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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
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In beginning either a discourse or an action of any kind the thoughtful find it best to begin with God, and to rely upon God, in accordance with the utterance of the Theologian. Hence, inasmuch as we have already preached piety in a clarion voice, and the Church in which Christ has been laid as the foundation is continually growing apace and waxing more and more capable, insomuch that it may be said to have outgrown the cedars of Lebanon, and now in commencing a recital of sacred words, by divine grace we decree that the faith which has been handed down to us shall be and remain exempt from any and every innovation and mutilation just as it has been delivered to us by those who have been both eye-witness and servants of the word of the God-approved Apostles, and further by the three hundred and eighteen holy and blissful Fathers who convened in Nicaea in the reign of Constantine, who became our Emperor, against ungodly Arius and the heathenish deity of a diverse god, or one might more aptly say of a multitude of diverse gods, which was dogmatized by him; and who in their unanimous consensus of opinion regarding the faith revealed and stated to us with convincing clearness the fact that the three hypostases of the thearchic nature are of the same essence, without allowing this important point to remain hidden under a bushel of ignorance, but, on the contrary, openly taught the faithful outright to adore the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit with one adoration, and deposed and denounced the opinion that divinity if of unequal grades (or ranks), and efficiently overthrew and demolished the puerile toys which the heretics had built up and erected upon sand in opposition to Orthodoxy. Likewise it is to be noted that we are determined to strengthen as much as we can the faith which was proclaimed by the one hundred and fifty Holy Fathers who convened in the Imperial City itself in the reign of Theodosius the Great, who also became our Emperor, embracing the utterance of the Theologian and driving out profane Macedonius along with previous enemies of the truth, on the ground that he impudently and arrogantly opined the head of lordship to be a servant and slave, and as having preferred as a matter of choice to split the indivisible unit in robber fashion, as though the mystery of the hope were not sufficient to sustain us. Along with this abominable fellow who waxed rabid against the truth they courageously condemned also Apolinarius the monstrous initiate of wickedness and vice, who vomited forth an ungodly view proclaiming the Lord to have been taken up in body without a mind and without a soul, so that it is hence evident that he too was addicted to the unwelcome conclusion that we have been left with an imperfect hope of salvation. But as a matter of fact we also gladly ratify the teachings set forth by the God-bearing Fathers who earlier assembled themselves in the city of Euphesus in the reign of Theodosius, who was the son of Arcadius and who also became our Emperor, and we hold them to be an unbreakable and mighty power of piety, preaching one Christ the Son of God who became incarnate, and the intemerate Ever-Virgin who seedlessly gave birth to Him, holding her to have been properly speaking (Note of Translator. — Lest the exact meaning of this exceedingly important phrase be lost upon the unwary reader, it may not be amiss here to state that it would be more usually expressed in ordinary English by the word literally) and “in truth a Theotocos” (i.e., when interpreted into plain English, “a woman who gives birth to God or to a god”), and driving away into banishment the driveling dissension of Nestorius on the ground that it has lost all contact with the Divine Oracle, while at the same time it seeks to renew the prevalence of Jewish ungodliness and aversion to piety, and we dogmatize the one Christ to be human being in due form and a God in due form. But we do not stop here. We Orthodoxly confirm the faith which was engrossed upon a pillar in the Metropolis of the Chalcedonians in the reign of Marcianus, who also became our Emperor, by the six hundred and thirty God-approved Fathers, which conveyed to the ends of the earth in a loud voice the one Christ the Son of God composed of two natures and in these two same natures glorified; and we have driven out of the sacred precincts of the Church Eutyches the vain-minded, who declared it to be his opinion that great mystery of the Economy was only seemingly consummated, as something sinister and miasmatic, and along with him also Dioscorus and Nestorius, the former being a defender and champion of dissension, the latter of confusion, and both of them being diametrically opposite outlets of impiety, fallen out in the same direction towards one and the same yawning chasm of perdition and godlessness. But neither do we stop here. We take the pious utterances of the one hundred and sixty-five God-bearing Fathers who assembled upon the ground of this Imperial City in the reign of Justinian, who became our Emperor and who passed away at the termination of his pious career, and, recognizing them to have been inspired and uttered by the (Holy) Spirit, we teach them outright to our posterity; which Fathers indeed as a Council anathematized and consigned to abomination Theodore of Mopsuestia, the teacher of Nestorius, and in addition Origen and Didymus and Evagrius, who joined hands in refashioning the Greek myths and recounting to us periods and mutations of certain bodies and souls, prompted by raptures and hallucinations of the mind, and in drunken revelry impiously exulting over the resurrection of the dead; as well as what had been written by Theodoret against the right faith and correct belief and against the twelves heads (or chapters) of blissful Cyril; and also the so-called letter of Ibas. And again we faithfully join together in the promise and vow to preserve and safeguard and keep inviolable the faith declared by the Sixth holy Council recently assembled on the