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A.D. 314

translated by Henry R. Percival, 1899.

(Found in Labbe and Cossart's Concilia, and all Collections, in the Greek text together with several Latin versions of different dates. Also in Justellus and Beveridge. There will also be found annotations by Routh, and a reprint of the notes of Christopher Justellus and of Bp. Beveridge in Vol. IV. of the Reliquiae Sacræ, ed. alters, 1846.)

Canon I.

With regard to those presbyters who have offered sacrifices and afterwards returned to the conflict, not with hypocrisy, but in sincerity, it has seemed good that they may retain the honour of their chair; provided they had not used management, arrangement, or persuasion, so as to appear to be subjected to the torture, when it was applied only in seeming and pretence. Nevertheless it is not lawful for them to make the oblation, nor to preach, nor in short to perform any act of sacerdotal function.

Ancient Epitome to Canons I And II: Presbyters and deacons who offered sacrifice and afterwards renewed the contest for the truth shall have only their seat and honour, but shall not perform any of the holy functions.

Zonaras: Of those that yielded to the tyrants in the persecution, and offered sacrifice, some, after having been subjected to torture, being unable to withstand to the end its force and intensity, were conquered, and denied the faith; some, through effeminacy, before they experienced any suffering, gave way, and lest they should seem to sacrifice voluntarily they persuaded the executioners, either by bribes or entreaties, to manifest perhaps a greater degree of severity against them, and seemingly to apply the torture to them, in order that sacrificing under these circumstances they might seem to have denied Christ, conquered by force, and not through effeminacy.

Canon II.

It is likewise decreed that deacons who have sacrificed and afterwards resumed the conflict, shall enjoy their other honours, but shall abstain from every sacred ministry, neither bringing forth the bread and the cup, nor making proclamations. Nevertheless, if any of the bishops shall observe in them distress of mind and meek humiliation, it shall be lawful to the bishops to grant more indulgence, or to take away [what has been granted].

For Ancient Epitome see above under Canon I.

Canon III.

Those who have fled and been apprehended, or have been betrayed by their servants; or those who have been otherwise despoiled of their goods, or have endured tortures, or have been imprisoned and abused, declaring themselves to be Christians; or who have been forced to receive something which their persecutors violently thrust into their hands, or meat [offered to idols], continually professing that they were Christians; and who, by their whole apparel, and demeanour, and humility of life, always give evidence of grief at what has happened; these persons, inasmuch as they are free from sin, are not to be repelled from the communion; and if, through an extreme strictness or ignorance of some things, they have been repelled, let them forthwith be re-admitted. This shall hold good alike of clergy and laity. It has also been considered whether laymen who have fallen under the same compulsion may be admitted to orders, and we have decreed that, since they have in no respect been guilty, they may be ordained; provided their past course of life be found to have been upright.

Ancient Epitome of Canon III: Those who have been subjected to torments and have suffered violence, and have eaten food offered to idols after being tyrannized over, shall not be deprived of communion. And laymen who have endured the same sufferings, since they have in no way transgressed, if they wish to be ordained, they may be, if otherwise they be blameless.

[In the translation the word "abused" is given as the equivalent of perischisthentas which Zonaras translated, "if their clothes have been torn from their bodies," and this is quite accurate if the reading is correct, but Routh has found in the Bodleian several mss. which had perischethentas. Hefele adopts this reading and translates "declaring themselves to be Christians but who have subsequently been vanquished, whether their oppressors have by force put incense into their hands or have compelled them, etc." Hammond translates "and have been harassed by their persecutors forcibly putting something into their hands or who have been compelled, etc." The phrase is obscure at best with either reading.]

Canon IV.

Concerning those who have been forced to sacrifice, and who, in addition, have partaken of feasts in honour of the idols; as many as were haled away, but afterwards went up with a cheerful countenance, and wore their costliest apparel, and partook with indifference of the feast provided; it is decreed that all such be hearers for one year, and prostrators for three years, and that they communicate in prayers only for two years, and then return to full communion [ to teleion, lit. "the perfection," an expression frequently used by early writers to denote the Holy Communion].

Ancient Epitome of Canon IV: Such as have been led away and have with joy gone up and eaten are to be in subjection for six years.

Canon V.

As many, however, as went up in mourning attire and sat down and ate, weeping throughout the whole entertainment, if they have fulfilled the three years as prostrators, let them be received without oblation [prosphora]; and if they did not eat, let them be prostrators two years, and in the third year let them communicate without oblation, so that in the fourth year they may be received into full communion. But the bishops have the right, after considering the character of their conversion, either to deal with them more leniently, or to extend the time. But, first of all, let their life before and since be thoroughly examined, and let the indulgence be determined accordingly.

