Fourth Council of Constantinople A.D. 869-870 A.D. part two

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CONTENTS

  • Definition
  • Canons C A N O N S

    1

    If we wish to proceed without offence along the true and royal road of divine justice, we must keep the declarations and teachings of the holy fathers as if they were so many lamps which are always alight and illuminating our steps which are directed towards God. Therefore, considering and esteeming these as a second word of God, in accordance with the great and most wise Denis, let us sing most willingly along with the divinely inspired David, The commandment of the Lord is bright, enlightening the eyes, and, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my paths; and with the author of Proverbs we say, Your commandment is a lamp and your law a light, and like Isaiah we cry to the lord God with loud voice, because your commands are a light for the earth. For the exhortations and warnings of the divine canons are rightly likened to light inasmuch as the better is distinguished from the worse and what is advantageous and useful is distinguished from what is not helpful but harmful.

    Therefore we declare that we are preserving and maintaining the canons which have been entrusted to the holy, catholic and apostolic church by the holy and renowned apostles, and by universal as well as local councils of orthodox [bishops], and even by any inspired father or teacher of the church. Consequently, we rule our own life and conduct by these canons and we decree that all those who have the rank of priests and all those who are described by the name of Christian are, by ecclesiastical law, included under the penalties and condemnations as well as, on the other hand, the absolutions and acquittals which have been imposed and defined by them. For Paul, the great apostle, openly urges us to preserve the traditions which we have received, either by word or by letter, of the saints who were famous in times past.

    2

    Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as persons who will have to give account, commands Paul, the great apostle. So, having both the most blessed pope Nicholas as the instrument of the holy Spirit and his successor, the most holy pope Hadrian, we declare and order that everything which has been expounded and promulgated by them in a synod at various times, both for the defence and well-being of the church of Constantinople and of its chief priest, namely Ignatius, its most holy patriarch, as well as for the expulsion and condemnation of Photius, the upstart and usurper, should be maintained and observed together with the canons there set forth, unchanged and unaltered, and no bishop, priest or deacon or anyone from the ranks of the clergy should dare to overturn or reject any of these things.

    Whoever, then, shall be found, after these directives of ours, despising any of the articles or decrees which have been promulgated by these popes, must be stripped of his dignity and rank, if he is a priest or cleric; a monk or lay person, of whatever dignity, must be excommunicated until he repents and promises to observe all the decrees in question.

    3

    We decree that the sacred image of our lord Jesus Christ, the redeemer and saviour of all people, should be venerated with honour equal to that given to the book of the holy gospels. For, just as through the written words which are contained in the book, we all shall obtain salvation, so through the influence that colours in painting exercise on the imagination, all, both wise and simple, obtain benefit from what is before them; for as speech teaches and portrays through syllables, so too does painting by means of colours. It is only right then, in accordance with true reason and very ancient tradition, that icons should be honoured and venerated in a derivative way because of the honour which is given to their archetypes, and it should be equal to that given to the sacred book of the holy gospels and the representation of the precious cross.

    If anyone then does not venerate the icon of Christ, the saviour, let him not see his face when he comes in his father's glory to be glorified and to glorify his saints', but let him be cut off from his communion and splendour; similarly the image of Mary, his immaculate mother and mother of God, we also paint the icons of the holy angels just as divine scripture depicts them in words; we also honour and venerate those of the highly renowned apostles, prophets, martyrs and holy men as well as those of all the saints. Let those who are not so disposed be anathema from the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit.

    4

    In tearing up by the roots the love of power, as being an evil root nourishing the scandals which have arisen in the church, we condemn, with a just decree, him who boldly, cunningly and unlawfully, like a dangerous wolf, leapt into the sheepfold of Christ; we are speaking about Photius, who has filled the whole world with a thousand upheavals and disturbances. We declare that he never was nor is now a bishop, nor must those, who were consecrated or given advancement by him to any grade of the priesthood, remain in that state to which they were promoted. Moreover, we debar from this kind of preferment those who received from Photius the customary rescripts for promotion to special office.

