Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


6 Entries

As for heretics who convert to Orthodoxy and join the portion of the saved, we receive them in accordance with the following procedure and custom: We receive Arians, and Macedonians, and Novatians who call themselves Catharoi and Aristeroi, and Tessareskaidekatitae otherwise known as Tetraditae, and Apollinarists, when they submit written statements, and anathematize every heresy that does not believe as the holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church of God believes, and are first sealed, i.e. chrismated, with holy Myron on the forehead, and the eyes, and the nose, and the mouth, and the ears; and in sealing them we say: "Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Concerning the Paulianists, however, who subsequently took refuge in the catholic Church, a definition has been promulgated that they be rebaptized without fail. Eunomians who are baptized with one immersion, and Montanists who in this [City] are called Phrygians, and Sabellians who believe in the son-fatherhood [of Christ], and who do other evil things as well; and all other heresies (for there are many hereabout, especially those hailing from the region of the Galatians), all of them that wish to join Orthodoxy we receive as pagans. And on the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens. Then on the third day we exorcise them with the threefold blowing into their face and ears. And then we catechize them, and oblige them to spend sufficient time in the church and to listen to the Scriptures. And then we baptize them. And likewise Manichaeans, and Valentinians, and Marcionites, and those from similar heresies.

Nestorians are required to make written statements, and to anathematize their heresy and Nestorios, Eutyches and Dioscoros and Severos, and the rest of the leaders of such heresies, as well as those who entertain their beliefs, and all the aforementioned heresies; and thus they may partake of Holy Communion. Canon 95 of the Holy and Sixth Ecumenical Council Affirmed and Upheld by the Sixth Ecumenical Council

If a bishop or presbyter baptize anew anyone that has had a true baptism, or fail to baptize someone that had been polluted by the impious, let him be defrocked, on the grounds that he is mocking the cross and death of the Lord, and fails to distinguish priests from false priests. Apostolic Canon XLVII (47)

If a bishop or presbyter conduct an initiation [i.e. baptism] and perform not three immersions, but one immersion—that administered into the Lord's death—let him be anathema. Apostolic Canon L (50)

The question of the Catharoi has been stated before, and you correctly recalled that it is necessary to follow the custom of those in each particular province, for they who at the time dealt with them were variously disposed towards their baptism. The [baptism] belonging to the Peponzenoi, on the other hand, seems to me to be of no account, and I am surprised it escaped the great Dionysios, who himself wrote Canons. For the baptism which the early Fathers judged to accept is that which does not deviate from the faith in anything. Hence, some they called heresies, others schisms, and yet other conventicles [parasynagogues]. Heresies they called groups that had completely broken off and were estranged from the faith itself; schisms, groups that are at variance with one another for certain ecclesiastical reasons and over remediable issues; and conventicles, the gatherings held by insubordinate presbyters or bishops and by the undisciplined laity. For example, when one of the clergy who was tried for an offense, and suspended from liturgizing, does not submit to the Canons, but claims the presidency and the liturgy for himself, and some people leave the catholic Church and follow after him, this is a conventicle. A schism, on the other hand, is to be at odds with those belonging to the Church over the issue of repentance [i.e. the readmission of the lapsed]. And heresies are groups such as the Manichaeans, Valentinians, and Marcionites, and these very Pepouzenoi; for the difference here concerns the very faith in God directly.

It therefore seemed best to those who dealt with this subject in the beginning to reject the [baptism] of the heretics completely, but to accept that of schismatics who were still considered to be of the Church. Those people who were in conventicles, after improving themselves by proper repentance and by returning, were to be united once again to the Church, such being the case that the clergy who had gone with the insubordinate were often received back into their former rank when they repented.

So, the Pepouzenoi are clearly heretics. For they blasphemed against the Holy Spirit by lawlessly and shamelessly assigning the name Paraclete to Montanos and Priscilla. On the one hand, then, they are condemned for deifying human beings; and on the other hand, they are doomed to eternal damnation because they insulted the Holy Spirit by comparing Him to human beings, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. What rationale, therefore, can there be for the approval of the baptism administered by those who baptize in Father, Son, and Montanos or Priscilla? They who were baptized in names not handed down to us were not really baptized. So, even if this escaped the great Dionysios, nevertheless we ought not to imitate the oversight. For the impropriety is self-evident and obvious to anyone who possesses even the slightest capacity for reason.

As for the Catharoi, they belong to the category of schismatics. Nevertheless it seemed best to the early Fathers (and I mean Cyprian, and our own Firmilian, and their circles) to treat them all—Catharoi, Encratitce, Hydroparastatae, and Apotactitee—in one decision. For the beginning of the separation came about by schism, and those who revolted from the Church no longer possessed the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the imparting thereof ceased with the interruption of the continuity. True, the first ones to depart had had their ordinations from the Fathers, by the imposition of the hands of whom they possessed the spiritual gift. But in breaking away, they became laymen, and thus they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain, since they no longer had the power to grant others the grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves had fallen. Therefore [the early Fathers] ordered that such whom they regarded as having been baptized by laymen, when they come over to the Church, ought to be repurified by the Church’s true baptism. But since it seemed best to some of the [bishops] in Asia to accept their baptism for the sake of the economia of the majority, let it be accepted.

Now we must pay special attention to the mischief of the Encratites. For, in order to make themselves unacceptable to the Church, they endeavored to anticipate through a peculiar baptism of their own; and in so doing they falsified their own custom. Therefore, I think that since there is nothing definitely prescribed regarding them, it behooves us to reject their baptism, and to baptize anyone coming over to the Church who had received it from them. If this is going to be an obstacle for the general exercise of economia, however, then we must again adopt the custom and follow the Fathers who regulated the ways of our Church with economia. For I fear lest, in wishing to make them hesitant about baptizing, we actually deter those who would be saved, because of the austerity of the measure. If they themselves keep our baptism [i.e. do not rebaptize converts from Orthodoxy], this should not urge us, for it is not our responsibility to return them a favor, but to serve the precision [Gk. acrivia] of the Canons. By all means let it be formulated that those who come over on the strength of that baptism of theirs be chrismated in full view of the faithful, and thereafter approach the Mysteries.