Ancient Epitome of Canon V: Those who have gone up in mourning weeds, and have eaten with tears, shall be prostrators for three years; but if they have not eaten, then for two years. And according to their former and after life, whether good or evil, they shall find the bishop gentle or severe.

Canon VI.

Concerning those who have yielded merely upon threat of penalties and of the confiscation of their goods, or of banishment, and have sacrificed, and who till this present time have not repented nor been converted, but who now, at the time of this synod, have approached with a purpose of conversion, it is decreed that they be received as hearers till the Great Day [i.e. Easter], and that after the Great Day they be prostrators for three years, and for two years more communicate without oblation, and then come to full communion, so as to complete the period of six full years. And if any have been admitted to penance before this synod, let the beginning of the six years be reckoned to them from that time. Nevertheless, if there should be any danger or prospect of death whether from disease or any other cause, let them be received, but under limitation.

Ancient Epitome of Canon VI: A man who yielded to threats alone, and has sacrified, and then repented, let him for five years be a prostrator.

Zonaras: But should any of those debarred from communion as penitents be seized with illness or in any other way be brought nigh to death, they may be received to communion; but in accordance with this law or distinction, that if they escape death and recover their health, they shall be altogether deprived again of communion until they have finished their six years penance.

Canon VII.

Concerning those who have partaken at a heathen feast in a place appointed for heathens, but who have brought and eaten their own meats, it is decreed that they be received after they have been prostrators two years; but whether with oblation, every bishop must determine after he has made examination into the rest of their life.

Ancient Epitome of Canon VII: If anyone having his own food, shall eat it with heathen at their feasts, let him be a prostrator for two years.

Canon VIII.

Let those who have twice or thrice sacrificed under compulsion, be prostrators four years, and communicate without oblation two years, and the seventh year they shall be received to full communion.

Ancient Epitome of Canon VIII: Whoever has sacrificed a second or third time, but has been led thereto by force, shall be a prostrator for seven years.

Canon IX.

As many as have not merely apostatized, but have risen against their brethren and forced them [to apostatize], and have been guilty of their being forced, let these for three years take the place of hearers, and for another term of six years that of prostrators, and for another year let them communicate without oblation, in order that, when they have fulfilled the space of ten years, they may partake of the communion; but during this time the rest of their life must also be enquired into.

Ancient Epitome of Canon IX: Whoever has not only sacrificed voluntarily but also has forced another to sacrifice, shall be a prostrator for ten years.

[It will be noticed that this epitome does not agree with the canon, although Aristenus does not note the discrepancy.]

Aristenus: When the ten years are past, he is worthy of perfection, and fit to receive the divine sacraments. Unless perchance an examination of the rest of his life demands his exclusion from the divine communion.

Canon X.

They who have been made deacons, declaring when they were ordained that they must marry, because they were not able to abide so, and who afterwards have married, shall continue in their ministry, because it was conceded to them by the bishop. But if any were silent on this matter, undertaking at their ordination to abide as they were, and afterwards proceeded to marriage, these shall cease from the diaconate.

Ancient Epitome of Canon X: Whoso is to be ordained deacon, if he has before announced to the bishop that he cannot persevere unmarried, let him marry and let him be a deacon; but if he shall have kept silence, should he take a wife afterwards let him be cast out.

Canon XI.

IT is decreed that virgins who have been betrothed, and who have afterwards been carried off by others, shall be restored to those to whom they had formerly been betrothed, even though they may have suffered violence from the ravisher.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XI: If a young girl who is engaged be stolen away by force by another man, let her be restored to the former. Balsamon (as quoted by Johnson): If he to whom she was espoused demand her to be his wife.

Compare St. Basil's twenty-second canon in his letter to Amphilochius, where it is so ruled.

Canon XII.

It is decreed that they who have offered sacrifice before their baptism, and were afterwards baptized, may be promoted to orders, inasmuch as they have been cleansed.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XII: Whoso has sacrificed before his baptism, after it shall be guiltless.

Canon XIII.

It is not lawful for Chorepiscopi to ordain presbyters or deacons, and most assuredly not presbyters of a city, without the commission of the bishop given in writing, in another parish. [ There is considerable and important disagreement between manuscripts about the exact text of this canon.]

Ancient Epitome of Canon XIII: A chorepiscopus is not to ordain without the consent of the bishop.

