assembled for the second time in the famous metropolis of the Nicaeans in the province of the Bithynians, in the holy church of God named after Wisdom, following the tradition of the catholic church, has decreed what is here laid down.

{The council bases itself on the inspiration of Tradition and of itself}

The one who granted us the light of recognizing him, the one who redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous insanity, Christ our God, when he took for his bride his holy catholic church, having no blemish or wrinkle, promised he would guard her and assured his holy disciples saying, I am with you every day until the consummation of this age. This promise however he made not only to them but also to us, who thanks to them have come to believe in his name. To this gracious offer some people paid no attention, being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they abandoned the true line of reasoning, and setting themselves against the tradition of the catholic church they faltered in their grasp of the truth. As the proverbial saying puts it, they turned askew the axles of their farm carts and gathered no harvest in their hands. Indeed they had the effrontery to criticise the beauty pleasing to God established in the holy monuments; they were priests in name, but not in reality.

They were those of whom God calls out by prophecy, Many pastors have destroyed my vine, they have defiled my portion. For they followed unholy men and trusting to their own frenzies they calumniated the holy church, which Christ our God has espoused to himself, and they failed to distinguish the holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols.

Therefore the Lord God, not bearing that what was subject to him should be destroyed by such a corruption, has by his good pleasure summoned us together through the divine diligence and decision of Constantine and Irene, our faithful emperor and empress, we who are those responsible for the priesthood everywhere, in order that the divinely inspired tradition of the catholic church should receive confirmation by a public decree. So having made investigation with all accuracy and having taken counsel, setting for our aim the truth, we neither diminish nor augment, but simply guard intact all that pertains to the catholic church.

{Recapitulation and re-affirmation of everything taught by any previous ecumenical council}

Thus, following the six holy universal synods, in the first place that assembled in the famous metropolis of the Nicaeans {{1}Nicea I}, and then that held after it in the imperial, God-guarded city: {i.e. {2} Constantinople I} We believe in one God [the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed follows]. We abominate and anathematize - Arius and those who think like him and share in his mad error; also Macedonius and those with him, properly called the Pneumatomachi; we also confess our Lady, the holy Mary, to be really and truly the God-bearer, because she gave birth in the flesh to Christ, one of the Trinity, our God, just as the first synod at {3}Ephesus decreed; it also expelled from the church Nestorius and those with him, because they were introducing a duality of persons.

Along with these synods, we also confess the two natures of the one who became incarnate for our sake from the God-bearer without blemish, Mary the ever-virgin, recognizing that he is perfect God and perfect man, as the synod at {4}Chalcedon also proclaimed, when it drove from the divine precinct the foul-mouthed Eutyches and Dioscorus. We reject along with them Severus Peter and their interconnected band with their many blasphemies, in whose company we anathematize the mythical speculations of Origen, Evagrius and Didymus, as did the fifth synod, that assembled at {5}Constantinople. Further we declare that there are two wills and principles of action, in accordance with what is proper to each of the natures in Christ, in the way that the sixth synod, that at {6}Constantinople, proclaimed, when it also publicly rejected Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, those uninterested in true holiness, and their likeminded followers.

To summarize, we declare that we defend free from any innovations all the

{Council formulates for the first time what the Church has always believed regarding icons}

One of these is the production of representational art; this is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another's message.

Given this state of affairs and stepping out as though on the royal highway, following as we are

we decree with full precision and care that, these are the images of

The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration {latria} in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, and also to the holy books of the gospels and to other sacred cult objects. Further, people are drawn to honour these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. Indeed, the honour paid to an image traverses it, reaching the model, and he who venerates the image, venerates the person represented in that image.

