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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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1.

 For those who have been allotted a sacerdotal dignity, the representations of canonical ordinances amount to testimonies and directions. Gladly accepting these, we sing to the Lord God with David, the spokesman of God, the following words: “I have delighted in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all wealth,” and “thy testimonies which thou hast commanded witness righteousness, . . . . Thy testimonies are righteousness forever: give me understanding, and I shall live (Ps. 119:14, 138 and 144). And if forever the prophetic voice commands us to keep the testimonies of God, and to live in them, it is plain that they remain unwavering and rigid. For Moses, too, the beholder of God, says so in the following words: “To them there is nothing to add, and from them there is nothing to remove (Deut. 12:32). And the divine Apostle Peter, exulting in them, cries: “which things the angels would like to peep into” (1 Pet. 1:12). And Paul says: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel besides that which ye have received, let him be anathema (Gal. 1:8). Seeing that these things are so and are attested to us, and rejoicing at them “as one that findeth great spoil (Ps. 119:162), we welcome and embrace the divine Canons, and we corroborate the entire and rigid fiat of them that have been set forth by the renowned Apostles, who were and are trumpets of the Spirit, and those both of the six holy Ecumenical Councils and of the ones assembled regionally for the purpose of setting forth such edicts, and of those of our holy Fathers. For all those men, having been guided by the light dawning out of the same Spirit, prescribed rules that are to our best interest. Accordingly, we too anathematize whomsoever they consign to anathema; and we too depose whomsoever they consign to deposition; and we too excommunicate whomsoever they consign to excommunication; and we likewise subject to a penance anyone whom they make liable to a penance. For “Let your conduct be free from avarice; being content with such things as are at hand (Heb. 13:5), explicitly cries the divine apostle Paul, who ascended into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words (2 Cor. 12:2-4).

(c. I of the 4th; c. II of the 6th.)

 

Interpretation.

The divine Canons are testimonies[265] so far as concerns those in holy orders in that they attest and reveal to them how they ought to conduct themselves both publicly and privately. They are directions in that when they are observed by them they direct and steer their life. Joyfully accepting these Canons through the present Canon, this Council offers up those prophetic words of David as a song to God which run as follows in paraphrase: “I have rejoiced, O Lord, in Thy testimonies just as I should rejoice if I owned all the wealth of the world. And Thou hast commanded me to keep Thy testimonies forever, wherewith be Thou pleased to wisen me, and I shall live in them.” And if this utterance of the prophet’s commands us to keep the testimonies of God forever, and to live in them, it is manifest that they themselves are permanent and rigid (for, according to Zonaras, the Greek word for “unwaveringdenotes the weak and fragile branch of a fig-tree; unwavering things, therefore, are things that are solid and unmovable). That is the reason, too, why Moses says that no one is to add anything to the words of the Law, nor to take anything out of them. The Coryphaeus of Apostles, St. Peter, exulting in them, says that the angels would like to look into those things, viz. which the apostles preaching the gospel in a spirit of God have revealed to us. And St. Paul anathematizes anyone, even though he be an angel, that preaches anything as gospel that lies outside of what has been handed down and delivered as the faith. For this reason, rejoicing in the divine Canons just as soldiers rejoice when they happen to find a great amount of booty on their vanquished enemies, as David says, we too joyfully embrace them, and corroborate them, and confirm them all, including those set forth by the holy apostles, as well as those of the six ecumenical councils and of the regional councils, and those of the individual Fathers; anathematizing those whom they anathematize; deposing those whom they depose; and excommunicating those whom they excommunicate — and, generally speaking, disciplining those whom they discipline. For, just as those who are not of an avaricious disposition are content with whatever money they have at hand, as St. Paul says, so too do we refrain from adding or removing anything, but, on the contrary, content ourselves with the Canons[266] which have been enacted by the holy Fathers. See also c. I of the 4th, and what has been said in the beginning of this book in the Prolegomena to the Canons.

 

 




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