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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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29.

 The Canon of the Fathers met in Carthage prescribes that the holy rites of the sacrificial altar, unless performed by men under a fast, are not to be celebrated at all, except on one day of the year on which the Lords Supper is celebrated, perhaps having decided to employ such an economy of the divine Fathers on account of certain pretexts advantageous to the Church in such seasons. Since there is nothing to compel us to abandon rigorism, we decree, pursuantly to the traditions of the Apostles and of the Fathers, that the fasting during the Thursday which falls in the last week in Great Lent (or Tessaracoste) must not be omitted, and the whole fast of Great Lent dishonored by being prematurely broken.

(Ap. c. LXIX; c. LXXXIX of the 6th; cc. XLIX, L, LI, LII of Laodicea; cc. XLVIII, LVI of Carthage; c. I of Dionysius; cc. VIII, X of Timothy.)

 

Interpretation.

Just as our Lord Jesus Christ on the evening of the Great Thursday first ate a common supper and thereafter delivered the divine mysteries to the Apostles, in the same manner it may be said that a custom came to prevail in Africa for the people there to eat certain more luscious foods on Great Thursday, according to Zonaras, which served to break the usual course of eating dry things on other days of Great Lent, and thereafter to celebrate and to partake of the divine mysteries. So the present Council, as an improvement over c. XLVIII of Carthage which contained this custom, decrees that perhaps those Fathers employed this economy for some beneficial reasons of benefit to those regions, but inasmuch as we have no reason that would compel us to abandon the strictness of the Canons, we follow the instructions handed down by the Apostles, in their c. LXIX, that is to say, which makes it incumbent upon all to fast throughout Great Lent (both Great Thursday and the entire Great Week are included in the period of Great Lent, as well as during the fasts of the Fathers, that is to say, those in c. L of the Fathers of Laodicea, which decrees that no one shall break the fast of the Thursday in the last week in Great Lent (that is to say, of Great Thursday), and by breaking it dishonor and disparage the fast of the entire Great Lent, but, instead, everyone must fast throughout the period of Great Lent by eating nothing but dry things, including, of course, Great Thursday itself.[156]

 

Concord.

Note, however, that not only this c. XLVIII of Carthage decrees that priests must officiate on an empty stomach (as we say in English, though in Greek the same idea is expressed differently by sayingfastingly”), but c. LVI of the same Council states that this was also confirmed by the Council held in Nicaea. Nevertheless, if anyone is in danger of dying, he must commune even after having eaten, according to c. IX of Nicephorus. When St. Chrysostom was blamed for having administered the communion to some persons after they had eaten, and wrote in his letter to Bishop Kyriakos: “If it is true that I did this, may my name be stricken from the book of bishops. But if they say this to me once, and start quarreling, let them consider St. Paul, who baptized a whole household right after supper. Let them also consider Christ Himself, who gave the Communion to the Apostles right after supper.” Hence it is evident that those who are about to commune have permission up to midnight to drink water, and thereafter they must not put anything in their mouth until they have communed. Read also Ap. c. LXIX.

 

 




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