Seventh Ecumenical Council, Canon 2.previous | next
Since as a matter of fact we are binding ourselves to God by chanting: “I will meditate in thy rights; I will not forget they words” (Ps. 119:16), it behooves all Christians to keep this for their own salvation, but more eminently so those invested with a sacerdotal dignity. Hence we decree that anyone who is about to be promoted to the rank of bishop shall by all means know the psalter, in order that he may be able to admonish all the clergy about him to become initiated; and that he be scrupulously examined by the metropolitan as to whether he is cheerfully willing to read searchingly and not cursorily the sacred Canons and the holy Gospel, the book of the divine Apostle, and all the divine Scripture, and in accordance with the divine commandments to hold intercourse with and teach the laity about him. For the essentiality of our prelacy is the words taught by God, or, at any rate, the true science of the divine Scriptures, just as great Dionysius declared. But if he should be in doubt, and not care to do and teach thus, he must not be ordained. For God has said prophetically: “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from acting as my priest” (Hos. 4:6).
(c. XXIV of Carthage.)
While all Christian laymen ought to meditate in the rights of God, and not forget His words, just as they chant and promise every day with the prophet, this is eminently so in the case of those in holy orders. For this reason the present Canon decrees that anyone who intends to become a bishop must without fail be acquainted with the thoughts in the psalter, in order to teach his laity therefrom so that they may learn them too. Likewise any such person must be examined by the metropolitan scrupulously as to whether he is cheerfully willing to read, not superficially and as to the words alone, but with regard to depth and with understanding of the thoughts, the sacred Canons, which we have enumerated above, the holy Gospel, the Apostle, and all the divine Scripture, and not only to know these, but also to conduct himself both publicly and privately just as they prescribe, and to teach his fold in accordance with them. For, as Dionysius the Areopagite declares, the essence and structure of the ecclesiastical prelacy is the words taught by God., or, more precisely speaking, the true comprehension and exact knowledge of the divine Scriptures. If not, and he is in doubt, and is not minded to do these things himself, and to teach others too, let him not be made a bishop; for God says through the prophet Hosea (in paraphrase): “Since thou hast spurned knowledge of my laws, I too will spurn thee as a priest of mine.”
In agreement with the present Canon, c. XXIV of Carthage expresses the following decree: that those who intend to ordain a bishop, or a clergyman, must first teach him the Canons of the sacred Councils, in order that, by acting in accordance with the definitions and canons of the Fathers, they who are to be ordained may not repent later, as transgressors of them. For this reason, too, God commands the one who has become a ruler of the people not only to read the book of Deuteronomy throughout his life, in order to learn therefrom to fear the Lord, and to keep all His commandments, but He even makes it necessary for him to copy it himself with his own hand. “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write himself a copy of this Deuteronomy in a book obtained from the priests who are Levites” (Deut. 17:18). And the reason why He commands him to copy it himself is that a person who merely reads it easily forgets the thoughts that are read, whereas a person who also writes it impresses the thoughts upon his memory, because he takes time and leisure to think about each particular one of them, and until he has comprehended a sentence well he takes care not to write another: thus does Philo Judaeus interpret the matter. And if God compels secular rulers to do this, much more does He the ecclesiastical prelates who are the shepherds of his people.
 Note that the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite are confirmed as genuine by the present Ecumenical Council, and those who say that they are spurious or dubious are gagged. For this passage is taken from the first chapter of his ecclesiastical Hierarchy, just as is also that one which is cited in the following c. IV of the same Council, concerning Peter, which says: “Peter the coryphaean summit, of the Apostles,” a phrase of the same Dionysius, taken from the third chapter of his Divine Names. Both these books, in fact, are the ones from which those incorrectly traduce the works of Dionysius draw the material of controversy. Not only this present Council, but indeed the Sixth Ecumenical confirms the writings of Dionysius, in its Act 6, in what it says concerning the Theandric activity, having taken this word from the saint’s fourth letter to Caius. Yes, indeed, even the Council held in Rome in the time of Martin against the Monotheletes; and Sophronius in the Council held in Jerusalem; and Andrew Cretes paraphrases the contents of the third chapter concerning Divine Names which relate to the dormition of the Theotokos; and divine Maximus comments upon him; and Damascus mentions him in his book I, ch. 12, of Dogmatics; and Pope Agatho in his fifteenth letter to Emperor Constantine. If, on the other hand, it be objected that the ancient Saints do not mention the writings of Dionysius, the reply to this is that they do so, according to Coresius; for they wanted to prove their own assertions by testimonies of the Bible alone. And notwithstanding that Peter Lanselius and Corderius, the Jesuits, prove that the assertion of St. Gregory the Theologian in his discourse on the Nativity of Christ that “which has been philosophically expressed, in the finest and most sublime manner, by someone before us,” was said with reference to Dionysius the Areopagite’s interpretation of the Hymn of the Seraphim, who lived before St. Gregory, and not with reference to St. Athanasius, as Nicetas says: for St. Athanasius was alive when St. Gregory lived, and not before him. We could adduce here the justifications of the controverters, and prove them incorrect, but we have deemed it superfluous, since two Ecumenical (and two regional) Councils, and so many other Saints, are sufficient to counterbalance many myriads of controverters.
 Novel 123 of Justinian, too, commands that a person intending to become a prelate be taught the divine Scriptures and the sacred Canons for three months; and that anyone who has not been ordained in such a manner be deposed from office, and that the one who ordained him be suspended; since it is a shameful and illogical thing for one who ought to teach others to be taught by others after his ordination. But see also (page 440 of Jus Graeco-Romanum) where after the Creed (or Symbol of the Faith) every bishop at the time of his ordination utters also the following commitment: “In addition I accept the seven holy and Ecumenical Councils which convened for the purpose of safeguarding the venerable dogmas, solemnly promising to recognize and keep the Canons decreed by them, and all the holy ordinances that have been formulated at various times by our sacred Fathers, accepting all which they accept and rejecting all that they reject.”
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