I am also aware that we have admitted to the seat of bishops the brothers in the party of Zoios and Satorninos who belonged to that class. Hence we can no longer distinguish from the Church those who were attached to their group, since by so accepting their bishops we have as it were made a Canon that establishes our communion with them. The First Canonical Letter of St. Basil the Great (d. 378AD) Affirmed and Upheld by the Sixth Ecumenical Council

We order that a bishop or presbyter that recognized the baptism or sacrifice of heretics be defrocked. For "what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:15). Apostolic Canon XLVI (46)

While assembled in Council, beloved brethren, we read letters sent by you, concerning those among the heretics and schismatics presuming to be baptized who are coming over to the catholic Church which is one, in which we are baptized and regenerated. We are confident that by your doing these things concerning them, you yourselves hold fast to the stability of the catholic Church.

But since you are of the same communion with us, and so wished to inquire about this matter on account of our mutual love, we pronounce no recent opinion or one that has only now been established, but on the contrary we share with you and join you to that which of old was tested with all precision and care by our predecessors, and which by us has been observed. Decreeing now also by vote what we firmly and securely hold for all time, we declare that no one can possibly be baptized outside the catholic Church, there being but one baptism, and this existing only in the catholic Church. For it has been written: "They have forsaken me the fountain of living water, and they dug for themselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jer. 2:13). And, again, Holy Scripture forewarning says: "Keep away from another's water, and drink not from another's well" (cf. Pr. 5:15).

Also, the water must first be purified and sanctified by the priest, in order that it may be capable of washing away the sins of the person being baptized when he is thereinto immersed. And through the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord says: "And I will sprinkle you with clean water, and cleanse you, and I will give you a new heart, and I will give you a new spirit" (Ezek. 36:25). But how can he who is himself unclean, and with whom there is no Holy Spirit, purify and sanctify water, with the Lord saying in the book of Numbers: "And everything the unclean man touches shall be unclean" (Num. 19:22)? How can he who was not able to rid himself of his own sins, being as he is outside the Church, baptize and grant remission of sins to another? And even the question asked at the baptism is witness to the truth. For when we say to the examinee, "Do you believe you shall receive eternal life and remission of sins?" we are saying nothing else than that in the catholic Church remission of sins can be given, and that it is impossible to receive this from the heretics, where the Church is not. And that is why the advocates of the heretics are obliged either to ask the question, or to do justice to the truth, unless they attribute the Church to them also.

Moreover, it is necessary that he who has been baptized be chrismated, so that receiving the chrism he become a partaker of Christ. But the heretic cannot sanctify oil, seeing that he has neither altar nor Church. It is not possible for there to exist any chrism whatsoever among the heretics. For it is obvious to us that oil can by no means be sanctified among them for such worthy use. And we ought to know and not ignore that it has been written: "Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head," which the Holy Spirit even long ago declared in the Psalms (140:6); lest anyone be tracked down and led astray from the right way and be chrismated by the heretics, the enemies of Christ.

Furthermore, how shall he who is not a priest, but sacrilegious and a sinner, pray for the one who was baptized, when the Bible says, "...God does not hear sinners; but if one is a worshipper of God and does His will, him He hears" (Jn. 9:31)? We understand remission of sins as being given through the Church. But how can one give what he does not himself have? Or how can one do spiritual works when he himself has not received the Holy Spirit? For this reason he who comes over to the Church ought to be renewed, so that within [the Church] he be made holy by the holy, as it is written: "You shall be holy, even as I am Holy, says the Lord" (cf. Lev. 19:2; 20:7). And thus he who was deluded in error—being a man who, coming to God and seeking a priest, yet under the sway of error joined a sacrilegious [imposter]—might in the Church's true baptism put off this very error. For to accept with approval those whom the heretics [and schismatics] have baptized is to endorse the baptism they administer. For one cannot be only partially capable. If he had the power to baptize, then he could also impart the Holy Spirit. But if he was incapable of giving the Holy Spirit, in that being outside [the Church] he does not have it to begin with, then he does not have the power to baptize anyone who might come to him.

Baptism being one, and the Holy Spirit being one, there is also but one Church, founded upon (Peter the Apostle of old confessing) oneness by Christ our Lord. And for this reason, whatever is performed by them [i.e. the heretics] is reprobate, being as it is counterfeit and void. For nothing can be acceptable or desirable to God which is performed by them, whom the Lord in the Gospels calls His foes and enemies: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Mt.12:30). And the blessed Apostle John, in keeping with the Lord's commends, wrote in his epistle: "You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and now many antichrists have appeared" (1 Jn. 2:18). Hence we know it is the last hour. They came out from among us, but they were not from among us. Therefore, we too ought to understand and consider that the enemies of the Lord, and the so-called antichrists, would not be able to gratify the Lord. And therefore, we who have the Lord with us, and who hold fast to the unity of the Lord, abundantly supplied as we are in proportion to His excellence, and exercising His priesthood in the Church: we ought to disapprove, and refuse, and reject, and consider profane everything done by those opposed to Him, i.e. His foes the antichrists. And we ought to impart in full the mystery of divine power, unity, faith and truth unto those who from error and perversity come to us for knowledge of the Church's true faith.

Canon I of the Synod of Carthage (258) Affirmed and Upheld by the Sixth Ecumenical Council

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