"I CONFESS ONE BAPTISM…"
Holy Canons dealing with Baptism
1. Canons of the Holy Apostles (as recorded by Clement)
Canon XLVI (46)
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). (P, p. 51.)
Canon XLVII (47)
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. (P, p. 55.)
Canon L (50)
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 defrocked. For the Lord did not say, ‘’Immerse [tr. Of Gk. verb âáðôßæåéí] into my death’’; but, ‘’Go and make all the nations disciples, immersing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’’ (Mt. 28:19). (P, pp. 62-63.)
Canon LXVIII (68)
If a bishop or presbyter, or deacon accept a second ordination from anyone, let him and he who ordained him be defrocked, unless it be established that he had been ordained by heretics. For those who are baptized or ordained by such cannot possibly be either believers or clerics. (P, p. 89.)
2. Canons of Ecumenical Councils
First Council, 325 A.D.
Canon VIII (8)
Concerning those coming over to the catholic and Apostolic Church who at one time called themselves Catharoi, it seemed right to the holy and great Council that they have hands laid upon them and thus remain in the clergy. Above all, though, they should confess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the catholic and Apostolic Church. That is, that they will be in communion with persons married a second time, and with those who during the persecution lapsed from the faith (regarding whom a time has been fixed and a due season set [for penance]); so that they follow the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. So, wherever – be it in small towns or in cities – any of them belonging to the clergy be the only ones ordained, they shall retain their clerical order. But if any come over where there is already a bishop of the catholic Church, lest there be two bishops in the city, the Church’s bishop obviously shall hold the office of bishop, while the other, named bishop by the so-called Catharoi, shall have the honor of presbyter, except if it seem right to the bishop that he share the honor nominally. But if this be not to the bishop’s liking, he shall devise for the other a position of either provincial bishop or presbyter, so that it appears that in every way he belongs to the clergy. (P, p. 133.)
Canon XIX (19)
Concerning those who belonged to the sect of the Paulianists, and who subsequently took refuge in the catholic Church, a definition has been promulgated that they be rebaptized without fail. If any of them, in the foregone interval, were examined as clergy, if they appeared to be blameless and irreproachable, after being rebaptized let them be ordained by the bishop of the catholic Church. But if the investigation finds them unsuitable, they ought to be defrocked. Likewise concerning the deaconesses, and in general concerning all those examined in the canonry, the same formula shall be closely observed. We made mention of the deaconesses who were examined as members of that order, for they have not even had the laying on of hands, so that without fail they are to be examined as laity. (P, p. 147.)
Second Council, 381 A.D.
Canon VII (7)
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 Sabbatians, and Novatians who call themselves Catharoi and Aristeroi, and Tessareskaidekatitæ otherwise known as Tetraditæ, 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 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.’’
Eunomians, on the other hand, who are baptized with one immersion, and Montanists who in this [City] are called Phrygians, and Sabellians who teach 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. (P, p. 163.)
Penthekte (i.e. Sixth) Council, 691-692 A.D.
Canon XCV (95)
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 Tessareskaidekatitæ otherwise known as Tetraditæ, 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 baptized 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. (P, p. 304.)
3. Local Councils
Carchedon-Carthage, 258 A.D.
Canon [I] (of St. Cyprian)
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 form 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, ho 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 [Note in P: some sources add 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 commands, 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. (P, pp. 368-369.)
Council of Laodicea, ca 360 A.D.
Canon VII (7)
Concerning those who convert from the heresies of the Novatians, Photinians, or Tessareskaidecatitæ – be they their catechumens or their would-be believers – they are not to be admitted before they anathematize every heresy, and particularly the one in which they were bound; and thus their so-called believers, once they learn the beliefs of the faith and have been anointed with holy Chrism, may thenceforth partake of the holy Mysteries. (P, pp. 422-423.)
Canon VIII (8)
Concerning those who convert from the heresy of the so-called Phrygians, even if they be members of their imagined clergy, even if they be said to be of cardinal standing, they are to be catechized with all care and baptized by the Church’s bishops and presbyters. (P, p. 423.)
Council of Carthage, 419 A.D.
Canon LVII (57)
[It is decreed] that rebaptisms, or reordinations, or transfers of bishops not be permitted to occur; and that he who wished not to conform to Your Holiness’ gentle admonition and rectify his unpardonable [move] be forthwith prevented forcibly with the aid of the governmental authorities; and, when the established procedure has been carried out in connection with him, he not be judged [as though] a member of the Synod. (P, p. 491.)
Canon LXXX (80)
It so pleased [the Council] regarding the infants: Whenever reliable witnesses cannot be found who can say that without a doubt these have been baptized, nor be the infants themselves capable of answering in regards to any sacrament administered to them, on account of their very young age, these ought to be baptized without any hindrance, lest such a doubt deprive them of this extremely important purification by the sanctification. (P, p.503.)
4. The Canonical Letters of St. Basil the Great (d. 378 A.D.)
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 Pepouzenoi, 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. 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 gathering 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, Encratitæ, Hydroparastatæ, and Apotactitæ – 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 Encratitæ. 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 rebaptizer 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. (P, pp. 586-588.)
Canon V (5)
We ought to admit those heretics who repent on their deathbed; admit them, that is, not indiscriminately, but examining whether the decision they exhibit for change of mind is genuine, and whether they have the fruits that witness to a zeal for salvation. (P, p. 592.)
Canon XX (20)
The women members of heresies who chose marriage after once vowing virginity, I do not think ought to be sentenced [when they convert to Orthodoxy]. ‘’For whatever the law says it says to those who are under the law’’ (Rom. 3:19). Whereas they who have not yet come under they yoke of Christ do not yet know the Master’s legislation either. Hence they are admissible into the Church, and together with all other sins they have forgiveness on this matter as well, as a consequence of their belief in Christ. And in general, what is committed in the catechumen state is not reckoned for liability, given that the Church does not receive these persons without baptism anyway. Such being the case, the privileges deriving from generation [i.e. the forgiveness of all former sins deriving from rebirth in baptism] are in this matter of utmost necessity. (P, p. 604.)
Canon XLVII (47)
Encratitæ and Saccophors and Apotactitæ all come under the same rule as the Novatians. For a Canon was promulgated concerning the latter, although it varies from place to place; whereas nothing specific has been said regarding the former. Be that as it may, we simply rebaptizer such persons. If among yourselves this measure of rebaptizing is banned, as it most surely is among the Romans for the sake of some economia regarding their baptism, nevertheless let what we say prevail. For their heresy is something of an offshoot of the Marcionites who abominate marriage, and disdain wine, and say that God’s creations is defiled. Therefore we do not receive them into the Church unless they be baptized in our baptism. And let them not say, ‘’We have been baptized in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,’’ when they suppose – as they do in a manner rivaling Marcion and the rest of the heresies – that God is the maker of things evil. Hence if this please you, then more bishops must come together and thus set forth the Canon, so as to afford security to him who performs [rebaptism], and so that he who defends this practice might be considered trustworthy when responding on such matters. (P, p. 617.)
Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.
Last Update: 15-9-2007.