Guide Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, Volume 14 - Enhanced Version (Early Church Fathers)

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Listen on Apple Podcasts. I love this podcast! Thank you for making this available for us. It makes sense that the people who were closest to the apostle would have the best perspective on what they taught considering they spoke the languange and was able to speak face to face with them or someone who knew them.

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Joel Osteen. Let not country presbyters give letters canonical, or let them send such letters only to the neighbouring bishops. But the chorepiscopi of good report may give letters pacifical. Paul in 2 Corinthians , and the reader will find some interesting remarks on this and cognate subjects in J. By means of these letters even the lay people found hospitality and care in every part of the world, and it was thrown up against the Donatists as a mark of their being schismatics that their canonical letters were good only among themselves.

As will be seen among the Canons of Chalcedon, the old name, Letters Commendatory, is continued, but in this canon and in the 41st of Laodicea the expression Canonical Letters is used. In the West, at least, these letters received the episcopal seal of the diocese to avoid all possibility of imposture. Dean Plumptre whom I am following very closely in this note believes the earliest evidence of this use of the diocesan seal is in Augustine Epist.

He also refers to Ducange, s. Cyril of Alexandria; and by the Council of Elvira canon xxv.

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Augustine Epist. The Letters Pacifical appear to have been of an eleemosynary character, so that the bearers of them obtained bodily help. Chalcedon in its eleventh canon ordains these Letters pacifical shall be given to the poor , whether they be clerics or laics.

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The same expression is used in the preceding canon of the synod. A later form of ecclesiastical letter is that with which we are so familiar, the letter dimissory. On this expression Suicer Thesaurus, s. It behooves the bishops in every province to acknowledge the bishop who presides in the metropolis, and who has to take thought for the whole province; because all men of business come together from every quarter to the metropolis.

Wherefore it is decreed that he have precedence in rank, and that the other bishops do nothing extraordinary without him, according to the ancient canon which prevailed from [the times of] our Fathers or such things only as pertain to their own particular parishes and the districts subject to them. For each bishop has authority over his own parish, both to manage it with the piety which is incumbent on every one, and to make provision for the whole district which is dependent on his city; to ordain presbyters and deacons ; and to settle everything with judgment.

But let him undertake nothing further without the bishop of the metropolis; neither the latter without the consent of the others. By the ancient canon of which mention is here made, there can scarcely be a doubt is intended the xxxiv. The Holy Synod decrees that persons in villages and districts, or those who are called chorepiscopi , even though they may have received ordination to the Episcopate, shall regard their own limits and manage the churches subject to them, and be content with the care and administration of these; but they may ordain readers, sub-deacons and exorcists, and shall be content with promoting these, but shall not presume to ordain either a presbyter or a deacon , without the consent of bishop of the city to which he and his district are subject.

And if he shall dare to transgress [these] decrees, he shall be deposed from the rank which he enjoys. And a chorepiscopus is to be appointed by the bishop of the city to which he is subject. If any bishop , or presbyter , or any one whatever of the canon shall presume to betake himself to the Emperor without the consent and letters of the bishop of the province, and particularly of the bishop of the metropolis, such a one shall be publicly deposed and cast out, not only from communion, but also from the rank which he happens to have; inasmuch as he dares to trouble the ears of our Emperor beloved of God , contrary to the law of the Church.

But, if necessary business shall require any one to go to the Emperor, let him do it with the advice and consent of the metropolitan and other bishops in the province, and let him undertake his journey with letters from them.

This canon is one of those magnificent efforts which the early church made to check the already growing inclination to what we have in later times learned to call Erastianism. Not only did the State, as soon as it became Christian , interfere in spiritual matters at its own motion, but there were found bishops and others of the clergy who not being able to attain their ends otherwise, appealed to the civil power, usually to the Emperor himself, and thus the whole discipline of the Church was threatened, and the authority of spiritual synods set aside.

How unsuccessful the Church often was in this struggle is only too evident from the remarks of the Greek commentator Balsamon on this very canon. If any presbyter or deacon deposed by his own bishop , or any bishop deposed by a synod, shall dare to trouble the ears of the Emperor, when it is his duty to submit his case to a greater synod of bishops , and to refer to more bishops the things which he thinks right, and to abide by the examination and decision made by them; if, despising these, he shall trouble the Emperor, he shall be entitled to no pardon, neither shall he have an opportunity of defense, nor any hope of future restoration.

It is usually supposed that this canon, as well as the fourth, and the fourteenth and fifteenth, was directed against St.

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Athanasius, and it was used against St. Chrysostom by his enemies. Book VII. No bishop shall presume to pass from one province to another, and ordain persons to the dignity of the ministry in the Church , not even should he have others with him, unless he should go at the written invitation of the metropolitan and bishops into whose country he goes.

