On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Coming to Her from Other Christian Churches

By Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pogodin)

Originally published in Russian in Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya
(Messenger of the Russian Christian Movement)
Paris-New York-Moscow, Nos. 173 (I-1996) and 174 (II-1996/I-1997).

Translated with permission of the author by Alvian N. Smirensky

Translation Copyright © 2000 Alvian N. Smirensky. All Rights Reserved.
Publication Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved.
For information on re-publication write to webmaster@holy-trinity.org

Holy Trinity Cathedral Web Site

Introductory Notes - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Appendices

- ONE -

How the question of the reception of the heterodox was resolved in the Ancient Church, during the time of the Ecumenical Councils and before the Fall of Constantinople. The Church’s view and legislation on this problem.

Inasmuch as we will be making references to Church canons, i.e., to her laws and decisions, it behooves to note that every canonist, upon perusing any canon, must take into account: when and under what circumstances was the canon written and to whom does it refer. Then: does the particular canon express a fundamental position as the very principle of the Church, or does it merely reflect a particular time and has it been amended by later legislation of the Church,[5] and how does the decisive legislation of the Church consider that, which was promulgated during the later Ecumenical Councils. The canons changed because the very circumstances of the Church’s life changed. The Church’s dogmatic teaching became more precise; old heresies fell by the wayside and new ones took their place. Even the external structure of the Church’s government changed and new conditions arose in the life of the Church. The Church’s canons are reflections of the Church’s living organism, and, therefore, in considering this or that canon, one must thoroughly investigate its spirit, taking into account those circumstances which we listed above.

Baptism is the Christian Church’s fundamental sacrament. It was commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ and was performed by the holy apostles,[6] the bishops and presbyters whom they appointed and by their successors. The ancient holy fathers and the Church’s canons speak about the sacrament of baptism.[7] The holy Church administered this baptism as its basic sacrament. Thus apostle Paul writes, " . . . One Lord, one faith, one baptism."[8] In view of the exceptional significance of this sacrament, the holy Church undertook every effort to make sure that none of her members, for whatever reason, was left without baptism, and, on the other hand, to make sure that no one would be baptized more than once, inasmuch as this sacrament, – by analogy with natural birth, as a person’s real birth in Christ for eternal life, – cannot be repeated, as it was impressed in the ancient symbols of faith and as found in our own Creed. These two elements: concern to make certain that no Church member remain without true baptism and the non-repetition of valid baptism, can be found expressed in later Church legislation as well.[9] We first see this in the Apostolic Canons 46 and 47: the first one strictly forbids the bishop or presbyter to recognize heretical baptism as valid;[10] in the second one, the bishop or presbyter is strictly forbidden to repeat a baptism over one who already had a valid baptism.[11]

Thus, Apostolic Canon 46 speaks about the inadmissibility of heretical baptism. Immediately following the text of that canon there is an explanation in the [Russian] Most-holy Governing Synod’s edition as follows:

"This Apostolic Canon refers to heretics in the times of the apostles, who offended against the chief dogmas about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and about the incarnation of the Son of God. The following canons are directed against further kinds of heresies: 1 E.C. 19, Laodicea 7 and 8, and 6 E.C. 95, and Basil Gr. 47."[12]

Thus, this Apostolic Canon refers to the following heretics: whose heresies not only distorted the teachings of the Holy Church, but which could hardly be called "Christian." They consisted of a fantastic mixture either of Judaism and Christianity or of a pagan philosophy with a superficial coloration of Christianity, resembling Eastern mysteries mixed with fantasy. Prof. Posnov in describing these heresies concludes: "The Judeo- and Pagano-Christian distortions were not Christian heresies in a real sense."[13] Concerning the heresies that appeared at the end of the second and the third centuries on the Christian soil, they consisted of a complete absurd in the dogmatic sense. The "Circular Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs" of 1848 rightfully calls these heresies "monstrosities" and "pathetic imaginations and brainstorms of sad people."[14] Even such a heresy as Montanism, more closer in structure of the holy Church, was far removed from the authentic teaching of the Church, introducing a new revelation which supposedly was given to Montanus on the basis of which the sect’s world-view was built.[15] Although their baptism was performed in the name of the Holy Trinity, the addition of the formula "and in the name of the spirit of Montanus" invalidated all baptisms.

