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The Laodicea at which the Synod met is Laodicea in Phrygia Pacatiana, also called Laodicea ad Lycum, and to be carefully distinguished from the Laodicea in Syria. This much is certain, but as to the exact date of the Synod there is much discussion. Peter de Marca fixed it at the year 365, but Pagi in his Critica on Baronius's Annals seems to have overthrown the arguments upon which de Marca rested, and agrees with Gothofred in placing it circa 363. At first sight it would seem that the Seventh Canon gave a clue which would settle the date, inasmuch as the Photinians are mentioned, and Bishop Photinus began to be prominent in the middle of the fourth century and was anathematized by the Eusebians in a synod at Antioch in 344, and by the orthodox at Milan in 345; and finally, after several other condemnations, he died in banishment in 366. But it is not quite certain whether the word Πακατιανῆς as descriptive of Phrygia, for it is probable that this division was not yet made at the time of the Sardican Council in 343. Hefele concludes that
Under such circumstances, it is best, with Remi Ceillier, Tillemont, and others, to place the meeting of the synod of Laodicea generally somewhere between the years 343 and 381, i.e., between the Sardican and the Second Ecumenical Council — and to give up the attempt to discover a more exact date.
But since the traditional position of the canons of this Council is after those of Antioch and immediately before those of First Constantinople, I have followed this order. Such is their position in
very many old collections of the Councils which have had their origin since the sixth or even in the fifth century, says Hefele. It is true that Matthew Blastares places these canons after those of Sardica, but the Quinisext Synod in its Second Canon and Pope Leo IV., according to the Corpus Juris Canonici, give them the position which they hold in this volume.
The Canons of the Synod Held in the City of Laodicea, in Phrygia Pacatiana, in which Many Blessed Fathers from Divers Provinces of Asia Were Gathered Together.
It is right, according to the ecclesiastical Canon, that the Communion should by indulgence be given to those who have freely and lawfully joined in second marriages, not having previously made a secret marriage; after a short space, which is to be spent by them in prayer and fasting.
They who have sinned in various particulars, if they have persevered in the prayer of confession and penance, and are wholly converted from their faults, shall be received again to communion, through the mercy and goodness of God, after a time of penance appointed to them, in proportion to the nature of their offense.
He who has been recently baptized ought not to be promoted to the sacerdotal order.
They who are of the sacerdotal order ought not to lend and receive usury, nor what is called hemioliæ.
Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore have numbered this canon v., and our fifth they have as iv.
Ordinations are not to be held in the presence of hearers.
Balsamon: "This canon calls elections
Zonaras also agrees that election is here intended, but Aristenus dissents and makes the reference to ordinations properly so-called, as follows: The prayers of ordination are not to be said out loud so that they may be heard by the people.
Persons converted from heresies, that is, of the Novatians, Photinians, and Quartodecimans, whether they were catechumens or communicants among them, shall not be received until they shall have anathematized every heresy, and particularly that in which they were held; and afterwards those who among them were called communicants, having thoroughly learned the symbols of the faith, and having been anointed with the holy chrism, shall so communicate in the holy Mysteries.
I have allowed the word heretical on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and therefore differed from the other dissidents mentioned in the canon, all of whom were orthodox on this matter. It is also worthy of note that the word is not found in Ferrandus's Condensation (Breviatio Canonum, n. 177) nor in Isidore's version. Moreover there is a Latin codex in Lucca, and also one in Paris (as is noted by Mansi, v. 585; ij. 591) in which it is lacking. It was rejected by Baronius, Binius, and Remi Ceillier.
Catechumens is wanting in many Greek mss. but found in Balsamon, moreover, Dionysius and Isidore had it in their texts.
Persons converted from the heresy of those who are called Phrygians, even should they be among those reputed by them as clergymen, and even should they be called the very chiefest, are with all care to be both instructed and baptized by the bishops and presbyters of the Church.
