Marriage and Divorce in the Orthodox Church according to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite († 1809)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the Rudder, which was published in 1800:

The Rudder (Pedalion). The “Talmud” of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Canon 48 of the Holy Apostles

“If any layman who has divorced his wife takes another, or one divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated”


Inasmuch as the Lord decreed in His Gospel that “Whosoever shall divorce his wife, except on account of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery; and whoever marries her who hath been divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; 19: 9), therefore the divine Apostles too, following the Lord’s decree, say in their present Canon: If any layman who insists upon divorcing his wife, except on the ground of fornication, which is to say adultery (for the Evangelist here used the word fornication instead of adultery. Concerning this point see also Canon IV of Nyssa), and takes another woman that is free to marry, let him be excommunicated. Likewise let him be excommunicated if, after being divorced from his wife without the ground of fornication, he takes another woman who is one also divorced from her husband without the ground of fornication, or, in other words, of adultery. These things, which we have said with reference to the husband, must be understood to apply also to the wife who leaves her husband, except on account of fornication, and takes another man as her husband. As for any man or any woman who separates from his or her spouse without a reasonable cause and remarries or is remarried, he or she shall be canonized to have no communion for seven years according to Canon LXXXVII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, Canon XX of Ancyra, and Canons LXXVII and XXXVII of Basil. Read also Canon XLIII of Carthage which prescribes that if a married couple separate without the commission of fornication on the part of either spouse, either they must remain unmarried or they must become reconciled and be reunited, as St. Paul also says in Chapter 7 of his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Holy Apostles

Footnote 68 to the 85 Apostolic Canons Concerning Marriage & Divorce

Strictness and the Lord’s decree are equally averse to letting a man divorce his wife, or a woman her husband. For the Lord said in regard to both the man and the woman: “Whoever shall divorce his wife and marry another, commits adultery against her” (Matthew 19:9); and “If a woman shall divorce her husband and be married to another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12), without adding except it be for fornication either in the case of the man only or in the case of the woman only, but He left this to be understood by us indifferently as regarding both.

The custom of the Church is to allow the man authority to divorce his wife when he finds her to be fornicating or committing adultery, but not to let a woman divorce her husband even though she find him to be fornicating or committing adultery. If on the other hand, she should divorce him on grounds of fornication or adultery, and he, being unable to suffer should marry a second woman, the first women who divorced him will have the sin of such a separation, whereas the husband deserves a pardon for having married a second time, and his second wife is not condemned as an adulteress. Gregory the Theologian did not accept this custom, which came into the Church from Roman civil law. For he says in his (Discourse on the saying in the Gospel, when Jesus spoke the previous words); “I see many men belonging to the common people to be judging perilously regarding temperance. And I see their law as being unequal and inconsistent”. For what reason does the law chastise a woman if she fornicates, but allows a man the liberty to do the same. And if a woman betrays the bed of her husband, she is judged an adulteress, but if a man who has a wife fornicates with other women, is he guiltless? I do not accept that legislation; I do not praise the custom. It was men who made that law, and on this account they only legislated against women.

For those same legislators of this civil law made a law for children to be under the control of their father, but as for the weaker side that is, the mother who is a weak woman, they left her without care, not having made a law for her children to be under her control. However, God made no such law. On the contrary, He says, “ Honor your father and your mother,” which is the first commandment among the promises, “that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12; Sirach 8:8; Matthew 19:19; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20) and “He that speaks evil against his father or mother, let him die the death” (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16). Both in the case of the father and in the case of the mother, He equally honored obedience and chastised insolence. And “A father’s blessing firmly establishes the houses of children, but a mother’s curse uproots the foundations” (Proverbs 19:14).

New Martyr Argyre of Proussa, Patron Saint of Marriage (+ 1725)
New Martyr Argyre of Proussa, Patron Saint of Marriage (+ 1725)


Herein do you not see the equality of the legislation? The Creator of man and woman is one. Both of them are of one and the same clay. One and the same law governs them both. There is but one resurrection. We have been born quite as much by a woman as by a man; children owe their parents a single debt. How then is it that you the legislator being a man, demand temperance of women, when you yourself are intemperate?

How is it that you ask for what you do not give? How is it that you enact unlike legislation for woman notwithstanding that your body is like that of woman? But can it be that if you are thinking of the evils attending disobedience because the woman sinned? Why, did not Adam also sin? The serpent deceived them both. Accordingly, it cannot be said either that the woman proved the weaker of the two in being deceived, or that the man proved to be the stronger of the two in that he avoided being deceived. Or if you are thinking of the good results attending reformation remember that Christ saved them both with His passion. He became flesh for man, but also for woman.

He died for man, but woman too is saved through His death. Perhaps you think that He honored man because He was born of David’s seed. But in being born of the Virgin He honored women. “They shall be one flesh,” it says (Genesis 2:24): that one flesh accordingly must deserve equal honor. St. Paul, also lays down a law of temperance for man. How? “This is a great mystery; I am speaking concerning Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32).

It is well for a woman to revere Christ by means of the reverence which she shows toward her husband. It is also well for a man not to dishonor the Church of Christ by means of the dishonor toward his wife by fornicating with another.

The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.
The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.

In the same way, Chrysostom also testifies to the same view in his fifth sermon on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. “I beg,” he says, “that we guard ourselves against this sin. For just as we men chastise our wives when they betray their honor to others, so does God, if not the laws of the Romans, chastise us when we betray the honor of our wives, and fornicate with another, since the sin of men with other women is also adultery. For adultery is not only when a married woman commits adultery with another man, but also when a married man commits adultery with any other woman. Give attention to the accuracy of what I say to you. Adultery is not only when married men sin with a strange woman who is married, but also when they sin with an unmarried woman, which is also adultery. For notwithstanding that the woman with whom they sin is not tied to a man, they themselves are tied to a woman. And for this reason it can be said that they have violated the law and have wronged their own flesh. For why should they chastise their wife if she fornicates with a man that is not married? Of course, it is adultery, despite the fact that the man who fornicated with her has no wife, also simply because his wife is tied to a man. So they also, since they are tied to a wife, if they fornicate with an unmarried woman, are committing adultery by their act of fornication.

“Whosoever shall divorce his wife,” says the Lord, “except on account of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). And if this is so, is not one committing adultery even more so, who has a wife when he joins in self-corruption with an unmarried woman? Yes.

That is obvious to everyone. Not only St. Gregory and St. Chrysostom, but even Basil himself cannot bear to follow that custom which disregards the commandment delivered by God, as he makes known in other pages as well as in the twelfth definition of his Ethics. But he also says in his Canon XXXV: “When a woman abandons her husband, we must inquire into the reason why she left him. Then, if it appears that the woman left him unreasonably and without cause, the man is to merit a pardon, but the woman, a canon and penalty, as having become the cause of the evil.” No other reasonable cause for the separation of a married couple can be found besides that of fornication or of adultery of a man and or a woman.

St. Justinian the Great

But Justinian Novel l17, situated in Book 28 of the Basilica, Title VII, ordains that if any man has another woman either in the city where he is dwelling or under the roof of his house, and is corrupting himself with her, if his real wife should tell him to abstain from the other woman, and should he refuse to abstain from her, permission is granted to be released from the marriage due to the jealousy of his wife. For such jealousy leads many wives to drink poison and commit suicide, and others to lose their mind, others to jump off a precipice, and others to still other absurd things, as may be seen from such examples which are daily occurrences in nearly every city and island and town.

For just as a man’s anger is full of jealousy for his wife if she has committed adultery, as Solomon says (Proverbs 6:34), “and he will not spare in the day of vengeance, nor will he forgo his enmity for any amount of ransom, neither will he be coaxed to remit it in exchange for a multitude of gifts.” In much the same way (or even more) is a woman’s anger, and her heart is full of jealousy for her husband if he has committed adultery.

However, note that though the Lord allowed husbands to separate from their wife on account of fornication, that is because of adultery, yet a bishop ought not to give them permission to enter into a second marriage, but ought to leave them thus separated for a long space of time, until the one who committed fornication, which is adultery, comes to repent of his or her act, to fall at the feet of the other, and to promise that henceforth he or she will keep the honor of the other mate, and in this manner they are finally reunited.

