17 November 2010

The Way of the Didache: The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations

Chapter 1. The Two Ways; The First Commandment

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbour as yourself; and all things whatsoever you would should not occur to you, do not also do to another. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone gives you a blow upon your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes away your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one that asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing. Matthew 5:26 But also now concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Gross Sin Forbidden

And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, Exodus 20:13-14 you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, Exodus 20:15 you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour, Exodus 20:17 you shall not forswear yourself, Matthew 5:34 you shall not bear false witness, Exodus 20:16 you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden

My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads the way to murder; neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper; for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one; for lust leads the way to fornication; neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye; for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads the way to idolatry; neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things; for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads the way to theft; neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered. My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy; neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered. But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself, Luke 18:14 nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse. The workings that befall you receive as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.

Chapter 4. Various Precepts

My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace. You shall judge righteously, you shall not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether it shall be or no. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. You shall not turn away from him that is in want, but you shall share all things with your brother, and shall not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? You shall not remove your hand from your son or from your daughter, but from their youth shall teach them the fear of God. Ephesians 6:4 You shall not enjoin anything in your bitterness upon your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest ever they shall fear not God who is over both; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1 for he comes not to call according to the outward appearance, but unto them whom the Spirit has prepared. And you bondmen shall be subject to your masters as to a type of God, in modesty and fear. Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22 You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything which is not pleasing to the Lord. Forsake in no way the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom . Deuteronomy 12:32 In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

Chapter 5. The Way of Death

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols

See that no one cause you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear all the yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able, what you are able that do. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on your guard; for it is the service of dead gods.

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

Chapter 8. Concerning Fasting and Prayer (the Lord's Prayer)

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; Matthew 6:16 for they fast on Tuesday and Thursday; but fast on Wednesday and the Preparation (Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one; for Yours is the power and the glory for ever. Thrice in the day thus pray.

Chapter 9. The Thanksgiving (Eucharist)

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs. Matthew 7:6

Chapter 10. Prayer After Communion

But after you are filled, thus give thanks: We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name's sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant. Before all things we thank You that You are mighty; to You be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen. But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets

Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do. Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit eats not from it, except indeed he be a false prophet; and every prophet who teaches the truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Chapter 12. Reception of Christians

But let every one that comes in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward you shall prove and know him; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat; 2 Thessalonians 3:10 but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep aloof from such.

Chapter 13. Support of Prophets

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Matthew 10:10; cf. Luke 10:7 Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have not a prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.

Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day

But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel; Matthew 18:15-17 but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

Chapter 16. Watchfulness; The Coming of the Lord

Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. Matthew 24:42 But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; Matthew 24:11-12 for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, Matthew 24:10 and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

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16 November 2010

The Canons of the Holy and Altogether August Apostles

Canon I.

Let a bishop be ordained by two or three bishops.

Canon II.

Let a presbyter (priest), deacon, and the rest of the clergy, be ordained by one bishop,

Canon III. (III. And IV.)

If any bishop or presbyter offer any other things at the altar, besides that which the Lord ordained for the sacrifice, as honey, or milk, or strong-made drink instead of wine, or birds, or any living things, or vegetables, besides that which is ordained, let him be deposed. Excepting only new ears of corn, and grapes at the suitable season. Neither is it allowed to bring anything else to the altar at the time of the holy oblation, excepting oil for the lamps, and incense.

Canon IV. (V.)

Let all other fruits be sent home as first-fruits for the bishops and presbyters, but not offered at the altar. But the bishops and presbyters should of course give a share of these things to the deacons, and the rest of the clergy.

Canon V. (VI.)

Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed.

Canon VI. (VII.)

Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, undertake worldly business; otherwise let him be deposed.

Canon VII. (VIII.)

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox, with the Jews, let him be deposed.

Canon VIII (IX.)

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one on the sacerdotal list, when the offering is made, does not partake of it, let him declare the cause; and if it be a reasonable one, let him be excused; but if he does not declare it, let him be excommunicated, as being a cause of offence to the people, and occasioning a suspicion against the offerer, as if he had not made the offering properly.

Canon IX. (X.)

All the faithful who come in and hear the Scriptures, but do not stay for the prayers and the Holy Communion, are to be excommunicated, as causing disorder in the Church.

Canon X. (XI.)

If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.

Canon XI. (XII.)

If any clergyman shall join in prayer with a deposed clergyman, as if he were a clergyman, let him also be deposed.

Canon XII. And XIII (XIII.)

If any one of the clergy or laity who is excommunicated, or not to be received, shall go away, and be received in another city without commendatory letters, let both the receiver and the received be excommunicated. But if he be excommunicated already, let the time of his excommunication be lengthened.

Canon XIV.

A bishop is not to be allowed to leave his own parish, and pass over into another, although he may be pressed by many to do so, unless there be some proper cause constraining him. as if he can confer some greater benefit upon the persons of that place in the word of godliness. And this must be done not of his own accord, but by the judgment of many bishops, and at their earnest exhortation.

Canon XV.