Hefele: "This synod here declares the baptism of the Montanists invalid, while in the preceding canon it recognised as valid the baptism of the Novatians and Quartodecimans. From this, it would appear that the Montanists were suspected of heresy with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. Some other authorities of the ancient Church, however, judged differently, and for a long time it was a question in the Church whether to consider the baptism of the Montanists valid or not. Dionysius the Great of Alexandria was in favour of its validity: but this Synod and the Second General Council rejected it as invalid, not to mention the Synod of Iconium (235), which declared all heretical baptism invalid. This uncertainty of the ancient Church is accounted for thus: (a) On one side the Montanists, and especially Tertullian, asserted that they held the same faith and sacraments, especially the same baptism (eadem lavacri sacramenta) as the Catholics. St. Epiphanius concurred in this, and testified that the Montanists taught the same regarding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as did the Catholic Church. (b) Other Fathers, however, thought less favourably of them, and for this reason, that the Montanists often expressed themselves so ambiguously, that they might, nay, must be said completely to identify the Holy Ghost with Montanus. Thus Tertullian in quoting expressions of Montanus, actually says:
the Paraclete speaks; and therefore Firmilian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, and other Fathers, did in fact, reproach the Montanists with this identification, and consequently held their baptism to be invalid. (c) Basil the Great goes to the greatest length in this direction in maintaining that the Montanists had baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of Montanus and Priscilla. But it is very probable, as Tillemont conjectured, that Basil only founded these strange stories of their manner of baptizing upon his assumption that they identified Montanus with the Holy Ghost; and, as Baronius maintains, it is equally
probable that the Montanists did not alter the form of baptism. But, even admitting all this, their ambiguous expressions concerning Montanus and the Holy Ghost would alone have rendered it advisable to declare their baptism invalid. (d) Besides this, a considerable number of Montanists, namely, the school of Æschines, fell into Sabellianism, and thus their baptism was decidedly invalid. (Vide Article in Wetzer and Welte Kirchenlexicon s.v. Montanus; by myself [i.e. Hefele])."
The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service; but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received.
Balsamon: "As canon vi. forbids heretics to enter the house of God, so this canon forbids the faithful to go to the cemeteries of heretics, which are called by them
Martyries....For in the days of the persecution, certain of the heretics, calling themselves Christians, suffered even to death, and hence those who shared their opinions called them
Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church.
In old days certain venerable women (πρεσβύτιδες) sat in Catholic churches, and took care that the other women kept good and modest order. But from their habit of using improperly that which was proper, either through their arrogancy or through their base self-seeking, scandal arose. Therefore the Fathers prohibited the existence in the Church thereafter of any more such women as are called presbytides or presidents. And that no one may object that in the monasteries of women one woman must preside over the rest, it should be remembered that the renunciation which they make of themselves to God and the tonsure brings it to pass that they are thought of as one body though many; and all things which are theirs, relate only to the salvation of the soul. But for woman to teach in a Catholic Church, where a multitude of men is gathered together, and women of different opinions, is, in the highest degree, indecorous and pernicious.
It is doubtful what was here intended, and this canon has received very different interpretations. In the first place, what is the meaning of the words πρεσβύτιδες and προκαθήμεναι (
presbytides and female presidents)? I think the first light is thrown on the subject by Epiphanius, who in his treatise against the Collyridians (Hær., lxxix. 4) says that
women had never been allowed to offer sacrifice, as the Collyridians presumed to do, but were only allowed to minister. Therefore there were only deaconesses in the Church, and even if the oldest among them were called ‘presbytides,' this term must be clearly distinguished from presbyteresses. The latter would mean priestesses (ἱερίσσας), but ‘presbytides' only designated their age, as seniors. According to this, the canon appears to treat of the superior deaconesses who were the overseers (προκαθήμεναι) of the other deaconesses; and the further words of the text may then probably mean that in future no more such superior deaconesses or eldresses were to be appointed, probably because they had often outstepped their authority.
Neander, Fuchs, and others, however, think it more probable that the terms in question are in this canon to be taken as simply meaning deaconesses, for even in the church they had been wont to preside over the female portion of the congregation (whence their name of
presidents); and, according to St. Paul's rule, only widows over sixty years of age were to be chosen for this office (hence called
presbytides). We may add, that this direction of the apostle was not very strictly adhered to subsequently, but still it was repeatedly enjoined that only elder persons should be chosen as deaconesses. Thus, for instance, the Council of Chalcedon, in its fifteenth canon, required that deaconesses should be at least forty years of age, while the Emperor Theodosius even prescribed the age of sixty.
