June 2, 2020

The Holy Canons of Saint Nikephoros the Confessor


Our Father among Saints Nikephoros the Confessor, having formerly been an private secretary, and later having become a monk, at length was made Patriarch of Constantinople during the reigns of Emperors Nikephoros, Staurakios, and Michael Rangave, thereby, in the year 815, according to Meletios of Athens (Eccl. Hist., vol. II, p. 259), becoming the immediate successor to the patriarchal throne after divine Tarasios, who had distinguished himself in the Seventh Ecumenical Synod. But he was deprived of the throne by Leo the Armenian, an opponent of images, or icons; accordingly, he is celebrated as a Saint on the 2nd day of the month of June.


1. If perchance a holy Antimension be washed unwittingly, it does not lose its sanctity, nor does it become unclean because of its having been washed. (Ap. c. LXXIII; c. VII of the 7th.)

2. A digamist is not blessed with crowns, but, on the contrary, is even amerced to abstain from Communion for two years; and a trigamist, for three years. (c. VII of Neocaesarea.)

3. If anyone remain in the narthex of the church under stress of necessity and for a short time only, is not to be condemned. But if he tarries there for any undue length of time, he is to be expelled from there and punished with amercements, while the church itself is to get back its own rights, that is to say, that it is not to be treated on that account as a common and unprivileged house. (c. XCVII of the 6th.)

4. Alms for the souls of those who have died must be accepted, without the necessity of their having made a will and last testament disposing of their property. In such a case, if they themselves while alive had intended and wanted such alms to be made for themselves, and, in general, if they had been willing to give alms, that is to be the decisive factor.

5. If Annunciation falls on Great Thursday or Great Friday, we are not sinning if on that day we partake of wine and fish. (Ap. c. LXIX.)

6. Any Presbyter who has the prayer of an Abbot is competent to ordain a Reader and a Subdeacon for his Monastery. (c. XIV of the 7th.)

7. If perchance a man has lived in profligacy for twenty years or more but afterwards does works of virtue, he ought not to be ordained a Priest, because the temple is clean and unpolluted. (c. XIX of the 1st; c. XXI of Neocaesarea.)

8. Any children born of a concubine, or of persons who have married a second or a third time, though with the proviso that they be worthy of holy orders, and have lived a life worthy thereof, may be made Priests.

9. A Priest must administer Communion to a person in danger of dying even though it be after the person in question has eaten.

10. One must bend his knee for the sake of bestowing a kiss on Sunday and throughout Pentecost, but ought not to make the usual genuflections. (c. XX of the 1st; c. XC of the 6th; c. XV of Peter; c. XCI of Basil.)

11. One is not sinning if perchance he offers a single offering on behalf of three persons, or lights but one candle for the three.

12. A Priest must not make a seal in the holy Chalice during the prayer of the sacristy.

13. A Priest must not celebrate the Liturgy without zeon, or hot water, unless it be under the stress of great necessity, and when there is no hot water available there.

14. A Monk who has discarded his habit, but has returned and repented, must put on again the monachal habit which he took off, without, however, incurring the necessity of having the prayers repeated to him that were said over the habit.

15. Nuns must enter the holy bema in order to light a taper or candle, and in order to sweep it. (c. LXIX of the 6th.)

16. Monks must not do farm work in Great Lent, and on this pretext or excuse indulge in wine and olive oil, since those are results of gluttony. (Ap. c. LXIX.)

17. A Monk is permitted to leave his Monastery for three reasons: 1) if perchance the Abbot is a heretic; 2) if women come into the Monastery; and 3) if children are learning secular letters in the Monastery (i.e., taking secular school lessons); because it is untoward in the midst of such children for the things being done in the Monastery to be revealed to seculars. See also Canon XXI of the 7th.

18. All Monks who are under a canon (i.e., disciplinary sentence) must eat together with the rest of the Monks and pray together with them, and must also eat eulogia, or, more expressly, antidoron, along with their confession.

19. During the fast of the Holy Apostles and of Saint Philip (or, more expressly, of the forty-days’ Lent), Monks sitting in a Monastery ought to eat once a day, on Wednesday and Friday. But Monks engaged in work or labor may eat twice, after the sixth hour and in the evening.

20. If perchance a Nun be raped by barbarians, or disorderly men, and her previous life had been pure, she is to be canonized only for ten days to abstain from participance. But if her previous life had been polluted, she is to be canonized as an adulteress, or, more explicitly, to abstain from Communion for three years, in accordance with Canon XIII of the Faster. See also Canon II of Neocaesarea. (c. II of Gregory of Neocaesarea; c. XLIX of Basil.).