  • So it is that the teaching of our holy fathers is strengthened, namely, the tradition of the catholic church which has received the gospel from one end of the earth to the other.
  • So it is that we really follow Paul, who spoke in Christ, and the entire divine apostolic group and the holiness of the fathers, clinging fast to the traditions which we have received.
  • So it is that we sing out with the prophets the hymns of victory to the church: Rejoice exceedingly O daughter of Zion, proclaim O daughter of Jerusalem; enjoy your happiness and gladness with a full heart. The Lord has removed away from you the injustices of your enemies, you have been redeemed from the hand of your foes. The Lord the king is in your midst, you will never more see evil, and peace will be upon you for time eternal.

    Therefore all those who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the gospel or the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr's holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the catholic church, or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people.

    Anathemas concerning holy images

    1. If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in his humanity, let him be anathema.
    2. If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema.
    3. If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saints, let him be anathema.
    4. If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema.



    For those to whom the priestly dignity is allotted, the guide-lines contained in the canonical regulations are testimonies and directives. We accept them gladly and sing out to the Lord God with David, the revealer of God: In the path of your testimonies I have taken delight, as with all manner of wealth; and, You have enjoined justice, your testimonies are for ever; instruct me to give me life. And if the prophetic voice orders us for all eternity to observe the messages of God and to live in them, it is obvious that they remain unshakeable and immoveable; thus Moses, who looked on God, declares, To these there is no addition, and from these there is no subtraction. The divine apostle takes pride in them when he cries out, These things which the angels long to gaze upon, and, If an angel brings you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed.

    Since these things really are such and have been testified to us in these ways, we exult in them as a person would if he were to come across a great mass of booty. We joyfully embrace the sacred canons and we maintain complete and unshaken their regulation, both those expounded by those trumpets of the Spirit, the apostles worthy of all praise, and those from the six holy universal synods and from the synods assembled locally for the promulgation of such decrees, and from our holy fathers. Indeed all of these, enlightened by one and the same Spirit, decreed what is expedient. In the case of those whom they sent away under an anathema, we also anathematize them, those whom they suspended, we also suspend; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; those whom they placed under penalties, we also deal with in the same way. Let your conduct be free from avariciousness, contenting yourself with what you have, cried out with all explicitness the divine apostle Paul, who mounted to the third heaven and heard words that cannot be uttered.


    Since we make an undertaking before God as we sing, I shall meditate on your judgments, I shall not neglect your words, it is essential to our salvation that every Christian should observe these things, but more especially those who have been invested with priestly dignity. Therefore we decree that

  • everyone who is to be advanced to the grade of bishop should have a thorough knowledge of the psalter, in order that he may instruct all the clergy subordinate to him, to be initiated in that book.
  • He should also be examined without fail by the metropolitan to see if he is willing to acquire knowledge--a knowledge that should be searching and not superficial--of the sacred canons, the holy gospel, the book of the divine apostle, and all divine scripture;
  • also if he is willing to conduct himself and teach the people entrusted to him according to the divine commandments.
  • "The substance of our hierarchy are the words handed down from God", that is to say, the true knowledge of the divine scriptures, as the great Dionysius made plain. If someone is doubtful and ill at ease with such conduct and teaching, let him not be ordained. For God said through the prophet: You rejected knowledge, and I shall reject you, so that you may not serve me in a priestly function.


    Any election of a bishop, priest or deacon brought about by the rulers is to be null and void in accordance with the canon that says: "If any bishop, through the influence of secular rulers, acquires responsibility for a church because of them, let him be suspended and let all those who are in communion with him be excommunicated".

    It is necessary that the person who is to be advanced to a bishopric should be elected by bishops, as has been decreed by the holy fathers at Nicaea in the canon that says: "It is by all means desirable that a bishop should be appointed by all [the bishops] in the province. But if this is difficult because of some pressing necessity or the length of the journey involved, let at least three come together and perform the ordination, but only after the absent bishops have taken part in the vote and given their written consent. But in each province the right of confirming the proceedings belongs to the metropolitan".


    The herald of the truth, Paul, the divine apostle, laying down a sort of rule for the presbyters of Ephesus, or rather for the whole priestly order, declared firmly: I have not coveted silver or gold or anybody's clothing; I have made completely plain to you that it is by working in this fashion that we should provide for the weak being convinced that it is blessed to give.