For even the Lord did not allow them to be separated only on account of adultery, but mainly because of the jealousy which results from such adultery, and the murder which often follows as a result of the jealousy. A second reason for allowing a separation is to prevent the confusion and bastardization of the offspring that follows as a result of such adultery as St. Gregory the Theologian says. So that, as Zonaras says in his interpretation of Canon IX and XXI of St. Basil, a man is not forced to keep his adulteress wife if he does not want to do so, but if he wants her, he may without prejudice keep her and live with her. What am I saying, without prejudice? Why that man is to be praised and to be esteemed very wise indeed who takes his wife back even after she has committed fornication (on the promise, however, that she will sin no more) for two good and sufficient reasons.

First, on account of the love and sympathy he is thus showing for his own flesh — I mean for his own wife — by emulating the very Master and God of all things, who notwithstanding that human nature was formerly an adulteress and had formerly committed fornication with idols, He condescended to make her His bride by virtue of the incarnate economy, and to save her through repentance and union with Him. And just as it is the part of a prudent man when any of his members is wounded or injured not to cut it off, but to make it his business to give it medical treatment, so is it the part of a prudent man, when his own member sins, that is his own wife, not to divorce her, but to take even greater care of her and to cure her by means of repentance and by giving her an opportunity to return. And secondly, because when such an impure condition has developed between a husband and wife, it is by God’s concession, and as a result of previous sins that it ensued. (And let everyone examine his own conscience, and he will find our words true.)

Saints Timothy and Maura,
Saints Timothy and Maura, Married Saints and Martyrs for Christ

Hence both parties must have patience with each other, and not insist upon a separation. Even the Apostle says that a faithful husband ought to cohabit even with his unfaithful wife, and conversely, a faithful wife ought to cohabit with her unfaithful husband, for the hope of salvation of both of them. “For how do you know, wife, whether you shall save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you shall save your wife?” (1Corinthians 7:16). How much more ought a husband and wife, then, to cohabit with and not separate, even after fornication has occurred, at a time when impiety, the worst of all sins, will not separate it? Of course all that we have said concerning the husband, is to be understood also as pertaining to the wife. Nevertheless, that the author of Proverbs says: “Whoever retains an adulteress is foolish and impious” (Proverbs 18:22; this saying reflects the harshness and severity of the old Law, and not the leniency of the most sweet Law of the Gospel.

Rather should the Old Covenant be quoted from the mouth of Malachias, who says: “Do not abandon the wife of your youth: but if after coming to hate her you send her away, a feeling of impiety will darken your recollections, says the Lord Almighty”’ (Malachias 2:15).

If, however, in the end no way, nor device, can be found to reunite the couple henceforth, the innocent party may, as a matter of great necessity, marry a second time, but never the party guilty of fornication who became the cause of the separation.

This party, instead of second nuptials and wedding candles ought rather to sit mourning and weeping over his sin, and find solace in the darkness of sorrow of a widow or widower, because of the fact that whom God joined he or she rent apart. What am I saying? Why, the party that was the cause of the separation ought to pay damages, as the imperial laws command, according to St. Chrysostom (Discourse on a woman bound by law, etc.); and that the guilty party in the couple ought not to be allowed to marry may be inferred from Novel 88 of Leo. For this Novel says that the husband of a woman guilty of adultery is to receive her dowry, while the woman herself is to be placed in a monastery and compelled even against her will to become a nun.


Whatever property she had over and above her dowry is to be divided between her children and the monastery; or if she has no children, her parents and relatives are to have it. Justinian Novel 117 also commands that if the husband of a woman confined in a monastery for adultery should die within the two years before taking her back, she is to become a confined nun and not be allowed to remarry).

Orthodox Wedding at Cana Icon
Wedding at Cana

That the husband is not permitted to take back his wife after she has been guilty of committing adultery is attested on the one hand by Armenopoulos (Book 6, Title II), and on the other hand by holy Photios (Title I, Chapter 2). Novel 184 of Justinian (inserted in Book 28 of the Basilica, according to Balsamon), ordains that the husband can take back his guilty wife within two years after she committed the adultery and was sentenced to the monastery for the act of adultery, and that he can cohabit with her freely without fearing any danger on this account and without injury to his marriage as a result of the previous sin and separation. St. Basil the Great, also says in his dissertation on virginity that if a woman who has been left by her husband repents and corrects the cause on account of which he left her, the husband ought to have compassion on her because of her because she corrected herself, and to take her back as his own member again. Moreover, Canon XCIII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod permits a soldier to take back his own wife if he so chooses, even though she has taken another husband because of his many years’ absence from the country in foreign lands. Canon VIII of Neocaesarea likewise appears to permit a priest to live with his wife when she is guilty of adultery if he cares to, though he must be deposed.

Note also the fact that not everyone can start suit for adultery, but only five persons listed, and these must be the most intimate and nearest relative of the woman, namely, father, brother, uncle on the father’s side, and uncle on the mother’s side, and exceptionally and especially and above all her husband. As long as the marriage is in force nobody else is permitted to start such a suit except only the husband of the woman, by means of five witnesses attesting in fear of God that they all saw her in the very act of committing adultery. A suit for adultery may be started at any time within five years, and not late (Armenopoulos, Book 1, Title III).

Besides any of these things, it ought to be known to everyone that the civil and imperial laws never permit husbands to kill their wives, even though they have caught them as adulteresses. Hence there is no excuse for those who kill either their wives, or their sisters and daughters or relatives of any other kind, on the ground that they have been guilty of fornication or of adultery.

So, inasmuch as it may be inferred, from all that we have said, that a married couple ought not to be separated, therefore it is necessary for one side of the couple to bear with the other patiently, according to St. Gregory the Theologian. Thus, the wife ought to put up with her husband even though he insults and beats her, even though he spends her dowry, and no matter what else he may do to her; and just as much ought the husband to put up with his wife even though she is possessed by demons, as mentioned in I Timothy 4:1, and even though she is suffering from other defects, and has diseases, according to St. Chrysostom (in his Discourse on a woman bound by law, etc.). And yet that imperial and external laws on many accounts permit married couples to separate and be divorced, St. Chrysostom (in the same place), in the course of voicing opposition to them, says: “God is not going to judge in accordance with those laws, but in accordance with the laws which He himself has laid down with regard to marriage.

There is but one reasonable ground for divorce, and that is the one ordained by the laws, according to Emperors Leo and Constantine, when one party plots against the life of the other (Title XIII, of the selection of laws). A married couple may be divorced reasonably enough, again, when one party is an Orthodox Christian, and the other party is a heretic, according to Canon LXXII of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; or when there is a blood relationship by marriage, according to Canon LIV of the same Synod; or a relationship due to baptism, according to Canon LIII of the same Synod; and also when the lord of the couple will not consent to their being wedded, according to Canons XL, XLI, and XLII of St. Basil. As to the proper form of a Letter of Divorce, see at the end of this Rudder. (pp. 320 -329)

Thomais of Lesvos - patron saint of marriage
St. Thomais of Lesvos – patron saint of marriage.

Form for a Canonical Divorce

With our humbleness in the chair and surrounded by a simultaneous session of the most honorable Clerics, most reverent Priests, and most honest Magistrates (and Provosts), there appeared before all of us most honest Sir George, of the village or parish ( name ), accusing his wife Mary of the crime of adultery, and asserting that he found her really defiling her part in the bed of her husband and being caught in the very act of being polluted with adultery by another man. When interrogated about this, he also produced credible witnesses to the fact, named (So-and So and So-and-So and So-and-So), who with fear of God and a heavy conscience, before all of us testified as concerning this man’s wife that she has not truly kept due faith with her own husband, but, having abandoned her own sobriety, has acted as an adulteress. And therefore our humbleness, after being told and informed of these facts, allowed this case to be postponed. And indeed after later employing various arguments and inducements and ways and means, with a view to persuading the said George to take back and accept his wife (for this is permissible according to the divine laws), overlooking this misdeed of hers, seeing that she bitterly repents it, and promises never again to do such a thing, and after having negotiated all these aspects for a sufficient length of time, yet unable to induce him to be persuaded in her favor. Hence, following the decision rendered by our Lord in the Gospels, wherein He says that “whosoever shall divorce his wife, except on the ground of fornication, is causing her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32; cf. 19:7, 9). And reflecting that this is the only legal and reasonable excuse for separating a husband from his wife – the ground, that is to say, of adultery, just as the Lord declared; yet at the same time exercising due foresight lest anything more terrible may result hereafter from their cohabitation, seeing that adultery engenders jealousy in most cases, and that jealousy leads to murder: on this account and for this reason our humbleness pronounces the said George to be divorced and set free from his wife Mary, in accordance with the decision of our Lord and the divine Canons, Apostolic as well as Synodal; and furthermore gives him permission to take another woman to wife, whereas with regard to his aforesaid wife Mary our humbleness will never give her permission to take another man to husband, on the ground that she has become the cause of this separation and divorce. For she ought, instead of having another wedding and enjoying nuptial pleasures, to continue thus weeping and mourning throughout her life over her sin, since what God had joined she put asunder (Matthew 19:6), and since otherwise too, she committed adultery while her husband was living, whom she herself divorced by reason of her licentiousness, a fear subsists lest she become an adulteress again in case she is allowed to become a wife to another man (Romans 7:3), according to St. Paul, who elsewhere says that “if a woman be divorced from her husband, let her remain unmarried” (I Corinthians 7:11). Hence in evidence thereof the present Divorce was drawn up, and was given to the repeatedly aforementioned George 3 in the year of the Lord . . .”(1796) and in the month of August. (pp. 1808-1809)