If any presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the list of the clergy, shall leave his own parish, and go into another, and having entirely forsaken his own, shall make his abode in the other parish without the permission of his own bishop, we ordain that he shall no longer perform divine service; more especially if his own bishop having exhorted him to return he has refused to do so, and persists in his disorderly conduct. But let him communicate there as a layman.

Canon XVI.

If, however, the bishop, with whom any such persons are staying, shall disregard the command that they are to cease from performing divine offices, and shall receive them as clergymen, let him be excommunicated, as a teacher of disorder.

Canon XVII.

He who has been twice married after baptism, or who has had a concubine, cannot become a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the sacerdotal list.

Canon XVIII.

He who married a widow, or a divorced woman, or an harlot, or a servant-maid, or an actress, cannot be a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the sacerdotal list.

Canon XIX.

He who has married two sisters, or a niece, cannot become a clergyman.

Canon XX.

If a clergyman becomes surety for any one, let him be deposed.

Canon XXI.

An eunuch, if he has been made so by the violence of men in times of persecution, or if he has been born so, if in other respects he is worthy, may be made a bishop.

Canon XXII.

He who has mutilated himself, cannot become a clergyman, for he is a self-murderer, and an enemy to the workmanship of God.

Canon XXIII.

If any man being a clergyman shall mutilate himself, let him be deposed, for he is a self-murderer.

Canon XXIV.

If a layman mutilate himself, let him be excommunicated for three years, as practising against his own life.

Canon XXV. (XXV. And XXVI.)

If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon be found guilty of fornication, perjury, or theft, let him be deposed, but let him not be excommunicated; for the Scripture says, "thou shall not punish a man twice for the same offence." In like manner the other clergy shall be subject to the same proceeding.

Canon XXVI. (XXVII.)

Of those who have been admitted to the clergy unmarried, we ordain, that the readers and singers only may, if they will, marry.


If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon shall strike any of the faithful who have sinned, or of the unbelievers who have done wrong, with the intention of frightening them, we command that he be deposed. For our Lord has by no means taught us to do so, but, on the contrary, when he was smitten he smote not again, when he was reviled he reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not.


If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, having been justly deposed upon open accusations, shall dare to meddle with any of the divine offices which had been intrusted to him, let him be altogether cut off from the Church.

Canon XXIX. (XXX.)

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall obtain possession of that dignity by money, let both him and the person who ordained him be deposed, and also altogether cut off from all communion, as Simon Magus was by me, Peter.

Canon XXX. (XXXI.)

If any bishop obtain possession of a church by the aid of the temporal powers, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all who communicate with him.

Canon XXXI. (XXXII.)

If any presbyter, despising his own bishop, shall collect a separate congregation, and erect another altar, not having any grounds for condemning the bishop with regard to religion or justice, let him be deposed for his ambition; for he is a tyrant; in like manner also the rest of the clergy, and as many as join him; and let laymen be excommunicated. Let this, however, be done after a first, second, and third admonition from the bishop.


If any presbyter or deacon has been excommunicated by a bishop, he may not be received into communion again by any other than by him who excommunicated him, unless it happen that the bishop who excommunicated him be dead.


No foreign bishop, presbyter, or deacon, may be received without commendatory letters; and when they are produced let the persons be examined; and if they be preachers of godliness, let them be received. Otherwise, although you supply them with what they need, you must not receive them into communion, for many things are done surreptitiously.

Canon XXXIV. (XXXV.)

The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern hisown parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.
Canon XXXV. (XXXVI.)

Let not a bishop dare to ordain beyond his own limits, in cities and places not subject to him. But if he be convicted of doing so, without the consent of those persons who have authority over such cities and places, let him be deposed, and those also whom he has ordained.


If any person, having been ordained bishop, does not undertake the ministry, and the care of the people committed to him, let him be excommunicated until he does undertake it. In like manner a presbyter or deacon. But if he has gone and has not been received, not of his own will but from the perverseness of the people, let him continue bishop; and let the clergy of the city be excommunicated, because they have not corrected the disobedient people.


Let there be a meeting of the bishops twice a year, and let them examine amongst themselves the decrees concerning religion and settle the ecclesiastical controversies which may have occurred. One meeting to be held in the fourth week of Pentecost [i.e., the fourth week after Easter], and the other on the 12th day of the month Hyperberetaeus [i.e., October].


Let the bishop have the care of all the goods of the Church, and let him administer them as under the inspection of God. But he must not alienate any of them or give the things which belong to God to his own relations. If they be poor let him relieve them as poor; but let him not, under that pretence, sell the goods of the Church.

Canon XXXIX. (XL.)

Let not the presbyters or deacons do anything without the sanction of the bishop; for he it is who is intrusted with the people of the Lord, and of whom will be required the account of their souls.

Canon XL. (XL. Continued.)

Let the private goods of the bishop, if he have any such, and those of the Lord, be clearly distinguished, that the bishop may have the power of leaving his own goods, when he dies, to whom he will, and how he will, and that the bishop's own property may not be lost under pretence of its being the property of the Church: for it may be that he has a wife, or children, or relations, or servants; and it is just before God and man, that neither should the Church suffer any loss through ignorance of the bishop's own property, nor the bishop or his relations be injured under pretext of the Church: nor that those who belong to him should be involved in contests, and cast reproaches upon his death.

