The 20 Canons of the Holy First Ecumenical Council

Canon I.

If any one has been operated on by surgeons for a disease, or has been exorcised by barbarians, let him remain in the clergy. But if any one has excised himself when well, he must be dismissed even if he is examined after being in the clergy. And henceforth no such person must be promoted to holy orders. But as is self-evident, though such is the case as regards those who affect the matter and dare to excise themselves, if any person have been eunuchized by barbarians or their lords, but are otherwise found to be worthy, the Canon admits such persons to the clergy.

Canon II.

Inasmuch as many things, whether of necessity or otherwise urgently demanded by men, have been done contrary to the ecclesiastical Canon, so that men who have been recently come to the faith from a heathen life, and have been catechized for only a short time, have been conducted directly to the spiritual bath, and as soon as baptized have been given an episcopate or a presbytery, it has seemed well henceforth to have no such thing occur. For the catechumen needs more time and a longer trial after baptism. The Apostolical letter, too, is plain which says, "not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the Devil's snare" (1 Tim 3:6) If, on the other hand, in the course of time any psychial (i.e. animal) sin be found against the person, and it is exposed by two or three witnesses, let such a person be dismissed from the clergy. As for anyone acting contrary hereto, as having the hardihood to do things opposed to the great council, he himself shall be in danger of losing his standing in the clergy.

Canon III.

The great Council has forbidden generally any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or anyone else at all among those in the clergy, the privilege of having a subintroducta. Unless she is either a mother, or a sister, or an aunt, or a person above suspicion.

Canon IV.

It is most fitting that a bishop should be installed by all those in his province. But if such a thing is difficult either because of the urgency of circumstances, or because of the distance to be travelled, at least 3 should meet together somewhere and by their votes combined with those of the ones absent and joining in the election by letters they should carry out the ordination thereafter. But as for the ratification of the proceedings, let it be entrusted in each province to the Metropolitan.

Canon V.

As regards those who have been denied communion, whether they be members of the clergy or belong to a lay order, by the bishops in each particular province, let the option prevail which expressed in the Canon prescribing that those rejected by some are not to be received by others. But let an investigation be made as to whether or not they have been unchurched on account of small-mindedness or any other such disgustfulness of the Bishop. In order, therefore, that a proper investigation may be made, it has seemed well that synods be held every year twice a year in the province assembled together for this purpose let such questions be thrashed out. And thus those who have admittedly clashed with the Bishop would seem to be reasonably excluded from communion until such time as by common consent of the Bishops it may seem better to let a more philanthropic vote be given in their behalf. As for these synods, let one of them be held before Lent, in order that, with the elimination of all small-mindedness, the gift may be offered to God in all its purity; and let the second one be held sometime in the autumn.

Canon VI.

Let the ancient customs prevail which were vogue in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis, to allow the bishop of Alexandria to have authority over all these parts, since this is also the treatment usually accorded to the bishop of Rome. Likewise with reference to Antioch, and in other provinces, let the seniority be preserved to the Churches. In general it is obvious that in the case in which anyone has been made a bishop without the Metropolitan's approval, the great Council has prescribed that such a person must not be a bishop. If, however, to the common vote of all, though reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical Canon, two or three men object on account of a private quarrel, let the vote of the majority prevail.

Canon VII.

Inasmuch as a custom has prevailed, and an ancient tradition, for the Bishop of Aelia [Jerusalem] to be honored, let him have the sequence of honor, with the Metropolitan having his own dignity preserved.

Canon VIII.

As for those who call themselves Puritans and who are claiming to be adherents of the catholic and apostolic Church, it has seemed right to the holy and great Council, when they have hands laid upon them, to let them remain in the clergy. Above all, that it is fitting for them to confess to this in writing, to wit, that they will agree to and adhere to the dogmas of the catholic and apostolic Church. That is, that they will hold communion with persons married a second time, and with those who in time of persecution have lapsed from the faith; regarding whom a length of time has been fixed, and a due season has been set, for their penance. So that they may adhere to the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. Wherever they are the only ones found to have been ordained, whether in villages or in cities, they shall remain in the same habit (or order). But wherever there is a Bishop of the catholic Church, and some of them are joining it, it is obvious that, as the Bishop of the Church will keep the dignity of bishop, the one called the bishop among the so-called Puritans shall have the honor of a Presbyter, unless it should seem better to the Bishop that he should share in the honor of the name. But if this does not please him, he shall devise a position either of a chorepiscopus or of a presbyter, with the object of having him seen to be wholly in the clergy, lest there should be two bishops in the same city.