Thus, the Apostolic Canons have in view specific heretics and refer to those ancient times.[16] It is clear that the Church could not have accepted such heretics as Christians in any case. However, all these heresies had their own sacred ablution or "baptism." "Baptism" in one form or another is common to all religions. The so-called "Dead Sea Scrolls" show us that the Essenes in addition to, and ranking with circumcision, practiced a baptism.[17] These sacred ablutions or "baptisms" of the 2nd century heretics had nothing in common with the baptism performed in the Church. Church baptism consisted of two elements: a sensible teaching about the Holy Trinity and about the Incarnation of the Son of God. Heretical baptism had neither, and therefore, it could not be accepted as equivalent to the baptism performed in the holy Church. Canon 46 of the Apostolic Canons was written to dispel any misunderstanding. These people needed to be baptized in the Church since they, in the Church’s judgement, were not baptized. But, as we pointed out, the following canon, 47th, forbade the repetition of that baptism that was validly performed.

Christianity saw no small number of heresies during the 3rd and 4th centuries, and the originators of the heresies were bishops or prominent presbyters. How to treat those who came to Orthodoxy from those heresies? By what method should they be received? There was an immediate difference of views about this problem within the Orthodox Church. Some insisted that they be received only through baptism, i.e., not to recognize their previous baptism as valid even though it was correct in form (i.e., corresponding to the baptism performed in the Orthodox Church). Others maintained a more tolerant view, accepting as valid that baptism, which was performed by some heretics, since it was performed in the name of the Holy Trinity, and did not require that those coming into Orthodoxy from heresy be re-baptized. A stricter line was taken by Tertullian (himself a Montanist), St. Cyprian of Carthage, Firmilian of Caesarea, and Elanus of Tarsus. St. Cyprian, a proponent of the strict line, convoked two councils in this matter (255-256) and insisted that heretics be received by no other way than baptism. St. Stephen, Pope of Rome (253-257) could be considered to hold a more tolerant view, and his position, according to the famous Hefele, was supported by Eastern bishops. At the same time as St. Cyprian along with a council of 71 bishops insisted that heretics lack any grace and for this reason their sacred acts are invalid, Pope St. Stephen received penitent heretics with the laying of a bishop’s hand on their heads. He did this in accord with the tolerant practice, which was held by other Western bishops. We read an ancient decree of the Council in Arles (Canon 8):

"If anyone shall come from heresy to the Church, they shall ask him to say the Creed; and if they shall perceive that he was baptized into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost [in Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto esse baptizatum] he shall have hands laid upon him only so that he may receive the Holy Ghost. But if he was not baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, let him be baptized."[18]

Having learned about the decrees of the Council in Carthage under St. Cyprian’s chairmanship, which demanded the re-baptism of heretics coming into the Church, at first Pope St. Stephen demanded a repeal of these decrees, threatening excommunication and, since the repeals did not take place, he later excommunicated St. Cyprian.[19]

It is interesting to note that Eastern canonists treat the decisions of the Carthage councils critically. Thus, Zonaras commenting on Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council, which calls for the reception of certain kinds of heretics without re-baptism, notes the decree of St. Cyprian, about which he says:

"Thus, the opinions of the Fathers gathered at the council with the great Cyprian do not refer to all heretics and all schismatics. Because the Second Ecumenical Council, as we just pointed out, makes an exception for certain heretics and grants its sanction for their reception without repeating the baptism, demanding only their anointing with the Holy Chrism provided that they renounced their own heresies and all other heresies."

Balsamon calls the decrees of the Council at Carthage "not mandatory and as such ineffective."[20]

Given this evidence, our analysis shows that in the third and the first part of the fourth centuries there were two different practices for the reception of heretics and schismatics into the Orthodox Church: one through re-baptism and the other through repentance. However, the Orthodox Church, being always merciful, tended to lean towards the more lenient view.

Even though the First Ecumenical Council made no final ruling on this question, its three canons: 8th, 11th and 19th, breathe with mercy towards those who have fallen during the time of persecution or those who stepped away from Orthodoxy during the Novatian schism[21] or into Paul of Samosata’s heresy[22]. Novatian’s followers, who called themselves "pure and better," were to be received through repentance. Paulianists were to be received by Baptism since their dogmatic teaching was a distortion of Orthodox teaching, after which their clerics could be received [by ordination, trans.] into the clergy of the Orthodox Church.