Canon XLI.

We ordain that the bishop have authority over the goods of the Church: for if he is to be intrusted with the precious souls of men, much more are temporal possessions to be intrusted to him. He is therefore to administer them all of his own authority, and supply those who need, through the presbyters and deacons, in the fear of God, and with all reverence. He may also, if need be, take what is required for his own necessary wants, and for the brethren to whom he has to show hospitality, so that he may not be in any want. For the law of God has ordained, that they who wait at the altar should be nourished of the altar. Neither does any soldier bear arms against an enemy at his own cost.

Canon XLII.

If a bishop or presbyter, or deacon, is addicted to dice or drinking, let him either give it over, or be deposed.

Canon XLIII.

If a subdeacon, reader, or singer, commits the same things, let him either give over, or be excommunicated. So also laymen.

Canon XLIV.

Let a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, who takes usury from those who borrow of him, give up doing so, or be deposed.

Canon XLV.

Let a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, who has only prayed with heretics, be excommunicated: but if he has permitted them to perform any clerical office, let him be deposed.

Canon XLVI.

We ordain that a bishop, or presbyter, who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics, be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?

Canon XLVII.

Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false.


If any layman put away his wife and marry another, or one who has been divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated.

Canon XLIX.

If any bishop or presbyter, contrary to the ordinance of the Lord, does not baptize into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but into three Unoriginated Beings, or three Sons, or three Comforters, let him be deposed.

Canon L.

If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only, into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord said not, Baptize into my death, but, "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Canon LI.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.

Canon LII.

If any bishop or presbyter [some mss add: or deacon] does not receive him who turns away from his sin, but rejects him, let him be deposed; for he grieveth Christ who said, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."

Canon LIII.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, does not on festival days partake of flesh and wine, from an abhorrence of them, and not out of religious restraint, let him be deposed, as being seared in his own conscience, and being the cause of offence to many.

Canon LIV.

If any of the clergy be found eating in a tavern, let him be excommunicated, unless he has been constrained by necessity, on a journey, to lodge in an inn.

Canon LV.

If any of the clergy insult the bishop, let him be deposed: for "thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."

Canon LVI.

If any of the clergy insult a presbyter, or deacon, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LVII.

If any of the clergy mock the lame, or the deaf, or the blind, or him who is infirm in his legs, let him be excommunicated.In like manner any of the laity.

Canon LVIII.

If any bishop or presbyter neglects the clergy or the people, and does not instruct them in the way of godliness, let him be excommunicated, and if he persists in his negligence and idleness, let him be deposed.

Canon LIX.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, when any of the clergy is in want, does not supply him with what he needs, let him be excommunicated; but if he persists, let him be deposed, as one who has killed his brother.

Canon LX.

If any one reads publicly in the church the falsely inscribed [pseudepigrapha] books of impious men, as if they were holy Scripture, to the destruction of the people and clergy, let him be deposed.

Canon LXI.

If any accusation be brought against a believer of fornication or adultery, or any forbidden action, and he be convicted, let him not be promoted to the clergy.

Canon LXII.

If any of the clergy, through fear of men, whether Jew, heathen, or heretic, shall deny the name of Christ, let him be cast out. If he deny the name of a clergyman, let him be deposed. If he repent, let him be received as a layman.

Canon LXIII.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal order, shall eat flesh, with the blood of the life thereof, or anything killed by beasts, or that dies of itself, let him be deposed. For the law has forbidden this. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXIV.

If any clergyman or layman shall enter into a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray, let the former be deposed and let the latter be excommunicated.

Canon LXV.

If any clergyman shall strike anyone in a contest, and kill him with one blow, let him be deposed for his violence. If a layman do so, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXVI.

If any of the clergy be found fasting on the Lord's day [i.e. Sunday], or on the Sabbath [i.e. Saturday], excepting the one only [i.e. Holy Saturday], let him be deposed. If a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXVII.

If anyone shall force and keep a virgin not espoused, let him be excommunicated. And he may not take any other, but must retain her whom he has chosen, though she be a poor person.


If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall receive from anyone a second ordination, let both the ordained and the ordainer be deposed; unless indeed it be proved that he had his ordination from heretics; for those who have been baptized or ordained by such persons cannot be either of the faithful or of the clergy.

Canon LXIX.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or reader, or singer, does not fast the holy Quadragesimal fast of Easter, or the fourth day, or the day of Preparation, let him be deposed, unless he be hindered by some bodily infirmity. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXX.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the list of clergy, keeps fast or festival with the Jews, or receives from them any of the gifts of their feasts, as unleavened bread, any such things, let him be deposed. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXI.

If any Christian brings oil into a temple of the heathen or into a synagogue of the Jews at their feast, or lights lamps, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXII.

If any clergyman or layman takes away wax or oil from the holy Church, let him be excommunicated.

Let no one convert to his own use any vessel of gold or silver, or any veil which has been sanctified, for it is contrary to law; and if anyone be detected doing so, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXIV.