Canon IX.

If some persons have been promoted to Presbyters without due examination, or when given a hearing confess their sins to them, and after they confessed, the men, acting contrary to the Canon, laid hand upon such persons, the canon will not admit them. For the catholic Church insists upon irreproachability.

Canon X.

As many persons as have been guilty of serious lapses and have been ordained in ignorance thereof, or even after the ordainators have become aware thereof, will not be admitted under the ecclesiastical Canon. For when they have become known, they shall be deposed.

Canon XI.

As concerns those persons who have transgressed without any need, or without being deprived of goods, or without being in any peril, or in any such strait as obtained during the tyranny of Licinius, it has seem fit to the Council, notwithstanding that they did not deserve philanthropic (or humane) treatment, to be kind to them. As many, therefore, as genuinely repent and are remorseful shall pass three years among audients as believers, and for seven years they shall do penance as succumbents. In addition, for two years they shall commune without oblation in prayers with the laity.

Canon XII.

As for those persons who were summoned by 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 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 "listening" period, 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.

Canon XIII.

As concerns those who are making their exit, the ancient old Law shall be kept even now, so that, if anyone is exciting, let him not be deprived of the final and most necessary equipment (or viaticum). If, however, after all hope has fled, and he has been given communion, he again comes to be looked upon as being among the living, let him stay with those who participate in prayer only. In general, moreover, as concerning anyone at all that is on the point of making his exit, if he asks to partake of the Eucharist, let the Bishop impart to him the oblation with a trial.

Canon XIV.

As concerning catechumens and lapsers, it has seemed proper to the holy great Council to let them off with only three years listening and to allow them thereafter to pray with catechumens.

Canon XV.

Because of much disturbance and mutinies which took place, it has seemed best to do away altogether with the custom which obtained contrary to the Apostolical Canon in some places, so as not to allow either a Bishop or a Presbyter or a Deacon to go from one city to another. If, after the holy and great Council's definition, anyone should attempt to do such a thing, or has actually undertaken to do such a thing, let the resulting affair be invalidated by all means, and let him be reinstated in the church in which the Bishop or Presbyter in question was ordained.

Canon XVI.

Any Presbyters nor Deacons, or other persons covered by the Canon, who take the risk, without having the fear of God before their eyes, or keeping aware of the ecclesiastical Canon, of departing from their own church, they must not be admitted at all in another church, but they must be stringently forced to return to their own parish, or, in case they insist, it is proper for them to be excluded from communion. If on the other hand, anyone should surrepitiously snatch away one belonging to another and ordain him in his own church, without the consent of his Bishop, from whom the one covered by the Canon departed, let the ordination be invalid.

Canon XVII.

Because of the fact that many persons covered by the Canon, out of greed and in pursuit of shameful profits (willfully) forget the divine passage of Holy Writ saying "who hath not lent out his money at interest" (Ps. 15:5), and in lending demanded a percentage commission or profit, the holy and great Council has deemed it just and right that in case anyone is found after the adoption of this definition receiving interest for the use of money, or otherwise exploiting the matter, or demanding commission, or through any other subterfuge contriving to exact shameful profits, he shall be deposed from the clergy and shall be an alien to the Canon.

Canon XVIII.

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 to 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 to these definitions, anyone refuses to obey, let him be dismissed from his diaconate.

Canon XIX.

As concerning Paulianists who afterwards took refuge in the catholic Church, it has made a definition that they be rebaptized without fail. If any of them in the past have been covered in the clergy under examonation as to whether they appear to be blameless and irreproachable, after being rebaptized let them be ordained by a Bishop of the catholic Church. But if the investigation finds them unfit, let them be deposed. Likewise as concerning deaconesses, and all those who are embraced by the Canon in any way and are being examined, the same form shall be observed. We have referred to the deaconesses who have been examined under cover of the habit, since they have neither any claim to appoint to any order, so that they are to be examined without fail among the laymen.

Canon XX.

Since there there are some persons who kneel in the church on Sunday and on the days of Pentecost, with a view of preserving uniformity in all parishes, it has seemed best to the holy Council for prayers to be offered to God while standing.

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