Comment by Hefele: If the first part of the thirteenth canon is easy to understand, the second, on the contrary, presents a great difficulty; for a priest of a town could not in any case have the power of consecrating priests and deacons, least of all in a strange diocese. Many of the most learned men have, for this reason, supposed that the Greek text of the second half of the canon, as we have read it, is incorrect or defective. It wants, say they, poiein ti, or aliquid agere, i.e., to complete a religious function. To confirm this supposition, they have appealed to several ancient versions, especially to that of Isidore: sed nec presbyteris civitatis sine episcopi proecepto amplius aliquid imperare, vel sine auctoritate literature ejus in unaquaque (some read en ekastei instead of en heterai) parochia aliquid agere. The ancient Roman ms. of the canons, Codex Canonum, has the same reading, only that it has provincia instead of parochia... Routh has given another interpretation. He maintained that there was not a word missing in this canon, but that at the commencement one ought to read, according to several mss. chorepiskopois in the dative, and further down alla men mede instead of alla mede; then presbyterous (in the accusative) poleos and finally ekastei instead of heterei, and that we must therefore translate, "Chorepiscopi are not permitted to consecrate priests and deacons (for the country) still less can they consecrate priests for the town without the consent of the bishop of the place." The Greek text, thus modified according to some mss., especially those in the Bodleian Library, certainly gives a good meaning. Still alla men mede does not mean, "but still less": it means, "but certainly not", which makes a considerable difference. Besides this, it can very seldom have happened that the chorepiscopi ordained presbyters or deacons for a town; and if so, they were already forbidden, at least implicitly, in the first part of the canon.

Canon XIV.

It is decreed that among the clergy, presbyters and deacons who abstain from flesh shall taste of it, and afterwards, if they shall so please, may abstain. But if they disdain it, and will not even eat herbs served with flesh, but disobey the canon [probably meaning Apostolic Canon 53(52) ], let them be removed from their order.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XIV: A priest who is an abstainer from flesh, let him merely taste it and so let him abstain. But if he will not taste even the vegetables cooked with the meat let him be deposed [pepaustho].

[There is a serious dispute about the reading of the Greek text. I have followed Routh, who, relying on three mss. the Collectio of John of Antioch and the Latin versions, reads ei de bdelyssointo instead of the ei de boulointo of the ordinary text, which as Bp. Beveridge had pointed out before has no meaning unless a me ["not"] be introduced.]

Zonaras points out that the canon chiefly refers to the Love feasts.

Canon XV.

Concerning things belonging to the church, which presbyters may have sold when there was no bishop, it is decreed that the Church property shall be reclaimed; and it shall be in the discretion of the bishop whether it is better to receive the purchase price, or not; for oftentimes the revenue of the things sold might field them the greater value.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XV: Sales of Church goods made by presbyters are null, and the matter shall rest with the bishop.

Beveridge and Routh have shown that in the text anakaleisthai must be read for anabaleisthai and prosodon for eisodon.

Canon XVI.

Let those who have been or who are guilty of bestial lusts, if they have sinned while under twenty years of age, be prostrators fifteen years, and afterwards communicate in prayers; then, having passed five years in this communion, let them have a share in the oblation. But let their life as prostrators be examined, and so let them receive indulgence; and if any have been insatiable in their crimes, then let their time of prostration be prolonged. And if any who have passed this age and had wives, have fallen into this sin, let them be prostrators twenty-five years, and then communicate in prayers; and, after they have been five years in the communion of prayers, let them share the oblation. And if any married men of more than fifty years of age have so sinned, let them be admitted to communion only at the point of death.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XVI: Whoever shall have commerce with animals devoid of reason, being younger than twenty, shall be a prostrator for fifteen years If he is over that age and has a wife when he falls into this wickedness, he shall be a prostrator for twenty-five years. But the married man who shall do so when over fifty years of age, shall be a prostrator to his life's end.

Canon XVII. Defilers of themselves with beasts, being also leprous, who have infected others [with the leprosy of this crime], the holy Synod commands to pray among the cheimazomenoi.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XVII: A leper who goes in to a beast or even to leprous women, shall pray with the hybernantes.

[The last word of the canon is also a source of confusion. Both Beveridge and Routh understand by the cheimazomenoi those possessed with devils. Suicer however (Thesaurus) thinks that the penitents of the lowest degree are intended, who had no right to enter the church, but were exposed in the open porch to the inclemencies [cheimon] of the weather. But, after all it matters little, as the possessed also were forced to remain in the same place, and shared the same name.]

Canon XVIII.