If any bishop has been accused of anything by men worthy of credit, he must be summoned by the bishops; and if he appears, and confesses, or is convicted, a suitable punishment must be inflicted upon him. But if when he is summoned he does not attend, let him be summoned a second time, two bishops being sent to him, for that purpose. But if even then he shall disregard the summons and not come, let the synod pronounce such sentence against him as appears right, that he may not seem to profit by avoiding judgment.

Canon LXXV.

An heretic is not to be received as witness against a bishop, neither only one believer; for "in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established."

Canon LXXVI.

A bishop must not, out of favour to a brother or a son, or any other relation, ordain whom he will to the episcopal dignity; for it is not right to make heirs of the bishopric, giving the things of God to human affections. Neither is it fitting to subject the Church of God to heirs. But if anyone shall do so let the ordination be void, and the ordainer himself be punished with excommunication.


If any one be deprived of an eye, or lame of a leg, but in other respects be worthy of a bishopric, he may be ordained, for the defect of the body does not defile a man, but the pollution of the soul.


But if a man be deaf or blind, he may not be made a bishop, not indeed as if he were thus defiled, but that the affairs of the Church may not be hindered.

Canon LXXIX.

If anyone has a devil, let him not be made a clergyman, neither let him pray with the faithful; but if he be freed, let him be received into communion, and if he is worthy he may be ordained.

Canon LXXX.

It is not allowed that a man who has come over from an heathen life, and been baptized or who has been converted from an evil course of living, should be immediately made a bishop, for it is not right that he who has not been tried himself should be a teacher of others. Unless indeed this be done upon a special manifestation of Divine grace in his favour.

Canon LXXXI.

We have said that a bishop or presbyter must not give himself to the management of public affairs, but devote himself to ecclesiastical business. Let him then be persuaded to do so, or let him be deposed, for no man can serve two masters, according to the Lord's declaration.


We do not allow any servants to be promoted to the clergy without the consent of their masters. But if any servant should appear worthy of receiving an order, as our Onesimus appeared, and his masters agree and liberate him, and send him out of their house, he may be ordained.


If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall serve in the army, and wish to retain both the Roman magistracy and the priestly office, let him be deposed; for the things of Cæsar belong to Cæsar, and those of God to God.


Whosoever shall insult the King, or a ruler, contrary to what is right, let him suffer punishment. If he be a clergyman, let him be deposed; if a layman, excommunicated.

Canon LXXXV.

Let the following books be counted venerable and sacred by all of you, both clergy and Laity. Of the Old Testament, five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; of Jesus (Joshua) the Son of Nun, one; of the Judges, one; of Ruth, one; of the Kings, four; of the Chronicles of the book of the days, two; of Ezra, two; of Esther, one; of Judith, one; of the Maccabees, three; of Job, one; of the Psalter, one; of Solomon, three, viz.: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; of the Prophets, twelve; of Isaiah, one; of Jeremiah, one; of Ezekiel, one; of Daniel, one. But besides these you are recommended to teach your young persons the Wisdom of the very learned Sirach. Our own books, that is, those of the New Testament, are: the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter; three of John; one of James, and one of Jude. Two Epistles of Clement, and the Constitutions of me Clement, addressed to you Bishops, in eight books, which are not to be published to all on account of the mystical things in them. And the Acts of us the Apostles.

APPENDIX: THE BEGINNING OF CANON 2 OF THE COUNCIL "IN TRULLO": Declaring the Apostolic Canons to be a part of Orthodox canon law.

"It has also seemed good to this holy Council, that the eighty-five canons, received and ratified by the holy and blessed Fathers before us, and also handed down to us in the name of the holy and glorious Apostles, should from this time forth remain firm and unshaken for the cure of souls and the healing of disorders. And in these canons we are bidden to receive the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles [written] by Clement. But formerly through the agency of those who erred from the faith certain adulterous matter was introduced, clean contrary to piety, for the polluting of the Church, which obscures the elegance and beauty of the divine decrees in their present form. We therefore reject these Constitutions so as the better to make sure of the edification and security of the most Christian flock; by no means admitting the offspring of heretical error, and cleaving to the pure and perfect doctrine of the Apostles."

15 November 2010

The Seven Ecumenical Councils of Apostolic Christianity and Six Ecumenical Councils of Buddhism

An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council) is a conference of the bishops of the whole Christian Church convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice. The word derives from the Greek language "οἰκουμένη", which literally means "the inhabited world", which first referred to the Roman Empire and later was extended to apply to the world in general.

Due to schisms, the acceptance of these councils varies widely between break-away branches of Christianity. Those churches that parted ways with the others over christological matters accept the councils prior to their separation; the Church of the East (Nestorian) accepts as ecumenical only the first two, the Oriental Orthodoxy Churches the first three. From the 4th to the 9th century, seven councils recognized as ecumenical by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church were held, before the East-West Schism divided them. The Eastern Orthodox Church has not generally accepted any later council or synod as ecumenical, but the Roman Catholic Church continues to hold general councils of the bishops in full communion with the Pope, reckoning them as ecumenical, twenty-one to date.