Detail of the Imperial Gate mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI the Wise
Detail of the Imperial Gate mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI the Wise




Orthodox Christian Canons Concerning Jews (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article contains only a few of the numerous Orthodox Canons in The Rudder concerning the Jewish religion and peoples. The canon forbidding Christians to go to Jewish physicians is now considered to be anachronistic, according to various monastics at Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries for two reasons: “they don’t use black magic in their remedies anymore” and, as one Geronda stated, “Most of the doctors today are Jews. If we followed that canon strictly, we’d never be able to get medical treatment for anything.” When the monastics receive various accusations of being anti-Semitic, they sometimes respond with an air of triumph, “Geronda Ephraim’s personal physician is Jewish.” 

The Jewish priest Athonios about to have his hand severed by an angel of God (Dormition icon detail)
The Jewish priest Athonios about to have his hand severed by an angel of God (Dormition icon detail)


If any Clergyman, or Layman, enter a synagogue of Jews or of heretics to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated.86 (Apostolic Canons VII, XLV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon I of Antioch; Canons VI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea.)



The present Canon considers it a great sin for a Christian to enter a synagogue of Jews or of heretics in order to pray. “For what does a believer share with an infidel?” (II Corinthians 6:15), according to the divine Apostle. For the Jews themselves violating the Law by going into their synagogues and offering sacrifices, in view of the fact that the offering of sacrifices anywhere outside of Jerusalem is forbidden, according to the Law. This is testified by divine St. Justin in his dialogue with Tryphon, and by Sozomenos in his Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 21, and by St. Chrysostom in his second discourse against the Jews. Then how much greater violation is that of the Christian who prays together with the crucifiers of Christ? But it also must be emphasized that any churches of heretics, or any of their meetings, should not to be given honor or attended, because they believe things contrary to the beliefs of the Orthodox, but rather ought to be rejected. Thus it is that the present Canon ordains that if any clergyman or layman enters the synagogue of the Jews or that of heretics offering gracious prayers, that clergyman shall be deposed and at the same time excommunicated because that he has committed a great sin; but as for the layman he is only to be excommunicated, since, because being a layman, he has sinned to a lesser degree than has the clergyman, and as a layman he is not liable to deposition and cannot be deposed. Or more correctly, as others interpret the matter, the clergyman that enters a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray shall be deposed, while any layman that does the same thing shall be excommunicated. Read also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII and that of Apostolic Canon XLV.

images (1)


If any Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, or anyone at all who is on the list of clergymen, fast together with Jews, or celebrates a holiday together with them, or accepts from them holiday gifts or favors, such as unleavened wafers, or anything of the like, let him be deposed. If a layman do likewise, however, let him be excommunicated. (Apostolic Canons VII, LXV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIX, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea; Canons LX, LXXXI, CXVII of Carthage)



In case anyone prays in company with excommunicated persons only, he is excommunicated; or if he does so with persons that have been deposed only, he is deposed: then how much more is it improper that any clergyman who fasts in company with the Christ-killing Jews or celebrates any festival with them ought to be deposed, or if any layman do the same, should he be excommunicated? Hence it is that the present Apostolic Canon ordains that if any bishop or priest or deacon, or anyone else at all that is on the clerical list fasts along with the Jews or celebrates Pascha along with them, or any other festivals or holidays, or accepts any strange gifts from them, such as unleavened wafers, 100 which they eat during their days of Passover; and on all their feasts and on the occasion of every sacrifice where they offer unleavened wafers, let him be deposed. If, on the other hand, any layman does the same, let him be excommunicated.

For even though those who accept such things and join in fasting or celebrating are not of the same mind as the Jews and do not entertain the same religious beliefs and views as the latter (for if they did, they ought not only to be deposed or excommunicated, as the case might be, but also to be consigned to anathema, according to Canon XXIX of Laodicea), yet, as a matter of fact, they do afford occasion for scandal and give rise to a suspicion that they are actually honoring the ceremonies of the Jews, a thing which is alien to Orthodoxy. I omit mention of the fact that such persons are also polluting themselves by associating with Christ-killers. To them God says: “My soul hates your fasting and your idleness and your festivals.See also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII.


If any Christian conveys oil to a temple of heathen, or to a synagogue of Jews, in their festivals, or lights lamps for them, let him be excommunicated. (Apostolic Canons VII, LXV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIX, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea; Canons LIX, LXXXII, CXXIII of Carthage.)

Postcard of 1905 Odessa Pogrom
Postcard of 1905 Odessa Pogrom


This Canon too, like the one above, excommunicates any Christian who should offer oil to a temple of heathen or of idolaters, or to a synagogue of Jews, when they are having their festivals, or should light their lamps. For in doing this he appears to believe that their false ceremonies and rites are true, and that their tainted mysteries are genuine. Read also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III (2015)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III (2015)


Let no one enrolled in the clerical list, or any layman, eat the unleavened wafers manufactured by the Jews, or in any way become familiar with the Jews or call them in case of sickness, or take any medicines from them, or even bathe with them in public bathing beaches or bathhouses. If anyone should attempt to do this, if he is a, clergyman, let hint be deposed, or if he is a layman, let him, be excommunicated.


The present Canon commands that no person in Holy Orders and no layman may eat any unleavened wafers sent him by Jews, nor indeed be at all friendly with Jews nor when he finds himself ill may he call them and take their remedies18 or even bathe with them in baths and bathing places. In case anyone should do this, or any of these things, if he is a clergyman, let him be deposed; but if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated. Read also Apostolic Canon Canons VII and LXX.


That is why St. Chrysostom says in agreement herewith for no one to go to Jewish physicians to be treated (page 360 of Volume VI).

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow with the Chief Rabbi of Israel (2012).
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow with the Chief Rabbi of Israel (2012).

NOTE: The above Canon is interesting considering the Wisdom of Sirach instructs Christians to honor doctors and physicians.

“Honour a physician with the honour due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him. For of the Most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honour of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head: and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? And he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works. With such doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. Of such doth the apothecary make a confection; and of his works there is no end; and from him is peace over all the earth, My son, in thy sickness be not negligent: but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole. Leave off from sin, and order thine hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness.  Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour; and make a fat offering, as not being. Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him: let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him. There is a time when in their hands there is good success. For they shall also pray unto the Lord, that he would prosper that, which they give for ease and remedy to prolong life. He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hand of the physician. My son, let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself; and then cover his body according to the custom, and neglect not his burial. Weep bitterly, and make great moan, and use lamentation, as he is worthy, and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of: and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness. For of heaviness cometh death, and the heaviness of the heart breaketh strength. In affliction also sorrow remaineth: and the life of the poor is the curse of the heart. Take no heaviness to heart: drive it away, and member the last end. Forget it not, for there is no turning again: thou shalt not do him good, but hurt thyself. Remember my judgment: for thine also shall be so; yesterday for me, and today for thee. When the dead is at rest, let his remembrance rest; and be comforted for him, when his Spirit is departed from him. The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise. How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad, that driveth oxen, and is occupied in their labours, and whose talk is of bullocks? He giveth his mind to make furrows; and is diligent to give the kine fodder. So every carpenter and workmaster, that laboureth night and day: and they that cut and grave seals, and are diligent to make great variety, and give themselves to counterfeit imagery, and watch to finish a work: The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the iron work, the vapour of the fire wasteth his flesh, and he fighteth with the heat of the furnace: the noise of the hammer and the anvil is ever in his ears, and his eyes look still upon the pattern of the thing that he maketh; he setteth his mind to finish his work, and watcheth to polish it perfectly: So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is alway carefully set at his work, and maketh all his work by number;  He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet; he applieth himself to lead it over; and he is diligent to make clean the furnace: All these trust to their hands: and everyone is wise in his work. Without these cannot a city be inhabited: and they shall not dwell where they will, nor go up and down: They shall not be sought for in publick counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judges’ seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment: they cannot declare justice and judgment; and they shall not be found where parables are spoken. But they will maintain the state of the world, and all their desire is in the work of their craft.” (Wisdom of Sirach, 38:1-34)


