1. Sacred Icons and sacred Canons
One might wonder: Why are we making this parallel, or this comparison?
We are making this parallel - this parallel connection - because the
divine and Sacred Canons are "images" of the Church. They
express and they reflect the conscience of the Church. These
Canons indicate to us what the Church wants, and they determine how
the local Churches should be established, organized, and how they
should function and act - inasmuch as they represent the universal
Church - as other images of Her. However, these Canons also
determine everything pertaining to the order and the unity within
the universal Church, which in turn gives the world a positive image
of Her presence within it.
However, apart from the above and in order to examine matters in
essence, it should be noted that sacred Canons are an outcome - an
emanation - of the dogmatic teaching and truth of the Church; they
are an implementation of the dogmas of Her faith. As correctly
stressed by Vl. Lossky, "the Canons that regulate the life of the
Church 'in Her terrestrial aspect' are inseparably linked to the
Christian dogmas. They are not legalistic regulations - so to
speak - but rather, are the implementation of the dogmas of the
Professor John Karmiris also notes in his "Ecclesiology":
sacred Canons that support the ecclesiastic polity, having acquired
a universal and eternal character (which is the destination of the
Church), constitute Her positive Law, which regulates the relations
between Her members, so that "everything might be done in a seemly
and orderly manner (1 Cor. 14:40)» (2).
The Metropolitan of Servia and Kozani Dionysios very aptly comments:
«The matters of the Church are matters of life, where theory is not
separated from practice. The separation of Church matters,
supposedly into the theoretical and the practical, leads to the
splitting of the ecclesiastic organism and a conflict of laws within
one's life» (3).
In this way, the dogmatic truth of the Church, Her ecclesiology and
Her sacred Canons comprise an unbroken unity. That is why the
sacred Canons of the Church provide an authentic image of the Church
and Her Ecclesiology and also present Her identity within Her daily
and terrestrial aspect, life and activity.
The question of course that arises immediately, is: Which
Canons give us that authentic image of the Church and Her
Ecclesiology? We certainly need to clarify and to stress that
the Canons which provide that authentic image are the authentic
Canons of the Church; the Canons which have been decreed or
validated by the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. They are the
ones which were expressed in the Holy Spirit - with the supervision
of the Holy Spirit - and express the Church perpetually and
permanently, through Time and in every place, eternally and
ecumenically - universally.
The aforementioned are also supported in the 1st Canon of the 7th
Ecumenical Council, where the participant Fathers proclaimed: «...
we welcome and embrace the divine Canons, and we corroborate the
entire and rigid fiat of them that have been set forth by the
renowned Apostles, who were and are trumpets of the Spirit, and
those both of the six holy Ecumenical Councils and of the ones
assembled regionally for the purpose of setting forth such edicts,
and of those of our holy Fathers. For, all those men, having been
guided by the light dawning out of the same Spirit, prescribed rules
that are to our best interest» (4).
Likewise, in the 2nd Canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council -
which constitutes a kind of official, concise codification of the
sacred Canons of the Church - it is proclaimed that:
too has appeared best to the this holy Council, as well as most
important, that the 85 Canons handed down to us in the name of the
holy and glorious Apostles, and as a matter of fact accepted and
validated by the holy and blissful Fathers preceding us
and we ratify all the rest of the sacred Canons promulgated by our
holy and blissful Fathers (5)
and no one shall be permitted to countermand
or set aside the Canons previously laid down, or to recognize and
accept any Canons, other than the ones herein specified, that have
been composed under a false inscription by certain persons who have
taken in hand to barter the truth. If, nevertheless, anyone be
caught innovating with regard to any of the said Canons, or
attempting to subvert it, he shall be responsible in respect of that
Canon and shall receive the penance which it prescribes and be
chastised by that Canon which he has offended» (6).
So, with regard to the aforementioned, authentic Canons:
a) Those who do not acknowledge and embrace the divine Canons do not
not follow after the Fathers and as such are somehow amiss.
b) Those who do not accept that the Canons were instituted by the
Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils through the illumination of the
Holy Spirit - that is, through a divine supervision - are
disbelievers in regard to the witness-teaching of the Fathers and
the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils.
c) Those who do not accept that they are
rendered certain and reassured of the therapy of souls and the
healing of passions by
those validations (by the Councils), become a stumbling-block to the
salvation of the faithful.
d) Those who falsify or violate the Canons, or accept other Canons
that are contrary to the truth and the correctness of those Canons
are adulterating the truth and are leaning towards delusion and
heresy because they are opposed to the Canons.
e) Those who innovate or attempt to revise any single one of those
Canons, clearly are Canonoclasts.
