Quinisext Council, Canon 31.previous | next
As for those Clergymen who hold a liturgy in oratories or prayerhouses or in private residences, or who carry out a baptism therein, without having obtained the consent of the local Bishop to do this, we decree that if any Clergyman fail to guard against doing this, let him be deposed from office.
(Ap. c. XXXI; c. XVIII of the 4th; cc. XXXIV, LIX of the 6th; c. XII, XIII, XIV, XV of the lst-&-2nd; c. VI of Gangra; c. V of Antioch; c. LVIII of Laodicea; cc. X, LXII of Carthage.)
The present Canon does not permit those in holy orders to conduct a liturgy or to baptize inside a room or in the parlor of a private dwelling, or in a house of prayer, or one called an oratory and devoted to prayer, which has not been consecrated in the Orthodox manner, without the permission and consent of the local bishop: because this would amount to a conventicle (or “parasynagogue”) and apostasy; but they may do this with his consent and permission. Anyone who fails to abide by this rule, let him be deposed from office.
This same Canon is iterated verbatim by the lst-&-2nd Council in its c. XII, and confirmed, and that Council adds that priests who are to officiate in the oratories of private houses must be appointed by a prelate. Anyone that dares to officiate in them without being duly appointed and permitted by a bishop is to be deposed, and laymen who have joined with him in communion are to be excommunicated. Canon LVIII of Laodicea, on the other hand, which says that neither bishops nor priests may conduct sacred services in houses, does not conflict with the present Canon, because it does not specify that sacred rites may not be performed in the oratories of houses, as this Canon says, but only in houses in general, that is to say, more plainly speaking, in ordinary houses, a thing which is prohibited except in case of great necessity. Canon LIX of the present 6th deposes those clergymen who baptize anyone inside the prayerhouse of anyone, and not in the common church; and it excommunicates laymen who have joined in communion with them. Read also the Interpretation of Ap. c. XXXI.
 Photius notes (Title III, ch. 14) that if anyone should celebrate a liturgy in a private place (meaning a common place, and not a prayerhouse, as some interpret the word), in a barn, or in a farmhouse, or allows others to celebrate it than those who have been appointed to do so by the prelate, the particular place in which the liturgy was held with the landlord’s knowledge, shall be dedicated to the church of that village, through the bishop and steward and ruler. But if the landlord had no knowledge of the affair, he is not liable to punishment, but those who knew about it are to be exiled and their property is to be confiscated and dedicated to the church of the locality in question. Balsamon, on the other hand, asserts that antimensia are consecrated by the prelate to this end that they may be laid on the holy tables of prayerhouses and be considered, in accordance with the meaning of their name as being employed instead of a consecrated holy table (this is understandable in view of the fact that the Latin word mensa signifies table, and so mensalia too is the name for the cloths spread over the tables); and the priests who receive these from prelates, it would appear, by implication receive at the same time also permission from them to celebrate the liturgy with them in such prayerhouses. John of Kitros, on the other hand, in his Reply 13, asserts that a priest is sinning who celebrates a liturgy or performs a baptism with an antimension in a special place in a house or boat separated with holy icons, as also the priests of kings and emperors perform sacred rites out in desert plains in rush huts. Balsamon also says this same thing in his Reply 14, and one who officiates in such places without an antimension is to be deposed. These antimensia must have portions of the relics of martyrs sewed to them in order to be able to fulfill the function of a Consecrated Table truly, as is required by the ordinance concerning antimensia in the Euchologian. That is why they never use antimensia in Moscow without any relics of martyrs. See the Footnote to c. VIII of the 7th.
 I said “except in case of great necessity” because according to St. Basil the Great (in Epitome by Definition What) one must neither eat an ordinary supper in church, nor the Lord’s Supper in an ordinary house, unless it be in case of necessity that one chooses a cleaner place and house. That is why even in time of persecution command the bishop to have a gathering in houses in order to avoid having any pious person go to church or to a gathering of the impious. In fact, many noteworthy things appear to have occurred in ecclesiastical history under the stress of necessity. For we read that the sacred martyr Lucian, a presbyter of Antioch, when in prison, conducted divine services upon his breast, having the clergymen and faithful ones present stand in a circle to serve as a temple. Moreover, Theodoret the Bishop of Cyprus, when in the desert and at an unsheltered place, used the hands of the Deacon instead of a holy table and performed the divine liturgy upon them, because the breast and hands and arms of the priest are more precious and more sacred, according to St. Chrysostom, than a stone table and the inanimate vessels thereon. But such cases are altogether rare. For oratories, however, and any other place where it becomes necessary to perform sacred rites, the so-called antimensia are indispensable. If anyone wonders, on the other hand, what becomes of that house wherein Mysteries were offered, when it comes to be enslaved by wars — whether it remains sacred, that is to say, or becomes ordinary, let him consider the Footnotes to c. XIV of the 4th, which may be read with due regard for what Synesius says to the effect that that house or place in which men assembled and prayed as usual in time of an incursion of heathen does not become sacred on that account; for all the private houses that afforded a reception to prayers and Mysteries in the time when Arianism was rife remained again private and ordinary dwelling places just as they were previous thereto.
 Though the present Council in this c. XXXI allows a baptism to be performed in a prayerhouse with the permission of the bishop, yet in its c. LIX it appears to prohibit altogether any performing of a baptism within a prayerhouse, just as Zonaras says, not that it is conflicting with itself, but perhaps on account of these supporting points, in order that a large number of Christians assembled in common churches may stand as witnesses to the baptism on every occasion and in order that the name and date of those baptized may be recorded in the archives of the catholic church, thereby preventing the occurrence of the unlawful anomaly of a person’s having been baptized twice over owing to the circumstance that there are no witnesses to the fact that he was baptized at any previous time, according to c. LXXX of Carthage and according to c. LXXXIV of the present Council likewise, and in order that the sponsor (or godfather) of the one baptized may be known to all, and therefore that the spiritual relationship thus resulting may not be ignored when it comes time for the one baptized to get married. Both the foregoing possibilities could easily occur if a person were to be baptized in a prayerhouse when no such number of Christians were assembled there. Perhaps, however, it prohibits baptism in oratories (only) when it is performed without the consent of the bishop, precisely, that is to say, as it prohibits also the holding of liturgical services in a house of prayer without his consent and approval. There is, however, also a third reason why baptism should be performed in churches, and not in oratories; to wit, that the priest must first make the offertory and afterwards, wearing all the sacerdotal vestments, must come out and baptize the child, and after the baptism must commence the divine liturgy, and at the end of it must administer communion to the child baptized. For just as nature had milk ready for the nourishment of the body of the infant directly when it was born corporeally, so and in like manner grace prepares divine communion ready for the spiritual nourishment of the infant directly when it is reborn spiritually through baptism. If, however, the infant is in danger, it may be baptized at any time, and at any place it happens to be.