The Second Council of Nicaea
The Second Council of Nicaea is recognized as the last of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. It met in AD 787 in Nicaea to restore the use and veneration of icons (holy images), which had been suppressed by imperial edict inside the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Leo III (717–741). His son, Constantine V (741–775), had held the Council of Hieria to ban the veneration of icons (see iconoclasm). The emperor’s vigorous enforcement of the ban included persecution of those who venerated icons and of monks in general. There were also political overtones to the persecution; images of emperors were still allowed by Constantine, which some opponents saw as an attempt to give wider authority to imperial power than to the saints and bishops.
In 784 the imperial secretary Patriarch Tarasius was appointed successor to the Patriarch Paul IV—he accepted on the condition that intercommunion with the other churches should be reestablished and that a council should be held to restor the veneration of images. Pope Adrian I was invited to participate and sent an archbishop and an abbot as his legates along with letters from Pope Adrian I to be read out, approving the veneration of images and severely criticizing Byzantine infringement of papal rights (Second Session September 26, 787). In 786, the council met in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. However, soldiers in collusion with the opposition entered the church, and broke up the assembly. The council was again summoned to meet, this time in Nicaea. The council assembled on September 24, 787 at the church of Hagia Sophia. The council issued a declaration of faith concerning the veneration of holy images. It was determined that:
“As the sacred and life-giving cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels, as well as those of the saints and other pious and holy men be embodied in the manufacture of sacred vessels, tapestries, vestments, etc., and exhibited on the walls of churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them. For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent veneration, not, however, the veritable adoration which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone – for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever venerate the image venerate in it the reality of what is there represented.”
This definition of the proper religious veneration of images centers on the distinction between timētikē proskynēsis, meaning the “veneration of honour”, and “alēthinē latreia”, meaning “true adoration”. The former is permitted to images in the same way as to other holy things, notably the cross and the gospel-book, while the latter, “latreia”, is reserved for God alone. Essentially, it established the difference between giving honor to those who deserve honor as well as God’s ability to work through the material world (dulia / veneration, 2 Kings 13:21, Romans 13:7, Acts 19:11), worship given to false deities (eidololatria / idolatry), and the true worship given to God alone (latreia / worship). Of the 350 members present, 308 bishops or their representatives signed.
Source: Nichols, Aidan (2010) . Rome and the Eastern Churches: A Study in Schism (2. rev. ed.). San Francisco: Ignatius Press
The Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.)
The Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.)
Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.)
The Divine Sacra Sent by the Emperors Constantine and Irene to the Most Holy and Most Blessed Hadrian, Pope of Old Rome.
(Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 32.)
Therefore, O Most Holy Head [Caput], it is incumbent upon us and you, that irreprehensibly we know the things which be his, and that in these we exercise ourselves, since from him we have received the imperial dignity, and you the dignity of the chief priesthood.
But now to speak more to the point. Your paternal blessedness knows what has been done in times past in this our royal city against the venerable images, how those who reigned immediately before us destroyed them and subjected them to disgrace and injury: (O may it not be imputed to them, for it had been better for them had they not laid their hands upon the Church!)— and how they seduced and brought over to their own opinion all the people who live in these parts — yea, even the whole of the East, in like manner, up to the time in which God has exalted us to this kingdom, who seek his glory in truth, and hold that which has been handed down by his Apostles together with all other teachers. Whence now with pure heart and unfeigned religion we have, together with all our subjects and our most learned divines, had constant conferences respecting the things which relate to God, and by their advice have determined to summon a General Council. And we entreat your paternal blessedness, or rather the Lord God entreats,
who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, that you will give yourself to us and make no delay, but come up hither to aid us in the confirmation and establishment of the ancient tradition of venerable images. It is, indeed, incumbent on your holiness to do this, since you know how it is written —
Comfort, comfort my people, you priests, says the Lord, and
the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and the law shall go forth out of his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts. And again, the divine Apostle, the preacher of the truth, who,
from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, preached the Gospel, has thus commanded —
Feed with discipline the flock of Christ which he purchased with his own blood. As then you are the veritable chief priest (primus sacerdos) who presides in the place and in the see of the holy and superlaudable Apostle Peter, let your paternal blessedness come to us, as we have said before, and add your presence to all those other priests who shall be assembled together here, that thus the will of the Lord may be accomplished. For as we are taught in the Gospels our Lord says —
When two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them— let your paternal and sacred blessedness be certified and confirmed by the great God and King of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by us his servants, that if you come up hither you shall be received with all honour and glory, and that everything necessary for you shall be granted. And again, when the definition (capitulum) shall be completed, which by the good pleasure of Christ our God we hope shall be done, we take upon us to provide for you every facility of returning with honour and distinction. If, however, your blessedness cannot attend upon us (which we can scarcely imagine, knowing what is your zeal about divine things), at least, pray select for us men of understanding, having with them letters from your holiness, that they may be present here in the person of your sacred and paternal blessedness. So, when they meet with the other priests who are here, the ancient tradition of our holy fathers may be synodically confirmed, and every evil plant of tares may be rooted out, and the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be fulfilled, that
the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. And after this, may there be no further schism and separation in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which Christ our true God is the Head.
We have had Constantine, beloved in Christ, most holy Bishop of Leontina in our beloved Sicily, with whom your paternal blessedness is well acquainted, into our presence; and, having spoken with him face to face, have sent him with this our present venerable jussio to you. Whom, after that he has seen you, immediately dismiss, that he may come back to us, and write us by him concerning your coming — what time we may expect will be spent in your journeying thence and coming to us. Moreover, he can retain with him the most holy Bishop of Naples, and come up hither together with him. And, as your journey will be by way of Naples and Sicily we have given orders to the Governor of Sicily about this, that he take due care to have every needful preparation made for your honour and rest, which is necessary in order that your paternal blessedness may come to us. Given on the ivth before the calends of September, the seventh indiction, from the Royal City.
The Imperial Sacra
Read at the First Session.
(Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 49.)
Constantine and Irene — Sovereigns of the Romans in the Faith, to the most holy Bishops, who, by the grace of God and by the command of our pious Sovereignty, have met together in the Council of Nicaea.
The Wisdom which is truly according to the nature of God and the Father — our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God — who, by his most divine and wonderful dispensation in the flesh, has delivered us from all idolatrous error: and, by taking on him our nature, has renewed the same by the co-operation of the Spirit, which is of the same nature with himself; and having himself become the first High Priest, has counted you holy men, worthy of the same dignity.
As for us, such was our zeal for the truth— such our earnest desire for the interests of religion, our care for ecclesiastical order, our anxiety that the ancient rules and orders should maintain their ground — that though fully engaged in military councils — though all our attention was occupied in political cares — yet, treating all these affairs as but of minor importance, we would allow nothing whatever to interfere with the convocation of your most holy council. To every one is given the utmost freedom of expressing his sentiments without the least hesitation, that thus the subject under enquiry may be most fully discussed and truth may be the more boldly spoken, that so all dissensions may be banished from the Church and we all may be united in the bonds of peace.
For, when the most holy Patriarch Paul, by the divine will, was about to be liberated from the bands of mortality and to exchange his earthly pilgrimage for a heavenly home with his Master Christ, he abdicated the Patriarchate and took upon him the monastic life, and when we asked him, Why have you done this? He answered, Because I fear that, if death should surprise me still in the episcopate of this royal and heaven-defended city, I should have to carry with me the anathema of the whole Catholic Church, which consigns me to that outer darkness which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for they say that a certain synod has been held here in order to the subversion of pictures and images which the Catholic Church holds, embraces, and receives, in memory of the persons whom they represent. This is that which distracts my soul— this is that which makes me anxiously to enquire how I may escape the judgment of God— since among such men I have been brought up and with such am I numbered. No sooner had he thus spoken in the presence of some of our most illustrious nobles than he expired.
When our Pious Sovereignty reflected on this awful declaration (and truly, even before this event, we had heard of similar questionings from many around), we took counsel with ourselves as to what ought to be done; and we determined, after mature deliberation, that when a new Patriarch had been elected, we should endeavour to bring this subject to some decisive conclusion. Wherefore, having summoned those whom we knew to be most experienced in ecclesiastical matters, and having called upon Christ our God, we consulted with them who was worthy to be exalted to the chair of the Priesthood of this Royal and God-preserved city; and they all with one heart and soul gave their vote in favour of Tarasius— he who now occupies the Pontifical Presidency. Having, therefore, sent for him, we laid before him our deliberations and our vote; but he would by no means consent, nor at all yield to that which had been determined. And when we enquired, Wherefore he thus refused his consent? — at first he answered evasively, That the yoke of the Chief Priesthood was too much for him. But we, knowing this to be a mere pretext coveting his unwillingness to obey us, would not desist from our importunity, but persisted in pressing the acceptance of the dignity of the Chief Priesthood upon him. When he found how urgent we were with him, he told us the cause of his refusal. It is (said he) because I perceive that the Church which has been founded on the rock, Christ our God, is rent and torn asunder by schisms, and that we are unstable in our confession, and that Christians in the East, of the same faith with ourselves, decline communion with us, and unite them with those of the West; and so we are estranged from all, and each day are anathematized by all: and, moreover, I should demand that an Ecumenical Council should be held, at which should be found Legates from the Pope of Rome and from the Chief Priests of the East. We, therefore, fully understanding these things, introduced him to the assembled company of the Priests — of our most illustrious Princes — and of all our Christian people; and then, in their presence, he repeated to them all that he had before said to us; which, when they heard, they received him joyfully, and earnestly entreated our peace-making and pious Sovereignty that an Ecumenical Council might be assembled. To this their request, we gave our hearty consent; for, to speak the truth, it is by the good will and under the direction of our God that we have assembled you together. Wherefore as God, willing to establish his own counsel, has for this purpose brought you together from all parts of the world, behold the Gospels now lying before you, and plainly crying aloud,
Judge justly; stand firm as champions of religion, and be ready with unsparing hand to cut away all innovations and new fangled inventions. And, as Peter the Chief of the Apostolic College, struck the mad slave and cut off his Jewish ear with the sword, so in like manner do you wield the axe of the Spirit, and every tree which bears the fruit of contention, of strife, or newly-imported innovation, either renew by transplanting through the words of sound doctrine, or lay it low with canonical censure, and send it to the fires of the future Gehenna, so that the peace of the Spirit may evermore protect the whole body of the Church, compacted and united in one, and confirmed by the traditions of the Fathers; and so may all our Roman State enjoy peace as well as the Church.
Extracts from the Acts
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 53.)
[Certain bishops who had been led astray by the Iconoclasts came, asking to be received back. The first of these was Basil of Ancyra.]
The bishop Basil of Ancyra read as follows from a book: Inasmuch as ecclesiastical legislation has canonically been handed down from past time, even from the beginning from the holy Apostles, and from their successors, who were our holy fathers and teachers, and also from the six holy and ecumenical synods, and from the local synods which were gathered in the interests of orthodoxy, that those returning from any heresy whatever to the orthodox faith and to the tradition of the Catholic Church, might deny their own heresy, and confess the orthodox faith.