Anglicans and confessional Protestants, accept either the first seven or the first four as Ecumenical councils.

Church councils were, from the beginning, bureaucratic exercises. Written documents were circulated, speeches made and responded to, votes taken, and final documents published and distributed. A large part of what we know about the beliefs of heresies comes from the documents quoted in councils in order to be refuted, or indeed only from the deductions based on the refutations.

Most councils dealt not only with doctrinal but also with disciplinary matters, which were decided in canons ("laws"). In some cases other survives as well. Study of the canons of church councils is the foundation of the development of canon law, especially the reconciling of seemingly contradictory canons or the determination of priority between them. Canons consist of doctrinal statements and disciplinary measures — most Church councils and local synods dealt with immediate disciplinary concerns as well as major difficulties of doctrine. Eastern Orthodoxy typically views the purely doctrinal canons as dogmatic and applicable to the entire church at all times, while the disciplinary canons apply to a particular time and place and may or may not be applicable in other situations.

The Acts of the Apostles records the Council of Jerusalem, which addressed the question of observation of biblical law in the early Christian community which included Gentile converts. Although its decisions are accepted by all Christians, and still observed in full by the Greek Orthodox, and later definitions of an ecumenical council appear to conform to this sole biblical Council, no Christian church calls it a mere ecumenical council, instead it is called the "Apostolic Council" or "Council of Jerusalem".
  1. First Council of Nicaea (325) repudiated Arianism, declared that Christ is "homoousios with the Father" (of the same substance as the Father), and adopted the original Nicene Creed, fixed Easter date; recognized primacy of the sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch and granted the See of Jerusalem a position of honor.
  2. First Council of Constantinople (381) repudiated Arianism and Macedonianism, declared that Christ is "born of the Father before all time", revised the Nicene Creed in regard to the Holy Spirit
  3. Council of Ephesus (431) repudiated Nestorianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos ("Birth-giver to God", "God-bearer", "Mother of God"), repudiated Pelagianism, and reaffirmed the Nicene Creed.
  4. Council of Chalcedon (451) repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, adopted the Chalcedonian Creed, which described the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ, human and divine. Reinstated those deposed in 449 and deposed Dioscorus of Alexandria. Elevation of the bishoprics of Constantinople and Jerusalem to the status of patriarchates. This is also the last council explicitly recognised by the Anglican Communion.
  5. Second Council of Constantinople (553) repudiated the Three Chapters as Nestorian, condemned Origen of Alexandria, decreed the Theopaschite Formula.
  6. Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) repudiated Monothelitism and Monoenergism. Quinisext Council, also called Council in Trullo (692) addressed matters of discipline (in amendment to the 5th and 6th councils).
  7. Second Council of Nicaea (787) restored the veneration of icons (condemned at the Council of Hieria, 754) and repudiated iconoclasm.
As late as the eleventh century, only seven councils were recognized as ecumenical in the Roman Catholic Church. Then, in the time of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), canonists who in the Investiture Controversy quoted the prohibition in canon 22 of the Council of Constantinople of 869-870 against laymen influencing the appointment of prelates elevated this council to the rank of ecumenical council. Only in the sixteenth century was recognition as ecumenical granted by Catholic scholars to the Councils of the Lateran, of Lyon and those that followed.

Many Eastern Orthodox consider the Council of Constantinople of 879–880, that of Constantinople in 1341–1351 and that of Jerusalem in 1672 to be counted on the level of an ecumenical council:
  • Fourth Council of Constantinople (879-880) restored Photius to the See of Constantinople. This happened after the death of Ignatius and with papal approval.
  • Fifth Council of Constantinople (1341–1351) affirmed hesychastic theology according to Gregory Palamas and condemned the Barlaam of Seminara.
  • Synod of Jerusalem (1672) defined Orthodoxy relative to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, defined the orthodox Biblical canon.
It is unlikely that formal recognition as ecumenical will be granted to these three councils, despite the acknowledged orthodoxy of their decisions, so that only seven are universally recognized among the Eastern Orthodox as ecumenical.

The Pan-Orthodox Council now being prepared has sometimes been referred to as an "Eighth Ecumenical Council".

Many Protestants (especially those belonging to the magisterial traditions, such as Lutherans, or those such as Methodists, that broke away from the Anglican Communion) accept the teachings of the first seven councils but do not ascribe to the councils themselves the same authority as Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox do. The Lutheran World Federation, in ecumenical dialogues with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has affirmed all of the first seven councils as ecumenical and authoritative. Other more liberal Protestants, embracing the World, reject these councils.

According to the scriptures of all Buddhist schools, the first Buddhist Council was held soon after the mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, dated by the majority of recent scholars around 400 BC, under the patronage of king Ajatasatru with the monk Mahakasyapa presiding, at Rajgriha (now Rajgir). Its objective was to preserve the Buddha's sayings (suttas) and the monastic discipline or rules (Vinaya). The Suttas were recited by Ananda, and the Vinaya was recited by Upali. According to some sources, the Abhidhamma Pitaka, or its matika, was also included. Also the Sangha made the unanimous decision to keep all the rules of the Vinaya, even the lesser and minor rules.

