Previous // Contents // Next

 

"I CONFESS ONE BAPTISM"

 

II

INTERPRETATION OF THE CANON


1. Ecclesiological and canonical presuppositions

            IN ORDER to understand the manner in which our writers view the Canon in question, we must stay with their presuppositions which are the fruit of the spiritual level of the time, on the hand, and of their theology, on the other. The theological thought of these theologians moves within the framework of the following ecclesiological and canonical presuppositions:

            a) The absolute center around which their theological conscience is formed is Eph. 4:5: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and, consequently, One Church, within which alone are the sacraments valid and redemptive. This Church is the Orthodox Church, their Church.[19] In other words, they clearly follow the ecclesiology of St. Cyprian of Carchedon-Carthage,[20] which, moreover, the entire Orthodox East followed as a rule,[21] in contrast with the West which, here too, followed Augustine.

            b) The Apostolic Canons (XLVI, XLVII, L, and LXVIII) which definitively regulate the sacrament of baptism have preeminent and indisputable authority. These theologians do not simply accept that the Apostolic Canons belong to the Church, but also that they are genuinely Apostolic,[22] from which authenticity proceeds their increased authority in the Church. Thus, these Canons are always listed before every other group of Canons, given that both the Canons of the Councils (Ecumenical and Local) as well as those of the holy Fathers are in agreement with them,[23] being as they are of fundamental importance for the life of the Church. As regards baptism, according to our writers, the decision of the Council presided over by Cyprian in 258 was based on the aforementioned Apostolic Canons. And this decision gained Ecumenical authority by its ratification by Canon II of the Penthekte Council.[24] Therefore, there can be no decision of the Church opposed to the Apostolic Canons, the Canon of St. Cyprian, or even those of St. Basil the Great (I and XLVII), which, by virtue of Canon II of Penthekte, have also acquired Ecumenical authority,[25]

            c) More specifically with regard to the sacrament of baptism, in accordance with Eph. 4:5 and the Creed, there exists one and only one baptism, the baptism of the One Church, i.e. the Orthodox Church.[26] This one is a baptism properly speaking, performed by three immersions and emersions, inasmuch as the term can mean only this.[27] Baptism by trine immersion is taught by God and God-given;[28] this is confirmed by the Apostolic, synodal and patristic Canons.[29] It is in this baptism that we believe, remarks Oikonomos, and this is the only one baptism that we confess, never to be repeated.[30]

            d) Heretics of every kind as defined by St. Basil (Canon I), whom our theologians follow in this point also,[31] are outside the Church, and consequently their baptism is wholly without substance, i.e. pseudo-baptism and not true,[32] since it is performed outside the Church.[33] Hence, even in the event that it is performed by three immersions, i.e. in accordance with the correct form of the Churchs baptism, it can in no way be considered illumination, being as it is in essence pollution.[34] Heretics cannot possibly have baptism, for they are unsound as regards the faith,[35] and thus the baptism which they administer is of no benefit to them, since it lacks the correct faith.[36] According to Neophytos, the faith of the heretics is anathematized, whereas ours is blessed. Nor is our baptism and theirs one and the same.[37] Therefore, as St. Nikodemos observes, even if the invocation of the Holy Trinity and the baptismal rite are done correctly by heretics, those super-diving names remain inactive and ineffective when pronounced by the mouths of heretics.[38]

            Moreover, heretics cannot possibly have baptism, for they do not have priesthood. Priesthood and baptism are bound together,[39] and it is wholly necessary to accept either both or neither.[40] Heretical baptism is not capable of providing remission of sins,[41] and therefore all heretics coming over to the Church must necessarily be baptized.[42] It is clear that these views are founded on St. Cyprians Canon and Canon XLVII of St. Basil,[43]  which, according to the Kollyvades, marked the way of acrivia,[44] according to which there is no room for discussion concerning, validity of heretical sacraments in themselves.