I believe, therefore, and make my confession in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life. The Trinity, one in essence and one in majesty, must be worshipped and glorified in one godhead, power, and authority. I confess all things pertaining to the incarnation of one of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as the Saints and the six Ecumenical Synods have handed down. And I reject and anathematize every heretical babbling, as they also have rejected them. I ask for the intercessions (πρεσβείας) of our spotless Lady the Holy Mother of God, and those of the holy and heavenly powers, and those of all the Saints.
And receiving their holy and honourable relics with all honour (τιμῆς), I salute and venerate these with honour (τιμητικῶς προσκυνέω), hoping to have a share in their holiness. Likewise also the venerable images (εἰκόνας) of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the humanity he assumed for our salvation; and of our spotless Lady, the holy Mother of God; and of the angels like God; and of the holy Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, and of all the Saints — the sacred images of all these, I salute and venerate — rejecting and anathematizing with my whole soul and mind the synod which was gathered together out of stubbornness and madness, and which styled itself the Seventh Synod, but which by those who think accurately was called lawfully and canonically a pseudo-synod, as being contrary to all truth and piety, and audaciously and temerariously against the divinely handed down ecclesiastical legislation, yea, even impiously having yelped at and scoffed at the holy and venerable images, and having ordered these to be taken away out of the holy churches of God; over which assembly presided Theodosius with the pseudonym of Ephesius, Sisinnius of Perga, with the surname Pastillas, Basilius of Pisidia, falsely called
tricaccabus; with whom the wretched Constantine, the then Patriarch, was led (ἐματαιώθη) astray.
These things thus I confess and to these I assent, and therefore in simplicity of heart and in uprightness of mind, in the presence of God, I have made the subjoined anathematisms.
Anathema to those who apply the words of Holy Scripture which were spoken against idols, to the venerable images.
Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images.
Anathema to those who say that Christians have recourse to the images as to gods.
Anathema to those who knowingly communicate with those who revile and dishonour the venerable images.
Anathema to those who say that another than Christ our Lord has delivered us from idols.
Anathema to those who spurn the teachings of the holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church, taking as a pretext and making their own the arguments of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Dioscorus, that unless we were evidently taught by the Old and New Testaments, we should not follow the teachings of the holy Fathers and of the holy Ecumenical Synods, and the tradition of the Catholic Church.
Anathema to those who say that the making of images is a diabolical invention and not a tradition of our holy Fathers.
This is my confession [of faith] and to these propositions I give my assent. And I pronounce this with my whole heart, and soul, and mind.
And if at any time by the fraud of the devil (which may God forbid!) I voluntarily or involuntarily shall be opposed to what I have now professed, may I be anathema from the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the Catholic Church and every hierarchical order a stranger.
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: This whole sacred gathering yields glory and thanks to God for this confession of yours, which you have made to the Catholic Church.
The Holy Synod said: Glory to God which makes one that which was severed.
[Theodore, bishop of Myra, then read the same confession, and was received. The next bishop who asked to be received read as follows: (col. 60)]
Theodosius, the humble Christian, to the holy and Ecumenical Synod: I confess and I agree to (συντίθεμαι) and I receive and I salute and I venerate in the first place the spotless image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the holy image of her who bore him without seed, the holy Mother of God, and her help and protection and intercessions each day and night as a sinner to my aid I call for, since she has confidence with Christ our God, as he was born of her. Likewise also I receive and venerate the images of the holy and most laudable Apostles, prophets, and martyrs and the fathers and cultivators of the desert. Not indeed as gods (God forbid!) do I ask all these with my whole heart to pray for me to God, that he may grant me through their intercessions to find mercy at his hands at the day of judgment, for in this I am but showing forth more clearly the affection and love of my soul which I have borne them from the first. Likewise also I venerate and honour and salute the relics of the Saints as of those who fought for Christ and who have received grace from him for the healing of diseases and the curing of sicknesses and the casting out of devils, as the Christian Church has received from the holy Apostles and Fathers even down to us today.
Moreover, I am well pleased that there should be images in the churches of the faithful, especially the image of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Mother of God, of every kind of material, both gold and silver and of every color, so that his incarnation may be set forth to all men. Likewise there may be painted the lives of the Saints and Prophets and Martyrs, so that their struggles and agonies may be set forth in brief, for the stirring up and teaching of the people, especially of the unlearned.
For if the people go forth with lights and incense to meet the
laurata and images of the Emperors when they are sent to cities or rural districts, they honour surely not the tablet covered over with wax, but the Emperor himself. How much more is it necessary that in the churches of Christ our God, the image of God our Saviour and of his spotless Mother and of all the holy and blessed fathers and ascetics should be painted? Even as also St. Basil says:
Writers and painters set forth the great deeds of war; the one by word, the other by their pencils; and each stirs many to courage. And again the same author
How much pains have you ever taken that you might find one of the Saints who was willing to be your importunate intercessor to the Lord? And Chrysostom says,
The charity of the Saints is not diminished by their death, nor does it come to an end with their exit from life, but after their death they are still more powerful than when they were alive, and many other things without measure. Therefore I ask you, O you Saints! I call out to you. I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. Receive me as God received the luxurious man, and the harlot, and the thief. Seek me out, as Christ sought out the sheep that was lost, which he carried on his shoulders; so that there may be joy in the presence of God and of his angels over my salvation and repentance, through your intervention, O all-holy lords! Let them who do not venerate the holy and venerable images be anathema! Anathema to those who blaspheme against the honourable and venerable images! To those who dare to attack and blaspheme the venerable images and call them idols, anathema! To the calumniators of Christianity, that is to say the Iconoclasts, anathema! To those who do not diligently teach all the Christ-loving people to venerate and salute the venerable and sacred and honourable images of all the Saints who pleased God in their several generations, anathema! To those who have a doubtful mind and do not confess with their whole hearts that they venerate the sacred images, anathema!
Sabbas, the most reverend hegumenus of the monastery of the Studium, said: According to the Apostolic precepts and the Ecumenical Synods he is worthy to be received back.
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: Those who formerly were the calumniators of orthodoxy, now have become the advocates of the truth.
[Near the end of this session, (col. 77)]
John, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Eastern high priests said: This heresy is the worst of all heresies. Woe to the iconoclasts! It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the incarnation (οἰκονομίαν) of our Saviour.
[The Papal Letters were presented by the Legates. First was read that to Constantine and Irene, but not in its entirety, if we may trust Anastasius the Librarian, who gives what he says is the original Latin text. Here follows a translation of this and of the Greek, also a translation of the Latin passage altogether omitted, (as we are told) with the consent of the Roman Legates.]
Part of Pope Hadrian’s Letter.
[As written by the Pope.]
(Migne, Pat. Lat., Tom. XCVI., col. 1217.)
If you persevere in that orthodox Faith in which you have begun, and the sacred and venerable images be by your means erected again in those parts, as by the lord, the Emperor Constantine of pious memory, and the blessed Helen, who promulgated the orthodox Faith, and exalted the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church your spiritual mother, and with the other orthodox Emperors venerated it as the head of all Churches, so will your Clemency, that is protected of God, receive the name of another Constantine, and another Helen, through whom at the beginning the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church derived strength, and like whom your own imperial fame is spread abroad by triumphs, so as to be brilliant and deeply fixed in the whole world. But the more, if following the traditions of the orthodox Faith, you embrace the judgment of the Church of blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, and, as of old your predecessors the holy Emperors acted, so you, too, venerating it with honour, love with all your heart his Vicar, and if your sacred majesty follow by preference their orthodox Faith, according to our holy Roman Church. May the chief of the Apostles himself, to whom the power was given by our Lord God to bind and remit sins in heaven and earth, be often your protector, and trample all barbarous nations under your feet, and everywhere make you conquerors. For let sacred authority lay open the marks of his dignity, and how great veneration ought to be shown to his, the highest See, by all the faithful in the world. For the Lord set him who bears the keys of the kingdom of heaven as chief over all, and by Him is he honoured with this privilege, by which the keys of the kingdom of heaven are entrusted to him. He, therefore, that was preferred with so exalted an honour was thought worthy to confess that Faith on which the Church of Christ is founded. A blessed reward followed that blessed confession, by the preaching of which the holy universal Church was illumined, and from it the other Churches of God have derived the proofs of Faith. For the blessed Peter himself, the chief of the Apostles, who first sat in the Apostolic See, left the chiefship of his Apostolate, and pastoral care, to his successors, who are to sit in his most holy seat forever. And that power of authority, which he received from the Lord God our Saviour, he too bestowed and delivered by divine command to the Pontiffs, his successors, etc.
[As read in Greek to the Council.]
(Migne, Pat. Lat., Tom. XCVI., col. 1218.)
If the ancient orthodoxy be perfected and restored by your means in those regions, and the venerable icons be placed in their original state, you will be partakers with the Lord Constantine, Emperor of old, now in the Divine keeping, and the Empress Helena, who made conspicuous and confirmed the orthodox Faith, and exalted still more your holy mother, the Catholic and Roman and spiritual Church, and with the orthodox Emperors who ruled after them, and so your most pious and heaven-protected name likewise will be set forth as that of another Constantine and another Helena, being renowned and praised through the whole world, by whom the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is restored. And especially if you follow the tradition of the orthodox Faith of the Church of the holy Peter and Paul, the chief Apostles, and embrace their Vicar, as the Emperors who reigned before you of old both honoured their Vicar, and loved him with all their heart: and if your sacred majesty honour the most holy Roman Church of the chief Apostles, to whom was given power by God the Word himself to loose and to bind sins in heaven and earth. For they will extend their shield over your power, and all barbarous nations shall be put under your feet: and wherever you go they will make you conquerors. For the holy and chief Apostles themselves, who set up the Catholic and orthodox Faith, have laid it down as a written law that all who after them are to be successors of their seats, should hold their Faith and remain in it to the end.
[The part which was never read to the Council at all.]
(Found in L. and C., Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 117.)
We greatly wondered that in your imperial commands, directed for the Patriarch of the royal city, Tarasius, we find him there called Universal: but we know not whether this was written through ignorance or schism, or the heresy of the wicked. But henceforth we advise your most merciful and imperial majesty, that he be by no means called Universal in your writings, because it appears to be contrary to the institutions of the holy Canons and the decrees of the traditions of the holy Fathers. For he never could have ranked second, save for the authority of our holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as is plain to all. Because if he be named Universal, above the holy Roman Church which has a prior rank, which is the head of all the Churches of God, it is certain that he shows himself as a rebel against the holy Councils, and a heretic. For, if he is Universal, he is recognized to have the Primacy even over the Church of our See, which appears ridiculous to all faithful Christians: because in the whole world the chief rank and power was given to the blessed Apostle Peter by the Redeemer of the world himself; and through the same Apostle, whose place we unworthily hold, the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church holds the first rank, and the authority of power, now and for ever, so that if any one, which we believe not, has called him, or assents to his being called Universal, let him know that he is estranged from the orthodox Faith, and a rebel against our holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
[After the reading was ended (col. 120)]
Tarasius the most holy patriarch said: Did you yourselves receive these letters from the most holy Pope, and did you carry them to our pious Emperor?