The historical records for the so-called "Second Buddhist Council" derive primarily from the canonical Vinayas of various schools (Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda, Mūlasarvāstivāda, Mahāsanghika, Dharmaguptaka, and Mahīśāsaka). In most cases, these accounts are found at the end of the Skandhaka portion of the Vinaya. While inevitably disagreeing on points of details, they nevertheless agree on roughly the following.

About 100 or 110 years after the Buddha's Nibbana, a monk called Yasa, when visiting Vesālī, noticed a number of lax practices among the local monks. A list of "ten points" is given; the most important was that the Vesālī monks, known as Vajjiputtakas, consented to accepting money. Considerable controversy erupted when Yasa refused to follow this practice. He was prosecuted by the Vajjiputtakas, and defended himself by quoting in public a number of canonical passages condemning the use of money by monastics. Wishing to settle the matter, he gathered support from monks of other regions, mainly to the west and south. A group consented to go to Vesāli to settle the matter. After considerable maneuvering, a meeting was held, attended by 700 monks. A council of eight was appointed to consider the matter. This consisted of four locals and four 'westerners'; but some of the locals had already been secretly won over to the westerners' case. Each of the ten points was referred to various canonical precedents. The committee found against the Vajjiputtaka monks. They presented this finding to the assembly, who consented unanimously. The canonical accounts end there.

Virtually all scholars agree that this second council was a historical event.

In striking contrast to the uniform accounts of the Second Council, there are records of several possible "Third Councils". These different versions function to authorize the founding of one particular school or other.

According to the Theravāda commentaries and chronicles, the Third Buddhist Council was convened by the Mauryan king Ashoka at Pātaliputra (today's Patna), under the leadership of the monk Moggaliputta Tissa. Its objective was to purify the Buddhist movement, particularly from opportunistic factions which had been attracted by the royal patronage. The king asked the suspect monks what the Buddha taught, and they claimed he taught views such as eternalism, etc., which are condemned in the canonical Brahmajala Sutta. He asked the virtuous monks, and they replied that the Buddha was a "Teacher of Analysis" (Vibhajjavādin), an answer that was confirmed by Moggaliputta Tissa. The Council proceeded to recite the scriptures once more, adding to the canon Moggaliputta Tissa's own book, the Kathavatthu, a discussion of various dissenting Buddhist views now contained in the Theravāda Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Also, emissaries were sent to various countries in order to spread Buddhism, as far as the Greek kingdoms in the West (in particular the neighboring Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and possibly even farther according to the inscriptions left on stone pillars by Ashoka). According to Frauwallner (Frauwallner, 1956), several of these missionaries were responsible for founding schools in various parts of India: Majjhantika was the father of the Kasmiri Sarvastivādins; Yonaka Dhammarakkhita may have been the founder of the Dharmaguptaka school; Mahādeva, sent to the Mahisa country may have been the founder of the Mahisasakas; and several teachers travelled to the Himalayas where they founded the Haimavata school, including a certain Kassapagotta, who may be connected with the Kasyapiyas. Relics of some of the Haimavata monks have been excavated at Vedisa in central India. The most famous of the missionaries, and the main focus of interest for these Theravada histories, is Mahinda, who travelled to Sri Lanka where he founded the school we now know as Theravada.
The Theravāda's own Dipavamsa records a quite different Council called the "Great Recital" (Mahāsangiti), which it claims was held by the reformed Vajjiputtakas following their defeat at the Second council. The Dipavamsa criticizes the Mahasangitikas (who are the same as the Mahasanghikas) for rejecting various texts as non-canonical: the [Vinaya] Parivāra; the 6 books of the Abhidhamma; the Patisambhida; the Niddesa; part of the Jatakas; and some verses. (Dipavamsa 76, 82)

The Mahāsanghika, for their part, remember things differently: they allege, in the Sāriputraparipriccha that there was an attempt to unduly expand the old Vinaya. The Mahasanghikas' own vinaya gives essentially the same account of the Second Council as the others, i.e. they were on the same side.
An entirely different account of Mahāsanghika origins is found in the works of the Sarvāstivāda group of schools. Vasumitra tells of a dispute in Pātaliputra at the time of Ashoka over five heretical points: that an Arahant can have nocturnal emission; that he can have doubts; that he can be taught by another; that he can lack knowledge; and that the path can be aroused by crying "What suffering!". These same points are discussed and condemned in Moggaliputta Tissa's Kathavatthu, but there is no mention of this Council in Theravadin sources. The later Mahavibhasa develops this story into a lurid smear campaign against the Mahasanghika founder, who it identifies as "Mahadeva". This version of events emphasizes the purity of the Kasmiri Sarvastivadins, who are portrayed as descended from the arahants who fled persecution due to Mahadeva.

