Whosoever shall presume to set aside the decree of the holy and great Synod which was assembled at Nice in the presence of the pious Emperor Constantine, beloved of God, concerning the holy and salutary feast of Easter; if they shall obstinately persist in opposing what was [then] rightly ordained, let them be excommunicated and cast out of the Church; this is said concerning the laity. But if any one of those who preside in the Church, whether he be bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall presume, after this decree, to exercise his own private judgment to the subversion of the people and to the disturbance of the churches, by observing Easter [at the same time] with the Jews, the holy Synod decrees that he shall thenceforth be an alien from the Church, as one who not only heaps sins upon himself, but who is also the cause of destruction and subversion to many; and it deposes not only such persons themselves from their ministry, but those also who after their deposition shall presume to communicate with them. And the deposed shall be deprived even of that external honour, of which the holy Canon and Gods priesthood partake.
From this canon it appears that the fathers did not deem laymen deserving of excommunication who merely broke the decrees, but only those who “obstinately persist in opposing the decrees sanctioned and received by the Church; for by their refusal to obey they are attempting to overturn.” And this being the case, why should such not be repelled or cast forth from the Church as rebels?
Finally this Canon proves that not only bishops and presbyters, but also deacons were reckoned among them who, “preside in the Church.” An argument in favour of the opinion that the deacons of that time were entrusted with hierarchical functions.
It is curious that as a matter of fact the entire clergy and people of the West fell under the anathema of this canon in 1825, when they observed Easter on the same day as the Jews. This was owing to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, and this misfortune while that calendar is followed it is almost impossible to prevent. 168
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