21. If anyone for fear of being compelled to join the army, or with respect to some other piece of roguery, has donned the habit of monks, thereby mocking it, then, after being stripped of the habit, in consideration of his fear and this piece of hypocrisy and of roguery of his, he shall be canonized for this to go without Communion for one hundred and twenty days (or for three times as many days as there are in Great Lent).

22. If perchance a young Monk-Priest is serving Nuns, by administering Communion to them and celebrating the Liturgy for them, we ought not to receive Communion from him of the divine Mysteries.

23. An Abbot must not remove the cowl of a Monk who is an obedientiary of his, and thus drive him away from the Monastery.

24. No one ought to admit any Monk into his home who has discarded his holy habit and is incorrigible, nor ought anyone to greet him. See also Canon XVI of the 4th. (cc. VII, XVI of the 4th; c. XII of Neocaesarea.).

25. If anyone is ill and asks to be baptized, or to become a Monk, we must without delay bestow upon him the grace of Baptism or of the habit, and not deny it to him. See also Canon XII of Neocaesarea.

26. A Monk-Priest must not celebrate the Liturgy without wearing a mandyas.

27. A Father Confessor ought to forbid divine Communion to those persons who confess secret sins to him, but he ought to let them enter the church; and he ought not to reveal their sins, but ought to advise them gently to remain repentant and to keep praying; and he ought to adjust the amercements to befit each one of them according to his best judgment.

28. As for adulterers, and those guilty of the crime of bestiality, and murderers, and other such persons, if of their own accord they confess the sin they committed, which was a secret to men at large, they are to be denied divine Communion and are to receive the canon of their sins. When they enter the church, they are to stand until the prayer of catechumens, and are then to depart. If, however, their sins are known to the others, then they are to be canonized in accordance with the laws of the Church, or, more explicitly speaking, they are to be prohibited from entering the church, but are to stand in the group of those who are weeping outside of the portals of the temple, or of those who are listening in the narthex.

29. If a secular confess his sins of his own free will, the Father Confessor may make an adjustment for him.

30. With the permission of the Prelate even a Priest may make a stauropegion. See also Apostolic Canon XXXI.

31. A Priest ought not to communicate those who charge interest, nor eat with them, if they persist in this transgression.

32. Monks must fast on Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Week; and after the presanctified liturgy is dismissed (for on those days a presanctified liturgy used to be celebrated, just as Symeon of Thessalonica states, and see Canon XLIX of Laodicea), they must eat cheese wherever it is available or on the market, or, in other words, wherever it can be had, in refutation of the heresy of the Jacobites and of that of the Tetradites.

33. If anyone has a concubine and refuses either to leave her or to have her blessed as his wife, we ought not to accept any offerings he makes to the Church, whose laws he is actually insulting and scorning. Read also Canon XXV of Ancyra, and Canon VIII of Theophilus, and Apostolic Canon XVII. (Ap. c. XVII; c. XXV of Ancyra; c. VIII of Theophilus.).

34. If perchance any Monk discard the holy habit, and eat meat, and take a wife, such a Monk ought to be anathematized. If he refuses to return, he ought to be forced to don the habit, and to be shut up in a Monastery. Read also c XVI of the 4th. (cc. VII, XV of the 4th.).

35. Any man who even once only has committed fornication ought not to be made a priest, even though he has given up the sin. For Basil the Great asserts that such a man cannot be made a Priest even though he bring dead men back to life.

36. When the Apostle says: "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, ... with such a one we must not even eat" (I Cor. 5:11), it appears that he is referring, not to a man whom one or two other men know to be fornicating, but to a man whom everybody knows to be fornicating, and who is called a fornicator by everybody; since all sinful deeds that are committed brazenly and provoke a public scandal, are subject to greater punishment than those which are done secretly.

37. If a woman gives birth, and the baby is in danger of dying, when it is but three or five days old, let the baby be baptized, but another woman who is baptized and clean must suckle the baby; and its mother must not even enter the room where the child is, nor handle it at all, until after the lapse of forty days she has become purified, and has received a prayerful blessing from the Priest.

There are also seven more Canons, herein below, not found in the manuscript books of the Holy Mountain, but included in vol. II of the Minutes, p. 918, and in the book called Juris Graeco-Romani, p. 196 of the printed edition.