Peter and Peter the most beloved-of-God presbyters who held the place of Hadrian, the most holy pope of Rome, said: We ourselves received such letters from our apostolic father and delivered them to the pious lords.
John, the most magnificent Logothete, said: That this is the case is also known to the Sicilians, the beloved of God Theodore, the bishop of Catanea, and the most revered deacon Epiphanius who is with him, who holds the place of the archbishop of Sardinia. For both of these at the bidding of our pious Emperors, went to Rome with the most reverend apocrisarius of our most holy patriarch.
Theodore the God-beloved bishop of Catanea, standing in the midst, said: The pious emperor, by his honourable jussio, bid send Leo, the most god-beloved presbyter (who together with myself is a slave of your holiness), with the precious letter of his most sacred majesty; and he who reveres our [sic in Greek,
your, in Latin] holiness, being the governor (στρατηγὸς) of my province of Sicily, sent me to Rome with the pious jussio of our orthodox Emperors.
And when we had gone, we announced the orthodox faith of the pious emperors.
And when the most blessed Pope heard it, he said: Since this has come to pass in the days of their reign, God has magnified their pious rule above all former reigns. And this suggestion (ἀναφορὰν) which has been read he sent to our most pious kings together with a letter to your holiness and with his vicars who are here present and presiding.
Cosmas, the deacon, notary, and chamberlain (Cubuclesius) said: And another letter was sent by the most holy Pope of Old Rome to Tarasius, our most holy and œcumenical Patriarch. Let it be disposed of as your holy assembly shall direct.
The Holy Synod said, Let it be read.
[Then was read Hadrian’s letter to Tarasius of Constantinople, which ends by saying that,
our dearly-loved proto-presbyter of the Holy Church of Rome, and Peter, a monk, a presbyter, and an abbot, who have been sent by us to the most tranquil and pious emperors, we beg you will deem them worthy of all kindness and humane amenity for the sake of St. Peter, coropheus of the Apostles, and for our sakes, so that for this we may be able to offer you our sincere thanks. The letter being ended (col. 128),]
Peter and Peter, the most reverend presbyters and representatives of the most holy Pope of Old Rome said: Let the most holy Tarasius, Patriarch of the royal city, say whether he agrees (στοιχεῖ) with the letters of the most holy Pope of Old Rome or not.
Tarasius the most holy patriarch said: The divine Apostle Paul, who was filled with the light of Christ, and who has begotten us through the gospel, in writing to the Romans, commending their zeal for the true faith which they had in Christ our true God, thus said:
Your faith has gone forth into all the world. It is necessary to follow out this witness, and he that would contradict it is without good sense. Wherefore Hadrian, the ruler of Old Rome, since he was a sharer of these things, thus borne witness to, wrote expressly and truly to our religious Emperors, and to our humility, confirming admirably and beautifully the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church. And we also ourselves, having examined both in writing, and by inquisition, and syllogistically and by demonstration, and having been taught by the teachings of the Fathers, so have confessed, so do confess, and so will confess; and shall be fast, and shall remain, and shall stand firm in the sense of the letters which have just been read, receiving the imaged representations according to the ancient tradition of our holy fathers; and these we venerate with firmly-attached affection, as made in the name of Christ our God, and of our Spotless Lady the Holy Mother of God, and of the Holy Angels, and of all the Saints, most clearly giving our adoration and faith to the one only true God.
And the holy Synod said: The whole holy Synod thus teaches.
Peter and Peter, the God-loved presbyters and legates of the Apostolic See, said: Let the holy Synod say whether it receives the letters of the most holy Pope of Old Rome.
The holy Synod said: We follow, we receive, we admit them.
[The bishops then give one by one their votes all in the same sense.]
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 188.)
Constantine, the most holy bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, said: Since I, unworthy that I am, find that the letter which has just been read, which was sent from the East to Tarasius the most holy archbishop and ecumenical patriarch, is in no sense changed from that confession of faith which he himself had before made, to these I consent and become of one mind, receiving and saluting with honour the holy and venerable images. But the worship of adoration I reserve alone to the supersubstantial and life-giving Trinity. And those who are not so minded, and do not so teach I cast out of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and I smite them with anathema, and I deliver them over to the lot of those who deny the incarnation and the bodily economy of Christ our true God.
[Among numerous passages of the Fathers one was read from a sermon by St. Gregory Nyssen in which he describes a painting representing the sacrifice of Isaac and tells how he could not pass it
The most glorious princes said: See how our father grieved at the depicted history, even so that he wept.
Basil, the most holy bishop of Ancyra, said: Many times the father had read the story, but perchance he had not wept; but when once he saw it painted, he wept.
John the most reverend monk and presbyter and representative of the Eastern high priests, said: If to such a doctor the picture was helpful and drew forth tears, how much more in the case of the ignorant and simple will it bring compunction and benefit.
The holy Synod said: We have seen in several places the history of Abraham painted as the father says.
Theodore the most holy bishop of Catanea, said: If the holy Gregory, vigilant in divine cogitation, was moved to tears at the sight of the story of Abraham, how much more shall a painting of the incarnation of our Lord Christ, who for us was made man, move the beholders to their profit and to tears?
Tarasius the most holy Patriarch said: Shall we not weep when we see an image of our crucified Lord?
The holy Synod said: We shall indeed — for in that shall be found perfectly the profundity of the abasement of the incarnate God for our sakes.
[Post nonnulla a passage is read from St. Athanasius in which he describes the miracles worked at Berytus, after which there is found the following (col. 224),]
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: But perhaps someone will say, Why do not the images which we have work miracles? To which we answer, that as the Apostle has said, signs are for those who do not believe, not for believers. For they who approached that image were unbelievers. Therefore God gave them a sign through the image, to draw them to our Christian faith. But
an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign and no sign shall be given it.
[After a number of other quotations, was read the Canon of the Council in Trullo as a canon of the Sixth Synod (col. 233).]
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch said: There are certain affected with the sickness of ignorance who are scandalized by these canons [viz. of the Trullan Synod] and say, And do you really think they were adopted at the Sixth Synod? Now let all such know that the holy great Sixth Synod was assembled at Constantinople concerning those who said that there was but one energy and will in Christ. These anathematized the heretics, and having expounded the orthodox faith, they went to their homes in the fourteenth year of Constantine. But after four or five years the same fathers came together under Justinian, the son of Constantine, and set forth the before-mentioned canons. And let no one doubt concerning them. For they who subscribed under Constantine were the same as they who under Justinian signed the present chart, as can manifestly be established from the unchangeable similarity of their own handwriting. For it was right that they who had appeared at an ecumenical synod should also set forth ecclesiastical canons. They said that we should be led as (by the hand) by the venerable images to the recollection of the incarnation of Christ and of his saving death, and if by them we are led to the realization of the incarnation of Christ our God, what sort of an opinion shall we have of them who break down the venerable images?
[At the close of the Session, after a number of anathematisms had been pronounced, the following was read, to which all the bishops subscribed (col. 317).]
Fulfilling the divine precept of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, our holy Fathers did not hide the light of the divine knowledge given by him to them under a bushel, but they set it upon the candlestick of most useful teaching, so that it might give light to all in the house — that is to say, to those who are born in the Catholic Church; lest perchance anyone of those who piously confess the Lord might strike his foot against the stone of heretical evil doctrine. For they expelled every error of heretics and they cut off the rotten member if it was incurably sick. And with a fan they purged the floor. And the good wheat, that is to say the word which nourishes and which makes strong the heart of man, they laid up in the granary of the Catholic Church; but throwing outside the chaff of heretical evil opinion they burned it with unquenchable fire. Therefore also this holy and ecumenical Synod, met together for the second time in this illustrious metropolis of Nice, by the will of God and at the bidding of our pious and most faithful Emperors, Irene a new Helena, and a new Constantine, her God-protected offspring, having considered by their perusal the teachings of our approved and blessed Fathers, has glorified God himself, from whom there was given to them wisdom for our instruction, and for the perfecting of the Catholic and Apostolic Church: and against those who do not believe as they did, but have attempted to overshadow the truth through their novelty, they have chanted the words of the psalm:
Oh how much evil have your enemies done in your sanctuary; and have glorified themselves, saying, There is not a teacher any more, and they shall not know that we treated with guile the word of truth. But we, in all things holding the doctrines and precepts of the same our God-bearing Fathers, make proclamation with one mouth and one heart, neither adding anything, nor taking anything away from those things which have been delivered to us by them. But in these things we are strengthened, in these things we are confirmed. Thus we confess, thus we teach, just as the holy and ecumenical six Synods have decreed and ratified. We believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son and Word, through whom all things were made, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, consubstantial and coeternal with the same Father and with his Son who has had no beginning. The unbuilt-up, indivisible, incomprehensible, and non-circumscribed Trinity; he, wholly and alone, is to be worshipped and revered with adoration; one Godhead, one Lordship, one dominion, one realm and dynasty, which without division is apportioned to the Persons, and is fitted to the essence severally. For we confess that one of the same holy and consubstantial Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ the true God, in these last days was incarnate and made man for our salvation, and having saved our race through his saving incarnation, and passion, and resurrection, and ascension into heaven; and having delivered us from the error of idols; as also the prophet says, Not an ambassador, not an angel, but the Lord himself has saved us. Him we also follow, and adopt his voice, and cry aloud; No Synod, no power of kings, no God-hated agreement has delivered the Church from the error of the idols, as the Judaizing conciliabulum has madly dreamed, which raved against the venerable images; but the Lord of glory himself, the incarnate God, has saved us and has snatched us from idolatrous deceit. To him therefore be glory, to him be thanks, to him be eucharists, to him be praise, to him be magnificence. For his redemption and his salvation alone can perfectly save, and not that of other men who come of the earth. For he himself has fulfilled for us, upon whom the ends of the earth have come through the economy of his incarnation, the words spoken beforehand by his prophets, for he dwelt among us, and went in and out among us, and cast out the names of idols from the earth, as it was written. But we salute the voices of the Lord and of his Apostles through which we have been taught to honour in the first place her who is properly and truly the Mother of God and exalted above all the heavenly powers; also the holy and angelic powers; and the blessed and altogether lauded Apostles, and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs which fought for Christ, and the holy and God-bearing Doctors, and all holy men; and to seek for their intercessions, as able to render us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as we keep his commandments, and strive to live virtuously. Moreover we salute the image of the honourable and life-giving Cross, and the holy relics of the Saints; and we receive the holy and venerable images: and we salute them, and we embrace them, according to the ancient traditions of the holy Catholic Church of God, that is to say of our holy Fathers, who also received these things and established them in all the most holy Churches of God, and in every place of his dominion. These honourable and venerable images, as has been said, we honour and salute and reverently venerate: to wit, the image of the incarnation of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that of our spotless Lady the all-holy Mother of God, from whom he pleased to take flesh, and to save and deliver us from all impious idolatry; also the images of the holy and incorporeal Angels, who as men appeared to the just. Likewise also the figures and effigies of the divine and all-lauded Apostles, also of the God-speaking Prophets, and of the struggling Martyrs and of holy men. So that through their representations we may be able to be led back in memory and recollection to the prototype, and have a share in the holiness of some one of them.
