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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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7.

 Since we have learned that Deacons having ecclesiastical offices in some of the churches have hence had the impudence and self-assertion to sit down ahead of the Presbyters, we decree that no matter in what office, that is to say, ecclesiastical position, a Deacon may happen to be, he must not sit down before the presbyter does so, unless he is acting as the personal representative of his own Patriarch or Metropolitan and has come to another city on some errand. For then, on the ground that he is filling the place of the latter, he shall be honored. If, nevertheless, anyone should dare to do such a thing, by resorting to tyrannical audacity, let that person, after being deprived of his proper rank, become the lowest of all those who belong to the list in which he is enrolled, in the church to which he belongs, in view of the fact that our Lord admonishes not to enjoy being called the first, according to the teaching of our Lord and God Himself as found in the Gospel of the Evangelist St. Luke. (Luke 14:7). For he told those called something like the following parable: “When you have been invited by anybody to a wedding, do not take your seat at the first call, lest someone else more honorable than you have been invited by him, and when he who has invited both you and him comes, he tell you bluntly, ‘Give this man your seat’; and then to your shame you will begin taking the last seat in the house. But, instead, when you have been invited, slump into the last seat, so that, when the host comes round, he may say to you: ‘Friend, take a better seat.’ Then glory wilt be yours in the midst of those making up the rest of the company: since whoever exalteth himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The same rule shall be observed also with respect to the other sacred orders, since we know spiritual dignities to be superior to mundane offices.

(c. XVIII of the 1st; c. XX of Laodicea.)

 

Interpretation.

The present Canon decrees that since some deacons, on account of their having ecclesiastical offices (which are calledincumbencies” and “positions of honor,” and “benefices” (i.e., sources of income), according to Balsamon (such as are, for instance, those of clerical magnates — like the grand Steward, that is to say, the grand Sacellarius, Skevophylax, Chartophylax, the lesser Sacellarius, and the Protecdicus), wax audacious and sit down ahead of Presbyters, henceforth no deacon, in whatever ecclesiastical office he may be, has any right to take his seat ahead of the Presbyter, except only in case he should happen to be acting as the agent and personal representative of a Patriarch or Metropolitan, sent to another region, on any ecclesiastical matter. For in such a case as that he will be given the preference and precedence over all Presbyters, not because he is a deacon, but because he is acting in the place of a Patriarch or Metropolitan, as we have said. Any deacon that, assuming tyrannical audacity and impudence, goes right ahead and sits down before the Presbyter does, shall, if so be he has precedence over the rest of the deacons, become the last and least and lowest of all deacons. For the Lord teaches us not to enjoy first and highest seats of honor, in the sacred Gospel of St. Luke, wherein He says: “For he himself used to tell them such a parable as this when they were invited to suppers and dinners: ‘Man, when you are invited by anybody to a wedding, dont sit down in the first place, lest there be some other guest who is your superior, and the host who has invited both him and you come round and tell you unceremoniously, “Give this man the seat you have taken so that he may sit down.” And then you will shamefacedly retire to the lowest and least honorable seat. But, instead of incurring such a predicament, when you are invited, sit down in the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you, “My friend, take a higher and better seat for yourself, and sit down, and make yourself at ease.” And then you will be enveloped in a halo of glory before the glances of all those sitting at the table. For anyone that tries to exalt himself shall be humbled and humiliated, but anyone that humbles himself shall be exalted. But not only must deacons not take precedence of Presbyters and sit down ahead of them, but neither must any of the lower members of holy orders and lower clerical ranks presume to sit down ahead of the higher ranks; that is to say, neither Subdeacons ahead of Deacons, nor Anagnosts ahead of Subdeacons: since if in relation to secular and mundane office, those of lower dignity do not take their seats in advance of those of higher dignity, nor have they the preference and precedence of honor over their superiors, who have a higher office or higher dignity, far more ought this to be observed as an inviolable principle in the case of spiritual dignities and office bestowed as gifts by the divine grace of the Spirit, which dignities and offices are superior to and higher than the mundane.[137] Read also c. XVIII of the First Ec. C.

 




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