We find a number of major Christological heresies in the 4th century such as Arianism, Apollinarianism and their offshoots, as well as heresies touching upon the dogma of the Holy Trinity and the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit (Macedonians). As to the reception of these and other heretics and schismatics into the Orthodox Church, we can see the holy Church has not as yet formulated decisive decrees and there were the two parallel practices noted above governing their reception. However, as we noted above, the Church followed the path of mercy and condescension. St. Basil is a witness to this in his 1st canon. He says that the Orthodox Church can accept only that baptism which in no way differs from that baptism which is performed in the Orthodox Church. A heresy is defined as "a clear difference in the very faith in God." Wherefore, those heretics who belong to heresies that completely distort Christian teaching should be looked upon as lacking that baptism which is performed in the Church, and they should be baptized upon coming into the Church. As for schismatics, i.e., those who split off from the Church on the basis of "ecclesiastical disputes," they can be received by way of repentance. Further St. Basil complains that sometimes Montanists were received into Orthodoxy without re-baptism, i.e., their baptism was accepted as valid. Since such a baptism is performed "in the Father and Son and Montanus or Priscilla," it does not correspond to the baptism performed in the name of the Trinity by the Orthodox. Further St. Basil advances St. Cyprian of Carthage’s point of view according to which all heretics and all schismatics must be re-baptized when coming into the Orthodox Church since the heretics and schismatics are completely lacking in Grace. As a result of all this he says, "But, as some in Asia have otherwise determined, for the edification of many, let their baptism be allowed." In this way St. Basil expressed his authority not in the direction of a rigorous resolution of the problem but in the direction of a merciful and condescending resolution, serving for the benefit of the Church.

The following interpretation of the words of St. Basil the Great was given by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, at its session on 15/28 September 1971:

"Thus, St. Basil the Great, and by his words the Ecumenical Council in confirming the principle that there is no genuine baptism outside the Holy Orthodox Church, allows, out of pastoral condescension, which is called economy, the acceptance of certain heretics and schismatics without a new baptism."

In the period between the First and Second Ecumenical Councils there was a Local Council in Laodicea (c. 363) that decreed, by its 7th Canon: "Persons converted from heresies, that is, of the Novatians, Photinians, and Quartodecimans: . . . shall be received by way of renouncing the heresy and through chrismation." Thus, we see here as well that the more tolerant view prevailed over the more rigid. However, St. Basil the Great’s canons or the Laodicean canons, as authoritative as they may have been, were not as yet laws for the whole universal Church. A decision of an Ecumenical Council[23] was needed. Later, the Sixth Ecumenical Council decreed (in Canon 2) to accept the canons of St. Basil the Great and the canons of Laodicea as laws for the whole Church. This took place more than three centuries later.[24]

It should be acknowledged that with the words of St. Basil the Great and of the Fathers of the Laodicean Council the Church determined a path for further ecumenical legislation, namely — that the decrees (or canons) of the Church be motivated by the spirit of toleration and with a view towards the common benefit of the Orthodox Church. But, in the noted decree of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (and prior to that in the canons of St. Basil the Great and the local council in Laodicea) the following is also evident: that the holy Church accepted as genuine that baptism which was done in the name of the Holy Trinity even though the baptism took place outside of the Orthodox Church, but in all respects corresponded to that baptism which was performed by the Orthodox. In such a case it is accepted as genuine and effective upon the reception of the convert into the Orthodox Church by way of repentance and chrismation. Then the words of St. Basil the Great become quite clear when he says: "The older authorities had judged that baptism acceptable which disregarded no point of the faith." [St. Basil, Canon 1] In the book of Church rites for the reception of the heterodox into Orthodoxy we read the following description in one of the rites:[25] "The office for receiving into the Orthodox faith such persons as have not previously been Orthodox, but have been reared from infancy outside the Orthodox Church, yet have received valid baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, however, rejected other mysteries and customs and who held views contrary to those of the Orthodox Church."[26] Had the holy Orthodox Church doubted the genuineness of such a baptism then there is no question that it would ever subject that person, who comes to her for the sake of the salvation of his soul, to the danger of remaining without baptism, the greatest of sacraments, being motivated by pastoral condescension towards heretics and schismatics, on the basis of economy (i.e., for the general welfare of the Church), i.e., undertaking a compromise at the price of the salvation of that person’s soul who entrusts the Church with the salvation of his soul! Baptism is the fundamental sacrament of the Church without which one cannot be saved. If one were to take note of later times and justifiably say that Protestant ministers lack apostolic succession and upon coming into the Orthodox Church are received as laymen, then we will counter this by noting that in the Orthodox Church baptism can be performed even by a layman if such is demanded by exigency.