By the time of the Fourth Buddhist councils, Buddhism had long since splintered into different schools. The Theravada had a Fourth Buddhist Council in the last century BC in Tambapanni, i.e. Sri Lanka, at Aloka Lena now Alu Vihara during the time of King Vattagamani-Abaya. However it should be clarified that an anonymous local chieftain had given patronage and not the king, since he was a firm follower of the Abayagir school (a Mahayana Sect.). In fact one of the main reasons for the Council was the cruel policy the king held against the Mahavihara Priests who were Theravadians who were once attacked at the Mahavihara Premises killing many and driving away the others. The temple was destroyed and in its place a Mahayana Temple was built. The other main reasons for the Council were the unstable political situation within the country due to constant invasions which lead the king himself to flee several times and also severe famine. It is said to have been devoted to committing the entire Pali Canon to writing, which had previously been preserved by memory. No mention had been made as to who lead this Council, for which the approximate cause would have been the deteriorating status of Buddhism then, and the collective effort by the priesthood to preserve the religion in its purest form therefore not needing a leader(only the fact that the Mahavihara priesthood i.e. Theravada school took part in this recital and compilation had been mentioned).

Another Fourth Buddhist Council was held in the Sarvastivada tradition, said to have been convened by the Kushan emperor Kanishka, in 78 AD at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. It is said that Kanishka gathered five hundred Bhikkhus in Kashmir, headed by Vasumitra, to systematize the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma texts, which were translated form earlier Prakrit vernacular languages (such as Gandhari in Kharosthi script) into the classical language of Sanskrit. It is said that during the council three hundred thousand verses and over nine million statements were compiled, a process which took twelve years to complete. Although the Sarvastivada are no longer extant as an independent school, its traditions were inherited by the Mahayana tradition.

Another Buddhist Council, this time presided by Theravada monks took place in Mandalay, Burma, in 1871 in the reign of King Mindon. The chief objective of this meeting was to recite all the teachings of the Buddha and examine them in minute detail to see if any of them had been altered, distorted or dropped. It was presided over by three Elders, the Venerable Mahathera Jagarabhivamsa, the Venerable Narindabhidhaja, and the Venerable Mahathera Sumangalasami in the company of some two thousand four hundred monks (2,400). Their joint Dhamma recitation lasted for five months. It was also the work of this council to approve the entire Tripitaka inscribed for posterity on seven hundred and twenty-nine marble slabs in the Burmese script before its recitation. This monumental task was done by the monks and many skilled craftsmen who upon completion of each slab had them housed in beautiful miniature 'pitaka' pagodas on a special site in the grounds of King Mindon's Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill where it and the so called 'largest book in the world', stands to this day. This Council is not generally recognized outside Burma.

The Sixth Council was called at Kaba Aye in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in 1954, 83 years after the fifth one was held in Mandalay. It was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the then Prime Minister, the Honourable U Nu. He authorized the construction of the Maha Passana Guha, the "great cave", an artificial cave very much like India's Sattapanni Cave where the first Buddhist Council had been held. Upon its completion The Council met on 17 May 1954.

As in the case of the preceding councils, its first objective was to affirm and preserve the genuine Dhamma and Vinaya. However it was unique insofar as the monks who took part in it came from eight countries. These two thousand five hundred learned Theravada monks came from Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was appointed the noble task of asking the required questions about the Dhamma of the Venerable Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa who answered all of them learnedly and satisfactorily. By the time this council met all the participating countries had had the Pali Tripiṭaka rendered into their native scripts, with the exception of India.

The traditional recitation of the Buddhist Scriptures took two years and the Tripiṭaka and its allied literature in all the scripts were painstakingly examined and their differences noted down and the necessary corrections made and all the versions were then collated. It was found that there was not much difference in the content of any of the texts. Finally, after the Council had officially approved them, all of the books of the Tipitaka and their commentaries were prepared for printing on modern presses and published in the Burmese script. This notable achievement was made possible through the dedicated efforts of the two thousand five hundred monks and numerous lay people. Their work came to an end on the evening of Vesak, 24 May 1956, exactly two and a half millennia after Buddha's Parinibbana, according to the traditional Theravada dating.

14 November 2010

Saint Dionysius (Denys, Dionysi) the Areopagite

St. Dionysius the Areopagite (Greek Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης) was a judge of the Areopagus who, as related in the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 17:34), was converted to Christianity by the preaching of the Apostle Paul during the Areopagus sermon. According to Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius, this Dionysius then became the second Bishop of Athens.

The Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite, Bishop of Athens St Dionysius lived originally in the city of Athens. He was raised there and received a classical Greek education. He then went to Egypt, where he studied astronomy at the city of Heliopolis. It was in Heliopolis, along with his friend Apollophonos where he witnessed the solar eclipse that occurred at the moment of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ by Crucifixion. "Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end," Dionysius said. Upon his return to Athens from Egypt, he was chosen to be a member of the Areopagus Council (Athenian high court).

When the holy Apostle Paul preached at the place on the Hill of Ares (Acts 17:16-34), Dionysius accepted his salvific proclamation and became a Christian. For three years St Dionysius remained a companion of the holy Apostle Paul in preaching the Word of God. Later on, the Apostle Paul selected him as bishop of the city of Athens. And in the year 57 St Dionysius was present at the repose of the Most Holy Theotokos.