Supposing now that this canon simply treats of deaconesses, a fresh doubt arises as to how the last words —
they are not to be appointed in the Church are to be understood. For it may mean that
from henceforth no more deaconesses shall be appointed; or, that
in future they shall no more be solemnly ordained in the church. The first interpretation would, however, contradict the fact that the Greek Church had deaconesses long after the Synod of Laodicea. For instance, in 692 the Synod in Trullo (Can. xiv.) ordered that
no one under forty years of age should be ordained deaconess. Consequently the second interpretation,
they shall not be solemnly ordained in the church, seems a better one, and Neander decidedly prefers it. It is certainly true that several later synods distinctly forbade the old practice of conferring a sort of ordination upon deaconesses, as, for instance, the first Synod of Orange (Arausicanum I. of 441, Can. xxvj.) in the words — diaconæ omnimodis non ordinandæ; also the Synod at Epaon in 517 (Can. xxj.), and the second Synod at Orleans in 533 (Can. xviij.); but in the Greek Church at least, an ordination, a χειροτονεῖσθαι, took place as late as the Council in Trullo (Can. xiv.). But this Canon of Laodicea does not speak of solemn dedication, and certainly not of ordination, but only of καθίστασθαι . These reasons induce us to return to the first interpretation of this canon, and to understand it as forbidding from that time forward the appointment of any more chief deaconesses or
Zonaras and Balsamon give yet another explanation. In their opinion, these
presbytides were not chief deaconesses, but aged women in general (ex populo), to whom was given the supervision of the females, in church. The Synod of Laodicea, however, did away with this arrangement, probably because they had misused their office for purposes of pride, or money-making, bribery, etc.
Bishops are to be appointed to the ecclesiastical government by the judgment of the metropolitans and neighbouring bishops, after having been long proved both in the foundation of their faith and in the conversation of an honest life.
The election of those who are to be appointed to the priesthood is not to be committed to the multitude.
Before the arrangement of the Ecclesiastical Psalmody was settled, neither the Gospel nor the other Scriptures were accustomed to be read on the Sabbath. But out of regard to the canons which forbade fasting or kneeling on the Sabbath, there were no services, so that there might be as much feasting as possible. This the fathers prohibit, and decree that on the Sabbath the whole ecclesiastical office shall be said.
Neander (Kirchengesch., 2d ed., vol. iij., p. 565 et seq.) suggests in addition to the interpretation just given another, viz.: that it was the custom in many parts of the ancient Church to keep every Saturday as a feast in commemoration of the Creation. Neander also suggests that possibly some Judaizers read on the Sabbath only the Old Testament; he, however, himself remarks that in this case εὐαγγέλια and ἑτέρων γραφῶν would require the article.
Among the Greeks the Sabbath was kept exactly as the Lord's day except so far as the cessation of work was concerned, wherefore the Council wishes that, as on Sundays, after the other lessons there should follow the Gospel.
For it is evident that by the intention of the Church the whole Divine Office was designed for the edification and instruction of the people, and especially was this the case on feast days, when the people were apt to be present in large numbers.
Here we may note the origin of our present [Western] discipline, by which on Sundays and feast days the Gospel is wont to be read with the other Scriptures in the canonical hours, while such is not the case on ferial days, or in the order for ferias and
The Psalms are not to be joined together in the congregations, but a lesson shall intervene after every psalm.
The same service of prayers is to be said always both at nones and at vespers.
Hefele: "Some feasts ended at the ninth hour, others only in the evening, and both alike with prayer. The Synod here wills that in both cases the same prayers should be used. Thus does Van Espen explain the words of the text, and I think rightly. But the Greek commentator understands the Synod to order that the same prayers should be used in all places, thus excluding all individual caprice. According to this, the rule of conformity would refer to places; while, according to Van Espen, the nones and vespers were to be the same. If, however, this interpretation were correct, the Synod would not have only spoken of the prayers at nones and vespers, but would have said in general,
After the sermons of the Bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be made first by itself; and after the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are under penance; and, after these have passed under the hand [of the Bishop] and departed, there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful, the first to be said entirely in silence, the second and third aloud, and then the [kiss of] peace is to be given. And, after the presbyters have given the [kiss of] peace to the Bishop, then the laity are to give it [to one another], and so the Holy Oblation is to be completed. And it is lawful to the priesthood alone to go to the Altar and [there] communicate.
It is not right for a deacon to sit in the presence of a presbyter, unless he be bidden by the presbyter to sit down. Likewise the deacons shall have worship of the subdeacons and all the [inferior] clergy.
The subdeacons have no right to a place in the Diaconicum, nor to touch the Lord's vessels.