But let us turn to the lengthy history of the problem of receiving the heterodox into the Orthodox Church.

The decisive legislation on this matter was promulgated at the Second Ecumenical Council (A.D. 381) in its 7th Canon:

"Those heretics who come over to Orthodoxy and to the society of those who are saved we receive according to the prescribed rite and custom: we receive Arians, Macedonians, Novatianists who call themselves ‘pure and better,’ Quatrodecimans, otherwise known as Tetradites, as well as Appolinarians on condition that they offer libelli (i.e., recantations in writing) and anathematize every heresy that does not hold the same beliefs as the holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, and then they should be marked with the seal, that is, anointed with chrism on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. And as they are marked with the seal, we say, ‘seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ As for Eunomians, however, who are baptized with a single immersion, Montanists, who are called Phrygians, and the Sabellians, who teach that Father and Son are the same person, and who commit other abominable things, and [those belonging to] any other heresies — for there are many of them here, especially among the people coming from the country of the Galatians, — all of them that want to adhere to Orthodoxy we are willing to accept as Greeks [i.e., pagans]. Accordingly, on the first day we make them Christians; on the second day, catechumens; then, on the third day, we exorcise them with the act of blowing thrice into their face and into their ears; and thus we do catechize them, and we make them tarry a while in the church and listen the Scriptures; and then we baptize them."[27]

In this way the Holy Church made the rules: by what order to receive those who come into Orthodoxy from heresy. Those who have a correct baptism are received without re-baptism. Those who do not have baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity — are received by way of Baptism. It must be noted that the Arians and Macedonians held to a wrong teaching about the Persons of the Holy Trinity, but the actual faith in the Holy Trinity, in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was there, and this was sufficient, in the opinion of the holy Church for recognizing the validity (sufficiency) of their baptism.

With this canon the Second Ecumenical Council gave the direction of how to act in the future. Hefele notes that the Holy Fathers and the teachers of the Church, while accepting as valid the baptism of certain heretics, nonetheless felt it necessary to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit, inherent in the holy Orthodox Church, through chrismation.[28]

We have already shown the comparison of Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council with the canons passed by the council at Carthage under St. Cyprian, along with the opinion about this matter by Zonaras and Balsamon.

The Church in Carthage, in the 3rd century under St. Cyprian, maintained such a strict view that it decreed that all heretics and schismatics who came into Orthodoxy be re-baptized without any exceptions. But it changed its views by the 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries and decreed to accept schismatics without re-baptism but by way of repentance and the repudiation of heresy. Former schismatic clerics were received without re-ordination.[29] With respect to such heretics as Arians, Macedonians and others, this issue was not raised at the council (more correctly — a number of councils) in Carthage.

According to the general direction of Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council we see that there developed three orders in the Church for the reception of heretics (and schismatics) into Orthodoxy. The Kormchaya Kniga [Rudder] contains the letter of Timothy, presbyter of Constantinople who lived in the 5th century wherein he writes the following:

"There are three rites for accepting those coming to the Holy Divine, Catholic and Apostolic Church: the first rite demands holy baptism, the second one — we do not baptize but anoint with the Holy Chrism and the third — we neither baptize nor anoint but demand the renunciation of their own and all other heresy."[30]

Thus, those who are to be baptized are heretics in the extreme sense, of which we noted above. Those who are to be anointed with the holy chrism (without performing a second baptism over them) are Arians, Macedonians and those similar to them. Those who are to be received by way of repentance and a repudiation of error, are schismatics as well as certain heretics.