    Therefore we also, having been taught by him, decree that a bishop should never have any sort of design on foul profit, inventing excuses for his sins, nor demand any gold or silver or anything similar from the bishops, clerics and monks subject to him. For the apostle says: The unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God; and, It is not children who should heap up treasures for their parents, but parents for their children.

    So if it is discovered that somebody, because of a demand for gold or something similar, or because of some private infatuation of his own, has excluded from the liturgy or excommunicated one of the clerics under his authority, or has closed off one of the holy churches, preventing the celebration of God's liturgies in it, pouring out his own madness against insensible things, then he is truly senseless himself and he should be subjected to suffer what he would inflict and the penalty imposed by him will turn upon his own head, because he has transgressed both the law of God and the rulings of the apostles. For Peter also, the spokesman of the apostles, urges: Be pastors to the flock of God entrusted to you, not under compulsion, but willingly as pleasing to God, not for sordid gain but with enthusiasm, not as men who lord it over those entrusted to you, but as being models for the flock. Then when the chief shepherd is disclosed, you will carry off the imperishable crown of glory.


    It is a sin leading to death when sinners remain uncorrected, but still worse is it when people flaunt their sin as they override holiness and truth, both preferring mammon to obedience to God and neglecting his legally formulated instructions. The Lord God is not present among such persons unless they humbly turn from their fault. Their duty is to approach God with a contrite heart and implore his forgiveness for their sin and his pardon, rather than to take pride in an unholy distribution of gifts: For the Lord is close to the contrite of heart. Therefore in the case of those who boast that they have been appointed in the church by distributing gifts of gold, and who pin their hopes on this evil custom, which alienates a person from God and from all priesthood, and who take this as a reason for deriding quite shamelessly and openly those who have been chosen by the holy Spirit and appointed for the virtue of their lives, without any distribution of gifts of gold, when they first do this each should take the lowest rank in his order, and if they persist they should be corrected with a penalty.

    If someone is found to have done this at any time in connection with an ordination, let matters proceed in accordance with the apostolic canon which says: "If some bishop or priest or deacon has obtained his dignity by means of money, let him and the person who performed the ordination be suspended, and let them be excluded completely from the communion, as Simon Magus was by me, Peter".

    Similarly, in accordance with canon 2 of our holy fathers at Chalcedon, which says "If any bishop performs an ordination for money and puts the unsaleable grace on sale, and ordains for money a bishop, a chorepiscopus, a presbyter or deacons or some others of those numbered among the clergy; or appoints a manager, a legal officer or a warden for money, or any other ecclesiastic at all for personal sordid gain; let him who has attempted this and been convicted stand to lose his personal rank, and let the person ordained profit nothing from the ordination or appointment he has bought; but let him be removed from the dignity or responsibility which he got for money. And if anyone appears to have acted even as a go-between in such disgraceful and unlawful dealings, let him too, if he is a cleric, be demoted from his personal rank, and if he is a lay person or a monk, let him be anathematized".


    Although there is indeed a canon which says, "In each province the canonical investigations should take place twice yearly by means of a gathering of the bishops", because of the trouble and because those attending the meetings lack the resources for such journeys, the holy fathers of the sixth synod decreed "they should be held in any case and despite all excuses, once a year, and all that is incorrect should be put right". We also renew this canon, and should a ruler be found who prevents its observance, let him be excommunicated; however if one of the metropolitan bishops neglects its fulfillment, let him be subject to canonical penalties, unless it is a case of necessity, constraint or some other reasonable cause.

    When such a synod is held to discuss canonical and evangelical matters, the gathered bishops should pay particular care and attention to the divine and life-giving laws of God: There is a great reward for their observance; for a law is a lamp, a regulation is a light, and reproof and discipline are the path of life indeed the law of the Lord gives light to the eyes. However, the metropolitan bishop does not have the right to demand anything that a bishop may have brought with him, such as a beast or some other thing; and if he is convicted of doing so, let him pay back fourfold.


