OF THE FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
Translated by Henry R. Percival
and John Fulton.
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.
Ancient Epitome Of Canon I: Eunuchs may be received
into the number of the clergy, but those who castrate
themselves shall not be received.
Balsamon: 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.
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
laver, 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 the great
Ancient Epitome of Canon II: 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 [kakos]. But if after ordination
it be found out that he had sinned previously, let him
then be expelled from the clergy.
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon III: No one shall have a woman
in his house except his mother, and sister, and persons
altogether beyond suspicion.
[A subintroducta was a woman who lived in the same house
as a celibate clergyman.]
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon IV: 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.
Zonaras: 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 [cheirotonia]
means consecration and imposition of hands, but the
present canon by constitution [katastasis] 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,
psepho) 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.
[Balsamon also understands kathistasthai to mean election
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 pro tes tessarakostes,
[see note following], that the pure Gift may be offered
to God after all bitterness has been put away, and let
the second be held about autumn.
Ancient Epitome of Canon V: 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 is considerable disagreement as to whether pro
tes tessarakostes, i.e. "before 40," means
"before the 40 days of Lent begin" or "before
the fortieth day after Easter," that is, Ascension.
Abp. Peter l'Huillier of the Orthodox Church in America
considers the Ascension interpretation to be almost
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon VI: 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.
Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that
the Bishop of Ælia [i.e., Jerusalem] should be
honoured, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis
have the next place of honour.
Ancient Epitome of Canon VII: Let the Bishop of Ælia
be honoured, the rights of the Metropolis being preserved
Balsamon and Aristenus identify the Metropolis as Cæsarea,
of which Jerusalem was only a suffragan see; however
Zonaras identifies the Metropolis with Jerusalem itself.
Concerning those who call themselves Cathari [Novatianists],
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon VIII: 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.
Aristenus: 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
[Zonaras, Balsamon, Beveridge and Van Espen are of opinion
that cheirothetoumenous 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, cheirothetoumenous, 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 cheirothetoumenous,
and that autous is added. Gratian (Decretum, Corp. Juris
Canon, Pars. II. Causa I. Quæst. 7, Can. viii)
supposes that this eighth canon orders a re-ordination.]
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon IX: Whoever are ordained without
examination, shall be deposed if it be found out afterwards
that they had been guilty.
Balsamon: 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.
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon X: Whoso had lapsed are to
be deposed whether those who ordained and promoted them
did so conscious of their guilt or unknowing of it.
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
Ancient Epitome of Canon XI: 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.
Zonaras: The prostrators stood within the body of the
church behind the ambo and went out with the catechumens.
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
Ancient Epitome of Canon XII: Those who endured violence
and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded
to 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.
[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.]
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XIII: 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.
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
Ancient Epitome of Canon XIV: 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.
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XV: 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.
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 shall 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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XVI: 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.
Balsamon: 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 synierourgein
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 xvj.
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.]
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XVII: If anyone shall receive
usury or 150 per cent. he shall be cast forth and deposed,
according to this decree of the Church.
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
Ancient Epitome of Canon XVIII: 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.
[Van Espen writes that Isidore's Latin version of the
canons translates "touched" as "received",
in agreement with Balsamon and Zonaras.]
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XIX: 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.
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.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XX: On Lord's days and at Pentecost
all must pray standing and not kneeling.