The last word in the legislation of the Universal Church with respect to the reception into Orthodoxy of those coming from heresy or schism is Canon 95 of the 6th Ecumenical Council. Its first part is a verbatim repetition of Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and merely adds a note about the need to re-baptize the followers of Paul of Samosata (in this case referring to Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Council). The second part lists the heresies that arose after the Second Ecumenical Council: Manicheans, Marcionites, and other similar ones, in which almost nothing remained that could be called Christian, and they were to be received through baptism. Nestorians and Monophysites (followers of Eutychus, Dioscoros and Severus) were to be received through repentance and repudiation of their heresies, after which they were to be admitted to Holy Communion.

This final legislation of the Universal Church should have sufficed for all future years of existence of the Orthodox Church. Without a doubt many heresies have died out but new ones appeared. There was no Roman Catholic Church as such because this was still that blessed time when the Eastern and Western churches constituted One Church. Protestantism with its branches was something in the far future. New and barbaric distortions of the healthy and salvific teaching have not risen as yet. However, Canon 95 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council spells out the norms for the Church’s future relationship with emerging schisms and heresies, as well as by which rite to receive those who would desire to become members of the Orthodox Church. We will reiterate this.

Those who have the least degree of dogmatic error are to be received by way of repentance and a repudiation of heresy, under the condition that their church structure preserved apostolic succession. Others, whose dogmatic teaching has undergone a greater distortion or who have not preserved apostolic succession although they were baptized as in the Orthodox Church in the name of the Holy Trinity by triple immersion, are to be received by the second rite, namely, by way of a repudiation of heretical distortions and anointing with the holy Chrism. The third group, whose baptism is not performed in the name of the Holy Trinity with triple immersion, is to be received by way of baptism, which also applies to Jews, Muslims and pagans. The teachings of this group of heretics usually consist of a complete innovation or an admixture of Judaism or paganism with the basic principles of Christianity. But in no way is there any kind of a church structure or apostolic succession, as we understand it.

The ninth century witnessed the sorrowful division between the Eastern and Western Churches. The Great Schism of 1054 created a fissure between the Churches, which over a period of time became even deeper. The Western Church moved not only towards schism with the Orthodox Church but with time it adopted heretical views. The legislation of the Orthodox Church was required to formulate rules about how to treat the Roman Catholic Church – as schismatics or heretics, and to decide along with this, by what rite to receive those Latins who wanted to come to the Orthodox Church. There was no decision on this matter for the longest time. Only in the 15th century, in connection with the Florentine Council (1459) was there any legislation considered.

Prior to the Florentine Council the Greeks considered the Latins to be schismatics. The Latins likewise viewed and called the Greeks "schismatics." Under this understanding Latins coming to Orthodoxy were received by the third rite, i.e., by repudiation of their errors and repentance. St. Mark of Ephesus, that great confessor and pillar of the Orthodox Church, when speaking at the Florentine Council, called the Roman church "holy,"[31] addressing Pope Eugenius with the words "most holy Father,"[32] "blessed Father,"[33] "first among the servants of God,"[34] and he referred to Cardinal Cesarini as "eminent father."[35] He speaks with sadness about the split that took place between the churches and calls upon the Pope and his co-workers to do everything for the union of the Churches. Later, when he saw the total uncompromising position of the Latins with respect to the "Filioque" and became convinced that they are adhering to an error of a dogmatical character, specifically with respect to the procession of the Holy Spirit, he begins to speak about them as heretics. Here is the view of St. Mark of Ephesus that he expressed at an internal meeting of the Greeks in Florence on March 30, 1439:

"The Latins are not only schismatics but are heretics. However, our Church was silent about this because [the Latins] are so numerous; but was this not the reason why the Orthodox Church moved away from them, because they were heretics? We simply cannot unite with them unless they agree to remove the addition (made by them) into the Symbol [Creed], and confess the Symbol just as we confess it."[36]

The Unia that was signed between the Greeks and the Latins in Florence was a terrible humiliation for the Orthodox Church. The Greeks disavowed their traditions in the face of all the demands insisted upon by the Vatican. Upon his return from Florence St. Mark — the defender and leader in the struggle for Orthodoxy — appealed to all Orthodox people with an epistle, in which he called attention of the faithful to the betrayal of Orthodoxy in Florence. And now he refers to the Latins as heretics who, in the event that some of them would come into Orthodoxy, are to be chrismated. He writes as follows:

"The Latins, having no cause to condemn us for our dogmatic teachings, call us "schismatics" because we declined to humble ourselves before them, which they imagine is their due. But let this be scrutinized: would it be just for us to grant them that courtesy and not accuse them of anything with respect to the Faith? They initiated the cause for the split. They openly made an addition (Filioque to the Symbol of Faith), which before they were pronouncing secretly. We were the first to break away from them, but it is better to say that we separated them and cut them off from the common Body of the Church. Why? Do tell me! Because they have the right faith and made the right addition (to the Symbol of Faith)? Who would say such a thing unless his head became damaged! But (we broke away from them) because they demonstrate an impious and wrong-headed view and hurriedly and thoughtlessly made the addition. Thus, we turned away from them as from heretics and for this reason disassociate ourselves from them. The venerable canons say thus: ‘He is a heretic and is subject to the laws against heretics if he — even only in a little way — turns from the Orthodox faith.’[37] If the Latins in no way deviate from the Orthodox Faith then, it seems, we cut them off in error. But if they completely deviated, and this in their theology about the Holy Spirit — sinning against which is the greatest of dangers — then it is clear that they are heretics, and we cut them off as heretics. Why do we anoint them who come to us? — Is not this clear — as heretics? The 7th canon of the Second Ecumenical Council speaks thus: ‘Those heretics who come over to Orthodoxy and to the society of those who are saved we receive according to the prescribed rite and custom: Arians, Macedonians, Novatianists, who call themselves ‘pure and better,’ Quatrodecimans or Tetradites as well as Appolinarians. We receive them on condition that they present a written document and that they anathematize every heresy, which is not in accord with the thinking of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, and then they should be marked with the seal, that is, anointed with chrism on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. And as they are marked with the seal, we say seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

Do you not see how we designate those who come from the Latins? If all those (named in the Canon) are heretics, then it is clear that they (i.e., the Latins) are heretics. What did the learned Antiochian Patriarch Theodore Balsamon write in reply to Mark, the holy Patriarch of Alexandria?

‘The Latin captives and others come into our catholic churches, asking to receive the Divine Mysteries. We would like to know: is this permitted? (Response) "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Mt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23) Inasmuch as many years ago the prominent part of the Western Church, namely Rome, was separated from communion with the other four Most Holy Patriarchs, because they made changes in their customs and dogmas, foreign to the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy — for this reason the Pope became unworthy of the common lifting up of names with the Patriarchs during Divine and Sacred Services — it is not proper to sanctify the Latin tribe through the Divine and Most Pure Gifts (given) from the hands of the priest, unless they (the Latins) first decide to abandon the Latin dogmas and customs and be catechized and admitted (by way of the prescribed rite) to Orthodoxy.’[38]

Have you not heard that they adopted not only customs but also dogmas which are strange to Orthodoxy (and that which is strange to Orthodoxy is most certainly a heretical teaching) and that according to the canons they must be catechized and united to Orthodoxy? If it is necessary to catechize then it is clear that they must be chrismated."[39]

St. Mark of Ephesus wrote these things at a time when the Orthodox Church was subject to massive aggression from the Roman Catholics -- at a time when her very existence, in human terms, was questionable. This was one of the most critical epochs if not the critical epoch in the history of the Orthodox Church. But despite all this, we do not hear St. Mark saying that there was a practice, or that such a practice should be introduced which called to re-baptize Latins desiring to come into the Orthodox Church. St. Mark speaks about anointing them with the Holy Chrism, and no more than that. The views and witness of St. Mark of Ephesus were very important for the future legislation of the Orthodox Church concerning the rite with which those Latins coming into the Orthodox Church would be received. His opinion was upheld by the Council of the four Eastern Patriarchs meeting in Constantinople in 1484 that decreed that Latins that come into Orthodoxy were not to be re-baptized. This view of St. Mark of Ephesus that Latins coming into Orthodoxy should not be re-baptized, was also upheld by the Great Moscow Council in 1667. This will be discussed in detail in the next chapter of our essay.

