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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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12.

 As for those persons who were summoned by the grace, and after displaying a preliminary enthusiasm and taking off their belts, they returned, like dogs to their vomit, in such a fashion that some of them even wasted money in an effort to re-establish themselves in the army by means of beneficia (a Latin word meaning much the same as the English word gift), let them be succumbents for ten years after devoting three years to “listening” (as audients). But in addition to all these requirements it is requisite to examine into the will (or inclinations) and the kind of repentance. For as regards all those who with fear, and tears, and patience, and the doing of good to others have displayed proofs of their conversion by actual performance and not by mere pretense, after they have fulfilled the time fixed for their “listeningperiod, they shall participate in prayers unrestrictedly, with the further concession of a right to the Bishop to devise some more philanthropic (or humane) treatment regarding them. But as for those who acted unconcernedly, and who thought the pretense of going to church a sufficient proof of their conversion, let them fulfill the time to the utmost limit.

(cc. IX, XI of Peter; c. CII of the 6th; cc. II, V, VII of Ancyra; cc. I, II of Laodicea; cc. II, III, LXIV, LXXXIV of Basil; cc. IV, V, VII and VIII of Nyssa.)

 

Interpretation.

This Canon, too, appears to be speaking of Christian soldiers living in the time of Licinius. It decrees thus: As regarding all Christian soldiers who having been called and having been strengthened by divine grace displayed at first courage and eagerness for martyrdom, and cast aside their belts, which were their army decorations, but thereafter returned, like dogs to their own vomit, which is to say, repented, and denied the faith, insomuch that some of them even spent money and by means of beneficia, or, more plainly speaking, with gifts and benefactions (for that is what this Latin word signifies) they regained their former status in the army; as for them, I say, after they have done three years in the place assigned to “listeners,” let them do also ten years more in the place assigned to “kneelers.” That is to say, in other words, though allowed to enter the church, they must leave together with catechumens. Besides all this, however, the prelate and the spiritual father ought to examine into the likings and proclivities of such faith-deniers, and the kind and mood of their repentance.[23] For all those who repent with fear of God, and who propitiate God with tears and penetential contrition, and patiently endure hardships, and do good to others in a charitable way, as, for instance, by giving alms, and other virtues, and, generally speaking, who repent truly and genuinely, and not fictitiously and in appearance only; as for these persons, I say, after they fulfill the said three years with “listeners,” they may rightfully pray with the faithful, and need not leave the church (ahead of time). In addition to this concession, the prelate is permitted to show them still more kindly treatment and mercy. But as for all those who repent unconcernedly and carelessly, and think that it is enough evidence of repentance for them to go to church ostensibly with “kneelers” and to leave again with catechumens; as for these persons, I say, let them fulfill all three years of “listening,” and the entire ten years of succumbency.[24]

    Canons II, V, and VII of Ancyra, and cc. I and II of Laodicea agree that penances ought to be accomodated to the repentance and complaisance of penitents. So do cc. CII of the 6th and II and III and LXXIV and LXXXIV of Basil, and cc. IV, V, VII, and VIII of Nyssa. In this connection, too, c. XXVIII of Nicephorus says that if a secular person of his own free will confesses his mistakes, the spiritual father (i.e., the confessor) may make him an “economy,” i.e., may allow him an adjustment in regard to the matter of penances. Read also cc. IX and XI of Peter.

 

 




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