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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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13.

 Since we have learned that in the church of the Romans it is regarded as tantamount to a canon that ordinands to the deaconry or presbytery must solemnly promise to have no further intercourse with their wives. Continuing, however, in conformity with the ancient canon of apostolic rigorism and orderliness, we desire that henceforward the lawful marriage ties of sacred men become stronger, and we are nowise dissolving their intercourse with their wives, nor depriving them of their mutual relationship and companionship when properly maintained in due season, so that if anyone is found to be worthy to be ordained a Subdeacon, or a Deacon, or a Presbyter, let him nowise be prevented from being elevated to such a rank while cohabiting with a lawful wife. Nor must he be required at the time of ordination to refrain from lawful intercourse with his own wife, lest we be forced to be downright scornful of marriage, which was instituted by God and blessed by His presence, as attested by the unequivocal declaration of the Gospel utterance: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (Matt. 19:6); and the Apostle’s teaching: Marriage is honorable, and the bed is undefiled(Heb. 13:4), and: Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be freed (1 Cor. 7:27). We are cognizant, though, that those who met in Carthage and made provision of decency in the life of ministers declared that Subdeacons and Deacons and Presbyters, busying themselves as they do with the sacred mysteries, according to their rules are obliged to practice temperance in connection with their helpmates, in order that we may likewise keep the injunction handed down through the Apostles, and continued from ancient times in force, well knowing that there is a proper season for everything, and especially for fasting and praying. For those who assist in the ceremonies at the sacrificial altar have to be temperate in all things at the time when they are handling holy things, so that they may be able to gain whatever they ask God for. If, therefore, anyone acting contrary to the Apostolic Canons require any person who is in sacred orders — any Presbyter, we mean, or Deacon, or Subdeacon — to abstain from intercourse and association with his lawful wife, let him be deposed from office. Likewise, if any Presbyter or Deacon expel his own wife on the pretext of reverence, let him be excommunicated; and if he persist, let him be deposed from office.

 

Interpretation.

What the present Canon decrees is this. Since we have learned that in Rome it is kept as inviolable canon that those who are about to become deacons and presbyters must promise and agree at the time of ordination that after the ordination they will have intercourse with their wives no more, we, following the old Canon of the Holy Apostles, Ap. c. V, that is to say, desire and hereby decree the marriage ties of those in holy orders to remain solid and inseverable, without requiring their separation after ordination from intercourse with their own wives when held at the proper time — when, that is to say, there is no fast, and when they are not engaged in celebrating the divine and sacred mysteries.[141] So that whoever is married with a lawful wife and is worthy to become a Subdeacon, Deacon, or Presbyter, let him become one; and let him not be obliged necessarily to promise that he will separate from his wifelest as a result of this we be forced to dishonor marriage, sanctioned by the laws laid down by God, and blessed by His presence, at the wedding in Cana, that is to say. For even the Lord’s utterance in the Gospel says unequivocally: Let no man sunder those who have been united by God; and the Apostle teaches that marriage is honorable and the marriage bed is undefiled; and again, if you have been tied up with a wife, do not try to separate from her. But just as the Fathers of the Council held in Carthage, in providing for the decency of those in holy orders, decreed that subdeacons, deacons, and presbyters who come in contact with the divine mysteries must practice temperance by abstaining from their helpmates (or consorts), in accordance with their own rules (or definitions)[142] in accordance with c. XXXIII, in order that we may keep likewise ourselves the tradition handed down through the Apostles from antiquity, in accordance with c. III of the same Council (that is to say, both the written traditions and the unwritten traditions, according to Zonaras and Balsamon), so and in like manner do we, who say the same things as these Fathers, decree that the above three ranks of those in holy orders must temperately abstain from their wives in time of fasting and of praying, in accordance with the words of St. Paul. For those who presiding at the sacrificial altar ought to be temperately abstinent from everything at the time they are engaged in the celebration of sacred rites, in order that by means of this abstinence they may obtain from God that which they seeking in general, or indiscriminately, that is to say, according to Zonaras, or for the common interest of the laity (according to c. III, that is to say, of the same Carthaginian Council). So whoever dares, in disregard of the Apostolic Canons, to prevent subdeacons, deacons, and presbyters from lawfully mingling with their wives, let him be deposed from office.[143] It ingeminates word for word Ap. c. V, the Interpretation of which you may read for yourself.

 

 




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