Icons Should Not be Anointed or Blessed for 40 Days as this is a Papal Custom (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: A custom exists in some of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries: when a pilgrim has an icon made at the monastery, they will ask for it to be put into the altar for 40 days to “bless it.” Other times, they may bring their own icon from home to place in the altar for 40 days. In some monasteries, the pilgrim might be told it is already blessed and they don’t need to place it in the altar (i.e. the monks or nuns make the icons with prayer and obedience). In other monasteries, the pilgrim might be told, “If the icon is made in the monasteries, it is safe. If it is from somewhere else, we can put it in the altar just to be safe.” This stems from the belief that warlocks and witches use orthodox items for black magic spells. This is also the reasoning behind putting bags of fylakta from Greece on the altar for 40 days, “just to be safe.” The following article is taken from The Rudder, Footnote 9 of the Prologue to the 7th Ecumenical Synod, pp. 930-33:

Seventh Ecumenical Council
Seventh Ecumenical Council

The holy icons are not adored on account of the material but on account of the likeness that they possess to the ones pictured by them. Hence the Fathers of the present Synod in some addresses said that when the wood forming the shape of the Cross in crucifixes becomes decomposed it is to be burned; and when the paint and outlines of the pictures in the icons become utterly effaced – i.e., so as to be no longer recognizable – the wooden board left is burned as useless wood. Some persons, however, bury such icons out of reverence.

Hagia Sophia of Nicaea, where the 7th Ecumenical Council took place; Iznik, Turkey.

It is not necessary to anoint the holy icons with Myron (or chrism), nor to have them sanctified by the bishop with special prayers: because we do not adore the holy icons because they are anointed or have had prayers said over them, but irrespectively, as soon as we lay eyes on a holy icon, without pausing to examine into the possibility of its having been anointed or having had a special prayer said over it, we at once proceed to pay adoration to it both on account of the name of the Saint and on account of the likeness it bears to the original. [NOTE: In some monasteries, the glass coverings of the icons will be cleaned with myrrh, thus giving the impression that they’re fragrant. It is not uncommon for pilgrims to ask the hieromonks, and especially Geronda Ephraim, to bless their icons and other objects, either by crossing them, or placing them in the altar].

That is why in Act 6 of the present Synod, the Synod of the iconomachs in the reign of Copronymus disparaged the holy icons by asserting that the name of the pictures neither has any holy prayer sanctifying it, in order that from what is common it might be transferred to what is holy, but that, on the contrary, it (sc. the picture) remains common and without honor (i.e., not entitled to honor), just as the painter made it.

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona giving a blessing.
Geronda Ephraim of Arizona giving a blessing.


To these allegations the Holy Seventh Ecumenical Synod replied through Deacon Epiphanies, by asserting that it did not say that any special prayer is said over the icons, but said that like many other holy objects they were incapable of receiving (benefit from) any special prayer, but, on the contrary from their very name they are replete with grace and sanctity, in the same way that the shape of the vivifying Cross is, which is entitled to veneration and adoration among us in spite of the fact that it is made without having any special prayer said over it; and we believe that with its shape alone we acquire sanctity, and with the adoration which we pay to it, and the marking of it upon our forehead, and the seal of it which is made in the air with the finger (note that in days of old the sign of the Cross was not made with three fingers, as it is today, but with one finger alone, which fact is stated by St. Chrysostom in one of his discourses; and see concerning this the Footnote to Canon XCI of Basil) in the hope of chasing away the demons.

NY Trapeza Exterior (Filipakis)
Exterior of St. Nektarios Monastery, Inc. Trapeza (NY)


Likewise, in the same way that we have many holy vessels, and kiss and embrace them fondly, and hope to receive sanctity from them, in spite of the fact that they have not had any special prayers said over them, so and in like manner by fondly kissing and embracing and paying honorary adoration to a holy icon that has not had special prayers said over it we partake of sanctity, and are anagogically lifted up and carried back to the honor of the original through the name of the icon. But if the iconomachs cannot assert that the holy vessels are dishonorable and common because of their not having had any special prayers said over them for the purpose of sanctifying them, but are just as the weaver, the painter, and the goldsmith finished them, yet they regard there as holy and precious; in the same way they ought to regard the venerable icons as holy and precious and holy even though they have not had any special prayers said over them to sanctify them (page 844 of Volume II of the Synodal Records). The holy icons do not need any special prayer or any application of myrrh, because, according to Dositheos (page 658 of the Dodecabiblus) it is only the Papists (or Roman Catholics) that perpetrate the iniquity of qualifying pictures with certain prayers and devotions. For they boast that the Pope manufactures pictures from pure wax, holy oil, and water of sanctification, and that he reads marvelous prayers over them, and that because of these special features these pictures perform miracles (just as they falsely state that Leo III sent such a picture to King Charles of France, and he reverenced it; and that Pope Urban sent another picture to John Paleologos, and this one was honored with a litany in the Church).

TX Chapel (Lent)1
Chapel at Holy Archangels Monastery, Inc. (TX)


Do you see that the prayer which is read over holy icons is a Papal affair, and not Orthodox; and that it is a modern affair, and not an ancient one? For this reason no such prayer can be found anywhere in the ancient manuscript Euchologia. In fact, we have noticed that this prayer is not even found in Euchologia printed only a hundred years ago! It becomes evident that holy icons do not need any special prayer or application of myrrh, because the pictures painted on the walls of churches, and in their naves and in their aisles, and in general in streets and on doors, and on the holy vessels, are never anointed with myrrh and never any special prayer said over them, and yet, in spite of this, adoration is paid to them relatively and honorably by all on account of the likeness they bear to the originals. That is why the erudite Bishop of Campania Sir Theophilos the Saint did not conceal this truth, but stated in the book which he has just recently produced that the holy icons do not need any anointing with myrrh nor any special prayer by a bishop.


NOTE: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has a webpage containing a prayer for The Blessing and Hallowing of an Icon:

Priest: Blessed is our God always, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages:

Chanter: Amen, The Trisagion Prayers. O All holy Trinity. Our Father

Priest: For Yours is the Kingdom …

Chanter: Amen. Kyrie eleison. O come, let us worship and fall down. . .

Priest: O Lord our God, Who created us after Your own Image and Likeness; Who redeems us from our former corruption of the ancient curse through Your manbefriending Christ, Who took upon Himself the form of a servant and became man; Who having taken upon Himself our likeness remade Your Saints of the first dispensation, and through Whom also we are refashioned in the Image of Your pure blessedness;

Your Saints we venerate as being in Your Image and Likeness, and we adore and glorify You as our Creator;

Wherefore we pray You, send forth Your blessing upon this Icon, and with the sprinkling of hallowed water

Bless and make holy this Icon unto Your glory, in honor and remembrance of Your Saint (N);

And grant that this sanctification will be to all who venerate this Icon of Saint (N), and send up their prayer unto You standing before it;

Through the grace and bounties and love of Your Only-Begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed together with Your All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.


Great and Holy Saturday (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης


The faithful celebrating the days of the saving Passion with fasting and prayer and contrition must cease their fast about the middle hours of the night after Great Saturday, the divine Evangelists Matthew and Luke having signaled us the lateness of night, the one by adding the words “at the end of the Sabbath” (Matthew 28:1) and the other by saying “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1).

(Canon I of Dionysios.)