            e) The altering of the God-given form of the Churchs one baptism, without urgent necessity,[45] constitutes an uncondonable breach of Apostolic tradition,[46] and an odious and abominable act.[47] According to Neophytos, baptism is homologous to the dogmas,[48] and trine immersion is itself also a dogma.[49] Baptism is not a mere ecclesiastical usage that can be considered on the basis of custom and tradition, but belongs to the faith itself.[50] Hence, to distinguish the confession from the form of the baptism is not allowed. To the question, which is more important and essential, the external mode, or the faith? Oikonomos responds: both.[51] And he quotes St. Basil, according to whom faith and baptism are two modes that are mutually inherent and undivided; for faith is perfected through baptism, while baptism is founded through faith.[52] The correct confession on faith must be accompanied by perfect baptism, for only this baptism in return perfects the faith, according to Oikonomos.[53]

            f) That trine immersion is requisite for the foundation of the sacrament befits its dogmatic nature. By the trine immersion, we confess the dogma of the divinely sovereign Trinity pronounced in the invocations; and not only this, but also the dogma of the dispensation of Christ our God and Savior, inasmuch as the three immersions and emersions symbolically typify His death and burial, and His resurrection on the third day.[54] According to St. Nikodemos, it is not a matter of mere symbolism, but of reality, for the person effects the Lords death in himself. That is, the person who is baptized dies and is buried with Christ in the baptismal water (cf. Rom. 6:9). Without the three immersions, it is impossible for there to be in us the likeness of Christs death and three- day burial. Yet, the Orthodox baptism at the same time typifies the descent into Hades of the Lords soul. Hence, through the typification of Christs burial, the body of the baptized person is fashioned by God; whereas through the typification of the descent into Hades, his soul is deified. In this manner St. Nikodemos sums up the relevant patristic teaching.[55]

            These presuppositions aid us in correctly assessing the theological standpoint of the Kollyvades, and of C. Oikonomos who was of one mind with them, regarding Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, and in general the manner of receiving both earlier and later heretics.

 

[19] P, pp. 51, 57. E, pp. 139, 142, 147 xiii-xiv (one baptism in the one Church). O, pp. 499, 485, 511.

[20] Letters 73:21 and 69:1, 2, 10; 11 Cf. Tertullian, De baptismo 15.

[21] See Ware, p. 82.

[22] According to Neophytos (E, p. 132), through them speaks the assembly of the Apostles; cf. pp. 131, 132, 133, the greatest of all Councils, that of the Apostles, E, pp. 143-144. See P. pp. xxiv, 53, 55. O, pp. 399, 452-453, 480. During Oikonomos time, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Argos. E. Diogeneidis, attacked the authority of the Apostolic Canons. See G. D. Metallinos, (The question of the Translation of Holy Scripture into Modern Greek in the Nineteenth Century) (Athens, 1977), p. 394. Oikonomos refuted him through the special study mentioned above (On the Churchs three Sacerdotal Orders).

[23] P, p. 55. O, pp. 453-454.

[24] E, pp. 128, 142. P, pp. 51, 370-371. O, p. 453. Neophytos declares: I would sooner depart from my soul than from the incontestable order that the Council of Carchedon-Carthage laid down (p. 142).

[25] E, pp. 142, 147a-147b. P, p. 52. O, pp. 426, 451. M, p. 263.

[26] P, p. 51. According to Neophytos: Well, then, if our baptism and that of heretics is one and the same, then our faith and theirs is also one, even as there is one Lord. But in fact our faith and theirs are not one, and therefore neither is baptism, even as the Lord is not with them E, p. 142. Cf. O, pp. 441, 454ff, 485. Oikonomos speaks about Orthodox baptism. Heretical sacraments are, according to him, ineffectual (p. 459).

[27] , from (Mod. Gr. , i.e. dip, dunk). O, p. 402. Oikonomos refutes at length the arguments of his opponents (p. 398ff). Cf. pp. 436ff, 442ff. P, p. 63ff. And according to A. Parios (M, p. 266), baptism means to submerse in water the person being baptized.