    The divine apostle Paul said: The sins of some people are manifest, those of others appear later. Some sins take the front rank but others follow in their footsteps. Thus in the train of the impious heresy of the defamers of Christians, many other impieties appeared. Just as those heretics removed the sight of venerable icons from the church, they also abandoned other customs, which should now be renewed and which should be in vigour in virtue of both written and unwritten legislation. Therefore we decree that in venerable churches consecrated without relics of the holy martyrs, the installation of relics should take place along with the usual prayers. And if in future any bishop is found out consecrating a church without relics, let him be deposed as someone who has flouted the ecclesiastical traditions.


    Since some of those who come from the religion of the Hebrews mistakenly think to make a mockery of Christ who is God, pretending to become Christians, but denying Christ in private by both secretly continuing to observe the sabbath and maintaining other Jewish practices, we decree that they shall not be received to communion or at prayer or into the church, but rather let them openly be Hebrews according to their own religion; they should not baptize their children or buy, or enter into possession of, a slave. But if one of them makes his conversion with a sincere faith and heart, and pronounces his confession wholeheartedly, disclosing their practices and objects in the hope that others may be refuted and corrected, such a person should be welcomed and baptized along with his children, and care should be taken that they abandon Hebrew practices. However if they are not of this sort, they should certainly not be welcomed.


    All those childish baubles and bacchic rantings, the false writings composed against the venerable icons, should be given in at the episcopal building in Constantinople, so that they can be put away along with other heretical books. If someone is discovered to be hiding such books, if he is a bishop, priest or deacon, let him be suspended, and if he is a lay person or a monk, let him be excommunicated.


    As some clerics, who despise the canonical ordinance, abandon their own dioceses and run off into other dioceses--something that happens with special frequency in this imperial, God-guarded city--and there they lodge with rulers, celebrating the liturgy in their chapels, let it not be permitted for them to be received in any house or church without the approval of their own bishop and that of the bishop of Constantinople. If they do so and persist therein, they are to be suspended.

    In the case of those who do this with the approval of the above-mentioned prelates, it is not permitted for them to assume worldly and secular responsibilities, since they are forbidden to do so by the sacred canons; and if someone is misled into occupying himself with the responsibility of the so-called high stewards, he is to desist or be suspended. Rather let him busy himself with the teaching of the children and servants, lecturing them on the divine scriptures because it is for such activity that he received the priesthood.


    Since we are obliged to observe all the sacred canons, we ought also to maintain in all its integrity the one that says that there should be administrators in each church. Therefore if each metropolitan bishop installs an administrator in his own church, that is well and good; but if not, the bishop of Constantinople on his own authority has the right to appoint one over the other's church, and similarly with metropolitan bishops, if the bishops under them do not choose administrators to hold these posts in their own churches. The same rule is also to be observed with respect to monasteries.


    If it is discovered that a bishop or a monastic superior is transferring episcopal or monastic farmland to the control of the ruler, or has been conceding it to another person, the transaction is null and void in accordance with the canon of the holy apostles which stipulates: "Let the bishop take care of all ecclesiastical affairs, and let him administer them as if under God's inspection. It is not permitted him to appropriate any of these things, nor to make a present of the things of God to his own relatives. Should the latter be poor, let him care for them as for other poor people, but let him not use them as an excuse for selling off the church's possessions." However, if he pretends that the land is a loss and brings in no profit at all, let him make a present of the place to clerics or landworkers, but even in these circumstances it should not be given to the local rulers. If they use evil cunning and the ruler buys up the land from the landworker or the cleric in question, this sale shall also be null and void in such circumstances, and the land should be restored to the bishopric or monastery. And the bishop or monastic superior who acts thus should be expelled, the bishop from the episcopal house and the monastic superior from the monastery, because they wickedly waste what they have not gathered.