If any who have been constituted bishops, but have not been received by the parish to which they were designated, shall invade other parishes and wrong the constituted [bishops] there, stirring up seditions against them, let such persons be suspended [aphorizesthai] from office and communion. But if they are willing to accept a seat among the presbyterate, where they formerly were presbyters, let them not be deprived of that honour. But if they shall act seditiously against the bishops established there, the honour of the presbyterate also shall be taken from them and themselves expelled.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XVIII: If a bishop who has been duly constituted, is not received by the Church to which he was elected, but gives trouble to other bishops, let him be excommunicated. If he wishes to be numbered among the presbyters, let him be so numbered. But if he shall be at outs with the bishops duly constituted there, let him be deprived of the honour of being even a presbyter.

Canon XIX.

If any persons who profess virginity shall disregard their profession, let them fulfil the term of digamists. And, moreover, we prohibit women who are virgins from living with men as sisters.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XIX: Whoever has professed virginity and afterwards annuls it, let him be cut off for four years. And virgins shall not go to any as to brothers.

Canon XX.

If the wife of anyone has committed adultery or if any man commit adultery it seems fit that he shall be restored to full communion after seven years passed in the prescribed degrees [of penance].

Ancient Epitome of Canon XX: An adulteress and an adulterer are to be cut off for seven years.

Balsamon and Zonaras explain that that the man or woman who has violated the marriage bond shall undergo a seven years' penance, but some recent authors reject this explanation, because the text says auton tykein and consequently can refer only to the husband. [The present translator however agrees with Balsamon's explanation as more natural than any of the proposed alternatives.]

Canon XXI.

Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfil ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XXI: Harlots taking injurious medicines are to be subjected to penance for ten years.

[The phrase "and to this some have assented" is the translation of Hervetus, Van Espen, and Hefele. Dr. Routh suggests to understand hai and translate, "the same punishment will be inflicted on those who assist in causing miscarriages," but this seems rather an unnatural and strained rendering of the Greek.]

Canon XXII.

Concerning wilful murderers let them remain prostrators; but at the end of life let them be indulged with full communion.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XXII: A voluntary homicide may at the last attain perfection.

Constantine Harmenopulus the Scholiast [in the Epitom. Canonum., Sect. v., tit. 3]: In the time of the Patriarch Luke, a certain bishop gave absolution in writing to a soldier who had committed voluntary homicide, after a very short time of penace; and afterwards when he was accused before the synod of having done so, he defended himself by citing the canon which gives bishops the power of remitting or increasing the length of their penance to penitents. But he was told in answer that this was granted indeed to pontiffs but not that they should use it without examination, and with too great lenity. Wherefore the synod subjected the soldier to the canonical penance and the bishop it mulcted for a certain time, bidding him cease from the exercise of his ministry.

Canon XXIII.

Concerning involuntary homicides, a former decree directs that they be received to full communion after seven years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees; but this second one, that they fulfil a term of five years.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XXIII: An involuntary homicide shall be subjected to penance for five years.

Van Espen comments: Of voluntary and involuntary homicides St. Basil treats at length in his Canonical Epistle ad Amphilochium, can. viii., lvi. and lvii., and fixes the time of penance at twenty years for voluntary and ten years for involuntary homicides. It is evident that the penance given for this crime varied in different churches, although it is clear from the great length of the penance, how enormous the crime was considered, no light or short penance being sufficient.

Canon XXIV.

They who practice divination, and follow the customs of the heathen, or who take men to their houses for the invention of sorceries, or for lustrations, fall under the canon of five years' [penance], according to the prescribed degrees; that is, three years as prostrators, and two of prayer without oblation.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XXIV: Whoso uses vaticination and whoso introduces anyone into his house for the sake of making a poison or a lustration let him be subject to penance for five years.

[St Pachomius Library edition note: The translator reads ethnon, "of the heathen", for chronon; however chronon might also refer to divination as the study of times and seasons.]

Canon XXV.

One who had betrothed a maiden, corrupted her sister, so that she conceived. After that he married his betrothed, but she who had been corrupted hanged herself. The parties to this affair were ordered to be received among the co-standers after ten years [of penance] according to the prescribed degrees.

Ancient Epitome to Canon XXV: A certain body after being engaged to marry a young girl, violates her sister and then takes her to wife. The first is suffocated. All who were cognizant of the affair are to be subject to penance for ten years.

Balsamon: In this case we have many nefarious crimes committed, fornication, unlawful marriage [i.e. with the sister of one's mistress] and murder. In that case [mentioned by St. Basil in Canon lxxviij. where only seven years penance is enjoined] there is only a nefarious marriage [i.e. with a wife's sister].


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves, 1998.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants Henry the translator and Nadia!