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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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 As for those who take Greek oaths, the Canon makes them liable to penances; and we decree their excommunication.



Greek customs ought to be hated by Christians. For this reason the present Canon excommunicates those Christians who in accordance with the custom of the Greeks swear, either by the gods falsely so called of the Greeks, by saying, for instance, “by Jupiter” or “by Zeus,” or who swear by the elements, by saying, for instance, “by the Sun,” or “by the Heaven above us,” and the like; just as c. LXXXI of Basil subjects them to penances. St. Basil, however, canonizes eleven years those men who without any great necessity due to tortures deny the faith or eat things that have been sacrificed to idols and take the oaths of the Greeks, just as they themselves, that is to say, believe in them. The present Canon of the Council excommunicated, as Balsamon says, not only these men, but also Christians who have not denied the faith but have taken oaths in accordance with the custom of the Greeks. Wherefore no such oath, nor indeed any other oath taken in the face of an unrecognized or disreputable religion, is to be kept, according to ch. 19 of Title XIII of Photius.



Not only are oaths that are taken in accordance with the custom of the Greeks forbidden to Christians, but every oath in general. For the Lord says that we are not to swear at all under any conditions whatsoever, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by our own head; but, instead of any oath, we are to say only yea, yea, and nay, nay; whatever else we say beyond this is of the Devil (Matt. 5:3437).[235] This very same thing is affirmed also by James the Brother of God. But then again even the prophet of the Old Testament Hosea prohibits oaths by saying: “and swear not, As the Lord liveth (Hosea 4:15; James 5:12). That is why St. Basil the Great in his c. XXIX says that swearing an oath is forbidden once for all, and so much the more that oath which is taken with a view to injuring someone else. Hence those rulers who swear to injure the ones who are ruled and who are their subjects, are commanded by him to repent because of their having taken an oath all too rashly and not to insist upon those oaths to wreak injury on others. But also in his c. X he accuses Severus of acting contrary to Canon and binding the Presbyter Kyriakos by an oath contravening the legislation of the Gospels. So much for the fact that one ought not to take oaths. But in case anyone should actually do so anyhow, and violate it, he is canonized in a general way and indefinitely in c. LXIV by the same St. Basil to abstain from Communion for ten years. But in his c. LXXXII the delinquent is canonized definitely and according to circumstances: if it were due to violence and necessity that he violated the oath, he is penanced six years; but if he violated it without being under any necessity to do so, he is sentenced to seven yearspenance. In his c. XXVIII, and particularly in Def. 137 of his Epitomized Definitions, the same St. Basil says that it is ludicrous for anyone to promise God not to eat pork, or to sentence himself to abstain for such a length of time from some other food or drink. Accordingly no such uneducated promises ought to be made, and the use of foods should be a matter of indifference. If, nevertheless, in accordance with his c. XVII he allowed Bianor to celebrate the Liturgy notwithstanding that he had sworn not to celebrate the Liturgy, the fact is that he did not do this as a matter of course, but, on the contrary, 1) because that man had taken the oath as a result of violence and under threat of danger; 2) he allowed him to conduct the Liturgy secretly and in another place, and not there where he had taken the oath; and 3) he adds that he must repent because he took an oath. But as for all perjurers that are in holy orders and those that are clerics, they are deposed from office according to Ap. c. XXV; see the Interpretation of the latter.



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