[28] O, pp. 399, 426. Cf. p. 413: all-holy and true. According to the Ecumenical Councils, the trine immersion and emersion constitutes the conformity to the Lords command and signifies the triune nature of God. John Rinne (Archbishop of Finland), (Unity and Uniformity in the Church, according to the Spirit of the Ecumenical Councils) (Thessaloniki, 1971), pp. 37-38.

[29] P, p. 63f. O, p. 399.

[30] O, p. 426. according to Neophytos: The Church of Christ confesses one baptism: not only in that she does not baptize anyone twice, but also that she baptizes everyone with one and the same baptism, and not some with one kind of baptism and others with another E, p. 142.

[31] See E, p. 126; P, p. 587; O, pp. 89, 420.

[32] E, p. 134; P, pp. 51, 55, 370; O, p. 413.

[33] Cf. J. Kotsonis, (On the Validity of Anglican Orders as seen from the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church) (Athens, 1957), p. 18. According to Neophytos (E, p. 127): the [baptism] belonging to heretics is completely rejected, while that of those in schism is accepted, when consecrated by the simple anointing with chrism, on the basis of Apostolic Canons XLVII and LXVIII, Canon I of Cyprian, and XLVII of Basil the Great.

[34] E, pp. 133, 147f. Neophytos here invokes the holy Fathers Cyprian, Athanasios the Great, Basil the Great, Canon VIII of Laodicea and the Apostolic Canons.

[35] E, pp. 142; 135-136.

[36] P, pp. 52-53.

[37] E, p. 137.

[38] P, p. 56. And according to Neophytos, nor is simply trine immersion with the invocations in itself sufficient for the success of the sacrament, E, p. 147 xiv. This is so because the true baptism of Apostolic Canon XLVII should not be thought of as being simply that which is performed in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and in three immersions, but also that which is performed with a sound confession of the Trinity E, p. 139.

[39] It is the same principle for both baptism and ordination, E, p. 147 xxii. Cf. O, pp. 459, 492; E, p. 133f: Heretics are neither Orthodox nor priests. E, p. 137. Cf. Apostolic Canon LXVIII, and Apostolic Injunctions VI, 15.

[40] E, p 147 xxii. According to Apostolic Canon LXVIII, heretics do not have priesthood, and consequently the rites performed by them are profane and destitute of grace and sanctification, P,  pp. 50, 52. According to the Apostolic Canon, their priests are false; hence, their baptism is surely also false, E, p 147 xiii.

[41] E, p. 147 xiv. Correctly Neophytos adds: For it does provide it, then they join the Church for no reason, and the heretics who do not join hear this.

[42] P, p. 370.

[43] See E, p. 132.

[44] This was ratified by Canon II of Penthekte. O, p. 491. For how our writers understand acrivia and economia, see pp. 31-36 of this study.

[45] O, p. 398.

[46] Ibid.

[47] O, p. 485.

[48] E, p. 147 xiv. Also according to Oikonomos, the innovation regarding the form of baptism is not a heresy, i.e. not a dogmatic one according to the exact meaning of the wordIt is, however, an adominable and execrable practice, not at all purifying any guilt of heresy whatsoever. It is the unholy invention of heretical men, and a falsification of the delivered form O, p. 485. In other words, it is the fruit of heresy!

[49] E, p. 147 xvii. Cf. St. Basils Canon I, and On the Holy Spirit 27, PG 32:285Cf.

[50] E, p. 147 xiv.

[51] O, p. 425.

[52] On the Holy Spirit 12, PG 32:117B. Cg. E, p. 147 xiv, 147 xvii.

[53] O, p. 426.

[54] O, p. 398-399. M, p. 266. Cf. Ware, p. 91ff.

[55] P, p. 63f.

 

____________

Previous // Contents // Next

Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.

Last Update: 15-9-2007.

Up