Thus we have learned to think of these things, and we have been strengthened by our holy Fathers, and we have been strengthened by their divinely handed down teaching. And thanks be to God for his ineffable gift, that he has not deserted us at the end nor has the rod of the ungodly come into the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put their hands, that is to say their actual deeds, unto wickedness. But he does well unto those who are good and true of heart, as the psalmist David melodiously has sung; with whom also we sing the rest of the psalm: As for such as turn back unto their own wickedness, the Lord shall lead them forth with the evil doers; and peace shall be upon the Israel of God.
[The subscriptions follow immediately and close the acts of this session (col. 321-346).]
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 389.)
Leo the most renowned secretary said: The holy and blessed Synod know how at the last session we examined various sayings of the God-forsaken heretics, who had brought charges against the holy and spotless Church of the Christians for the setting up of the holy images. But today we have in our hands the written blasphemy of those calumniators of the Christians, that is to say, the absurd, and easily answered, and self-convicting definition (ὅρον) of the pseudosyllogus, in all respects agreeing with the impious opinion of the God-hated heretics. But not only have we this, but also the artful and most drastic refutation thereof, which the Holy Spirit had supervised. For it was right that this definition should be made a triumph by wise contradictions, and should be torn to pieces with strong refutations. This also we submit so as to know your pleasure with regard to it.
The holy Synod said: Let it be read.
John, the deacon and chancellor [of the most holy great Church of Constantinople, in Lat. only] read.
[John, the deacon, then read the orthodox refutation, and Gregory, the bishop of Neocæsarea, the Definition of the Mock Council, the one reading the heretical statement and the other the orthodox answer.]
The holy and Ecumenical synod, which by the grace of God and most pious command of the God-beloved and orthodox Emperors, Constantine and Leo, now assembled in the imperial residence city, in the temple of the holy and inviolate Mother of God and Virgin Mary, surnamed in Blachernæ, have decreed as follows.
Satan misguided men, so that they worshipped the creature instead of the Creator. The Mosaic law and the prophets cooperated to undo this ruin; but in order to save mankind thoroughly, God sent his own Son, who turned us away from error and the worshipping of idols, and taught us the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. As messengers of his saving doctrine, he left us his Apostles and disciples, and these adorned the Church, his Bride, with his glorious doctrines. This ornament of the Church the holy Fathers and the six Ecumenical Councils have preserved inviolate. But the before-mentioned demi-urgos of wickedness could not endure the sight of this adornment, and gradually brought back idolatry under the appearance of Christianity. As then Christ armed his Apostles against the ancient idolatry with the power of the Holy Spirit, and sent them out into all the world, so has he awakened against the new idolatry his servants our faithful Emperors, and endowed them with the same wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Impelled by the Holy Spirit they could no longer be witnesses of the Church being laid waste by the deception of demons, and summoned the sanctified assembly of the God-beloved bishops, that they might institute at a synod a scriptural examination into the deceitful coloring of the pictures (ὁμοιωμάτων) which draws down the spirit of man from the lofty adoration (λατρείας) of God to the low and material adoration (λατρείαν) of the creature, and that they, under divine guidance, might express their view on the subject.
Our holy synod therefore assembled, and we, its 338 members, follow the older synodal decrees, and accept and proclaim joyfully the dogmas handed down, principally those of the six holy Ecumenical Synods. In the first place the holy and ecumenical great synod assembled at Nice, etc.
After we had carefully examined their decrees under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we found that the unlawful art of painting living creatures blasphemed the fundamental doctrine of our salvation— namely, the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods. These condemned Nestorius because he divided the one Son and Word of God into two sons, and on the other side, Arius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, and Severus, because they maintained a mingling of the two natures of the one Christ.
Wherefore we thought it right, to show forth with all accuracy, in our present definition the error of such as make and venerate these, for it is the unanimous doctrine of all the holy Fathers and of the six Ecumenical Synods, that no one may imagine any kind of separation or mingling in opposition to the unsearchable, unspeakable, and incomprehensible union of the two natures in the one hypostasis or person. What avails, then, the folly of the painter, who from sinful love of gain depicts that which should not be depicted — that is, with his polluted hands he tries to fashion that which should only be believed in the heart and confessed with the mouth? He makes an image and calls it Christ. The name Christ signifies God and man. Consequently it is an image of God and man, and consequently he has in his foolish mind, in his representation of the created flesh, depicted the Godhead which cannot be represented, and thus mingled what should not be mingled. Thus he is guilty of a double blasphemy— the one in making an image of the Godhead, and the other by mingling the Godhead and manhood. Those fall into the same blasphemy who venerate the image, and the same woe rests upon both, because they err with Arius, Dioscorus, and Eutyches, and with the heresy of the Acephali. When, however, they are blamed for undertaking to depict the divine nature of Christ, which should not be depicted, they take refuge in the excuse: We represent only the flesh of Christ which we have seen and handled. But that is a Nestorian error. For it should be considered that that flesh was also the flesh of God the Word, without any separation, perfectly assumed by the divine nature and made wholly divine. How could it now be separated and represented apart? So is it with the human soul of Christ which mediates between the Godhead of the Son and the dulness of the flesh. As the human flesh is at the same time flesh of God the Word, so is the human soul also soul of God the Word, and both at the same time, the soul being deified as well as the body, and the Godhead remained undivided even in the separation of the soul from the body in his voluntary passion. For where the soul of Christ is, there is also his Godhead; and where the body of Christ is, there too is his Godhead. If then in his passion the divinity remained inseparable from these, how do the fools venture to separate the flesh from the Godhead, and represent it by itself as the image of a mere man? They fall into the abyss of impiety, since they separate the flesh from the Godhead, ascribe to it a subsistence of its own, a personality of its own, which they depict, and thus introduce a fourth person into the Trinity. Moreover, they represent as not being made divine, that which has been made divine by being assumed by the Godhead. Whoever, then, makes an image of Christ, either depicts the Godhead which cannot be depicted, and mingles it with the manhood (like the Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians.
The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation. Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the human form, so that idolatry might not arise. And as the body of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit; it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies it.
The evil custom of assigning names to the images does not come down from Christ and the Apostles and the holy Fathers; nor have these left behind them any prayer by which an image should be hallowed or made anything else than ordinary matter.
If, however, some say, we might be right in regard to the images of Christ, on account of the mysterious union of the two natures, but it is not right for us to forbid also the images of the altogether spotless and ever-glorious Mother of God, of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, who were mere men and did not consist of two natures; we may reply, first of all: If those fall away, there is no longer need of these. But we will also consider what may be said against these in particular. Christianity has rejected the whole of heathenism, and so not merely heathen sacrifices, but also the heathen worship of images. The Saints live on eternally with God, although they have died. If anyone thinks to call them back again to life by a dead art, discovered by the heathen, he makes himself guilty of blasphemy. Who dares attempt with heathenish art to paint the Mother of God, who is exalted above all heavens and the Saints? It is not permitted to Christians, who have the hope of the resurrection, to imitate the customs of demon-worshippers, and to insult the Saints, who shine in so great glory, by common dead matter.
Moreover, we can prove our view by Holy Scripture and the Fathers. In the former it is said:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth; and:
You shall not make you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath; on which account God spoke to the Israelites on the Mount, from the midst of the fire, but showed them no image. Further:
They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man,…and served the creature more than the Creator. [Several other passages, even less to the point, are cited.]
The same is taught also by the holy Fathers. [The Synod appeals to a spurious passage from Epiphanius and to one inserted into the writings of Theodotus of Ancyra, a friend of St. Cyril’s; to utterances — in no way striking — of Gregory of Nazianzum, of SS. Chrysostom, Basil, Athanasius of Amphilochius and of Eusebius Pamphili, from his Letter to the Empress Constantia, who had asked him for a picture of Christ.]
Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, we declare unanimously, in the name of the Holy Trinity, that there shall be rejected and removed and cursed out of the Christian Church every likeness which is made out of any material and color whatever by the evil art of painters.
Whoever in future dares to make such a thing, or to venerate it, or set it up in a church, or in a private house, or possesses it in secret, shall, if bishop, presbyter, or deacon, be deposed; if monk or layman, be anathematised, and become liable to be tried by the secular laws as an adversary of God and an enemy of the doctrines handed down by the Fathers. At the same time we ordain that no incumbent of a church shall venture, under pretext of destroying the error in regard to images, to lay his hands on the holy vessels in order to have them altered, because they are adorned with figures. The same is provided in regard to the vestments of churches, cloths, and all that is dedicated to divine service. If, however, the incumbent of a church wishes to have such church vessels and vestments altered, he must do this only with the assent of the holy Ecumenical patriarch and at the bidding of our pious Emperors. So also no prince or secular official shall rob the churches, as some have done in former times, under the pretext of destroying images. All this we ordain, believing that we speak as does the Apostle, for we also believe that we have the spirit of Christ; and as our predecessors who believed the same thing spoke what they had synodically defined, so we believe and therefore do we speak, and set forth a definition of what has seemed good to us following and in accordance with the definitions of our Fathers.
(1) If anyone shall not confess, according to the tradition of the Apostles and Fathers, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost one godhead, nature and substance, will and operation, virtue and dominion, kingdom and power in three subsistences, that is in their most glorious Persons, let him be anathema.
(2) If anyone does not confess that one of the Trinity was made flesh, let him be anathema.
(3) If anyone does not confess that the holy Virgin is truly the Mother of God, let him be anathema.
(4) If anyone does not confess one Christ both God and man, let him be anathema.
(5) If anyone does not confess that the flesh of the Lord is life-giving because it is the flesh of the Word of God, let him be anathema.
(6) If anyone does not confess two natures in Christ, let him be anathema.
(7) If anyone does not confess that Christ is seated with God the Father in body and soul, and so will come to judge, and that he will remain God forever without any grossness, let him be anathema.
(8) If anyone ventures to represent the divine image (χαρακτήρ) of the Word after the Incarnation with material colors, let him be anathema!