And to speak with one or two examples:
who convert the primacy of seniority or the distinction of honour
(as recognized by the Canons) into a primacy of authority and power
(the Papal authority "of this world"), or, those who convert and
revise the penances foreseen by the Canons (for the therapy and the
salvation of the souls of the faithful) into penalties and sanctions
(despotic authority "of this world") in order to physically or
socially punish clergy or laity, need to judge whether they
themselves perhaps fall into the category of Canonoclasts...
We could further say, by expanding on the matter:
who also teach others to not observe the Canons are more
Canonoclasts than those who themselves do not observe them.
Those who do not observe and do not apply the Canons - whether out
of ignorance or out of weakness or negligence and indifference - are
merely sinners; however, those who teach the non-observance of the
Canons are not just sinners - they are also heretics.
Canonoclasts are also those who assert that Canons are variable,
transient and temporary, and that we can change them like we change
the laws of the State, which, however, neither possess nor claim
infallibility and that is the reason we can abolish them and
Likewise, Canonoclasts are also those who assert that the Canons
conflict with each other without any reason to do this, or without
having extensively and scientifically examined the matter, on the
basis of the principles of interpretation and harmonization of the
These are the ones who think that they know "something"; this
is the case where the principle of sciolism(*)
Among the Canonoclasts are also those who demote the divine Canons
to the level of various human laws, or, in the opposite case, those
who elevate their own Canonistic decrees to the level of the sacred
Canons, even before an
Ecumenical Council has granted them the
necessary authenticity and the seal - if of course they are worthy
are not only those who indulge in the aforementioned acts or
attempts or in obstinate opinions, but also those who prompt or
motivate those who work on Canons - the Canonologists - to indulge
in the aforementioned acts and theories, as well as those who attack
them. Of course Canonoclasts are (at least indirectly) also
those Canonologists who are indifferent towards any form of
falsification or alteration or amendment or violation of sacred
Canons, for fear of displeasing or "spoiling" their relations with
the powers that be or the secular perceptions or demands in
circulation at the time.
Of course Canonoclasts are also - perhaps unintentionally - those
who want to be "more royal than the king" -
in this case, those who want to be "more ecclesiastic than the
sacred Canons". In other words, they want to become "more devout"
than the Canons of the Church have decreed. An example of this
are those who fast on all other Saturdays -
and not just the Holy Saturday of Easter Week per the explicit
instruction of the Canons.
therefore, are not those who do not observe the sacred Canons out of
possible ignorance or weakness, but those who do not observe them -
who do not safeguard them as a legacy, as well as those who do not
embrace them, but instead revise them and disregard them or put them
Finally, Canonoclasts can be the
result of those who absolutize the strength of the Canons - and in
fact the Canons that they themselves select - and they seek to
always impose them, no matter what, especially upon others and in
total disregard of human nature and human weakness and infirmity.
These cases appear as unrelenting champions of the sacred Canons,
and attached to the verbatim wording. We could refer to them as "Canonophiles",
much like idolaters of other times. However, in a final analysis,
they end up as Canonoclasts because they give people the wrong
impression about what their objective and their character is.
These Canonophiles cause those who are weak in their Orthodox faith
and the genuine ecclesiastic life to erroneously believe that the
sacred Canons do not express the spirit of justice and love of the
Gospel; rather, that they are cruel, legalistic formulations.
One could in fact assert that these Canonophiles are no less
dangerous than the Canonoclasts. Their inadequate knowledge of
Canonical (Ecclesiastic) Law and the Church institutions, such as
ecclesiastic Oikonomia (providence) has precisely these
is worse than total ignorance",
as the familiar saying goes.
They are not fully cognizant,
that the prestige and authority of the divine Canons is absolute
and as such, they can be unerring guides
(in general and perennially), while
- quite the opposite - their validity and their implementation is
relative (i.e., it can be determined, depending on the
circumstances, on the instances - personal or several - and on human
weaknesses.) Naturally, the situations, the prerequisites and
the conditions will be judged by a pertinent authority
(ecclesiastic, bishop, synod, or a synodically appointed
instrument) which will appropriately
provide that oikonomia -
that is, the
pre-approved permission to deviate from those Canons, or
the belated forgiveness for having
People of this category (Canonophiles)
are not familiar with the institution of
ecclesiastic oikonomia, which allows the pertinent instruments of
the Church the right to "administer" permission or forgiveness for a
certain provisional and logical deviation from the faithful
observance of the sacred Canons (not
a deviation from the dogmas) and of course always in the light of
Christian love and for the salvation of mankind. (8).