During the lifetime of the Mother of God, St Dionysius had journeyed from Athens to Jerusalem to meet Her. He wrote to his teacher the Apostle Paul: "I witness by God, that besides the very God Himself, there is nothing else filled with such divine power and grace. No one can fully comprehend what I saw. I confess before God: when I was with John, who shone among the Apostles like the sun in the sky, when I was brought before the countenance of the Most Holy Virgin, I experienced an inexpressible sensation. Before me gleamed a sort of divine radiance which transfixed my spirit. I perceived the fragrance of indescribable aromas and was filled with such delight that my very body became faint, and my spirit could hardly endure these signs and marks of eternal majesty and heavenly power. The grace from her overwhelmed my heart and shook my very spirit. If I did not have in mind your instruction, I should have mistaken Her for the very God. It is impossible to stand before greater blessedness than this which I beheld."

After the death of the Apostle Paul, St Dionysius wanted to continue with his work, and therefore went off preaching in the West, accompanied by the Presbyter Rusticus and Deacon Eleutherius. They converted many to Christ at Rome, and then in Germany, and then in Spain. In Gaul, during a persecution against Christians by the pagan authorities, all three confessors were arrested and thrown into prison. By night St Dionysius celebrated the Divine Liturgy with angels of the Lord. In the morning the martyrs were beheaded. According to an old tradition, St Dionysius took up his head, proceeded with it to the church and fell down dead there. A pious woman named Catulla buried the relics of the saint.

The writings of St Dionysius the Areopagite hold great significance for the Orthodox Church. Four books of his have survived to the present day:

On the Celestial Hierarchy On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy On the Names of God On Mystical Theology In addition, there are ten letters to various people.

The book On the Celestial Hierarchies was written actually in one of the countries of Western Europe, where St Dionysius was preaching. In it he speaks of the Christian teaching about the angelic world. The angelic (or Celestial-Heavenly) hierarchy comprises the nine angelic Ranks:

  1. Seraphim 
  2. Cherubim 
  3. Thrones 
  4. Dominions 
  5. Powers 
  6. Authorities 
  7. Principalities 
  8. Archangels 
  9. Angels

The purpose of the divinely-established Angelic Hierarchy is the ascent towards godliness through purification, enlightenment and perfection. The highest ranks are bearers of divine light and divine life for the lower ranks. And not only are the sentient, bodiless angelic hosts included in the spiritual light-bearing hierarchy, but also the human race, created anew and sanctified in the Church of Christ.

The book of St Dionysius On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchies is a continuation of his book On the Celestial Hierarchies. The Church of Christ, like the Angelic ranks, in its universal service is set upon the foundation of priestly principles established by God.
In the earthly world, for the children of the Church, divine grace comes down indescribably in the holy Mysteries of the Church, which are spiritual in nature, though perceptible to the senses in form. Few, even among the holy ascetics, were able to behold with their earthly eyes the fiery vision of the Holy Mysteries of God. But outside of the Church's sacraments, outside of Baptism and the Eucharist, the light-bearing saving grace of God is not found, neither is divine knowledge nor theosis (deification).
The book On the Names of God expounds upon the way of divine knowledge through a progression of the Divine Names.

St Dionysius' book On Mystical Theology also sets forth the teaching about divine knowledge. The theology of the Orthodox Church is totally based upon experience of divine knowledge. In order to know God it is necessary to be in proximity to Him, to have come near to Him in some measure, so as to attain dommunion with God and deification (theosis). This condition is accomplished through prayer. This is not because prayer in itself brings us close to the incomprehensible God, but rather that the purity of heart in true prayer brings us closer to God.

The written works of St Dionysius the Areopagite are of extraordinary significance in the theology of the Orthodox Church, and also for late Medieval Western theology. For almost four centuries, until the beginning of the sixth century, the works of this holy Father of the Church were preserved in an obscure manuscript tradition, primarily by theologians of the Alexandrian Church. The concepts in these works were known and utilized by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Dionysius the Great, pre-eminent figures of the catechetical school in Alexandria, and also by St Gregory the Theologian. St Dionysius of Alexandria wrote to St Gregory the Theologian a Commentary on the "Areopagitum." The works of St Dionysius the Areopagite received general Church recognition during the sixth-seventh centuries.

Particularly relevant are the Commentaries written by St Maximus the Confessor.

In the Russian Orthodox Church the teachings of St Dionysius the Areopagite about the spiritual principles and deification were at first known through the writings of St John of Damascus. The first Slavonic translation of the "Areopagitum" was done on Mt. Athos in about the year 1371 by a monk named Isaiah. Copies of it were widely distributed in Russia. Many of them have been preserved to the present day in historic manuscript collections, among which is a parchment manuscript "Works of St Dionysius the Areopagite" belonging to St Cyprian, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus in his own handwriting.

According to one tradition, he was killed at Lutetia (ancient name of Paris, France) in the year 96 during the persecution under the Roman emperor Dometian (81-96). Today most scholars and theologians believe that St Dionysius the Areopagite did not die in Gaul, and that St Dionysius (or Denys) of Paris is a different saint with the same name.

St Demetrius of Rostov says that the Hieromartyr Dionysius was beheaded in Athens, and that many miracles were worked at his grave.
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