(9) If anyone ventures to represent in human figures, by means of material colors, by reason of the incarnation, the substance or person (ousia or hypostasis) of the Word, which cannot be depicted, and does not rather confess that even after the Incarnation he [i.e., the Word] cannot be depicted, let him be anathema!
(10) If anyone ventures to represent the hypostatic union of the two natures in a picture, and calls it Christ, and thus falsely represents a union of the two natures, let him be anathema!
(11) If anyone separates the flesh united with the person of the Word from it, and endeavours to represent it separately in a picture, let him be anathema!
(12) If anyone separates the one Christ into two persons, and endeavours to represent Him who was born of the Virgin separately, and thus accepts only a relative (σχετική) union of the natures, let him be anathema.
(13) If anyone represents in a picture the flesh deified by its union with the Word, and thus separates it from the Godhead, let him be anathema.
(14) If anyone endeavours to represent by material colors, God the Word as a mere man, who, although bearing the form of God, yet has assumed the form of a servant in his own person, and thus endeavours to separate him from his inseparable Godhead, so that he thereby introduces a quaternity into the Holy Trinity, let him be anathema.
(15) If anyone shall not confess the Holy Ever-Virgin Mary, truly and properly the Mother of God, to be higher than every creature whether visible or invisible, and does not with sincere faith seek her intercessions as of one having confidence in her access to our God, since she bore him, let him be anathema.
(16) If anyone shall endeavour to represent the forms of the Saints in lifeless pictures with material colors which are of no value (for this notion is vain and introduced by the devil), and does not rather represent their virtues as living images in himself, let him be anathema.
(17) If anyone denies the profit of the invocation of Saints, let him be anathema.
(18) If anyone denies the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment, and the condign retribution to everyone, endless torment and endless bliss, let him be anathema.
(19) If anyone does not accept this our Holy and Ecumenical Seventh Synod, let him be anathema from the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the seven holy Ecumenical Synods!
[Then follows the prohibition of the making or teaching any other faith, and the penalties for disobedience. After this follow the acclamations.]
The divine Kings Constantine and Leo said: Let the holy and ecumenical synod say, if with the consent of all the most holy bishops the definition just read has been set forth.
The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [μανσουρ, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!
(Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia. Tom. VII., col. 552.)
The holy, great, and Ecumenical Synod which by the grace of God and the will of the pious and Christ-loving Emperors, Constantine and Irene, his mother, was gathered together for the second time at Nice, the illustrious metropolis of Bithynia, in the holy church of God which is named Sophia, having followed the tradition of the Catholic Church, has defined as follows:
Christ our Lord, who has bestowed upon us the light of the knowledge of himself, and has redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous madness, having espoused to himself the Holy Catholic Church without spot or defect, promised that he would so preserve her: and gave his word to this effect to his holy disciples when he said:
Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, which promise he made, not only to them, but to us also who should believe in his name through their word. But some, not considering of this gift, and having become fickle through the temptation of the wily enemy, have fallen from the right faith; for, withdrawing from the traditions of the Catholic Church, they have erred from the truth and as the proverb says:
The husbandmen have gone astray in their own husbandry and have gathered in their hands nothingness, because certain priests, priests in name only, not in fact, had dared to speak against the God-approved ornament of the sacred monuments, of whom God cries aloud through the prophet,
Many pastors have corrupted my vineyard, they have polluted my portion.
And, forsooth, following profane men, led astray by their carnal sense, they have calumniated the Church of Christ our God, which he has espoused to himself, and have failed to distinguish between holy and profane, styling the images of our Lord and of his Saints by the same name as the statues of diabolical idols. Seeing which things, our Lord God (not willing to behold his people corrupted by such manner of plague) has of his good pleasure called us together, the chief of his priests, from every quarter, moved with a divine zeal and brought hither by the will of our princes, Constantine and Irene, to the end that the traditions of the Catholic Church may receive stability by our common decree. Therefore, with all diligence, making a thorough examination and analysis, and following the trend of the truth, we diminish nought, we add nought, but we preserve unchanged all things which pertain to the Catholic Church, and following the Six Ecumenical Synods, especially that which met in this illustrious metropolis of Nice, as also that which was afterwards gathered together in the God-protected Royal City.
We believe…life of the world to come. Amen.
We detest and anathematize Arius and all the sharers of his absurd opinion; also Macedonius and those who following him are well styled
Foes of the Spirit (Pneumatomachi). We confess that our Lady, St. Mary, is properly and truly the Mother of God, because she was the Mother after the flesh of One Person of the Holy Trinity, to wit, Christ our God, as the Council of Ephesus has already defined when it cast out of the Church the impious Nestorius with his colleagues, because he taught that there were two Persons [in Christ]. With the Fathers of this synod we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon has promulgated, expelling from the divine Atrium [αὐλῆς] as blasphemers, Eutyches and Dioscorus; and placing in the same category Severus, Peter and a number of others, blaspheming in various fashions. Moreover, with these we anathematize the fables of Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus, in accordance with the decision of the Fifth Council held at Constantinople. We affirm that in Christ there be two wills and two operations according to the reality of each nature, as also the Sixth Synod, held at Constantinople, taught, casting out Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, and those who agree with them, and all those who are unwilling to be reverent.
To make our confession short, we keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally, one of which is the making of pictorial representations, agreeable to the history of the preaching of the Gospel, a tradition useful in many respects, but especially in this, that so the incarnation of the Word of God is shown forth as real and not merely phantastic, for these have mutual indications and without doubt have also mutual significations.
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable reverence (ἀσπασμὸν καὶ τιμητικὴν προσκύνησιν), not indeed that true worship of faith (λατρείαν) which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honour which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented. For thus the teaching of our holy Fathers, that is the tradition of the Catholic Church, which from one end of the earth to the other has received the Gospel, is strengthened. Thus we follow Paul, who spoke in Christ, and the whole divine Apostolic company and the holy Fathers, holding fast the traditions which we have received. So we sing prophetically the triumphal hymns of the Church,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Rejoice and be glad with all your heart. The Lord has taken away from you the oppression of your adversaries; you are redeemed from the hand of your enemies. The Lord is a King in the midst of you; you shall not see evil any more, and peace be unto you forever.
Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or as wicked heretics to spurn the traditions of the Church and to invent some novelty, or else to reject some of those things which the Church has received (e.g., the Book of the Gospels, or the image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy relics of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to common uses the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries, if they be Bishops or Clerics, we command that they be deposed; if religious or laics, that they be cut off from communion.
[After all had signed, the acclamations began (col. 576).]
The holy Synod cried out: So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which has made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this. Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture about idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images. Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols. Anathema to those who say that Christians resort to the sacred images as to gods. Anathema to those who say that any other delivered us from idols except Christ our God. Anathema to those who dare to say that at any time the Catholic Church received idols.
Many years to the Emperors, etc., etc.
That the sacred Canons are in all things to be observed.
The pattern for those who have received the sacerdotal dignity is found in the testimonies and instructions laid down in the canonical constitutions, which we receiving with a glad mind, sing unto the Lord God in the words of the God-inspired David, saying:
I have had as great delight in the way of your testimonies as in all manner of riches.
You have commanded righteousness as your testimonies forever.
Grant me understanding and I shall live. Now if the word of prophesy bids us keep the testimonies of God forever and to live by them, it is evident that they must abide unshaken and without change. Therefore Moses, the prophet of God, speaks after this manner:
To them nothing is to be added, and from them nothing is to be taken away. And the divine Apostle glorying in them cries out,
which things the angels desire to look into, and,
if an angel preach to you anything besides that which you have received, let him be anathema. Seeing these things are so, being thus well-testified unto us, we rejoice over them as he that has found great spoil, and press to our bosom with gladness the divine canons, holding fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, or by the Six Ecumenical Councils, or by Councils locally assembled for promulgating the decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils, or by our holy Fathers. For all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, defined such things as were expedient. Accordingly those whom they placed under anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to the same penalty. And now
let your conversation be without covetousness, cries out Paul the divine Apostle, who was caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words.
Ancient Epitome: We gladly embrace the Divine Canons, viz.: those of the Holy Apostles, of the Six Ecumenical Synods, as also of the local synods and of our Holy Fathers, as inspired by one and the same Holy Spirit. Whom they anathematize we also anathematize; whom they depose, we depose; whom they cut off, we cut off; and whom they subject to penalties, we also so subject.
That he who is to be ordained a Bishop must be steadfastly resolved to observe the canons, otherwise he shall not be ordained.
When we recite the psalter, we promise God:
I will meditate upon your statutes, and will not forget your words. It is a salutary thing for all Christians to observe this, but it is especially incumbent upon those who have received the sacerdotal dignity. Therefore we decree, that every one who is raised to the rank of the episcopate shall know the psalter by heart, so that from it he may admonish and instruct all the clergy who are subject to him. And diligent examination shall be made by the metropolitan whether he be zealously inclined to read diligently, and not merely now and then, the sacred canons, the holy Gospel, and the book of the divine Apostle, and all other divine Scripture; and whether he lives according to God’s commandments, and also teaches the same to his people. For the special treasure (οὐσία) of our high priesthood is the oracles which have been divinely delivered to us, that is the true science of the Divine Scriptures, as says Dionysius the Great. And if his mind be not set, and even glad, so to do and teach, let him not be ordained. For says God by the prophet,
You have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me.
Ancient Epitome: Whoever is to be a bishop must know the Psalter by heart: he must thoroughly understand what he reads, and not merely superficially, but with diligent care, that is to say the Sacred Canons, the Holy Gospel, the book of the Apostle, and the whole of the Divine Scripture. And should he not have such knowledge, he is not to be ordained.
That it does not pertain to princes to choose a Bishop.
Let every election of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, made by princes stand null, according to the canon which says: If any bishop making use of the secular powers shall by their means obtain jurisdiction over any church, he shall be deposed, and also excommunicated, together with all who remain in communion with him. For he who is raised to the episcopate must be chosen by bishops, as was decreed by the holy fathers of Nice in the canon which says: It is most fitting that a bishop be ordained by all the bishops in the province; but if this is difficult to arrange, either on account of urgent necessity, or because of the length of the journey, three bishops at least having met together and given their votes, those also who are absent having signified their assent by letters, the ordination shall take place. The confirmation of what is thus done, shall in each province be given by the metropolitan thereof.
Ancient Epitome: Every election made by a secular magistrate is null.
That Bishops are to abstain from all receiving of gifts.