The 1484 Council in Constantinople is also credited with formulating the rite about how to receive Latins into Orthodoxy. Notwithstanding the two forced Unias — Lyons and Florence, notwithstanding the evil acts of the Latins in Constantinople as well as in the Holy Mountain of Athos (to which the Athos Paterikon is a witness[40]), the holy Orthodox Church, through the words of St. Mark of Ephesus and the Fathers of the 1484 Council in Constantinople, along with previous prominent canonists, acknowledged that to bring Latins (Roman Catholics) into the Orthodox Church, it is sufficient for them to renounce their heretical views, to confess the Orthodox Faith and to promise loyalty to her until the end of their lives. Their actual reception into Orthodoxy is performed through the rite of chrismation.

We have demonstrated that the Universal Orthodox Church instituted canons which were infused with tolerance towards those who, seeking the salvation of their souls, came into Orthodoxy, leaving behind and rejecting their error. The Holy Church received them. Where possible, the Church accepted their baptism and recognized it as valid, even though it was performed in environs outside the Orthodox Church. The Church taught the need to follow the rules that were built upon the wisdom and strength of Orthodoxy as expressed through the words of the fourth century Fathers (St. Basil the Great and the Fathers of the Laodicean Council)[41] and consistently through the end of the fifteenth century through the words of St. Mark of Ephesus and the four Eastern Patriarchs gathered at a Council in Constantinople in 1484, as well as the authority of the Second and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils.[42]

Footnotes and Endnotes

Web Editor's note: the original publication had both footnotes and endnotes. For Internet publication all notes have been converted to endnotes.

[5] As an example we can point to the Apostolic Canon 5 which forbids the bishop to terminate his marriage with his wife. On the other hand Canon 6 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council forbids the bishop to have a wife. Apostolic Canon 37 prescribes that bishopsą councils take place twice a year. Later canons prescribe different schedules. Apostolic Canon 85 lists the canonical books of the Holy Scripture. Later canons decrease the number and others add the Revelation of St. John the Theologian. Canon 15 of Neocesarea prescribes that there shall be seven deacons in any city regardless of size and makes reference to the Acts of the Apostles (Ch. 6). Canon 16 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council repeals this canon which was decreed by the Fathers in Neocesarea. A number of canons in the ancient Church prescribe the age for candidates for the order of presbyter and deacon. Later Church legislation does not require this and adheres to its own understanding. Back to referring section.

[6] Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38ff; Acts 8:12, 38; Acts 19:1-7ff. According to ancient tradition preserved by St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Apostles, as commanded by the Savior, baptized each other and Apostles Peter and John baptized the Theotokos. P.G. n. 78/3 col. 3372. Back to referring section.

[7] Apostolic Canons 24, 47, 49, and 50. Back to referring section.

[8] Ephesians 4:5. Back to referring section.

[9] Ap. Canons 46, 47, 68; Laod. 8; Basil Gr. I; 2 E.C. 7; 6 E.C. 95; Carth. 59. Back to referring section.

[10] The text reads: "We ordain that a bishop, or presbyter, who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?" Back to referring section.

[11] The text reads: "Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false." Back to referring section.

[12] We refer to the 1901 Moscow Synodal edition, pg. 26. [There is a more detailed note in Milash who also refers to the Synodal text. Trans.]. Back to referring section.

[13] M .E. Posnov, History of the Christian Church [Istoriya Khristianskoy Tserkvi], Brussels, 1964, p. 146. See his description of these heresies on pp. 142-149. See also Manual for a Descriptive Study of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. Back to referring section.

[14] Circular Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848, §§ 2 and 3. Cited in the Manual for Descriptive Study.. . . , p. 729. Back to referring section.

[15] Posnov, Op. Cit., pp. 147-148. Back to referring section.

[16] Canonists agree that the "Apostolic Canons" were compiled at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd centuries. Some of the canons have even a later origin. See the discussion on this point in Posnov, op. cit., pp. 317-318. Back to referring section.

[17] See the word "Baptism" in the Encyclopedia Britannica as well as in Hastings in his Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. See the word "Bapteme" in the Dictionaire de Theologie Catholique. Back to referring section.

[18] The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Henry Percival, Oxford, 1900, p. 40.Back to referring section.