Hefele: It is doubtful whether by diaconicum is here meant the place where the deacons stood during service, or the diaconicum generally so called, which answers to our sacristy of the present day. In this diaconicum the sacred vessels and vestments were kept; and as the last part of the canon especially mentions these, I have no doubt that the diaconicum must mean the sacristy. For the rest, this canon is only the concrete expression of the rule, that the subdeacons shall not assume the functions of the deacons.
In old times, so we are told by Zonaras and Balsamon, it was the place of the subdeacons to stand at the church doors and to bring in and take out the catechumens and the penitents at the proper points in the service. Zonaras remarks that no one need be surprised if this, like many other ancient customs, has been entirely changed and abandoned.
The readers and singers have no right to wear an orarium, and to read or sing thus [habited].
No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists, door-keepers, or any of the class of the Ascetics, ought to enter a tavern.
A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup.
Hefele: "According to the Apostolic Constitutions, the communion was administered in the following manner: the bishop gave to each the holy bread with the words:
the Body of the Lord, and the recipient said,
Amen. The deacon then gave the chalice with the words:
the Blood of Christ, the chalice of life, and the recipient again answered,
Amen. This giving of the chalice with the words:
the Blood of Christ, etc., is called in the canon of Laodicea a
blessing (εὐλογεῖν). The Greek commentator Aristenus in accordance with this, and quite rightly, gives the meaning of this canon."
Van Espen translates: Church without being ordained, as do now our sacristans and acolytes. I do not think, however, with Van Espen, that by
they of the priesthood is meant in general any one holding office in the Church, but only the higher ranks of the clergy, priests and deacons, as in the preceding twenty-fourth canon the presbyters and deacons alone are expressly numbered among the ἱερατικοῖς and distinguished from the other (minor) clerics. And afterwards, in canon XXX., there is a similar mention of three different grades, ἱερατικοί, κληρικοί, and ἀσκηταί .
The taking away of the remains of the agape is here forbidden, because, on the one hand, it showed covetousness, and, on the other, was perhaps considered a profanation.
Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.
It is unlawful to receive the eulogiæ of heretics, for they are rather ἀλογίαι [i.e., follies], than eulogiæ [i.e., blessings].
No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema.
The phrase which I have translated
to those who formerly were heretics has caused great difficulty to all translators and scarcely two agree. Hammond reads
those who have been reputed to have been heretics; and with him Fulton agrees, but wrongly (as I think) by omitting the
to. Lambert translates
to those who before were heretics and correctly. With him agrees Van Espen, thus, vel eos qui prius heretici fuere.
Christians must not forsake the Church of God, and go away and invoke angels and gather assemblies, which things are forbidden. If, therefore, any one shall be found engaged in this covert idolatry, let him be anathema; for he has forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and has gone over to idolatry.
It should be noted that some Latin versions of great authority and antiquity read angulos for angelos. This would refer to doing these idolatrous rites in corners, hiddenly, secretly, occulte as in the Latin. But this reading, though so respectable in the Latin, has no Greek authority for it.
This canon has often been used in controversy as condemning the cultus which the Catholic Church has always given to the angels, but those who would make such a use of this canon should explain how these interpretations can be consistent with the cultus of the Martyrs so evidently approved by the same council; and how this canon came to be accepted by the Fathers of the Second Council of Nicaea, if it condemned the then universal practice of the Church, East and West. Cf. Forbes, Considerationes Modestæ.
They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematicians, or astrologers; nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for their own souls. And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church.
It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety.
It is not lawful to feast together with the heathen, and to be partakers of their godlessness.
Bishops called to a synod must not be guilty of contempt, but must attend, and either teach, or be taught, for the reformation of the Church and of others. And if such an one shall be guilty of contempt, he will condemn himself, unless he be detained by ill health.
By ἀνωμαλία, illness is commonly understood, and Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore translated it, the former ægritudinem, and the latter infirmitatem. But Balsamon justly remarks that the term has a wider meaning, and, besides cases of illness includes other unavoidable hinderances or obstacles.
The subdeacons may not leave the doors to engage in the prayer, even for a short time.
Women may not go to the altar.
[Candidates] for baptism are not to be received after the second week in Lent.