    On account of the disaster which came about in the churches due to our sins certain venerable houses--episcopal buildings as well as monasteries--were seized by certain men and became public inns. Now if those who hold them choose to restore them, so that they are established once more as formerly they were, this is good and excellent. However if such is not the case, should they be inscribed in the list of priests, we order that they be suspended, and if they are monks or lay persons, that they be excommunicated, seeing that they are criminals condemned by the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit, and let them be assigned there where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, because they oppose the voice of the Lord declaring, You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade.


    It is perfectly clear to everyone that a certain order has been established in the priesthood, and that it is God's good pleasure that the appointment to priestly offices should be observed with care. However we have noticed that some, without the imposition of hands, are adopting the clerical tonsure while still youngsters, and without having received the imposition of hands from the bishop they are undertaking to read publicly from the ambo during the church service, even though they are acting uncanonically. We urge therefore that this be discontinued, and that the same regulation be observed among monks.

    Each monastic superior has permission for the imposition of hands on a reader for his own monastery, and only for that monastery, provided that the monastic superior has himself received from the bishop the imposition of hands to rule there, and obviously provided that he is himself a priest. Similarly it is an ancient custom that chorepiscopi, with the permission of the bishop, should appoint readers.


    From now on, no cleric should be appointed to office in two churches. Such a procedure savours of commerce and sordid profit-making, and is quite foreign to ecclesiastical custom. We have learned from the Lord's own voice: No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Therefore, following the advice of the apostle, Each should stay where he has been called, and remain in one church. In ecclesiastical matters, whatever is done for the sake of sordid gain constitutes something alien to God. But as far as the needs of this present life are concerned, there are various gainful occupations; each may use these, as he prefers, to procure what is needed for the body. As the apostle said: These hands of mine have provided for my own needs and for the persons accompanying me. These are the regulations for this God-protected city; for what concerns places in the country, a concession may be granted because of the lack of population.


    All indulgence and adornment bestowed on the body is alien to the priestly order. Therefore all those bishops and clerics who deck themselves out in brilliant and showy clothes should be called to order, and if they persist let them be punished. The same holds for those who use perfumes. However, since the root of bitterness has sprouted, there has appeared in the catholic church the plague of a heresy which delights in the defamation of Christians. Those who adopt this heresy not only heap insults on representational art, but also reject all forms of reverence and make a mockery of those who live pious and holy lives, thus fulfilling in their own regard that saying of scripture, For the sinner piety is an abomination. So if persons are found who make fun of those who wear simple and respectful clothing, they should be corrected with punishment. Indeed, from the earliest times all those ordained to the priesthood have been accustomed to present themselves in public dressed in modest and respectful clothing, and anyone who adds to his apparel for the sake of decoration and not out of necessity deserves, as the great Basil remarked, to be accused of "vainglory". Neither did anyone dress in variegated clothes made of silk, nor did they add various coloured ornaments to the fringes of their garments. They had heard the tongue that spoke God's words declare, Those who dress in soft clothes are in the houses of kings.


    Some monks abandon their own monasteries because they desire to be in authority and disdain obeying others, and then they attempt to found houses of prayer, although they lack adequate resources. If somebody undertakes to do this, let him be prevented by the local bishop. If someone possesses adequate resources, however, his plans should be brought to completion. The same ruling holds for both laity and clerics.


    Be irreproachable even for those outside, says the divine apostle. Now for women to live in the houses of bishops or in monasteries is a cause for every sort of scandal. Therefore if anybody is discovered to be keeping a woman, whether a slave or free, in the bishop's house or in a monastery in order to undertake some service, let him be censured, and if he persists let him be deposed. Should it happen that women are living in the suburban residence and the bishop or monastic superior wishes to journey there, no woman should be allowed to undertake any sort of work during the time that the bishop or monastic superior is present; she should stay on her own in some other area until the bishop has retired, in order to avoid all possible criticism.