[19] See details in Puller, The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome. Back to referring section.

[20] Noted in Percival’s reference to the Councils at Carthage.Back to referring section.

[21] This is how the followers of Novatian were described in the Book of Canons published by the Sacred Ruling Synod which we cited: "They who called themselves ‘Puritans’ were followers of Novatus, a presbyter of the Roman Church, who taught that those who fell during persecution were not to be received through repentance nor were bigamists ever to be received in communion with the Church and who claimed purity for his society on the basis of pride and total lack of love for others." (p. 41) It should be noted here that the "Cathars" ("Puritans") as well as Montanists re-baptized those Orthodox who came into their schism. Back to referring section.

[22] Paul of Samosata’s (260 A.D.) heresy had a Jewish character: it introduced circumcision, did not recognize the Trinity, did not recognize Christ’s divinity in His essence but rather as a some kind of an elevation in rank. The heresy was condemned twice at the Antiochian local Council in 264 A.D. and in 269 A.D. See for more detail in J.H. Blunt’s Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, etc., 1874, p. 515ff. Back to referring section.

[23] Council in Trullo. Back to referring section.

[24] The Council in Trullo took place in 691-692 A.D. St. Basil the Great died in 379 A.D. The local council in Laodicea took place in 363 A.D. Back to referring section.

[25] This is found in the Great Trebnik, Kiev-Caves Lavra edition, 1895, p. 408. Back to referring section.

[26] See the special book published by direction of the Sacred Ruling Synod in 1895. We find the same designation in Part Three of the Trebnik published in Jordanville in 1960. Back to referring section.

[27] Web Editor's note: This canon can be found online as part of the Early Church Fathers collection. Reference: http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-14/Npnf2-14-61.htm#P4014_722138. Back to referring section.

[28] H. Percival, op. cit., pp. 405-406. Back to referring section.

[29] Canons 59 and 68. Back to referring section.

[30] Not having access to the Kormchaya Kniga, which today is a bibliographic rarity, I am citing the text from Bishop Nicodemus Milash’s Orthodox Church Law, Belgrade, 1926, p. 590. Back to referring section.

[31] See Archimandrite Ambrosius, St Mark of Ephesus and the Florentine Unia, Jordanville, 1963, p. 313. Back to referring section.

[32] Ibid, pp. 40 and 41. Back to referring section.

[33] Ibid, p. 41. Back to referring section.

[34] Ibid, p. 40. Back to referring section.

[35] Ibid, p. 171. Back to referring section.

[36] Ibid, p. 214. Back to referring section.

[37] Nomocanonis, tit. XII c. 2; Pitra, Juris ecclesiastici Graecorum, t. II, p. 600. Back to referring section.

[38] Theodori Balsamones, Responsa ad Interrogationes Marci, P.G. 138, col. 968. Back to referring section.

[39] Cited in Archimandrite Ambrosius, St Mark of Ephesus and the Florentine Unia, pp. 333-334. Circular Epistle of St. Mark of Ephesus § 4. Greek text Patrologia Orientalis T. XVII, p. 460-464 and in Migne, P.G. t. 160. Back to referring section.

[40] Paterikon of Athos, v. II, pp. 230-250 and pp. 282-283. Back to referring section.

[41] The Blessed Augustine notes that baptism is a mystery, established by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and thus this mystery cannot lose its validity through the depravity or perversity (perversitas) of the heretics. De Baptismo, lib. V, cc. 2-3-4. P.L. 43. Back to referring section.

[42] The spirit of tolerance was always inherent in the Orthodox Church. As one of many examples we can point to the service of the first week of Great Lent, where it relates how the Great Martyr St. Theodore of Tyro came before the Bishop of Constantinople and warned him that the produce, set out in the marketplace on that day, were profaned by blood offered to idols by order of the emperor Julian the Apostate who wanted, by this act, to cause mischief to Christians (see the Synaxarion for the first Saturday in Great Lent). Throughout this service the local bishop is referred to as "hierarch," "chief pastor" who prays throughout the night for his flock, and "patriarch." However, at the time all this was taking place, the bishop of Constantinople was Eudoxius, a prominent Arian. Constantinople did not have an Orthodox bishop at that time. Back to referring section.

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Introductory Notes - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Appendices