The Church’s herald, Paul the divine Apostle, laying down a rule (κανόνα) not only for the presbyters of Ephesus but for the whole company of the priesthood, speaks thus explicitly, saying,
I have coveted no man’s silver or gold, or apparel. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak; for he accounted it more blessed to give. Therefore we being taught by him do decree, that under no circumstances, shall a Bishop for the sake of filthy lucre invent feigned excuses for sins, and exact gold or silver or other gifts from the bishops, clergy, or monks who are subject to him. For says the Apostle,
The unrighteous shall not possess the kingdom of God, and,
The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. If then any is found, who for the sake of exacting gold or any other gift, or who from personal feeling, has suspended from the ministry, or even excommunicated, any of the clergy subject to his jurisdiction, or who has closed any of the venerable temples, so that the service of God may not be celebrated in it, pouring out his madness even upon things insensible, and thus showing himself to be without understanding, he shall be subjected to the same punishment he devised for others, and his trouble shall return on his own head, as a transgressor of God’s commandment and of the apostolic precepts. For Peter the supreme head (ἡ κερυφαία ἀκρότης) of the Apostles commands,
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over the clergy (τῶν κλήρων [A.V. God’s heritage]); but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.
Ancient Epitome: We decree that no bishop shall extort gold or silver, or anything else from bishops, clerics, or monks subject to his jurisdiction. And if anyone through the power of gold or of any other thing or through his own whims, shall be found to have prevented any one of the clergy who are subject to him, from the celebration of the holy offices, or shall have shut up a venerable temple so that the sacred worship of God could not be performed in it, he shall be subject to the lex talionis. For Peter the Apostle says: Feed the flock of God, not of necessity but willingly, and according to God; not for filthy lucre’s sake, but with a prompt mind; not exercising lordship over the clergy, but being an example to the flock.
That they who cast contumely upon clerics because they have been ordained in the church without bringing a gift with them, are to be published with a fine.
It is a sin unto death when men incorrigibly continue in their sin, but they sin more deeply, who proudly lifting themselves up oppose piety and sincerity, accounting mammon of more worth than obedience to God, and caring nothing for his canonical precepts. The Lord God is not found among such, unless, perchance, having been humbled by their own fall, they return to a sober mind. It behooves them the rather to turn to God with a contrite heart and to pray for forgiveness and pardon of so grave a sin, and no longer to boast in an unholy gift. For the Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart. With regard, therefore, to those who pride themselves that because of their benefactions of gold they were ordained in the Church, and resting confidently in this evil custom (so alien from God and inconsistent with the whole priesthood), with a proud look and open mouth vilify with abusive words those who on account of the strictness of their life were chosen by the Holy Ghost and have been ordained without any gift of money, we decree in the first place that they take the lowest place in their order; but if they do not amend let them be subjected to a fine. But if it appear that any one has done this [i.e., given money], at any time as a price for ordination, let him be dealt with according to the Apostolic Canon which says:
If a bishop has obtained possession of his dignity by means of money (the same rule applies also to a presbyter or deacon) let him be deposed and also the one who ordained him, and let him also be altogether cut off from communion, even as Simon Magus was by me Peter. To the same effect is the second canon of our holy fathers of Chalcedon, which says: If any bishop gives ordination in return for money, and puts up for sale that which cannot be sold, and ordains for money a bishop or chorepiscopus, or presbyter, or deacon, or any other of those who are reckoned among the clergy; or who for money shall appoint anyone to the office of œconomus, advocate, or paramonarius; or, in a word, who has done anything else contrary to the canon, for the sake of filthy lucre — he who has undertaken to do anything of this sort, having been convicted, shall be in danger of losing his degree. And he who has been ordained shall derive no advantage from the ordination or promotion thus negotiated; but let him remain a stranger to the dignity and responsibility which he attained by means of money. And if any one shall appear to have acted as a go-between in so shameful and godless a traffic, he also, if he be a cleric, shall be removed from his degree; if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated.
Ancient Epitome: It seems that such as glory in the fact that they owe their position to their liberality in gold to the Church, and who contemn those who were chosen because of their virtue and were appointed without any largess, should receive the lowest place in their order. And should they continue in their ways, let them be punished. But those who made such gifts so as to get ordinations, let such be cast forth from communion, as Simon Magus was by Peter.
Concerning the holding of a local Synod at the time appointed.
Since there is a canon which says, twice a year in each province, the canonical enquiries shall be made in the gatherings of the bishops; but because of the inconveniences which those who thus came together had to undergo in travelling, the holy fathers of the Sixth Council decreed that once each year, without regard to place or excuse which might be urged, a council should be held and the things which are amiss corrected. This canon we now renew. And if any prince be found hindering this being carried out, let him be excommunicated. But if any of the metropolitans shall take no care that this be done, he being free from constraint or fear or other reasonable excuse, let him be subjected to the canonical penalties. While the council is engaged in considering the canons or matters which have regard to the Gospel, it behooves the assembled Bishops, with all attention and grave thought to guard the divine and life-giving commandments of God, for in keeping of them there is great reward; because our lamp is the commandment, and our light is the law, and trial and discipline are the way of life, and the commandment of the Lord shining afar gives light to the eyes. It is not permitted to a metropolitan to demand any of those things which the bishops bring with them, whether it be a horse or any other gift. If he be convicted of doing anything of this sort, he shall restore fourfold.
Ancient Epitome: Whenever it is not possible for a synod to meet according to the decree formulated long ago, twice in each year, at least let it be held once, as seemed good to the Sixth Synod. Should any magistrate forbid such meeting, let him be cast out: and a bishop who shall take no pains to assemble it, shall be subject to punishment. And when the synod is held, should it appear that the Metropolitan has taken anything away from any bishop, let him restore four-fold.
That to churches consecrated without any deposit of the relics of the Saints, the defect should be made good.
Paul the divine Apostle says:
The sins of some are open beforehand, and some they follow after. These are their primary sins, and other sins follow these. Accordingly upon the heels of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians, there followed close other ungodliness. For as they took out of the churches the presence of the venerable images, so likewise they cast aside other customs which we must now revive and maintain in accordance with the written and unwritten law. We decree therefore that relics shall be placed with the accustomed service in as many of the sacred temples as have been consecrated without the relics of the Martyrs. And if any bishop from this time forward is found consecrating a temple without holy relics, he shall be deposed, as a transgressor of the ecclesiastical traditions.
Ancient Epitome: Let relics of the Holy Martyrs be placed in such churches as have been consecrated without them, and this with the accustomed prayers. But whoever shall consecrate a church without these shall be deposed as a transgressor of the traditions of the Church.
That Hebrews ought not to be received unless they have been converted in sincerity of heart.
Since certain, erring in the superstitions of the Hebrews, have thought to mock at Christ our God, and feigning to be converted to the religion of Christ do deny him, and in private and secretly keep the Sabbath and observe other Jewish customs, we decree that such persons be not received to communion, nor to prayers, nor into the Church; but let them be openly Hebrews according to their religion, and let them not bring their children to baptism, nor purchase or possess a slave. But if any of them, out of a sincere heart and in faith, is converted and makes profession with his whole heart, setting at naught their customs and observances, and so that others may be convinced and converted, such an one is to be received and baptized, and his children likewise; and let them be taught to take care to hold aloof from the ordinances of the Hebrews. But if they will not do this, let them in no way be received.
Ancient Epitome: Hebrews must not be received unless they are manifestly converted with sincerity of heart.
That none of the books containing the heresy of the traducers of the Christians are to be hid.
All the childish devices and mad ravings which have been falsely written against the venerable images, must be delivered up to the Episcopium of Constantinople, that they may be locked away with other heretical books. And if anyone is found hiding such books, if he be a bishop or presbyter or deacon, let him be deposed; but if he be a monk or layman, let him be anathema.
Ancient Epitome: If any one is found to have concealed a book written against the venerable images, if he is on the clergy list let him be deposed; if a layman or monk let him be cut off.
That no cleric ought to leave his diocese and go into another without the knowledge of the Bishop.
Since certain of the clergy, misinterpreting the canonical constitutions, leave their own diocese and run into other dioceses, especially into this God-protected royal city, and take up their abode with princes, celebrating liturgies in their oratories, it is not permitted to receive such persons into any house or church without the license of their own Bishop and also that of the Bishop of Constantinople. And if any clerk shall do this without such license, and shall so continue, let him be deposed. With regard to those who have done this with the knowledge of the aforesaid Bishops, it is not lawful for them to undertake mundane and secular responsibilities, since this is forbidden by the sacred canons. And if anyone is discovered holding the office of those who are called Meizoteroi; let him either lay it down, or be deposed from the priesthood. Let him rather be the instructor of the children and others of the household, reading to them the Divine Scriptures, for to this end he received the priesthood.
Ancient Epitome: A clergyman who after leaving his own parish has settled in another far off from his own bishop and from the bishop of Constantinople, shall be received neither into house nor church. And if he shall persevere in his course, he shall be deposed. But if they shall do this with a knowledge of what we have said, they shall not receive a secular position; or should they have received them, they shall cease from them. And if they refuse they shall be deposed.
That Œconomi ought to be in the Episcopal palaces and in the Monasteries.
Since we are under obligation to guard all the divine canons, we ought by all means to maintain in its integrity that one which says œconomi are to be in each church. If the metropolitan appoints in his Church an œconomus, he does well; but if he does not, it is permitted to the Bishop of Constantinople by his own (ἰδίας) authority to choose an œconomus for the Church of the Metropolitan. A like authority belongs to the metropolitans, if the Bishops who are subject to them do not wish to appoint œconomi in their churches. The same rule is also to be observed with respect to monasteries.
Ancient Epitome: If the Metropolitan does not elect an œconomus of the metropolis, the patriarch shall do so. If the bishop shall not do so, the Metropolitan shall; for so it seemed good to the fathers assembled at Chalcedon. The same law shall hold in monasteries.
That a Bishop or Hegumenos ought not to alienate any part of the suburban estate of the church.
If bishop or hegumenos is found alienating any part of the farm lands of the bishoprick or monastery into the hands of secular princes, or surrendering them to any other person, such act is null according to the canon of the holy Apostles, which says:
Let the bishop take care of all the Church’s goods, and let him administer the same according as in the sight of God. It is not lawful for him to appropriate any part himself, or to confer upon his relations the things which belong to God. If they are poor let them be helped among the poor; but let them not be used as a pretext for smuggling away the Church’s property. And if it be urged that the land is only a loss and yields no profit, the place is not on that account to be given to the secular rulers, who are in the neighbourhood; but let it be given to clergymen or husbandmen. And if they have resorted to dishonest craft, so that the ruler has bought the land from the husbandman or cleric, such transaction shall likewise be null, and the land shall be restored to the bishoprick or monastery. And the bishop or hegumenos doing this shall be turned out, the bishop from his bishoprick and the hegumenos from his monastery, as those who wasted what they did not gather.
Ancient Epitome: According to what seemed good to the Holy Apostles, any act of alienation of the goods of a diocese or of a monastery made by the bishop, or by the superior of the monastery, shall be null. And the Bishop or Superior who shall have done this shall be expelled.
That they are worthy of special condemnation who turn the monasteries into public houses.