    As for the churches which Photius and those who were ordained by him are thought to have consecrated and the altars which they are thought to have renovated after they had been torn down, we decree that they are to be consecrated, anointed and renovated again. In sum, everything that was done in his person and by him, for the establishing or penalizing of the sacerdotal state, has been abrogated. For the God of the whole universe says through his prophet: Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me and, You have forgotten the laws of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they bloat their souls with their iniquities. And again he says: Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sins; 1 will write copiously about them.

    5

    Since we desire to ensure, in Christ, that the stability of the canons should always remain firm in the churches, we renew and confirm the limits and conditions which were formerly decreed by the holy apostles and our holy fathers and which made it a law in the church that nobody, who is a neophyte in the faith or priestly office, should be made a bishop, lest he be puffed up and fall into the judgment and snare of the devil, as the Apostle says. Therefore, in accordance with the previous canons, we declare that nobody of senatorial rank or a secular way of life, who has recently been admitted to the tonsure with the intention or expectation of the honour of becoming a bishop or patriarch, and who has been made a cleric or monk, should rise to such a level, even if he is shown to have completed a considerable time in each stage of the divine priesthood. For it is clear that the tonsure was not received for religious reasons, love of God or hope of progressing along the path of the virtues, but for love of glory and honour. We exclude such people still more rigorously if they are pushed forward by imperial backing.

    However, if someone gives no suspicion of seeking the worldly benefits just mentioned, but, prompted by the actual good of a humility which is centered on Christ, renounces the world and becomes a cleric or monk and, while passing through every ecclesiastical grade, is found without reproach and of good character during the periods of time currently established, so that he completes one year in the order of lector, two in that of subdeacon, three as deacon and four as priest, this holy and universal synod has decreed that such a one may be chosen and admitted. As for those who have remained religiously in the order of cleric or monk and have been judged worthy of the dignity and honour of the episcopacy, we reduce the aforesaid period of time to that which the superiors of these bishops approved at the time. If, however, anyone has been advanced to this supreme honour contrary to this directive of ours, he must be condemned and completely excluded from all priestly functions, because he has been elevated contrary to the sacred canons.

    6

    It appears that Photius, after the sentences and condemnations most justly pronounced against him by the most holy pope Nicholas for his criminal usurpation of the church of Constantinople, in addition to his other evil deeds, found some men of wicked and sycophantic character from the squares and streets of the city and proposed and designated them as vicars of the three most holy patriarchal sees in the east. He formed with these a church of evil-doers and a fraudulent council and set in motion accusations and charges entailing deposition against the most blessed pope Nicholas and repeatedly, impudently and boldly issued anathemas against him and all those in communion with him. The records of all these things have been seen by us, records which were cobbled together by him with evil intent and lying words, and all of which have been burnt during this very synod.

    Therefore, to safeguard church order, we anathematize first and foremost the above-mentioned Photius for the reason given; next everyone who henceforth acts deceitfully and fraudulently and falsifies the word of truth and goes through the motions of having false vicars or composes books full of deceptions and explains them in favour of his own designs. With equal vigour Martin, the most holy pope of Rome, a valiant contender for the true faith, rejected behaviour of this kind by a synodal decree.

    7

    Moses, the divine spokesman, clearly declares in his law that what is right should also be rightly executed, since a good act is not good unless it is carried out in accordance with reason. So it is indeed good and very advantageous to paint holy and venerable images as also to teach others the disciplines of divine and human wisdom. But it is not good nor at all profitable for any of these things to be done by those who are unworthy.

    For this reason we declare and proclaim that those declared anathema by this holy and universal synod may not, on any account, work on sacred images in holy places of worship nor teach anywhere at all, until they are converted from their error and wickedness. Whoever, therefore, after this directive of ours, admits them in any way to paint sacred images in churches, or to teach, must be removed from office if he is a cleric; if he is a lay person, he must be excommunicated and debarred from taking part in the divine mysteries.

