Quinisext Council, Canon 101.previous | next
The divine Apostle loudly proclaims the man created in the image of God to be a body of Christ and a temple. Standing, therefore, far above all sensible creation, and having attained to a heavenly dignity by virtue of the soterial Passion, by eating and drinking Christ as a source of life, he perpetually readjusts both his eternal soul and his body and by partaking of the divine grace he is continually sanctified. So that if anyone should wish to partake of the intemerate body during the time of a synaxis, and to become one therewith by virtue of transessencc, let him form his hands into the shape of a cross, and, thus approaching, let him receive the communion of grace. For we nowise welcome those men who make certain receptacles out of gold, or any other material, to serve instead of their hand for the reception of the divine gift, demanding to take of the intemerate communion in such containers; because they prefer soulless (i.e., inanimate) matter and an inferior article to the image of God. In case, therefore, any person should be caught in the act of imparting of the intemerate communion to those offering such receptacles, let him be excommunicated, both he himself and the one offering them.
(1 Cor. 12:27; 2Cor.6:16.)
In that time there prevailed a custom of laymen communing, just like priests, by taking the holy bread in their hands, in the manner in which they nowadays receive the antidoron. But since some men, on the pretense of reverence, and of paying greater honor to the divine gifts, used to make gold vessels, or vessels of some other precious material, and were wont to partake of the intemerate body of the Lord by receiving it in such vessels; therefore, and on this account, the present Canon will not admit this procedure, even though it be employed for the sake of reverence. Because, in view of the fact that a man is one who has been made in the image of God, and who eats the body and drinks the blood of Christ, and thereby becomes sanctified, and since he is in fact a body and temple of Christ, according to the Apostle, he transcends all sensible things and inanimate creatures, and consequently his hands are far more precious than any vessel. Hence anyone that wishes to partake of the Lord’s body, let him form his two hands into the shape of a cross, and let him receive it therein. As for any layman that may receive the body of the Lord in a vessel, and any priest who may impart it in any such thing, let both of them be excommunicated, because they prefer an inanimate (i.e., soulless) vessel to the human being molded in the image of God.
 The manner in which laymen in those days used to take the holy bread in. their hands is more clearly described by Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. Mystag. 5), who says: “When yon approach the Mysteries, do not hold out the palms of your hands, nor spread your fingers apart, but, placing the left hand underneath, and the right hand on top, as though it were about to welcome an emperor or king, and forming a hollow in the palm of it, take the body of Christ in this way, at the same time pronouncing an “Amen!” in acknowledgment thereof. But after you have received it, do not fail to sanctify your eyes by touching it cautiously, and thus partake of it, taking care not to drop any pearl (i.e., precious particle) of it,” etc. Note, however, that the present Canon contradicts those who assert that divine Chrysostom invented the tongs. For the custom of taking the holy bread in the hands obtained among Christians after Chrysostom, at least four hundred years, as becomes plain also from the present Council and from John Damascene, who describes this custom (concerning the Orthodox faith, Book IV, ch. 14). But then again St. Chrysostom himself also describes and tells about this custom in many of his discourses and sermons (Commentary on Psalm XLIX; Discourse 26 on the Seraphim; Sermon 21 on Statues; see also his biography by Metaphrastes). One ought, however, to know that in the Western Church women were not wont to receive or take the holy bread in their naked hands, but, instead, spreading out some white oraria — that is, small white napkins — they would thus receive the holy bread (Note of Translator. — The authors of this work call it “bread” here either by courtesy or by oversight, and in the same way they accord it the epithet “holy.” It is, in point of fact, not bread at all, in the Greek sense of the term, because it is an unleavened substitute; consequently, neither is it holy.), as is decreed by the local Synod held in the city of Antisiodorus, in its c. XXXVI; and St. Augustine also gives instructions about it in his Discourse 252). That little napkin is called a dominical, which word means in Latin “the Lord’s.” The name is due to the fact they used to take it to church with them on Sundays in order to receive the body of Christ. The cause which led to the invention of the tongs was the fact some men, either feigning to be Christians, or being heretics, or superstitious, when taking the holy bread in their hands, either let it drop or hid it, or used it in magic or other wicked devices. Hence, through the invention of the tongs, by which the holy communion could be administered directly into the mouth of the recipient, every cause and reason and excuse for such flouting of the mystery was obviated. See also Eustratius, in his discourse concerning the administration of the mystery, pp. 301–2). But some other persons have conjectured also another reason that is more plausible, viz., convenience, or facilitation of administration, because in olden times nearly every church had also its deacon. Hence, in accordance with the Apostolic tradition, the priest would give the divine body, while the deacon, standing near, with the holy cup, would serve out the divine blood. But owing to the fact that deacons later became scarce and disappeared from most churches, as we can also see for ourselves by actual experience, where they are lacking, and especially in the villages and in the poor churches, and there ensued a difficulty which made it hard for the same priest to administer them separately, each by itself, in a very economical and expeditious manner, the tongs were invented, in order that, after the union was effected, he might administer them easily, and especially to infants.
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