They don't know that there exists the measure of ecclesiastic
oikonomia, which is the in-Christ liberty that the Church has, for
administering divine Grace in order to manage the matters of Her
house - always of course for the spiritual benefit of man, who may
be inside Her as well as outside Her (9), and
not for the personal material or secular benefit of Her instruments.
Perhaps they are also unable to
perceive or to comprehend that this oikonomia functions in such a
way that no abolition or revision or amendment of the sacred Canons
can be justified.
They do not remember - or they
pretend not to remember - the words of the Lord, Who taught that
"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark
2:27), without of course abolishing the Sabbath.
Finally, don't these people
essentially become not only hostile towards the Canons, but also
hostile towards people, or perhaps even
homicidal towards them?
In the end, one could surmise that in general, Canonoclasts who
"lash out" and destroy the divine and sacred Canons (which are
reflections of the Church) indirectly render themselves - and end up
being - actual opponents of the Church. In confirmation of the
aforementioned, we would like to remind the reader of the words of
Saint John the Chrysostom: "And I say that 'Church' ... not
the walls of a church, but the laws of the Church... for the Church
is not about walls and floors, but about faith and way of life."
For all the above reasons, it is our
humble opinion and proposal that the Church should, in a forthcoming
(next) Ecumenical or General Council, preoccupy itself firstly and
chiefly with the matter of Ecclesiology, with regard also to the
matter of the sacred Canons and the place of the Canonoclasts -
Church opponents or the Canonophiles that are within Her. If
the Church had expressed Her stance towards sacred Icons and the
Iconoclasts - Iconophiles, then She should
likewise be expressing Her stance in the matter of the divine and
sacred Canons to begin with and in principle, and subsequently on
the matter of the Canonoclasts and the Canonophiles.
At the same time, the entire pleroma
of the Church should ask itself: If the proper or due honour
is appropriate for Holy Icons, shouldn't
there be an analogous (or greater) honour bestowed on the divine and
sacred Canons? Furthermore, if the proper honoring of Icons
transcends to the holy personages depicted therein, then shouldn't
the proper honoring of the Canons of the Church transcend to the
Holy Church and Her divine Head?
And in the opposite case, if the
dishonoring and disregard of the Icons transcends to the holy
persons depicted therein, wouldn't
it perhaps be along the same logic, to say that the disregard and
dishonoring of the sacred Canons transcends to the Persons of the
Most Holy God and the the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church who
legislated and instituted them?
On the basis of these facts and the
related analogies and "terms" and questions, the Church should
deliberate and decide whether in the case of the Canonoclasts and
the Canonophiles we are in fact dealing with an ecclesiological
heresy, as in the case of the Iconophiles and the Iconoclasts.
In which case, the ministering Church will duly enlighten Her fold -
both the clergy and the laity - and perhaps even warn them, and
finally implement the appropriate measures and/or penances.
the practice of opinionating on subjects of which one has
only superficial knowledge.
1. V. Lossky -
Transl. by St.Plevrakis, The
Mystic Theology of the Eastern Church, Thessaloniki
1964, p.206. Cmp.
constitutional consolidation of the sacred
the series «Koinonia»,
2. J.Karmiris, Ďrthodox
(Section V Dogmatics),
1973, p. 520.
Psarianos, Metropolitan of Servia
Ode of Grace, in
Rallis - M..Potlis, Constitution
of the divine and sacred Canons, Vol.II,
of Canons available here :
relative Canons are thereafter presented by name.
Rallis - M..Potlis, Vol.II,
Pan. Boumis, Canonical
Law, 3rd Edition
by "Gregoris" publications, Athens 2002,
p. 69: «The interpreter
and the prerequisited for interpreting the sacred Canons»,
Principles of interpretation (and
harmonization) of the s. Canons».
Pan. Boumis, Canonical
Pan. Boumis, Canonical
the Chrysostom ,
Homily: When Eutropios
found himself outside the Church, he was excommunicated, ŃG 52,