    8

    The great apostle Paul says somewhere: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. Therefore, we ought to do everything for the advantage and perfection of the holy church of God and nothing at all to promote controversy and vainglory. Since a report has come to our ears that not only heretics and those who have wrongly obtained the patriarchate of Constantinople, but also the orthodox and legitimate patriarchs, demand and extract from the order of priests guarantees, written in their own hands, which are designed for the security, benefit and, as it were, permanence of the above persons, it has therefore seemed good to this holy and universal synod that nobody at all should do this from now on, with the exception of what is demanded at the time of episcopal consecrations, according to rule and custom, in order to witness to the purity of our faith; every other way of doing it is completely inappropriate and has no part in the building up of the church. So whoever dares to nullify this directive of ours, either by asking for such a document or by providing it to those who ask, shall lose his own office.

    9

    From the very beginning the wretched Photius brought about in the church of Constantinople an abundance of all kinds of wickedness. We have learnt that even before his tyrannical period in office he used to give documents, signed by his own hand, to his followers who were learning the wisdom that has been made foolish by God, even though this system was clearly a new invention and thoroughly alien to our holy fathers and doctors of the church.

    Since therefore they direct us to loose every bond of wickedness and to make void enforced contracts, the holy and universal synod has declared that nobody, from now on, should hold or keep such a contract, but all, without hindrance, hesitation or fear, may both teach and study if they are competent for either task, with the exception of those who are found to be enslaved to error or heretical beliefs since we strictly forbid such persons to teach or to pursue studies. If anyone shall be found rejecting and transgressing against this directive, he shall lose his rank if he is a cleric; if a lay person, he shall be excommunicated as one who does not believe the Lord's word which says, Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven .

    10

    As divine scripture clearly proclaims, Do not find fault before you investigate, and understand first and then find fault, and does our law judge a person without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?. Consequently this holy and universal synod justly and fittingly declares and lays down that no lay person or monk or cleric should separate himself from communion with his own patriarch before a careful enquiry and judgment in synod, even if he alleges that he knows of some crime perpetrated by his patriarch, and he must not refuse to include his patriarch's name during the divine mysteries or offices.

    In the same way we command that bishops and priests who are in distant dioceses and regions should behave similarly towards their own metropolitans, and metropolitans should do the same with regard to their own patriarchs. If anyone shall be found defying this holy synod, he is to be debarred from all priestly functions and status if he is a bishop or cleric; if a monk or lay person, he must be excluded from all communion and meetings of the church until he is converted by repentance and reconciled.

    11

    Though the old and new Testament teach that a man or woman has one rational and intellectual soul, and all the fathers and doctors of the church, who are spokesmen of God, express the same opinion, some have descended to such a depth of irreligion, through paying attention to the speculations of evil people, that they shamelessly teach as a dogma that a human being has two souls, and keep trying to prove their heresy by irrational means using a wisdom that has been made foolishness.

    Therefore this holy and universal synod is hastening to uproot this wicked theory now growing like some loathsome form of weed. Carrying in its hand the winnowing fork of truth, with the intention of consigning all the chaff to inextinguishable fire, and making clean the threshing floor of Christ, in ringing tones it declares anathema the inventors and perpetrators of such impiety and all those holding similar views; it also declares and promulgates that nobody at all should hold or preserve in any way the written teaching of the authors of this impiety. If however anyone presumes to act in a way contrary to this holy and great synod, let him be anathema and an outcast from the faith and way of life of Christians.

    12

    The apostolic and conciliar canons clearly forbid the nomination and consecration of bishops which have come about as a result of the power and intrigues of the civil authorities. Therefore we declare and proclaim, in full agreement with them, that if any bishop has received his consecration through the manipulation and constraint of such persons, he should be deposed absolutely as one who has desired and consented to have the gift of God not from the will of God and ecclesiastical law and decree, but from human beings and through their machinations as a result of the prompting of carnal desire.

    13

    The divine word says, The worker is worthy of his pay For this reason we too decree and proclaim that the clerics of the great church [of Constantinople], who have served in the lower orders, may rise to the higher grades and, if they have shown themselves worthy, may deservedly enjoy higher dignities, since some of those who now enjoy them either will be called through promotion to more important duties or will vacate them by dying. But those who do not belong to this particular clergy and yet insinuate themselves into it, must not receive the dignities and honours due to those who have laboured in it a long time, for in that case the clerics of the church [of Constantinople] would be found to have no promotion.