This Canon decrees that Christians must celebrate all the Great and Holy Week of the Holy Passion with fasting103 and prayer and contrition of the heart real contrition, that is to say, and not hypocritical (exceptionally, however, and especially on Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday they ought to be forced to spend the entire day without any nourishment at all); but about midnight – that is to say, after the midnight of the past Great and Holy Saturday – of the coming Great The Lord’s Day they must cease fasting104 since the Lord has already risen, as is plainly evidenced by the divine Evangelists.

For St. Matthew by saying that the women came at the end of the Sabbath to inspect the sepulcher revealed that the day of the Sabbath had past as well as a large part of the night after the Sabbath; while Luke, on the other hand, by saying that they came very early in the morning” revealed that there still remained a large part of the night until The Lord’s Day dawned. Hence, from the statements of both of them it may be inferred that the Lord rose about midnight, the sixth hour having passed and the seventh having begun.105


As concerning the precise time of the Lord’s Resurrection, Canon I of Dionysios goes into the matter more fully; in fact, it was from him that the present Synod derived its information on these matters. He adds that those who broke their fast before midnight were accused of being pusillanimous and intemperate, whereas those who waited with fortitude till daybreak were praised as being magnanimous and temperate. But even the Apostolic Injunctions, Book V, Chapter 19, say that Christians must cease fasting at the dawn of the first hour of Sabbath, or, more plainly speaking, at the dawning of the Lord’s Day. See also the Interpretation and Footnote to Canon XXIX of the present 6th Synod and Apostolic Canon LXIX.


But as for those persons who right after the liturgy of Great Saturday indulge in wine and oil, are obviously breaking the law. For the divine Apostles in their Injunctions (Book V, Chapters 18 and 19) command Christians to fast throughout Great Friday and Great Saturday, just as they themselves were accustomed to fast on those days, since fasting on these two days is laid down as a law by Christ Himself, who said:

“But days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast” (Matthew. 9:15). Now, it was on Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday that the Lord was in fact taken from the Jews and crucified and buried, for our salvation. But if anyone should offer an objection to this view by citing the statement in the Typikon to the effect that on the evening of Great and Holy Saturday the Cellarman comes and gives a piece of bread and glass of wine, we reply to this objection, that this glass of wine and this piece of bread are not ordinary wine and ordinary bread, but, on the contrary, are bread and wine that have been blessed by the priest:

  1. Because further above it says for the bread to be blessed, and further below it mentions this;
  2. Because in most of them it is found written in the following fashion, that is, with a single piece, not of bread, indefinitely, but of the bread, definitely and relatively, of the above blessed bread, that is to say;
  3. And because this glass of wine was the blessed wine, which, after being mixed with water, was wont to be given to the brethren for the purpose of sanctification, and especially to those who had communed in order to rinse and wash out their mouth, just as it is the custom to do right after divine Communion.

Many persons fast for three days during the Great Fast. Accordingly, why should they not fast also for the two days of Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy Saturday, which is more necessary? Indeed, if they cannot do both fasts, it is better for them to fast on these two days, than to do so on the three days in question. For divine Chrysostom says, in his Homily on the Great Week, that just as the Great Week is the head and greater than all the other weeks in the year, so again is the Great and Holy Saturday the head of the Great Week. The fact that the above blessing of the bread is the customary solemnization carried out by breaking the five loaves is more plainly and more explicitly presented by the manuscript Typikon of the Monastery of the Pantocrator.

It says, however, also this, that of the blessed loaves of bread a sufficiently large piece must be given to each brother, and similarly as regards the blessed wine. Hence it is to be inferred that the loaves of bread must be of a large size, and the wine must be of a correspondingly large quantity, in order to suffice for all.


That is why divine Epiphanios in agreement with this Canon says: “All peoples pass the six days before Pascha with the eating of plain food, by which expression I mean bread and salt and water being partaken of them towards evening.”



The cessation of fasting which the Canon mentions ought to take place after midnight Balsamon says that in those days the Christians of old had a different custom of doing it in a different way, which way is nowadays completely disused. Others say that by the expression “cease their fast” (or, in Greek, “aponestizesthai” is meant the eating of cheese, eggs, and Pascha foods in general, this being inferred from Chapter 19 of Book V of the Apostolic Injunctions.

Yet, whether this be true or what was said before, Christians after midnight must first listen to the whole of the of the Resurrection and wait until Divine Liturgy has ended, and thereafter finish fasting and begin eating the Pascha feast with cheerfulness and joyfulness. For the Apostolic Injunctions say (ibid.): “On this account, when the Lord is risen, you too must offer your sacrifice, concerning which He commanded you through us by saying, ‘this do in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19); and thereupon cease fasting and partake of good cheer.”

Here you can see that they say that first the Divine Liturgy must be celebrated, and afterwards the celebration of Pascha must commence. Hence it is to be observed that those persons deserve to be condemned, and are indeed inordinate belly-slaves and gluttons, who the moment they hear the cry “Christ is risen!” at once, having eggs and cheese they have brought with them in their pockets or bosoms, begin stuffing them into their mouth. Accordingly, let them take pains to correct this impropriety here and now and henceforth. But parents, too, ought. not to allow their children to become guilty of any similar disorderly conduct.



For it is for this reason too that on the Lord’s Day we are wont to say that the Lord is risen, since according to Blastaris (Eta, Chapter 3) and Chrysanthus of Jerusalem (in his Geography) the day commences, among ecclesiastics, with the seventh hour of night and ends with the sixth hour of the next night. Accordingly anything that occurs in the interval during the twenty-four hours of this period, appears and is said to occur in that (perhaps one) day.

But note here that in the day of Resurrection it used to be the custom to kiss one another twice: once in the morning, in the Royal Palace, and particularly in churches, while the “Day of Resurrection” was being chanted, at the end of the morning; and again in the evening, thereafter, in the great church of St. Sophia, when the kissing was done together with the Emperor and all the magistrates of the empire, as is historically recorded by Curopalates, who says: “The Emperor sits on the throne wearing the broadsword of the Grand Domesticus, and as all the magistrates come in each, even to the least of them and last of them, kiss first of all the right foot (owing to the imperial character of the kingdom), then the right hand (because the Emperor has been anointed of the Lord and is the Defender of the Church, as Symeon of Thessalonica comments), and after that his right cheek (because “king and soldier, rich man and poor man, are all equal in Christ”).

For this reason many persons ignorantly call this second kiss the Second Resurrection.

As concerns the red eggs eaten at the time of the Resurrection, many persons say many things that are destitute of verification. In solving certain questions for the Emperor of Russia, a learned man named Gazes Paisius, says that when the Jews exclaimed His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25). everything they had in their houses at once turned red, and consequently even the eggs. Hence in remembrance of this miracle we too dye our eggs red at Pascha on the occasion of the Resurrection then being celebrated. This miracle, he says, has come down to us through a tradition of old.

images (8)


I said qualifiedly that the night of Great Saturday is the middle between the burial and the resurrection of the Lord, and not Great Saturday, as both Zonaras and Balsamon have lumpingly said, because although the daytime of Great and Holy Saturday clearly includes the burial of the Lord, while Great Pascha clearly includes the resurrection, yet the night of Great Saturday, intervening between the two days in question, partakes of both of them. “On this account the Western local Synod held in Cabilone concerning hierurgy (or celebration of the Liturgy), in Division 1st and the Canon which begins with the expression “It has been the custom,” decrees that so far as regards all the other days of the fasts Liturgy is to be celebrated round the hours of Vespers, but on Great Saturday it is to be celebrated at the commencement of night.” Furthermore, all typicons with great discrimination and observation state that the Ecclesiarch must be possessed of accuracy in order that the time when the Liturgy of Great Saturday ends it shall be two o’clock in the night. But why on all other days of fasting should the Liturgy be celebrated in the evening, but on Great Saturday must be celebrated in the night time? The reason, of course, is that the Gospel is read containing the words “Late on the Sabbath” (Matthew 28:1), and generally affording an introduction to the resurrection, and in order that persons who have been baptized at that time may partake of communion in it. Hence the Apostolic Injunctions, Book V, Chapter 19, go right ahead and lay it down as a rule that catechumens are to be baptized still further in the night. For they say concerning the night of Pascha: “Reading the Law all through the night until the cock crows, and having baptized your catechumens, and having read the Gospel, and having delivered an address to the laity, cease your mourning.”