To the understanding of this canon it must be remembered that such of the Gentiles as desired to become Catholics and to be baptized, at first were privately instructed by the catechists. After this, having acquired some knowledge of the Christian religion, they were admitted to the public instructions given by the bishop in church; and were therefore called Audientes and for the first time properly-speaking Catechumens. But when these catechumens had been kept in this rank a sufficient time and had been there tried, they were allowed to go up to the higher grade called Genuflectentes.
And when their exercises had been completed in this order they were brought by the catechists who had had the charge of them, to the bishop, that on the Holy Sabbath [Easter Even] they might receive baptism, and the catechumens gave their names at the same time, so that they might be set down for baptism at the coming Holy Sabbath.
Moreover we learn from St. Augustine (Serm. xiii., Ad Neophitos,) that the time for the giving in of the names was the beginning of Lent.
It is doubtful whether by the Thursday of the text was meant only the Thursday of Holy Week, or every Thursday of the time during which the catechumens received instruction. The Greek commentators are in favour of the latter, but Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore, and after them Bingham, are, and probably rightly, in favour of the former meaning. This canon was repeated by the Trullan Synod in its seventy-eighth canon.
This canon, which was repeated by the Trullan Synod in its fifty-second canon, orders that on ordinary week days during Lent, only a Missa Præsanctificatorum should take place, as is still the custom with the Greeks on all days of penitence and mourning, when it appears to them unsuitable to have the full liturgy, and as Leo Allatius says, for this reason, that the consecration is a joyful act. A comparison of the above sixteenth canon, however, shows that Saturday was a special exception.
To the Saturdays and Sundays mentioned by Hefele must be added the feast of the Annunciation, which is always solemnized with a full celebration of the Liturgy, even when it falls upon Good Friday.
The fast must not be broken on the fifth day of the last week in Lent [i.e., on Maunday Thursday], and the whole of Lent be dishonoured; but it is necessary to fast during all the Lenten season by eating only dry meats.
Marriages and birthday feasts are not to be celebrated in Lent.
birthday feasts in this canon the natalitia martyrum is not to be understood as in the preceding canon, but the birthday feasts of princes. This, as well as the preceding rule, was renewed in the sixth century by Bishop Martin of Bracara, now Braga, in Portugal.
Christians are admonished to feast modestly when they go to weddings and not to dance nor βαλλίζειν, that is to clap their hands and make a noise with them. For this is unworthy of the Christian standing. But consecrated persons must not see the play at weddings, but before the thymelici begin, they must go out.
These meals, the expenses of which were defrayed by a number clubbing together and sharing the cost, were called
symbola by Isidore, and by Melinus and Crabbe
comissalia, although the more ordinary form is
comessalia. Cf. Ducange Gloss., s.v. Commensalia and Confertum.
Presbyters may not enter and take their seats in the bema before the entrance of the Bishop: but they must enter with the Bishop, unless he be at home sick, or absent.
It is difficult to translate this canon without giving a false idea of its meaning. It does not determine the order of dignity in an ecclesiastical procession, but something entirely different, viz., it provides that when the bishop enters the sanctuary he should not be alone and walk into a place already occupied, but that he should have with him, as a guard of honour, the clergy. Whether these should walk before or after him would be a mere matter of local custom, the rule juniores priores did not universally prevail.
Bishops must not be appointed in villages or country districts, but visitors; and those who have been already appointed must do nothing without the consent of the bishop of the city. Presbyters, in like manner, must do nothing without the consent of the bishop.
No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.
[N. B.— This Canon is of most questionable genuineness.]
These are all the books of Old Testament appointed to be read: 1, Genesis of the world; 2, The Exodus from Egypt; 3, Leviticus; 4, Numbers; 5, Deuteronomy; 6, Joshua, the son of Nun; 7, Judges, Ruth; 8, Esther; 9, Of the Kings, First and Second; 10, Of the Kings, Third and Fourth; 11, Chronicles, First and Second; 12, Esdras, First and Second; 13, The Book of Psalms; 14, The Proverbs of Solomon; 15, Ecclesiastes; 16, The Song of Songs; 17, Job; 18, The Twelve Prophets; 19, Isaiah; 20, Jeremiah, and Baruch, the Lamentations, and the Epistle; 21, Ezekiel; 22, Daniel.
And these are the books of the New Testament: Four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; The Acts of the Apostles; Seven Catholic Epistles, to wit, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; Fourteen Epistles of Paul, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Hebrews, two to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon.
Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.