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 thy testimonies as in all manner of riches.” “Thou hast commanded righteousness as thy testimonies for ever.” “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, speaketh 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 ye have received, let him be anathema.” Seeing these things are so, being thus well-testified unto us, we rejoice over them as he that hath 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,” crieth out Paul the divine Apostle, who was caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words.
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.
Just as at Trent, in addition to the restoration of mediæval doctrine, a series of reforming decrees was published, so this Synod promulgated twenty-two canons which can be similarly described. The attack on monachism and the constitution of the Church had been of some use. They are the best canons drawn up by an Ecumenical Synod. The bishops were enjoined to study, to live simply, and be unselfish, and to attend to the cure of souls; the monks to observe order, decorum, and also to be unselfish. With the State and the Emperor no compromise was made; on the contrary, the demands of Maximus Confessor and John of Damascus are heard, though in muffled tones, from the canons.
From the wording of this canon it is clearly seen that by the Fathers of this Council the canons commonly called “Apostolical” are attributed to the Apostles themselves as to their true authors, conformably to the Trullan Synod 540 and to the opinion then prevalent among the Greeks.
For since the Fathers were well persuaded that the discipline and doctrine contained in these canons could be received and confirmed, they cared but little to enquire anxiously who were their true authors, being content in this p. 556 question to follow and embrace the then commonly received opinion, and to ascribe these canons to them, just as, the other day, the Tridentine Synod (Sess. XXV., cap. j., De Reform) calls these, without any explanation, the “Canons of the Apostles,” because then as now they were commonly called by that name.
Here are recognized and confirmed the canons set forth by the Six Ecumenical Councils. And although all agree that the fifth and sixth Synods adopted no canons, unless that those of the Council in Trullo be attributed to them, yet when Tarasius the Patriarch of Constantinople claimed Canon 82 of the Trullan Canons as having been set forth by the sixth synod (as is evident from the annotations on that canon), all the canons of Trullo seem to be confirmed as having issued from the Sixth Synod. Or else, perchance, as is supposed by Balsamon and Zonaras, as also by this present synod, the Trullan was held to be Quinisext (πενθέκτη), and the canons decreed by it to belong to both the fifth and the sixth council. Otherwise I do not see what meaning these words [“of the Six Ecumenical Synods”] can have, for it will be remembered that the reference is to the ecclesiastical canons of the Six Ecumenical Synods, and not to their dogmatic decrees.
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