That is why St. Gregory the Theologian in expanding upon Pascha, and Damascene, borrowing from Gregory, call the night of Great and Holy Saturday saving for those persons who get baptized on that night. “Being a radiant night and a herald of the day appareled in splendor.”

On account of the many lights of the ones illuminated (baptized). “How holy in reality and universally festival this saving night is and radiant!” etc.



Anointment with holy myrrh denotes the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon Christ when He was being baptized in the .Jordan; and consequently, according to Cyril of Jerusalem the chrism is a token that we are receiving in baptism the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit (and see the words of Cyril in the Footnote to Apostolic Canon L) and are becoming perfect Christians. Hence we are called Christians not only because we believe in Christ, but also because we get anointed with that heavenly chrism, becoming christs of the Lord and partakers of Christ in accordance with that passage in the Psalms saying: “Therefore God, thy God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Psalm 45:7). Note, however, that holy myrrh may be administered a second time, but only to those who have denied the faith. Hence the error practiced by some persons ought to be prohibited, viz, the custom of certain priests or spiritual. fathers (i.e., confessors) of anointing those Christians with holy myrrh who have fornicated with a Jewess, or with a woman who is a Latin (i.e., a Roman Catholic, according to English usage) or a heretic. For though it is true that such persons are canonized more severely than other fornicators, according to Reply 47 of Balsamon and Canon XXXI of John of Citrus, they are not anointed with holy myrrh. That is why Canon XLIV of Basil in referring to a deaconess who had committed fornication with a Grecian, does not decree that anything of the kind be done to her. As for how great an evil it is for some persons to partake of the holy myrrh of St. Demetrius instead of divine Communion, see the newly printed book of the saint of Campania.


Slaves and Vassals in the Orthodox Church (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The early Church Fathers never criticized or condemned slavery. Early Christians and Christian writers accepted slavery as a necessary part of fallen man and justified it in the case of captives taken in war and criminals sentenced to slavery. Some of the popes and patriarchs owned slaves, and religious orders owned slaves; not one Orthodox hierarch or theologian of the early Church said slavery was intrinsically evil. Almost every Council of the Church—regional and ecumenical, in both Eastern and Western Christendom—discussed and regulated slavery but never condemned it nor sought, in any way, to abolish the institution.

Slaves in Byzantium
Slaves in Byzantium

Today, in the 21st century, the Orthodox Church still sanctions a form of slavery through the life of monasticism. The Ladder of Divine Ascent—also referred to as “The Monastic Bible”—states: “You who are therefore trying to lay your own burden on Another’s shoulders [i.e. via submitting in blind obedience to an Elder], you who are hastening to sign a pledge that you are voluntarily surrendering yourself to slavery” (Step 4:5). At the end of the book, St. John Climacus writes his own Beautitudes for monastics: “Blessed is he who is as zealous with true zeal as a well-disposed slave towards his master” (Step 30:11).

The following article is taken from The Rudder, pp. 237-238; 391-393


Two boys riding on a camel led by a slave; Byzantine Imperial Mosaic.
Two boys riding on a camel led by a slave; Byzantine Imperial Mosaic.


We do not permit house servants to be ordained to the clergy without the consent of their masters, to the sorrow of the masters owning them. For such a thing causes an upheaval in the households. But if any house servant should appear to be worthy to be ordained to any rank, as our own Onesimus did, and their masters are willing to permit it, and grant them their freedom (by liberating them from slavery), and allow them to leave home, let him be so ordained. (Canon IV of the 4th Ecumenical Synod; Canon LXXXV of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon III of Ancyra; Canon XC of Carthage; Canons XL, XLI, XLII of Basil; and the Epistle to Philemon)


One must not do things that become causes of scandal or of sorrow to others. One cause of scandal, of course, and of sorrow is that which results whenever a slave is ordained without the consent of his own master. Thus the present Canon prohibits this, stating: We do not allow slaves to be promoted to the clergy and Holy Orders without the consent of their masters, lest we cause sorrow to the masters themselves by doing so. Because this sort of thing upsets whole households (for it might happen that the slave admitted to the clergy was either the manager of his master’s household, or the superintendent of his factory, or had the care of his master’s money; and on all such accounts his ordination might cause his master grief).

But if any slave should appear to be worthy for ordination, as did our own Onesimus, the bishop ought to notify his master to this effect, and if the latter consents and is willing, and at the mouth of two or three witnesses according to the LXXXV of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, and sends him home as a sign of total liberty, then let him be ordained. That is what St. Paul did, since he refused to keep the slave Onesimus, and in spite of the fact that he found him to be very useful in the ministry of preaching, he sent him back to his master Philemon.


Nor must slaves be admitted to monasteries to become monks without the consent of their masters, according to Canon IV of the 4th Ecumenical Synod. And any female slave who gets married without the consent of her master has thereby become guilty of harlotry, according to Canons XL and XLII of St. Basil; for according to him, agreements and promises made by vassals are unreliable. And according to his Canon XLI any marriage that takes place without the consent of the master of a female slave must be dissolved if he does not want it. That is why the synod held in Gangra anathematizes in its Canon III anyone who on the pretext of piety teaches a slave to hold his master in contempt and to leave his service. According to Canon LXXIII of Carthage, the freedom of slaves ought to be preached in the churches.115

The Holy Apostle Onesimus was a slave to Philemon of Colossae, a man of Christian faith.
The Holy Apostle Onesimus was a slave to Philemon of Colossae, a man of Christian faith.

Footnote 115 on the Apostolic Canons

Note that there are four distinct types of vassals according to the laws. They are either fortuitous, as slaves to their masters; or naturally such, as children to their parents; or by matrimony, as a wife to her husband, and, conversely, a husband to his wife; or by census, as civil officeholder to generals of the army. Some authorities add a fifth species of vassalage, which they call spiritual subjection; such is that of subordinates to their elders in the monasteries. As concerns the vassalage of a wife to her husband, and of a husband to his wife, see the footnote to Canon XLVIII of the 6thEcumenical Synod. Concering the vassalage of children to their parents. See the footnotes to Canon XXVII of the 4th Ecumenical Synod, to Canon XLII of Carthage, and to Canon XXXVIII of Basil. As concerns the vassalage of slaves to their masters (and in part that of vassalage which soldiers owe to army leaders), it is of that kind of vassalage that we are speaking of here. Novels 9, 10, and 11 of Leo the Wise prescribe that any slave who becomes a clergyman or a monk or a bishop without his master’s knowledge, if he is a fugitive from the latter for not more than three years, he is to be searched for by his master, and when found he is to return again to his former lot and be a slave; but if he was known to his master to have been admitted to the clergy or to a monastery, it prescribes that he is to be searched for not more than a year.

Photios, on the other hand, in Title I, Chapter 36, says that according to ordinance 36 of Title III of Book I of the Code, a slave even with his master’s consent cannot be admitted to the clergy unless he first is liberated.

Arab captives are brought before Emperor Romanos III.
Arab captives are brought before Emperor Romanos III.

The second ordinance of Title I of the Novas decrees that if when a slave was being admitted to the clergy his master knew about it and offered no objections, the slave is liberated ex ipso facto. And Michael Attaliotes in his Synopsis, Title III, says that as soon as a slave was ordained he became a free man if his master knew about it and remained silent. The same ordinance says that the episcopate liberates slaves from the authority of their masters and soldiers from that of their generals, provided it is conferred upon them with the consent of those who have control over them. Note further that the law says that if anyone is asked and offers no objection, but keeps silent, in case the matter concerning which he is asked is one to his profit or advantage, he will be considered to have given his consent to it; but if it be one to his loss or disadvantage, he will be considered to have refused.

Nevertheless, when anyone is aware of the ordination of his slave, and fails to offer any objection to it, notwithtanding that it is to his disadvantage or damage, he will be regarded as having given his consent to it; and this applies specifically to the liberty of the one admitted to the clergy, that is to say. Thus it is written in the scholium (or comment) of Balsamon on the text of Title I, Chapter 36, of the Nomicon of Photios. Furthermore, according to Armenopoulos, Book I, Title XVIII, a slave is accorded his liberty in case his master dies without leaving a will. If anyone is rich and is bought by the enemies, he is to pay his price and be bought back. But if he is a poor man, he is to slave for three to five years for the one who bought him, and thus he will gain the right to be liberated. Any slave, again, is automatically freed and set at liberty if he became a soldier, or a monk, or a clergyman, and his master was aware of it.