But if he should, without invitation, proceed irregularly to the ordination of any, or to the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs which do not concern him, the things done by him are null, and he himself shall suffer the due punishment of his irregularity and his unreasonable undertaking, by being immediately deposed by the holy Synod. If a bishop shall be tried on any accusations, and it should then happen that the bishops of the province disagree concerning him, some pronouncing the accused innocent, and others guilty; for the settlement of all disputes, the holy Synod decrees that the metropolitan call on some others belonging to the neighbouring province, who shall add their judgment and resolve the dispute, and thus, with those of the province, confirm what is determined.

If any bishop , lying under any accusation, shall be judged by all the bishops in the province, and all shall unanimously deliver the same verdict concerning him, he shall not be again judged by others, but the unanimous sentence of the bishops of the province shall stand firm. If any bishop without a see shall throw himself upon a vacant church and seize its throne, without a full synod, he shall be cast out, even if all the people over whom he has usurped jurisdiction should choose him.

And that shall be [accounted] a full synod, in which the metropolitan is present.

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This, together with the following canon, was recited by Bishop Leontius in the Council of Chalcedon , from the book of the canons, in which this is called the 95th and the following the 96th, according to the order observed in that book of the canons. If any one having received the ordination of a bishop , and having been appointed to preside over a people, shall not accept his ministry, and will not be persuaded to proceed to the Church entrusted to him, he shall be excommunicated until he, being constrained, accept it, or until a full synod of the bishops of the province shall have determined concerning him.

If any bishop ordained to a parish shall not proceed to the parish to which he has been ordained, not through any fault of his own, but either because of the rejection of the people, or for any other reason not arising from himself, let him enjoy his rank and ministry; only he shall not disturb the affairs of the Church which he joins; and he shall abide by whatever the full synod of the province shall determine, after judging the case.

A bishop shall not be ordained without a synod and the presence of the metropolitan of the province. And when he is present, it is by all means better that all his brethren in the ministry of the Province should assemble together with him; and these the metropolitan ought to invite by letter. And it were better that all should meet; but if this be difficult, it is indispensable that a majority should either be present or take part by letter in the election, and that thus the appointment should be made in the presence, or with the consent, of the majority; but if it should be done contrary to these decrees, the ordination shall be of no force.

And if the appointment shall be made according to the prescribed canon, and any should object through natural love of contradiction, the decision of the majority shall prevail.


The method of choosing a bishop is laid down in the canons of Nice, number iv. But when you hear this canon saying that there should be no election without the presence of the Metropolitan, you must not say that he ought to be present at an election for this was prohibited, as is found written in other canons but rather say that his presence here is a permission or persuasion, without which no election could take place.

But it shall be unlawful for any to hold synods by themselves without those who are entrusted with the Metropolitan Sees. The time fixed by the Council of Nicaea before Lent for the meeting of the synod was not received in the East, and the bishops kept on in the old custom of celebrating the council in the fourth week after Easter , for the time before Lent often presented the greatest difficulties for those in the far separated cities to come to the provincial metropolis.

A bishop may not be translated from one parish to another, either intruding himself of his own suggestion, or under compulsion by the people, or by constraint of the bishops ; but he shall remain in the Church to which he was allotted by God from the beginning, and shall not be translated from it, according to the decree formerly passed on the subject.

Let not a bishop go to a strange city, which is not subject to himself, nor into a district which does not belong to him, either to ordain any one, or to appoint presbyters or deacons to places within the jurisdiction of another bishop , unless with the consent of the proper bishop of the place.

And if any one shall presume to do any such thing, the ordination shall be void, and he himself shall be punished by the synod. It shall not be lawful for a bishop , even at the close of life, to appoint another as successor to himself; and if any such thing should be done, the appointment shall be void. But the ecclesiastical law must be observed, that a bishop must not be appointed otherwise than by a synod and with the judgment of the bishops , who have the authority to promote the man who is worthy, after the falling asleep of him who has ceased from his labours.

Nothing could be more important than the provision of this canon. It is evidently intended to prevent nepotism in every form, and to leave the appointment to the vacant see absolutely to the free choice of the Metropolitan and his synod.

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The history of the Church , and its present practice, is a curious commentary upon the ancient legislation, and the appointment of coadjutor bishops cum jure successionis , so common in later days, seems to be a somewhat ingenious way of escaping the force of the canon. Van Espen , however, reminds his readers of the most interesting case of St. And how when in his old age the people wished him to have one chosen bishop to help him till his death and to succeed him afterwards, he declined saying: What was worthy of blame in my own case, shall not be a blot likewise upon my son.

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He did not hesitate to say who he thought most worthy to succeed him, but he added, he shall be a presbyter , as he is, and when God so wills he shall be a bishop. Van Espen adds; All this should be read carefully that thence may be learned how St. Augustine set an example to bishops and pastors of taking all the pains possible that after their deaths true pastors, and not thieves and wolves, should enter into their flocks, who in a short time would destroy all they had accomplished by so much labour in so long a time.

It is right that what belongs to the Church be preserved with all care to the Church , with a good conscience and faith in God , the inspector and judge of all. And these things ought to be administered under the judgment and authority of the bishop , who is entrusted with the whole people and with the souls of the congregation.