grounds of this Imperial City in the reign of Constantine, who became our Emperor and passed away at the termination of his divine career, and which received still greater validity by virtue of the fact that the pious Emperor himself sealed up the volumes containing it by impressing them with his own seals with a view to ensuring their safety in every succeeding age; and which has with the love of God clearly enabled us to entertain an Orthodox conception of the straightforward dogma which they outlined of the truth that there were and are two natural wills, or, that is to say, wishes, and two natural energies inherent in the incarnate economy of our one Lord Jesus, the true God; and which Council by a vote of piety condemned those who teach their laities outright the doctrine of a single will and of a single energy inherent in our one Lord and God Jesus Christ, among whom we cite by name Theodore the Bishop of Faran, Cyrus (the Patriarch) of Alexandria, Honorius (the Pope) of Rome, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Peter, all four of whom have acted as presiding chairmen in this God-guarded city, Macarius who became the Bishop of the Antiochians, Stephanus his disciple, and foolish (or witless) Polychronius. Hence we solemnly decree that this Council, while preserving intact the common body of Christ our God, and, succinctly speaking, of all the men who have distinguished themselves in the Church of God and have become luminaries in the world, “holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:16), is committed to holding the faith firm and sure, even till the consummation of the age, and that it shall remain immutable and unaltered, as well as their God-imparted writings and dogmas; and rejecting and anathematized, on the ground that its authors were enemies of the truth, and snortingly and ravingly uttered vain things against God and made injustice and unrighteousness the highest objects of their study and meditation. If, however, there be anyone in the world who does not care to hold and embrace the aforesaid dogmas of piety, and believe and preach thus, but, on the contrary, attempts to by-pass them, let him be anathema, in accordance with the definition (or rule) already previously promulgated by the aforesaid holy and blissful Fathers, and let him be erased and expunged from the Christian Roll like an alien, and as one not belonging to our faith. For we are fully resolved and have been determined not to add anything to or to remove anything from what has previously been decreed, or any words whatsoever that we have been able to understand.
This first Canon was not explained by Zonaras, nor by Balsamon. The result is that there is nothing else than a brief summary both of the dogmas and of the definitions (or rules) of the faith of the holy and ecumenical six Councils which were held before this present Council was held; and of those heretics against whom each one of them was held, as well as the time and place in which each was held. And not only a repetition, but also a ratification of their dogmas. Hence, following those same interpreters, as concerns the definitions and dogmas of the said holy Councils, and the times and places, and above all the heretics against whom each of them was held, we refer readers to the original sources of the Canons of each Council, where they will learn about them in greater detail. We do this in order to avoid repeating here in vain what is said there. We shall therefore confine ourselves to elucidating only a few words which are not so easily intelligible to the unlearned. We proceed, therefore, to note that, starting with a maxim of St. Gregory the Theologian, which says that it is the best policy for one who is about to commence any discourse or work to begin with God, and to end with God (Note of Translator. — This sounds plausible and may be true, although the Greek text of the Canon does not strictly say “end,” but instead employs the Greek word signifying “repose,” for which in my translation of the Canon I substituted the English word rely as better adapted to the English idiom). It decrees that there shall be no innovation or alteration in the faith which has been imparted and handed down both by the Holy Apostles and by the Fathers of the First Council (who were the ones that abolished the doctrine of the deity of a diverse god, or rather to say the doctrine of the deity of a multitude of diverse gods, of Arius; and who proclaimed that the Holy Trinity is coessential (or homousian), or, in other words, of the same essence and nature), and by the Fathers of the Second Council (whose theological utterances the Fathers of this Council assert that they embrace. These are those which were added by the Second Council into the Symbol of the Faith in regard to the Theology of the Holy Spirit. For in proximity to “the Holy Spirit,” which were words of the First Council, this Council added the words “the Lordly, the Life-producing, which Proceeds out of the Father, and which is adored and glorified together with the Father and The Son, which hath spoken through the Prophets”), and by the Fathers of the Third and Fourth, and Fifth, and Sixth Council; and, briefly speaking, the Fathers of the present Council solemnly decree that the faith shall remain firm and sure, and immutable and unaltered, even to the consummation (or finish) of the age, as well as the God-imparted dogmas of all the Holy Men who have shone in the Church of God and who have stood in the world as life-giving luminaries. And they too join hands in anathematizing all those enemies of the truth, the heretics, that is to say, whom their predecessors had anathematized. At the same time they go on to state this, that they neither know how nor can by any means whatever add anything to or remove anything from the dogmas of their predecessors. Furthermore, as for anyone who fails to keep the aforesaid Holy Fathers’ dogmas of piety, and who neither believes them with his mind nor preaches them with his tongue, but, on the contrary, tries to oppose them, let him be anathema, they say, and be removed and wiped off the Roll of the Christians, as an alien person and rotten member.