Those slaves, on the other hand, who abandon the ascetic mode of life after having become monks, and go to another state (or political domain), are to become slaves again, according to Book 4, Title I, Chapter 11, subject 13. (See also the footnote to Canon V of the lst-&-2nd Synod, and Armenopoulos, ibid.) Note further that there are two kinds of slaves: some are born slaves, and these include all who are born of women who are slaves; and others become slaves when they are captured by enemies at war. Those, on the other hand, who are slaving, or working, for their masters for wages or for a salary, are not properly speaking slaves, but obviously are only hired men or employees. Concerning this latter class of men, divine Chrysostom (Sermon 4 to Titus) says that anyone deserves to be blamed if under the pretense of temperance or of continence he divorces wives from their husbands, and slaves from their masters. Sirach, finally, says: “Let your soul love a house slave of understanding, and deny him not his freedom” (Ecclesiastes 7:21).

Byzantine Slavery

The Annunciation (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

St_ Nikodemos 4

Note that during all forty days of the Great Fast fish is allowed by the Church only once, and that is on the Feast of Annunciation, as is ordained in the Typikon kept on the Holy Mountain. Hence it is evident that it has been a more modern hand that has written into the Typikon and into the Triodion that we may eat fish also on the feast day of the Lord’s Day of Palms. Besides, even Nicholas the Patriarch in his verses allowed the eating of fish only on the Feast of Annunciation. Therefore, when we learn this fact, let us follow the example of the saints, and not the modernist heretics, who yield obedience to the dictates of their stomachs. (pp. 371-372)


Note that just as the word homoousion [meaning of the same essence or coessential] was one to which the Fathers were accustomed even before the First Ecumenical Synod, though the latter sanctioned the use of this word and imparted it to the whole world, in a like manner had other Fathers called the Virgin Mary a Theotokos even before this Third Synod. But this Synod, having sanctioned this sweetest name of the Virgin, imparted it as a dogmatic definition to the whole world and handed it down through all later generations. Origen was the first to call the Virgin a Theotokos, in interpreting verse 33 of chapter 22 of Deuteronomy (pages 15 and 54 of the first volume of the series of the Fathers (in the Patrologia). Socrates also ( in Book 7 of his History, Chapter 32) says that Origen himself, while engaged in a comprehensive examination of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans found out how the Virgin came to be called the Theotokos. Cyril of Alexandria, in writing to Nestorius, says that even Athanasios the Great called her the Theotokos, and Ammon the Bishop of Adrianoupolis concurred, just as Alexander of Alexandria called the All-holy Virgin the Theotokos in writing to Alexander of Constantinople (the one who presided at the First Ecumenical Synod).

1st Ecumenical Synod (325)
1st Ecumenical Synod (325)

Again, Basil, in his discourse on the birth of Christ, says: “The Theotokos never ceased being a Virgin, because she would not displease the ears of Christlovers.” These testimonies, I take it, are self-sufficient. But it may be added here that Gregory the Theologian, in his first letter to Cledonius, says: “if there be anyone who does not consider Mary to be Theotokos, he is destitute of divinity.” And in his first discourse concerning the Son, in addressing the Greeks, he says; “For where among your deities have you known a Virgin Theotokos?” Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine (Chapter 43) and Socrates (Book 7, Chapter 32) say: “Wherefore indeed the most God-revering Queen (i.e. Helena) with wonderful tombstones magnificently decorated the Theotokos’ birthplace” – Bethlehem). Dionysios of Alexandria said to Paul of Samosota: “the one who became incarnate out of the holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary.” St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (or Wonder-worker) of Neocaesarea, in his discourse on the Annunciation, says these following words: “The Holy Theotokos, therefore, gave voice to the song of this prophecy by exclaiming, ‘My soul does magnify the Lord’” (Luke 1:46). Only the All-holy Virgin is called the Theotokos, according to the explanatory remark of Zonaras in commenting upon some troparia of the canons of the Octoechos of Damascene, by way of contrast with the women among the Greeks who were mythologically asserted to have given birth to their non-existent pseudo-gods.

3rd Ecumenical Synod (381)
3rd Ecumenical Synod (381)

The Virgin is called the Theotokos as having truly given birth to God, the accent being upon the last syllable, and not Theotocus, with the accent on the antepenult, which would signify “having been begotten by God spiritually,” as recusant and man-worshiping Nestorius called her.

For in this manner all human beings have been begotten spiritually through and by virtue of baptism. But the Holy Virgin is said to be a Theotokos in two ways.

One of these ways is on account of the nature and the substance of the God Logos which was given birth from of her and which assumed humanity; and the other way is on account of the humanity assumed, which became deified as a result of that union and assumption, and attained to Godhood (John Damascene, Concerning the Orthodox Faith, Book 3, Chapter 12, and elsewhere).

The Holy and Ecumenical Sixth Synod proclaimed her Virgin (in its act 11 by means of the document of the faith of Sophronios of Jerusalem) before giving birth, and in giving birth, and after giving birth: which is the same as saying Ever-virgin. Concerning St. Epiphanios (Hairesei. 78) says: “Who, having said Mary, and having been asked whom he meant, ever failed to answer by adding the Virgin?” And St. Jerome (Dialogue Second against Pelagius) said: “Christ alone opened the closed portals of the Virgin’s womb, and thereafter these remained shut (this word “opened” denotes that the Lord fecundated the womb, just as, in the opposite case, the womb is said to be shut in the sense that the womb is barren because of sterility: in accordance with that passage in Genesis saying: “God had shut fast every womb from without” (Genesis 20:18); or it may be said to denote “parted asunder,” but without injury, and not like the rest of infants). She is declared to be Ever-virgin also in the first Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod, held in the Troullos.

6th Ecumenical Synod (681)
6th Ecumenical Synod (681)


On all the Forty days of the Great Fast devoted to fasting, with the exception of Saturday and The Lord’s Day and the days of the holy Annunciation, let the Holy Liturgy of the presanctified be celebrated. (Apostolic Canon LXIX; Canons XLIX, LI of Laodicea)


The days of holy fast are days of mourning and of contrition and of repentance. But for a perfect sacrifice to be offered to God, and indeed in he commemorations of saints, is deemed by the majority of people to be matter of jubilation and joy, and of festivity. That is why they are wont to indulge in merry-making during this period. For this reason the present Canon commands that on the other days of the Fast there shall be a celebration of the liturgy of the56 which is the same as saying the second offering of the completed and sacrifice offered, whereas on Saturdays and The Lord’s Days, as more cheerful days and not devoted to fasting, likewise also on Annunciation Day, as being the commencement of our salvation and the exordium, and consequently as a feast day and festival, it allows a perfect sacrifice and Liturgy to be celebrated.


Canon XLIX of Laodicea is in agreement with the present Canon in decreeing that bread is not to be offered during the Fast, or, in other words, a perfect liturgy, but only on Saturday and the Lord’s Day. Furthermore, Canon LI of the same prohibits the celebration of commemorations and birthdays (actually death days) of martyrs on fasting days in the Great Fast, but allows it only on the Saturdays and The Lord’s Days therein. Balsamon in his Interpretation of Canon LI of this Synod of Laodicca, and, above all, Blastaris, in Chapter 5, verse 300, say that not even memorials for the sleeping are to be held on the other days in the Great Fast, the sole exception being 57 just as the typikons conformably prescribe. See also Apostolic Canon LXIX.


But in his Reply 55 the same Balsamon says that not even baptisms can be performed during the Great Fast except only on the Saturdays and Lord’s Days therein, and the day of Annunciation. But those who do these things ought to be corrected with heavy penalties, as having sinned unpardonably, except in case there should be a dire necessity of death (page 389 of Jus Graeco-Romanum).

Many teachers, indeed, are inclined to insist that it was on the Lord’s Day that the Annunciation took place. Christ was born on the Lord’s Day. It was on the Lord’s Day that wonder of the multiplication of the five loaves of bread occurred. It was on the Lord’s Day that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and it was on the Lord’s Day that John was privileged to behold the terrible Revelation as is stated in the first chapter of it.


