Third Ecumenical Council, Canon 1.previous | next
Since those who for any reason, whether of an ecclesiastical or of corporeal nature, are absent from the holy Council and have remained in their own town or district, ought not to be left in ignorance of the Councils regulations regarding them, we make known to your holiness and love that if any Metropolitan of the province has apostatized from the holy and ecumenical Council and joined the convocation of the apostasy, or has joined it thereafter, or has adopted the sentiments of Celestius or intends to adopt them, he shall have no power whatsoever to perpetrate anything against the Bishops of the province, being already expelled and bereft of every function and of all ecclesiastical communion by the Council here. Moreover, he shall be liable in any case, to be expelled from the rank of the episcopate by the very Bishops of the province and by surrounding Metropolitans who adhere to the beliefs of Orthodoxy.
This Canon notifies those absent from the Council of the deposition from office of John of Antioch, of Theodoret the bishop of Cyrus, of Ibas the bishop of Edessa, and of the thirty bishops who stayed with them or sympathized with them, by saying: Since the bishops who failed to appear at this holy Council on account of any obstacle, whether ecclesiastical or corporeal ought to be apprised of all proceedings affecting them, we notify your loving group that any metropolitan that has separated from this holy and Ecumenical Council and has joined the congress of apostasy, the one of Nestorius, that is to say, and of John and his party, or that intends to join it hereafter, or that has entertained the heretical views held by Celestius, the same shall have no power to do any ill turn to the bishops, or even to the laymen, that are Orthodox, that is to say, because he (sc. any such metropolitan) has been deprived of every ecclesiastical communion and sacred function by this Council, and because he is to be rendered utterly destitute hereafter and henceforth of the rank of the episcopate even by those same Orthodox bishops and surrounding metropolitans.
 Note that the minutes of this Council are divided into three parts. Thus, the first part contains various homilies and letters. The second part contains its acts, which were seven, according to Dositheus, but five according to the Collection of the Councils, and these include the second minutes of the apostatic convocation (or council) gathered round John of Antioch. The third part embraces St. Cyril’s interpretation in regard to its twelve chapters, or to say the same thing in other words, the twelve anathematizations directed against the unholy dogmas of Nestorius, and the objection of the Easterners to them, and the apology (or reply) of St. Cyril to their objections; it also contains the refutation of the same anathematization by Theodoret, and the apology again of the same Cyril to these refutations; it further contains the promotion of Maximianus to the throne of Constantinople, and the pacification of Cyril with John by aid of the emperor’s co-operation; all of which matters are to be found written in Dositheus from page 279 to page 287 of the Dodecabiblus, as well as in the first volume of the Collection of the Councils from page 357 to page 654, that is to say, to the end thereof.
 Celestius, a follower of his teacher Pelagius, agreed with Nestorius in his heresy, according to sacred Photius (Anagmosma 54), since he blasphemed the Son of God, while Celestius blasphemed the Holy Spirit, as Cyril wrote to Theodosius. For, on the one hand, Nestorius asserted that “Since Christ is of our nature, while God wishes all men to be saved, and everyone can mend his fault with the exercise of his own free will, therefore not the Logos of God that was born, but the human being who was begotten out of Mary, on account of the meritoriousness of his natural free choice, had the Logos of God following (i.e., investing) him, solely by reason of his worthiness, and partook of divinity by virtue of a similarity in sense attached to the word.” Celestius, on the other hand, asserted that “it is not God, that is to say, in other words, the Holy Spirit, that apportions to whomsoever He wills the means of attaining to piety and salvation, but the nature of the human being himself which has forfeited bliss on account of sin. This, according to the meritoriousness of his free will, is either attracted (or invited) or repelled (or repulsed) by the Holy Spirit.” He also maintained that self-control (or self-assertion) takes precedence of or leads the way to grace. Hence, said he, a man’s will is sufficient for the fulfillment of God’s commandments. These wicked doctrines of Celestius were anathematized both by this Third Council and by one held before it in Carthage at the same as that of Pelagius. Concerning the heresy of this man divine Augustine also wrote something in his discussion of heresies (ch. 88). There has been found also a comment on the present Canon written by Nicholas of Hydrous and saying for one not to spell the name of Celestius with an n, as it is written in some manuscripts owing to ignorance, but without the n, Celestius. For the man named Celestinus was an Orthodox Pope, whose place, as has been said, in this Third Council was filled by Cyril, whereas Celestius was a heretic and like-minded with Nestorius, as we have said.
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