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Transliteration of Greek words: All phonetical except: w = omega; h serves
three puposes: 1. = Eta; 2. = rough breathing, when appearing initially
before a vowel; 3. = in the aspirated letters theta = th, phi = ph, chi =
ch. Accents are given immediately after their corresponding vowels: acute =
' , grave = `, circumflex = ^. The character ' doubles as an apostrophe,
THE FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL:
THE FIRST COUNCIL OF NICE (NICAEA)
A.D. 325; Emperor--Constantine; Pope--Silvester.
Containing the Nicene Creed; the Creed of Eusebius of Caesarea; the 20
Canons of the Council of Nicaea, with the ancient epitomes; Contents of the
spurious Arabic Canons; the Synodal Letter; the Decree on the Keeping of
THE NICENE CREED
(Found in the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon,
in the Epistle of Eusebius of Caesarea 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 (gennhthe'nta), not made, being of
one substance(homoou'sion, 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 (h'n pote ho'te ouk h^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
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 CANONS OF THE 318 HOLY FATHERS ASSEMBLED IN THE CITY OF NICE, IN
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(1) OF CANON I.
Eunuchs may be received into the number of the clergy, but those who
castrate themselves shall not be received.
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
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 (kako's). 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Aelia [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 Aelia be honoured, the rights of the Metropolis being
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
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.
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.
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 oblation.
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.
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.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XII.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 the diaconate.
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.
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
APPENDIX: THE CAPTIONS OF THE ARABIC CANONS ATTRIBUTED TO THE COUNCIL OF
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
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
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
Of the honour to be paid to the bishop and to a presbyter by the
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
Clerics are forbidden from suretyship or witness-giving in criminal
Of avoiding the excommunicate, and of not receiving the oblation from
them; and of the excommunication of him who does not avoid the
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
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
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
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; inasmuch
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
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
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
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
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 fornication, 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
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
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
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
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 SYNODAL LETTER.
(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 Nicea
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
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
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.
ON THE KEEPING OF EASTER.
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.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (LNPF II/XIV, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The
Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.