During the calamity which was brought to pass in the Churches, because of our sins, some of the sacred houses, for example, bishops’ palaces and monasteries, were seized by certain men and became public inns. If those who now hold them choose to give them back, so that they may be restored to their original use, well and good; but if not, and these persons are on the sacerdotal list, we command that they be deposed; if they be monks or laymen, that they be excommunicated, as those who have been condemned from the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and assigned their place where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched, because they set themselves against the voice of the Lord, which says:
Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.
Ancient Epitome: Those who make common diocesan or monastic goods, unless they restore to the bishop or superior the things belonging to the diocese or monastery, the whole proceeding shall be null. If they are persons in Holy Orders they shall be deposed, but if laymen or monks they shall be cast out.
That no one without ordination ought to read in the ambo during the synaxis.
That there is a certain order established in the priesthood is very evident to all, and to guard diligently the promotions of the priesthood is well pleasing to God. Since therefore we see certain youths who have received the clerical tonsure, but who have not yet received ordination from the bishop, reading in the ambo during the Synaxis, and in doing this violating the canons, we forbid this to be done (from henceforth,) and let this prohibition be observed also among the monks. It is permitted to each hegumenos in his own monastery to ordain a reader, if he himself had received the laying on of hands by a bishop to the dignity of hegumenos, and is known to be a presbyter. Chorepiscopi may likewise, according to ancient custom and with the bishop’s authorization, appoint readers.
Ancient Epitome: No one shall read from the ambon unless he has been ordained by the bishop. And this shall be in force also among monks. The superior of a monastery, if he has been ordained by the bishop, may ordain a lector but only in his own monastery. A chorepiscopus also can make a lector.
That a clerk ought not to be set over two churches.
From henceforth no clergyman shall be appointed over two churches, for this savours of merchandise and filthy lucre, and is altogether alien from ecclesiastical custom. We have heard by the very voice of the Lord that,
No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Each one, therefore, as says the Apostle, in the calling wherein he was called, in the same he ought to abide, and in one only church to give attendance. For in the affairs of the Church, what is gained through filthy lucre is altogether separate from God. To meet the necessities of this life, there are various occupations, by means of which, if one so desire, let him procure the things needful for the body. For says the Apostle,
These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. Occupations of this sort may be obtained in the God-protected city. But in the country places outside, because of the small number of people, let a dispensation be granted.
Ancient Epitome: Hereafter at Constantinople a cleric may not serve two churches. But in the outskirts this may be permitted on account of the scarcity of men.
That it does not become one in holy orders to be clad in costly apparel.
All buffoonery and decking of the body ill becomes the priestly rank. Therefore those bishops and clerics who array themselves in gay and showy clothing ought to correct themselves, and if they do not amend they ought to be subjected to punishment. So likewise they who anoint themselves with perfumes. When the root of bitterness sprang up, there was poured into the Catholic Church the pollution of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians. And such as were defiled by it, not only detested the pictured images, but also set at naught all decorum, being exceedingly mad against those who lived gravely and religiously; so that in them was fulfilled that which is written,
The service of God is abominable to the sinner. If therefore, any are found deriding those who are clad in poor and grave raiment, let them be corrected by punishment. For from early times every man in holy orders wore modest and grave clothing; and verily whatever is worn, not so much because of necessity, as for the sake of outward show, savours of dandyism, as says Basil the Great. Nor did anyone array himself in raiment embroidered with silk, nor put many colored ornaments on the border of his garments; for they had heard from the lips of God that
They that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
Ancient Epitome: Bishops and clergymen arraying themselves in splendid clothes and anointed with perfumes must be corrected. Should they persist, they must be punished.
That he shall not be allowed to begin the building of an oratory, who has not the means wherewith to finish it.
Certain monks having left their monasteries because they desired to rule, and, unwilling to obey, are undertaking to build oratories, but have not the means to finish them. Now whoever shall undertake to do anything of this sort, let him be forbidden by the bishop of the place. But if he have the means wherewith to finish, let what he has designed be carried on to completion. The same rule is to be observed with regard to laymen and clerics.
Ancient Epitome: Whoever wishes to build a monastery, if he has the wherewithal to finish it, let him begin the work, and let him bring it to a conclusion. But if not, let him be prohibited by the bishop of the place. The same law shall apply to laymen and monks.
That women ought not to live in bishops’ houses, nor in monasteries of men.
Be without offense to those who are without, says the divine Apostle. Now for women to live in Bishops’ houses or in monasteries is ground for grave offense. Whoever therefore is known to have a female slave or freewoman in the episcopal palace or in a monastery for the discharge of some service, let him be rebuked. And if he still continue to retain her, let him be deposed. If it happens that women are on the suburban estates, and the bishop or hegumenos desires to go there, so long as the bishop or hegumenos is present, let no woman at that time continue her work, but let her betake herself to some other place until the bishop [or hegumenos ] has departed, so that there be no occasion of complaint.
Ancient Epitome: It is not fitting that women should be kept in episcopal houses or in monasteries. If anyone shall dare to do so, he shall be reproved; but if he persists, he shall be deposed. No woman is allowed to serve or even to appear where a bishop or a superior of a monastery is present, but let her keep herself apart until he be gone.
That the vows of those in holy orders and of monks, and of nuns are to be made without the exaction of gifts.
The abomination of filthy lucre has made such inroads among the rulers of the churches, that certain of those who call themselves religious men and women, forgetting the commandments of the Lord have been altogether led astray, and for the sake of money have received those presenting themselves for the sacerdotal order and the monastic life. And hence the first step of those so received being unlawful, the whole proceeding is rendered null, as says Basil the Great. For it is not possible that God should be served by means of mammon. If therefore, anyone is found doing anything of this kind, if he be a bishop or hegumenos, or one of the priesthood, either let him cease to do so any longer or else let him be deposed, according to the second canon of the Holy Council of Chalcedon. If the offender be an abbess, let her be sent away from her monastery, and placed in another in a subordinate position. In like manner is a hegumenos to be dealt with, who has not the ordination of a presbyter. With regard to what has been given by parents as a dowry for their children, or which persons themselves have contributed out of their own property, with the declaration that such gifts were made to God, we have decreed, that whether the persons in whose behalf the gifts were made, continue to live in the monastery or not, the gifts are to remain with the monastery in accordance with their first determination; unless indeed there be ground for complaint against the superior.
Ancient Epitome: Whoever for money admits those coming to Holy Orders or to the monastic life, if he be bishop, or superior of a monastery or any other in sacred orders, shall either cease or be deposed. And the Superior of a monastery of women shall be expelled [if she have done so] and shall be given over to subjection. The same shall be the case with a superior of monks, if he be not a priest. But the possessions brought by those who come in, let them remain, whether the persons remain or not, provided the superior be not to blame.
That from henceforth, no double monastery shall be erected; and concerning the double monasteries already in existence.
We decree that from henceforth, no double monastery shall be erected; because this has become an offense and cause of complaint to many. In the case of those persons who with the members of their family propose to leave the world and follow the monastic life, let the men go into a monastery for men, and the women into a monastery for women; for this is well-pleasing to God. The double monasteries which are already in existence, shall observe the rule of our holy Father Basil, and shall be ordered by his precepts, monks and nuns shall not dwell together in the same monastery, for in thus living together adultery finds its occasion. No monk shall have access to a nunnery; nor shall a nun be permitted to enter a monastery for the sake of conversing with anyone therein. No monk shall sleep in a monastery for women, nor eat alone with a nun. When food is brought by men to the canonesses, let the abbess accompanied by some one of the aged nuns, receive it outside the gates of the women’s monastery. When a monk desires to see one of his kinswomen, who may be in the nunnery, let him converse with her in the presence of the abbess, and that in a very few words, and then let him speedily take his departure.
Ancient Epitome: Monasteries shall not be double, neither shall monks and nuns live in the same building, nor shall they talk together apart. Moreover if a man takes anything to a canoness, let him wait without and hand it to her, and let him see his relative in the presence of her superior.
That monks are not to leave their monasteries and go into others.
A monk or nun ought not to leave the monastery to which he or she is attached, and betake themselves to others. But if one do this, he ought to be received as a . It is not however proper that he be made a member of the monastery, without the consent of his hegumenos.
Ancient Epitome: It is not allowed to a monk or a nun to leave her own house and enter another; but if he (or she) enters let (him or her) be received as a ; but let him (or her) not be admitted at all nor given hospitality contrary to the will of the superior.
That when it happens that monks have to eat with women they ought to observe giving of thanks, and abstemiousness, and discretion.
To surrender all things to God, and not to serve our own wills, is great gain. For says the divine Apostle,
whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God. And Christ our God has bidden us in his Gospels, to cut off the beginning of sins; for not only is adultery rebuked by him, but even the movement of the mind towards the act of adultery when he says,
Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart. We who have been thus taught ought therefore to purify our minds. Now although all things are lawful, all things are not expedient, as we have been taught by the mouth of the Apostle. It is needful that all men should eat in order that they may live. And for those to whom life consists of marrying, and bringing forth children, and of the condition of the lay state, there is nothing unbecoming in men and women eating together, only let them give thanks to the giver of the food; but if there be the entertainments of the theatre, that is, Satanic songs accompanied with the meretricious inflections of harps, there come upon them, through these things, the curse of the prophet, who thus speaks:
Woe to them who drink wine with harp and psaltery, but they regard not the works of the Lord, and consider not the works of his hands. Whenever persons of this sort are found among Christians, let them amend their ways; but if they will not do so, let there overtake them the penalties which have been enacted in the canons by our predecessors. With regard to those whose life is free from care and apart from men, that is, those who have resolved before the Lord God to carry the solitary yoke, they should sit down alone and in silence. Moreover it is also altogether unlawful for those who have chosen the priestly life to eat in private with women, unless it be with God-fearing and discreet men and women, so that even their feast may be turned to spiritual edification. The same rule is to be observed with relatives. Again, if it happen that a monk or priest while on a journey does not have with him what is absolutely necessary for him, and, because of his pressing needs, thinks well to turn aside into an inn or into someone’s house, this he is permitted to do, seeing that need compels.
Ancient Epitome: There is no objection to laywomen eating with men: it is not right however for men who have chosen the lonely life, to eat privately with women; unless perchance together with them that fear God and with religious men and women. But when travelling, a monk or anyone in sacred orders, not carrying necessary provisions with him, may enter a public house.
The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 577.)
To our most religious and most serene princes, Constantine and Irene his mother. Tarasius, the unworthy bishop of your God-protected royal city, new Rome, and all the holy Council which met at the good pleasure of God and upon the command of your Christ-loving majesty in the renowned metropolis of Nice, the second council to assemble in this city.