If Annunciation falls on Great and Holy Thursday or Great and Holy Friday, we are not sinning if on that day we partake of wine and fish. (Apostolic Canon I, XIX)

St. Nikephoros I of Constantinople
St. Nikephoros I of Constantinople

Remaining in the Divine Liturgy until the End (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is taken from The Rudder, pp. 117-119, 260-261; 1091-1092; 1111-1112

 Divine Liturgy of the Angels 1


All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures, but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated, on the ground that they are causing the Church a breach of order. (Canon LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon II of Antioch; Canons III, XIII of Timothy)


Both exegetes of the Holy Canons — Zonaras, I mean, and Balsamon — in interpreting the present Apostolic Canon agree in saying that all Christians who enter the church when the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated, and who listen to the Divine Scriptures, but do not remain to the end nor partake, [of Communion] must be excommunicated, as causing a disorder in the church. Thus Zonaras says verbatim: “The present Canon demands that all those who are in the church when the Holy Sacrifice is being performed shall patiently remain to the end for prayer and Holy Communion.”

For even the laity then were required to partake continually. Balsamon says, “The ordainment of the present Canon is very acrid; for it excommunicates those attending church but not staying to the end nor partaking.” 17


Agreeably with the present Canon II of Antioch ordains that all those who enter the church during the time of Divine Liturgy and listen to the Scriptures, but turn away and avoid (which is the same as to say, on account of pretended reverence and humility they shun, according to interpretation of the best interpreter, Zonaras) Divine Communion in a disorderly manner are to be excommunicated. The continuity of Communion is confirmed also by Canon LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, which commands Christians throughout New Week (Pascha Week) to take time off for psalms and hymns, and to indulge in the Divine Mysteries to their hearts’ content. But indeed even from the third canon of St. Timothy the continuity of communion can be inferred. For if he permits one possessed by demons to partake, not every day, but only on the Lord’s Day (though in other copies it is written, on occasions only), it is likely that those not possessed by demons are permitted to communicate even more frequently.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels 2

Some contend that for this reason it was that the same Timothy, in Canon III, ordains that on Saturday and the Lord’s Day that a man and his wife should not have mutual intercourse, in order, that is, that they might partake, since in that period it was only on those days, as we have said, that the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. This opinion of theirs is confirmed by divine Justin, who says in his second apology that “on the day of the sun” — meaning the Lord’s Day — all Christians used to assemble in the churches (which on this account were also called “Kyriaka,” i.e., places of the Lord) and partook of the Divine Mysteries. That, on the other hand, all Christians ought to frequent Divine Communion is confirmed from the West by divine Ambrose, who says thus:

“We see many brethren coming to church negligently, and indeed on the Lord’s Days not even being present at the Mysteries.” And again, in blaming those who fail to partake continually, the same Saint says of the Mystic Bread, “God gave us this Bread as a daily affair, and we make it a yearly affair.”

From Asia, on the other hand, divine Chrysostom demands this of Christians, and indeed, par excellence. And see in his preamble to his commentary of the Epistle to the Romans, discourse VIII, and to the Hebrews, discourse XVIII on the Acts, and Sermon V on the First Epistle to Timothy, and Sermon XVII on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and his discourse on those at first fasting on Pascha, Sermon III to the Ephesians, discourse addressed to those who leave the divine assemblies (synaxis), Sermon XXVIII on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, a discourse addressed to blissful Philogomos, and a discourse about fasting. Therein you can see how that goodly tongue strives and how many exhortations it rhetorically urges in order to induce Christians to partake at the same time, and worthily, and continually. But see also Basil the Great, in his epistle to Caesaria Patricia and in his first discourse about baptism.18 But then how can it be thought that whoever pays any attention to the prayers of all the Divine Liturgy can fail to see plainly enough that all of these are aimed at having it arranged that Christians assembled at the Divine Liturgy should partake — as many, that is to say, as are worthy?

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 3


The present Canon teaches continuity of Divine Communion. Even though Balsamon in commenting on Apostolic Canon VIII says that it is impossible for Christians to commune every day, yet, behold, here he is forced by the present Canon to admit that it is “very acrid”, because it excommunicates those who leave without partaking. For how could the divine Apostles have made a law that would require one to do what is impossible? Besides, the Canon does not say every day, but those who do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion, when, that is to say, the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated. As for those who misinterpret this Canon and say that it excommunicates those who do not wait at Liturgy until the worthy partake, Matthew Blastaris closes their mouths in Element I, Chapter 25, by saying: “I think that the Christians of old, just as they took great care to believe correctly, also took great care also to conduct themselves correctly in public as well as in private life.

For this reason it is that many good customs that are mentioned in the divine canons, though followed in those times, have now in our times become changed and different. In fact, the perverted and negligent life which we are living has so far corrupted us, that we cannot even believe that Christians ever at all attain to such virtuousness as to partake continually at every Liturgy that was celebrated.”

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 1


Great Gregory of Thessalonica, also makes it a law in his Decalogue according to Christ, for Christians to commune on every Lord’s Day and on every great feast day (page 951 of Philokalia). Symeon of Thessallikewise says for Christians not to let forty days pass, but to commune as soon as possible and on every Lord’s Day if a way can be found, and especially in the case of the elderly and the ill (Chapter 360). Moreover, the Orthodox Confession (Homologian on page 111) states the more reverent Christians should confess their sins every month. But if so, then it is plain that they must also commune every month. But of course, they should commune with the proper preparation of contrition, confession of sins, satisfactory atonement, and fasting according to their ability, concerning which see the footnote to Canon XIII of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 2


As for all those who enter the church and listen to the sacred Scriptures, but who fail to commune in prayer together and at the same time with the laity, or who shun participation in the Eucharist, according to some irregularity, we decree that these persons be outcasts from the Church until, after going to confession and exhibiting fruits of repentance and begging forgiveness, they succeed in obtaining a pardon. Furthermore, we decree that communion with those excluded from communion is not allowed, nor is it to be allowed in any other church, to admit those who have been denied admittance to a church. If anyone among the Bishop, or Priests or Deacons, or of the Canon, should appear to be communing with those who have been excluded from communion, he too is to be excluded from communion on the ground of seemingly confusing the Canon of the Church.


The decree of the present Canon is in agreement with Apostolic Canon IX. For it asserts that those Christians must be excommunicated from the Church who go to church to attend liturgy and who listen to the Scriptures, but fail to pray along with the faithful, or shun the divine Communion, or, in other words, fail to no for a good reason, but on account of irregularity. Not on the ground that they actually hate loathe divine Communion, perish the thought! (for if they did so shun and abhor it, such persons would be condemned not only to excommunication, but even also to total anathema), but that they feign to avoid it on account of humility and reverence. For it was this that the Fathers meant by the word “shun,” according to superb Zonares. But these persons excommunicated only until they repent and beg to be forgiven. 7

Since, however, the Canon has mentioned excommunication, it goes on to say that no one is allowed either to pray, even in a private house together with those who have, been excommunicated from the Church, whether clerics or laymen, nor to admit them to church. If any bishop, or priest, or deacon, should join in communion with such persons who have been excluded from communion, either in a home or in church at services, he too is to be excluded from communion so far as other persons are concerned, because by doing so he is confusing and confounding and transgressing and violating the Canons of the Church which comprise decrees concerning this, viz. Apostolic Canons X and XI, which the reader should consult along with Apostolic Canon IX.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 4


The distribution of antidoron was introduced because everyone could not be present to receive the Holy Mysteries each Lord’s Day, and it was a means of providing means of sanctification to those not receiving. The antidoron is sanctified bread, since it has come from the loaf which has been offered to God and also because it is a type of the womb of the Theotokos. According to St. Germanos, “The Lamb which is to be mystically offered is taken from the offered bread, just as the Lamb of God came forth with a body from her womb.” Nicholas Kabasilas calls the antidoron pieces of the elevated bread offering. Concerning the antidoron Nicholas Kabasilas stated: “Then the offered bread, from which the sacred Lamb has been cut and offered to God, is broken in many portions and distributed to the faithful, who reverently receive it and kiss the Priest’s right hand which immediately before had touched the most Holy Body of the Savior Christ, thus receiving sanctification and imparting it to those who are able to touch it.”

Consequently, Christians must remain at the Divine Liturgy until the very end in order to receive sanctification from the antidoron. St. Germanos states: “It is believed that a spiritual blessing is imparted to those who elevate the bread of the Theotokos at the table on the feasts of martyrs and saints, which practice the Church has received from the times of the Holy Apostles according to St. Symeon of Salonika.

Η λειτουργία των αγγέλων12