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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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18.

 It has come to the notice of the holy and great Council that in some regions and cities Deacons are giving the Eucharist to Presbyters, which is something that neither the Canon nor custom has allowed those who have not the authority to offer, to give the body of Christ to those offering it. It has also further been learned that already some Deacons touch the Eucharist even before the Bishops. Let all these things, therefore, be done away with, and let Deacons conform to their own standards, well knowing that they are servants of the Bishop, and that they are inferior to Presbyters. Let them take the Eucharist in due order after the Presbyters, with either the Bishop or the Presbyters administering it to them. But neither let it be permissible for Deacons to sit among Presbyters, for to do so is contrary to the Canon, and is contrary to due order: if, in disregard of these definitions, anyone refuses to obey, let him be dismissed from his diaconate.

    (c. XX of Laodicea; c. VII of the 6th Ecum. C.)

 

Interpretation.

Good order must be observed everywhere, and especially among those in holy orders; for this reason the present seeks to correct anything that is done in disregard of due order. For it says that it has come to the knowledge of this holy and great Council that in some regions and cities the deacons are giving the divine Eucharist to presbyters, a thing which neither any written Canon nor any custom has sanctioned, that is to say, for deacons to administer, or impart, the body of Christ to the priests who conduct the rite connected therewith, seeing that deacons themselves have no authority to perform the office of administering this sacred rite.[33] It has also been revealed in addition to this that some of the deacons are communing before the presbyters have done so. So let all these disorderly proceedings be eliminated, and let deacons remain within their bounds, or, that is to say, let them neither administer the Eucharist to priests, nor partake thereof before the priests do, since they know well enough that they are servants of the Bishop, as is indicated also by their very name (i.e., in Greek the word deacon signifies servant, just as does the word minister in English); for deacon (as a Greek word) really means servant. They are inferior to and lower than presbyters; and what is inferior must be blessed by what is superior, as the Apostle says, and not the opposite way round (Heb. 7:7). Let them receive the divine Eucharist in due order after the presbyters have partaken thereof, letting the Bishop administer it to them, or it may be administered to them by a presbyter (in case the Bishop is not present). But neither have deacons any right to sit among presbyters, since this too is disorderly and contrary to canon; for it tends to intimate that deacons are peers of presbyters, which is not really so. But if, after this Canon has been formulated, any of the deacons should be unwilling to submit to this rule, let them be deprived of their diaconate.

    In keeping with the present Canon c. VII of the 6th is also in effect. For it commands that any deacon that has the audacity to take a seat before the presbyters (have done so) is to be lowered in rank and to become the lowest servant and least menial in his own order, no matter what ecclesiastical office he may occupy;[34] except only if he go to another city as the personal representative of his own Patriarch, or Metropolitan, he is then to be honored more than the presbyters. But even c. XX of Laodicea says that a deacon must not sit in front of a presbyter. Canon LVI of the same Council prohibits priests from sitting down in the Bema before the Prelate makes his entrance. Note that according to Zonaras and Balsamon c. XVIII of the present Council has reference to those deacons who during divine service within the Bema sit down before the presbyters have done so, and on this account it punishes them with a severer chastisement, or chastening, by depriving them, that is to say, of their diaconate. Canon VII of the 6th refers to those who sit down before the presbyters do, not in church, but in outside assemblies, and on this account it chastises them more lightly, by merely lowering their proper station.

 

 




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