    The blight of avarice has spread to such an extent among ecclesiastical authorities that even some so called pious men and women, forgetting the Lord's commands, have been tricked into authorizing, for the sake of cash payments, the entry of those presenting themselves for the priestly order and the monastic life. Thus it happens, as the great Basil says, "when people begin wrongly, all they do is to be rejected", for it is not possible to serve God through mammon. So, if somebody is found out to be doing this, if he is a bishop or a male monastic superior or one of the priests, let him stop or be deposed, in accordance with canon 2 of the holy council of Chalcedon. If the person is a female monastic superior, let her be expelled from the monastery and put under obedience in another monastery, and similarly for a male monastic superior who has not received priestly ordination.

    With regard to gifts given by parents under the concept of dowries for their children, or with regard to the personally acquired goods that the latter present provided that those presenting them declare that these are gifts offered to God, we have decreed that these gifts are to remain in the monastery, whether the person stays or leaves, in accordance with their explicit undertaking, unless there is a reprehensible cause on the part of the person in charge.


    We decree that from now on no more double monasteries are to be started because this becomes a cause of scandal and a stumbling block for ordinary folk. If there are persons who wish to renounce the world and follow the monastic life along with their relatives, the men should go off to a male monastery and their wives enter a female monastery, for God is surely pleased with this.

    The double monasteries that have existed up to now should continue to exist according to the rule of our holy father Basil, and their constitutions should follow his ordinances. Monks and nuns should not live in one monastic building, because adultery takes advantage of such cohabitation. No monk should have the licence to speak in private with a nun, nor any nun with a monk. A monk should not sleep in a female monastery, nor should he eat alone with a nun. When the necessary nourishment is being carried from the male area for the nuns, the female superior, accompanied by one of the older nuns, should receive it outside the door. And if it should happen that a monk wishes to pay a visit to one of his female relatives, let him speak with her in the presence of the female superior, but briefly and rapidly, and let him leave her quickly.


    It is not right for a monk or a nun to leave his or her own monastery and transfer to another. However should this occur, it is obligatory that hospitality be given but such a person should not be accepted as a member without the agreement of his or her monastic superior.


    It is very important to dedicate everything to God and not to become slaves of our own desires; for whether you eat or drink, the divine apostle says, do all for the glory of God. Now Christ our God has instructed us in his gospels to eradicate the beginnings of sins. So not only adultery is rebuked by him, but also the movement of one's intention towards the performance of adultery, when he says: He who looks on a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    Thus instructed we should purify our intentions: For if all things are lawful, not all things are expedient, as we learn from the words of the apostle. Now everybody is certainly obliged to eat in order to live, and in the case of those whose life includes marriage and children and the conditions proper to layfolk it is not reprehensible that men and women should eat in one another's company; though they should at least say grace to thank the giver of their nourishment, and they should avoid certain theatrical entertainments, diabolical songs, the strumming of lyres and the dancing fit for harlots, against all such there is the curse of the prophet which says, Woe on those who drink their wine to the sound of lyre and harp, those who pay no attention to the deeds of the Lord and have never a thought for the works of his hands. If ever such people are found among Christians, they should reform, and if they do not, let the canonical sanctions established by our predecessors be imposed on them.

    Those whose mode of life is contemplative and solitary should sit and be silent, because they have entered into a contract with the Lord that the yoke they carry will be a solitary one. Indeed, all those who have chosen the life of priests are certainly not free to eat privately in the company of women, but at the most in the company of certain God-fearing and pious men and women, in order that such a meal taken in common may draw them to spiritual betterment. Let the same be done in the case of relatives.

    As for another situation, if a monk or even a man in priestly orders happens to be making a journey and is not carrying with him his indispensable provisions, and then wishes to satisfy his needs in a public inn or in someone's house, he is allowed to do so when it is a case of pressing necessity.

    Introduction and translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. TannerProvided by Paul Halsall

    Also, see:
    Nicene Creed

    The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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