Drinking & Gambling (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is taken from The Rudder, pp. 168-171; 268. The two vices of drinking and gambling are highly censured in Orthodox Christianity. Consuming the remainder of the Holy Chalice, though many times can render a priest slightly drunk or “buzzed,” is not considered the same as getting drunk (unless of course, the priest is in the habit of using excessive amounts of wine, way more than necessary to commune the faithful, in the knowledge that there will be enough during the consummation to get a “buzz.”).

Playing cards of every sort are banned for Christians, including Solitaire which has a penance of no Communion for up to 30 days. Pokemon and similar cards are also banned for Christians as it is believed they are a gateway indoctrination to the occult.

Gambling of every form is forbidden as well (Casinos, lotteries, raffles, etc.). When the monasteries were first being established, there was apprehension about holding raffles and lotteries in case it was breaching ecclesiastical canons. However, it was discerned that it was okay for laypeople to hold raffles and lotteries for the monasteries and donate all the money afterwards (both lay people and the monasteries which the raffle is for will donate the prizes).

The 52 Demons in Playing Cards by Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos
The 52 Demons in Playing Cards by Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos


If any Bishop, or Priest, or Deacon wastes his time by playing dice, or getting drunk, either let him desist from this or let him be deposed. (Apostolic Canons XLIII, LIV; Canons IX, L of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon XXII of the 7th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIV, LV of Laodicaea; Canons XLVII, LXIX of Carthage)


Those in Holy Orders are to stand before all men as living examples as a reflection of all good order and virtue, and as promoters of the performance of good works. But inasmuch as some of them stray away from what is good and virtuous, and spend their time playing dice, (which includes playing cards and other games,) not to mention drunken carousals and merrymaking with food and drink. The present Apostolic Canon, taking cognizance of this, proclaims that any bishop, priest or deacon who occupies himself with such indecent activities shall either cease doing them or be deposed from Holy Orders.


Likewise Apostolic Canon XLIII ordains that those clergymen, and also laymen, who occupy themselves in drunkenness and gambling, shall either cease or be excommunicated. Not only are clergymen forbidden to get drunk, but neither are they even permitted to enter taverns at all to eat, according to Apostolic Canon LIV and Canon IX of the 6th Ecumenical Synod and Canon XLVII of Carthage and Canon XXIV of Laodicea, nor are they allowed to own a tavern shop at all, according to the same Canon IX of the 6th Ecumenical Synod.

Moreover, all clergymen and all laymen are forbidden by Canon L of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod to play dice or cards or other games. In the event that they are caught doing so, clergymen are to be deposed, and laymen are to be excommunicated. In addition to these prohibitions, Canon IV of Laodicea proclaims that they must not hold banquets by agreement or with contributions collected from a number of persons gathered together at the same time and place, whether they are in Holy Orders, that is whether they are clergymen or laymen. Canon LXIX of Carthage commands that Christians cease holding banquets and balls (or dances) and games to the memory of or as feasts to martyrs and other saints, such as those customs that are peculiar to the (pagan) Greeks and due to their deception and atheism.

But neither ought Christians eat and drink to the accompaniment of musical instruments and evil and demonic songs, according to Canon XXII of the 7th Ecumenical Synod.

Playing cards from 1829 depicting heroes of the Greek War of Independence with Ypsilantis as the King of Spades
Playing cards from 1829 depicting heroes of the Greek War of Independence with Ypsilantis as the King of Spades

The Nomicon of Photios (Title IX, Chapter 27) says that ordinance 34 of the fourth Title of Book I of the Code decrees as follows: If any bishop or clergyman plays dice or other such games, or holds communicates together with those who play them, or sits by and watches them being played, he is to be cut off from every holy liturgy, and to lose the stipend he gets from his bishopric or clerical office, until the time allowed fixed for his repentance. But in case he should persist in his vice even after the expiration of the time limit given him for repentance, he is to be driven out of the clergy with all his estate, and become a member of the legislature, or, in other words, a secular official of that political state in which he was a clergyman. Those clergymen who participate in hunting spectacles and other theatrical exhibitions share the same penalty. It is permissible, however, to a bishop when he sees the prompt repentance of any clergyman doing these things, to reduce the time of the penalty of suspension in proportion, and accordingly to give him permission sooner to officiate in his holy capacity, according to Canon XXXIX of the same (7th Ecumenical Synod), titular ordinance64 of Title I of the Novels. Justinian Novel 123, according to Armenopoulos, commands that clergymen guilty of getting drunk or of playing dice shall be excommunicated and be shut up in a monastery. See also Canon XXIV of the 6th Ecumenical Synod.

The names of the 52 demons and the card they are patrons of.
The names of the 52 demons and the card they are patrons of.


Let any Subdeacon, or Readers, or Psalti, who does similar things either desist or be excommunicated. This applies to any layman. (Apostolic Canon XLIV, LIV; Canons IX, L of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIV, LV of Laodicaea; Canons XLVII, LXIX of Carthage.)


This Canon, too, orders that any subdeacon, or readers, or Chanters who does similar things, such as are prohibited by the above Canon XLII, or, in other words, who plays dice or cards or any other games, or who spends time in drunkenness and eating and drinking bouts, shall either cease from such indecent acts, or failing to do so, shall be excommunicated. In the same way laymen as well, who spend time in the same way shall either cease doing so or be excommunicated from the congregation of the faithful. See also the preceding Canon XLII.

Footnote 64 on the Apostolic Canons, The Rudder,  p. 298

See also divine St. Chrysostom where he proves that anyone playing dice or other games is the cause of many evils: “Addiction to the playing of dice has often resulted in blaspheming, damage, wrath, quarrelling, and thousands of other even worse misdeeds” (page 564 of Volume VI, Discourse 15 to a Statue). Aristotle classes among thieves all those who play dice and cards, saying: “A dice-player however and a pickpocket, and a robber (or highwayman) are among the unfree. For they are profiteers” Ethics Nicom., Book 4). On this account Justinian Novel 123 strips such players in Holy Orders from every right to hold any holy service and commands that they be shut up for three years in a monastery. In an attempt to cure those who get drunk, Basil the Great says: “Let fasting cure drunkenness; let the Psalm cure any obscene or shameful melody; in all offenses, let mercy redeem you from sin”.

(Discourse against drunkards). Hence it appears that those who vomit as a result of drunkenness ought to be corrected rather by such cures as fasting and almsgiving.)


The occult meanings of the symbols for Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds.
The occult meanings of the symbols for Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds.


From now on nobody, whether a clergyman or a layman, is permitted to gamble (or play dice). In case anyone be caught doing this, if he be a clergyman, let him be deposed, but if he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. (Apostolic Canons XLII, XLIII)


These Fathers forbid everybody to gamble, or, in other words, to play dice, or cards, or checkers and chess, or any other such games, whether he is a clergyman or a layman. Anyone that should play these games after publication of this Canon, if he is a clergyman, shall be deposed from, but if he be a layman, he shall be excommunicated. See also Apostolic Canon XLII

For the Orthodox understanding of playing cards, see Archimadrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos’ book, The 52 Demons in a Deck of Cards:


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