    Those who manage the houses or estates of leading persons must by no means have the possibility of being admitted or inducted into the clergy of the great church [of Constantinople]: No soldier on service for God gets entangled in civilian pursuits. If indeed anyone, contrary to the directive we have now issued, is promoted to any dignity whatsoever in this great church, he must be excluded from all ecclesiastical dignity as one who has been promoted contrary to the decision of the great synod.

    14

    We declare that those who are called by divine grace to the office of bishop, since they bear the image and likeness of the holy hierarchies in heaven, that is of the angels, in accordance with what is clearly an hierarchical dignity and function, should be held as worthy of all honour on the part of everyone, rulers and ruled alike.

    We also declare that they must not go to meet a general or any other high official a long way from their churches, nor should they dismount from their horses or mules a long way off or bow down in fear and trembling and prostrate themselves; nor should they go to table for dinner with secular dignitaries and show the same honours as they do to generals, but according to what is in keeping with their own spiritual dignity and honour, they should render to everyone his due: Tribute to whom tribute is due, honour to whom honour is due. They must show that the confessors of the emperors, who are friends of Christ, and those who have the same dignity, deserve great respect from the leading persons of those emperors. Thus the bishop will have the courage to reprimand generals and other leading officials and all other secular authorities as often as he finds them doing something unjust or unreasonable, and in this way to correct them and make them better.

    But if some bishop, after the holy directive of this council, shall ignore the honour duly and canonically bestowed on him, and permits something to happen according to the old, debased and disordered custom which is contrary to what has now been declared, he must be suspended for a year and the official involved is to be considered unworthy to take part in the mysteries or the means of grace for two years.

    15

    This holy and universal synod, in renewing the canons of the apostles and fathers, has decreed that no bishop may sell or in any way dispose of precious objects or consecrated vessels except for the reason laid down long ago by the ancient canons, that is to say, objects received for the redemption of captives. They must not hand over endowments of churches by emphyteutic leases nor put on sale other agricultural properties, thereby damaging ecclesiastical revenues. We decree that such revenues are for church purposes, the feeding of the poor and the assistance of pilgrims. However, bishops have full powers to improve and enlarge, as opportunity offers, the ecclesiastical properties which produce these revenues. Moreover, they have the right to apportion or bestow their own property on whomsoever they wish and choose, in accordance with their own powers and rights of ownership.

    Now that this decree has been made, whoever appears to have acted in a way contrary to this holy and universal synod, must be deposed on the grounds of violating divine law and precepts. Any sale which was made by the bishop, either in writing or otherwise, must be made entirely void, as well as any emphyteutic lease or any other act disposing of precious objects or endowments. Whoever buys or acquires any of the aforementioned precious objects or endowments and does not restore to the church what belongs to it and does not hand over for burning the bills of sale or leases, is anathema until he does what has been determined by this holy and universal synod.

    If a bishop is found guilty of having built a monastery with the revenues of a church, he must hand over the monastery to the same church. But if he built it from his own money or other sources, he may have it for his whole life under his own jurisdiction and direction; he may also bequeath it after his death to whomsoever he wishes, but it may not be used as a secular dwelling.

    16

    A matter which merits great sorrow, even many tears, has come to our ears from many of the faithful. They say that under the previous emperor some laymen of the senatorial order were seen to plait their hair and arrange it on their heads, and to adopt a kind of priestly dignity in accordance with their different ranks at the emperor's court. They did this by wearing various ornaments and articles of clothing which are proper to priests and, as it was thought, made themselves out to be bishops by wearing a pallium over their shoulders and every other piece of episcopal dress. They also adopted as their patriarch the one who took the leading role in these buffooneries. They insulted and made a mockery of a variety of holy things, such as elections, promotions and consecrations of bishops, or by bringing up subtle but false accusations against bishops, and condemning and deposing them, switching in turn from distress to collusion as prosecutors and defendants.

