Quinisext Council, Canon 83.previous | next
Let no one impart of the Eucharist to the bodies of the dying. For it is written, “Take, eat” (Matt. 26:26); but the bodies of dead persons can neither take nor eat anything.
This Canon is nearly the same as the twenty-fifth of Carthage. For since it used to be, according to Zonaras, an old custom to impart the Eucharist, or, more explicitly speaking, the divine Mysteries, to the bodies of dying persons, this Canon prohibits this as does also that Canon, explaining that when the Lord gave the mystic bread to His disciples, and through them consequently to all the faithful, He said, “Take, eat.” But the bodies of the dead can neither take it nor eat it. But neither ought one to baptize the dead, according to the remainder of the same c. XXV of Carthage. St. Chrysostom, in his homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, excommunicates from the Church for a long time as an idolater any Christian that pays and hires women called moerologetriae (corresponding to what the Irish call keeners, i.e., professional mourners) to lament and mourn his dead relatives, and when admonished not to do so will not listen. On top of this, he also excommunicates even the moerologetriae themselves if they dare to go to wail.
 Zonaras says that although the expression “the dying” does not in strict accuracy mean the dead, but those who approaching their death and in the process of dying, and are not yet actually dead, yet in spite of this the following words of the Canon interpret the words as implying that this must be vinderstood instead of “those who have died and who are actually dead.” That is why in other codices instead of “dying” it is written “who have died.” For even though a person be at the point of death, breathing his last gasps, the divine Mysteries ought to be administered, according to c. XIII of the 1st and the historical account of St. Dionysius contained therein. Note also the important fact that not even inside of a church ought on to bury dead persons, and that those who do so are greatly sinning. For St. Gregory Dialogus (pp. 10 and 49 of Evergetinus) relates that “a nun who was temperate and continent in respect of shameful pleasures, yet unable to stay sober in respect of untimely words, was once buried inside the church. And what a miracle! that same night the man who was guarding the church as watchman saw by revelation that some persons had brought this nun in front of the Holy Bema, and that they sawed her apart in the middle through the waist, and that they threw one half of her into the fire, and it was burning up, while the other half remained as it was. The next morning he narrated this strange vision to the Christians who happened to be present. The same Saint relates in addition to this story that since Patricius Valerianus, who was living in those times, had died in the city called Briza, the Bishop of that city took money from his relatives and gave them a space inside the church in which to bury the corpse of Valerianus, who had lived badly into old age. Well, the next night the holy martyr Faustinus, to whose name the church had been dedicated when it was built, appeared to its prosmonarius and watchman, and said to him: “Go and tell the Bishop to throw that stinking corpse out of my church. But if he won’t do this, he is going to die within thirty days.” The prosmonarius was afraid to announce the vision to the Bishop; accordingly, the saint reappeared and told him the same things again. But he got scared again, and did not make the matter known to the Bishop. Hence, when the thirtieth day arrived, the Bishop, who was in sound health, lay down in the evening to sleep, when, mirabile dictu! he rose no more, but died a sudden death. Hear ye, O Prelates, hear ye, O Priests, hear ye, all ye Christians in general, who allow the bodies of the dead to be buried inside the holy churches; and most especially those of you who reside in the islands, where that God-hated and damnable custom prevails, and learn what sort of condemnation and sentence the souls of those who have died are bound to receive from God (as St. Gregory himself avers) because of the fact that they are buried inside the church, and the same fate awaits also the relatives of the dead, who want to have them buried there, and the Prelates and Priests, who permit them to be buried there. You think that you are conferring a benefit upon the dead when you bury them in the church; and you don’t know that on this very account you are causing them to suffer dread punishment. For if that nun who was merely overcome by untimely words, and slowly so at that, was sawn apart and burned in fire because she got buried inside the church, what fate, it is to be wondered, awaits those who have sinned both in words and in deeds and who, after death, have afterwards been buried in the churches? For the love of God, holy Prelates, prevent this dire evil from befalling your Christians, and order them to construct the tombs of the dead outside of the churches. Oh, what a great evil! they on the one hand offer incenses and fragrances in order that God may be propitiated in these, in order that the church may be filled with sweet odors, and the Christians attending it may be favored with whiffs of incense, while they themselves, on the other hand, are burying there the stinking corpses of their dead, from the stench of which even God Himself turns away, and the whole church is stunk up, and the Christians have to hold their noses, and they flee from the church as though from fire, and oftentimes they anathematize the buried. And can there be found any greater show of ignorance and absurd impropriety than this? Canon XCVII of the Sixth Ec. C. commands that nobody shall remain even when alive in the “catechumena” of the churches. How much more ought the dead not remain in the church, teeming as they are with fetor and stench! Hence it is that John of Citrus expressly says for bodies of dead persons not to be buried inside a church after it has been dedicated. The same thing is asserted also by Balsamon (Reply 38, p. 382 of the Corpus Juris Graecoromanus). Then, again, St. Ephrem in his last will and testament adjures persons not to bury him inside a church, saying: “I adjure you not to let me be placed in a house of God, or underneath an altar, or in any other spot in the temple of God, for it does not become or befit a rotten worm and stinking body to be buried in a temple and sanctuary of the Lord. Whoever may dare do this, may he never see the heavenly altar! nor may he be deemed worthy to visit a temple in the kingdom of heaven!” Let us shudder with horror, brethren, and let us tremble with terror. For if a God-bearing man like St. Ephrem did not judge himself worthy to be buried inside a church, how much more must sinners be accounted unworthy to be buried inside a church! Woe and alas for those who do this! In like manner ought those persons to be canonized (i.e., canonically penanced) who refuse to go to that church where some relative of theirs has been buried. What are you doing, O unthinking man? Don’t you know that by what you are doing in not going to the church you are incurring the enmity of God and of His Saints? And are you fighting with them because your relative died? And who are you to be warring with God, who arranges everything to the best advantage, both life and death? In addition, take those women, or men, who go to the tombs of their relatives to weep over them, as if they had no hope that they will be resurrected, they too ought to be canonized by spirituals and be forbidden to do so. For they are so wanting in knowledge that they cannot even understand that the death of Orthodox Christians is not a death, but merely a sleep, from which they are to awake on the day of resurrection. This exceedingly barbarian and wrong custom prevails even to this day in Moldavia-Walachia, in which provinces are often found wise and sensible leaders and rulers and prelates, and they are well aware of this depraved and harmful wrong custom.
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