Christ our God (who is the head of the Church) was glorified, most noble princes, when your heart, which he holds in his hands, gave forth that good word bidding us to assemble in his name, in order that we might strengthen our hold on the sure, immovable, and God-given truth contained in the Church’s dogmas. As your heads were crowned with gold and most brilliant stones, so likewise were your minds adorned with the precepts of the Gospel and the teachings of the Fathers. And being the disciples and companions, as it were, of those whose sounds went forth into all the earth, you became the leaders in the way of piety of all who bore the name of Christ, setting forth clearly the word of truth, and giving a brilliant example of orthodoxy and piety; so that you were to the faithful as so many burning lamps. The Church which was ready to fall, you upheld with your hands, strengthening it with sound doctrine, and bringing into the unity of a right judgment those who were at variance. We may therefore well say with boldness that it was through you that the good pleasure of God brought about the triumph of godliness, and filled our mouth with joy and our tongue with gladness. And these things our lips utter with a formal decree. For what is more glorious than to maintain the Church’s interests; and what else is more calculated to provoke our gladness?
Certain men rose up, having the form of godliness, inasmuch as they were clothed with the dignity of the priesthood, but denying the power thereof; and thus deserving for themselves the charge of being but priests of Babylon. Of such the word of prophecy had before declared that
lawlessness went forth from the priests of Babylon. Nay more, they banded themselves together in a sanhedrim, like to that which Caiaphas held, and became the propagators of ungodly doctrines. And having a mouth full of cursing and bitterness, they thought to win the mastery by means of abusive words. With a slanderous tongue and a pen of a like character, and objecting to the very terms used by God himself, they devised marvellous tales, and then proceeded to stigmatise as idolaters the royal priesthood and the holy nation, even those who had put on Christ, and by his grace had been kept safe from the folly of idols. And having a mind set upon evil, they took in hand unlawful deeds, thinking to suppress altogether the depicting of the venerable images. Accordingly, as many icons as were set in mosaic work they dug out, and those which were in painted waxwork, they scraped away; thus turning the comely beauty of the sacred temples into complete disorder. Among doings of this sort, it is to be specially noted that the pictures set up on tablets in memory of Christ our God and of his Saints, they gave over to the flames. Finally, in a word, having desecrated our churches, they reduced them to utter confusion. Then some bishops became the leaders of this heresy and where before was peace, they fomented strife among the people; and instead of wheat sowed tares in the Church’s fields. They mingled wine with water, and gave the foul draught to those about them. Although but Arabian wolves, they hid themselves under sheeps’ clothing, and by specious reasoning against the truth sought to commend their lie. But all the while
they hatched asps’ eggs and wove a spider’s web, as says the prophet; and
he that would eat of their eggs, having crushed one, found it to be addled, with a basilisk within it, and giving forth a deadly stench.
In such a state of affairs, with a lie busy destroying the truth, you, most gracious and most noble princes, did not idly allow so grave a plague, and such soul-destroying error long to continue in your day. But moved by the divine Spirit which abides in you, you set yourselves with all your strength utterly to exterminate it, and thus preserve the stability of the Church’s government, and likewise concord among your subjects; so that your whole empire might be established in peace agreeably with the name [Irene] you bear. You rightly reasoned, that it was not to be patiently endured, that while in other matters we could be of one mind and live in concord, yet in what ought to be the chief concern of our life, the peace of the Churches, there was among us strife and division. And that too, when Christ being our head, we ought to be members one of another, and one body, by our mutual agreement and faith. Accordingly, you commanded our holy and numerously-attended council to assemble in the metropolis of Nice, in order that after having rid the Church of division, we might restore to unity the separated members, and might be careful to rend and utterly destroy the coarse cloak of false doctrine, which they had woven of thorn fibre, and unfold again the fair robe of orthodoxy.
And now having carefully traced the traditions of the Apostles and Fathers, we are bold to speak. Having but one mind by the inbreathing of the most Holy Spirit, and being all knit together in one, and understanding the harmonious tradition of the Catholic Church, we are in perfect harmony with the symphonies set forth by the six, holy and ecumenical councils; and accordingly we have anathematised the madness of Arius, the frenzy of Macedonius, the senseless understanding of Appolinarius, the man-worship of Nestorius, the irreverent mingling of the natures devised by Eutyches and Dioscorus, and the many-headed hydra which is their companion. We have also anathematised the idle tales of Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius; and the doctrine of one will held by Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, and Pyrrhus, or rather, we have anathematised their own evil will. Finally, taught by the Spirit, from whom we have drawn pure water, we have with one accord and one soul, altogether wiped out with the sponge of the divine dogmas the newly devised heresy, well-worthy to be classed with those just mentioned, which springing up after them, uttered such empty nonsense about the sacred icons. And the contrivers of this vain, but revolutionary babbling we have cast forth far from the Church’s precincts.
And as the hands and feet are moved in accordance with the directions of the mind, so likewise, we, having received the grace and strength of the Spirit, and having also the assistance and co-operation of your royal authority, have with one voice declared as piety and proclaimed as truth: that the sacred icons of our Lord Jesus Christ are to be had and retained, inasmuch as he was very man; also those which set forth what is historically narrated in the Gospels; and those which represent our undefiled Lady, the holy Mother of God; and likewise those of the Holy Angels (for they have manifested themselves in human form to those who were counted worthy of the vision of them), or of any of the Saints. [We have also decreed] that the brave deeds of the Saints be portrayed on tablets and on the walls, and upon the sacred vessels and vestments, as has been the custom of the holy Catholic Church of God from ancient times; which custom was regarded as having the force of law in the teaching both of those holy leaders who lived in the first ages of the Church, and also of their successors our reverend Fathers. [We have likewise decreed] that these images are to be reverenced (προσκυνεῖν), that is, salutations are to be offered to them. The reason for using the word is, that it has a two-fold signification. For κυνεῖν in the old Greek tongue signifies both
to salute and
to kiss. And the preposition προς gives to it the additional idea of strong desire towards the subject; as for example, we have φέρω and προσφέρω, κυρῶ and προσκυρῶ, and so also we have κυνέω and προσκυνέω. Which last word implies salutation and strong love; for that which one loves he also reverences (προσκυνεῖ) and what he reverences that he greatly loves, as the everyday custom, which we observe towards those we love, bears witness, and in which both ideas are practically illustrated when two friends meet together. The word is not only made use of by us, but we also find it set down in the Divine Scriptures by the ancients. For it is written in the histories of the Kings,
And David rose up and fell upon his face and did reverence to (προσεκυνήσε) Jonathan three times and kissed him 1 Kings 20:41. And what is it that the Lord in the Gospel says concerning the Pharisees?
They love the uppermost rooms at feasts and greetings (ἀσπασμοὺς) in the markets. It is evident that by
greetings here, he means reverence (προσκύνησιν) for the Pharisees being very high-minded and thinking themselves to be righteous were eager to be reverenced by all, but not [merely] to be kissed. For to receive salutations of this latter sort savoured too much of lowly humility, and this was not to the Pharisees’ liking. We have also the example of Paul the divine Apostle, as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates:
When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly, and the day following Paul went in with us unto James, and all the presbyters were present. And when he had saluted (ἀσπασάμενος) them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry Acts 21:17-19. By the salutation here mentioned, the Apostle evidently intended to render that reverence of honour (τιμητικὴν προσκύνησιν) which we show to one another, and of which he speaks when he says concerning Jacob, that
he reverenced (προσεκύνησεν) the top of his staff Hebrews 11:21. With these examples agrees what Gregory surnamed Theologus says:
Honour Bethlehem, and reverence (προσκυνήσον) the manger.
Now who of those rightly and sincerely understanding the Divine Scriptures, has ever supposed that these examples which we have cited speak of the worship in spirit (τῆς ἐν πνεύματι λατρείας)? [Certainly no one has ever thought so] except perhaps some persons utterly bereft of sense and ignorant of all knowledge of the Scriptures and of the teaching of the Fathers. Surely Jacob did not adore (ἐλάτρευσεν) the top of his staff; and surely Gregory Theologus does not bid us to adore (λατρεύειν) the manger? By no means.
Again, when offering salutations to the life-giving Cross, we together sing:
We reverence (προσκυνῶμεν), your cross, O Lord, and we also reverence (προσκυνῶμεν) the spear which opened the life-giving side of your goodness. This is clearly but a salutation, and is so called, and its character is evinced by our touching the things mentioned with our lips. We grant that the word προσκύνησις is frequently found in the Divine Scriptures and in the writings of our learned and holy Fathers for the worship in spirit (ἐπὶ της ἐν πνεύματι λατρείας), since, being a word of many significations, it may be used to express that kind of reverence which is service. As there is also the veneration of honour, love and fear. In this sense it is, that we venerate your glorious and most noble majesty. So also there is another veneration which comes of fear alone, thus Jacob venerated Esau. Then there is the veneration of gratitude, as Abraham reverenced the sons of Heth, for the field which he received from them for a burying place for Sarah his wife. And finally, those looking to obtain some gift, venerate those who are above them, as Jacob venerated Pharaoh. Therefore because this term has these many significations, the Divine Scriptures teaching us,
You shall venerate the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve, says simply that veneration is to be given to God, but does not add the word
only; for veneration being a word of wide meaning is an ambiguous term; but it goes on to say
you shall serve (λατρεύσεις) him only, for to God alone do we render latria.
The things which we have decreed, being thus well supported, it is confessedly and beyond all question acceptable and well-pleasing before God, that the images of our Lord Jesus Christ as man, and those of the undefiled Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, and of the honourable Angels and of all Saints, should be venerated and saluted. And if anyone does not so believe, but undertakes to debate the matter further and is evil affected with regard to the veneration due the sacred images, such an one our holy ecumenical council (fortified by the inward working of the Spirit of God, and by the traditions of the Fathers and of the Church) anathematises. Now anathema is nothing less than complete separation from God. For if any are quarrelsome and will not obediently accept what has now been decreed, they but kick against the pricks, and injure their own souls in their fighting against Christ. And in taking pleasure at the insults which are offered to the Church, they clearly show themselves to be of those who madly make war upon piety, and are therefore to be regarded as in the same category with the heretics of old times, and their companions and brethren in ungodliness.
We have sent our brethren and fellow priests, God-beloved Bishops, together with certain of the Hegumenoi and clergy, that they may give a full report of our proceedings to your godly-hearing ears. In proof and confirmation of what we have decreed, and also for the assurance of your most religious majesty, we have submitted proofs from the Fathers, a few of the many we have gathered together in illustration of the brightly shining truth.
And now may the Saviour of us all, who reigns with you (συμβασιλεύων ὑμῖν) and who was pleased to vouchsafe his peace to the Churches through you, preserve your kingdom for many years, and also your council, princes, and faithful army, and the whole estate of the empire; and may he also give you victory over all your enemies. For he it is, who says:
As I live, says the Lord, they that glorify me, I will glorify. He it is also who has girded you with strength, and will smite all your enemies, and make your people to rejoice.
And do, O city, the new Sion, rejoice and be glad; you that are the wonder of the whole world. For although David has not reigned in you, nevertheless your pious princes here preside over your affairs as David would have done. The Lord is in the midst of you; may his name be blessed forever and ever. Amen.