    Such a way of behaving has never been heard of since time began, even among the pagans. It shows that those we have now brought to light are in a worse and more wretched state than the pagan nations. The sacred and universal synod, therefore, has declared and promulgated that these attempts to do evil must be condemned as crimes, and no member of the faithful who bears the name of Christian should henceforth attempt to do or tolerate such a thing, or to protect by silence anyone who has committed such an impious act. If any emperor or any powerful or influential person should attempt to mock holy things in such a way, or with evil intent to carry out or permit such a great wrong to be done against the divine priesthood, he must first be condemned by the patriarch of the time, acting with his fellow bishops, and be excommunicated and declared unworthy to share in the divine mysteries, and then he must accept certain other corrective practices and penances which are judged appropriate. Unless he repents quickly, he must be declared anathema by this holy and universal synod as one who has dishonoured the mystery of the pure and spotless faith.

    However, if the patriarch of Constantinople and his suffragan bishops come to know of any others who have committed crimes of this kind and neglect to act against them with the necessary zeal, they must be deposed and debarred from the dignity of their priesthood. Those who in any way have shown, or shall show in future, such impious conduct and have not confessed it in any way and received the appropriate penance, are declared excommunicate by this synod for three years; during the first year they must remain outside the church as public penitents, during the second year they may stand inside the church among the. ranks of the catechumens, during the third year they may join the faithful and thus become worthy of the sanctifying effects of the holy mysteries.

    17

    The first, holy and universal synod of Nicaea orders that the ancient custom should be preserved throughout Egypt and the provinces subject to her, so that the bishop of Alexandria has them all under his authority; it declares, "Because such a custom has prevailed in the city of Rome". Therefore this great and holy synod decrees that in old and new Rome and the sees of Antioch and Jerusalem the ancient custom must be preserved in all things, so that their prelates should have authority over all the metropolitans whom they promote or confirm in the episcopal dignity, either through the imposition of hands or the bestowal of the pallium; that is to say, the authority to summon them, in case of necessity, to a meeting in synod or even to reprimand and correct them, when a report about some wrongdoing leads to an accusation.

    But since some metropolitans give as an excuse for not responding to the summons of their apostolic prelate that they are detained by their temporal rulers, it has been decided that such an excuse will be utterly invalid. For since a ruler frequently holds meetings for his own purposes, it is intolerable that he should prevent leading prelates from going to synods for ecclesiastical business or hold some back from their meetings. We have learnt, however, that such an obstacle and alleged refusal of permission can come about in various ways at the suggestion of the metropolitan.

    Metropolitans have had the custom of holding synods twice a year and therefore, they say, they cannot possibly come to the chief one, that of the patriarch. But this holy and universal synod, without forbidding the meetings held by the metropolitans, is conscious that the synods summoned by the patriarchal see are more necessary and profitable than the metropolitan ones, and so demands that they take place. A metropolitan synod affects the good order of only one province, a patriarchal synod often affects the good order of a whole civil diocese, and in this way the common good is provided for. So it is fitting that the common good take priority over a particular one, especially when the summons to meet has been issued by those of greater authority. The fact is that certain metropolitans seem to regard with contempt the ancient custom and canonical tradition, by their not meeting together for the common good. Therefore the laws of the church demand, with severe penalties and leaving no loop-hole, that they comply with the summons of their patriarchs whether they are summoned as a body or individually.

    We refuse to listen to the offensive claim made by some ignorant people that a synod cannot be held in the absence of the civil authorities. The reason for this is that the sacred canons have never prescribed the presence of secular rulers at synods but only the presence of bishops. Hence we find that they have not been present at synods but only at universal councils. Furthermore, it is not right that secular rulers should be observers of matters that sometimes come before the priests of God.

    Therefore, if any metropolitan ignores his patriarch and disobeys his summons, whether addressed to him alone or to several or to all, unless prevented by a genuine illness or a pagan invasion, and for two whole months after notice of the summons makes no attempt to visit his patriarch, or if he hides in some way or pretends he has no knowledge of the patriarch's summons, he must be excommunicated. If he shows the same stubbornness and disobedience for a year, he must be unconditionally deposed and suspended from all sacerdotal functions and excluded from the dignity and honour that belong to metropolitans. If any metropolitan disobeys even this directive, let him be anathema.


    See Part Three of the Fourth Council of Constantinople

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