1. One ought not to walk abroad on Sunday unless it is necessary and he is forced to do so.

2. We ought not to give any credence to the Revelation of Paul, or to the so-called Brontologia and Selenodromia and Calandologia, as all of them fire taboo.

3. We ought not to give any credence to the Revelation of Esdras and Zosimas, or to the two martyrdoms of St. George, or to the two martyrdoms of Kyrikos and Julitta, or the book of Marcus and of Diadochus, as these are disapproved and unrecognized.

4. One ought not to work during Novational Week, nor chant the Hymn to the Faultless One on the Saturday of the concluding week (or, as it is called in Greek, the apolysimos), nor ought one to keep the Thursdays.

5. Anyone who willfully murders his father shall be canonized for thirty-five years.

6. In case of necessity even a monk who is neither a cleric nor a priest may baptize a child; and likewise may a deacon .

7. When no Priest is available, unbaptized infants must be baptized by anyone present, even though he be their own father, or anyone else, provided he is a Christian and he is not sinning.


Question 1: Ought a Monk to go into the holy sacrificial altar? For this is forbidden by c. LXIX and c. XXXIII of the 6th Ec. C., which does not allow anyone to chant or to read from the pulpit who has no seal or who is a Monk. Likewise do c. XV of Laodicea and c. XIV of the 7th.

Answer: It is forbidden for a Monk to perform the services of a Lector in the pulpit, without an imposition of the hand; but for that Monk to go into the holy bema in order to light the candles and tapers when he is not guilty of any crime, is something I do not think ought to be forbidden, on account of the respectability of the monkish habit.

Question 2: Ought one to refrain from bending a knee on Saturday, just as one does not bend it on Sunday and on Pentecost? (Ap. c. LXVI; cc. LV, XC of the 6th.)

Answer: It has not been forbidden by this Canon; the majority, however, because of the fact that Saturday is not accompanied by fasting, refrain by consequence from even bending a knee.

Question 3: Must we keep the fast of August?

Answer: The fast of August used to be earlier, but afterwards it was shifted in order to avoid its coinciding with fasts of heathen which the latter observe during this season. Yet even nowadays many persons keep this fast.

Question 4: Ought one who is possessed to commune? For on this point Timothy and the divine Apostles differ, and later authorities differ likewise.(Ap. c. LXXIX; cc. III, IV of Tim.)

Answer: If perchance anyone is so troubled by black bile as to appear on this account to be possessed, he is not forbidden to commune. But if perchance anyone is really possessed by a demon, he cannot commune, since light hath no communion with darkness.

Question 5: Whether a Priest may indifferently eat things offered to the Church — offered as oblations, that is to say, or as sacrificial wine; and whether he may eat these like common bread; and what ought he to do when such oblations and quantities of wine accumulate in excess of what is needed? (c. VIII of Theophilus.)

Answer: The pieces that are left from the elevated offering ought not to be eaten in any other place than in the church alone, until they are entirely consumed no matter how much of them there may be. But as for pieces left from other offerings that have not been elevated, they must all be eaten outside of the church, not, however, with milk and cheese and fish, say, like common bread, but alone without other food.

Question 6: If perchance anyone is tonsured as a Monk at whatever place he may be, and afterwards finds that he is being harmed there as respects his soul and he wishes to depart thence on account of the harm, but receives a prohibitive tether from his Superior not to leave, what ought he himself to do — ignore the harm his soul is suffering, or ignore the Superior’s tether? (c. XXI of the 7th.)

Answer: He ought first to tell his Superior the cause of the harm he is suffering, and if that harm and the peril incurred by his soul are manifest, he ought to depart thence, and not bother about the Superior’s tether.

Question 7: If it be supposed that an Abbot upon dying has left another Abbot in his place and has given him a prohibitive tether not to depart from that Monastery, and that later, being reproved by his own conscience as too weak and feeble to govern the Monastery, such successor of that Monk has departed, what ought he in consequence do about that tether?

Answer: That tether is an unreasonable one, and on this account is also an impossible one. Hence the person who has been tied by it will be loosed if he goes to the Bishop and explains his predicament.

Question 8: When a Priest has been deposed for canonical crimes of his, when voluntarily resigning from the priesthood because his own conscience accuses him, ought he to recite the words "Blessed be God" or the words "Christ is the true God?" or ought he to cense with the incensed or to commune within the bema?

Answer: No. These things must not be done by either the one or the other; instead the deposed Priest ought to be relegated to the position of laymen.

Question 9: What is meant by what St. Basil the Great says in regard to minor amercements: "According to the proportionality and difference of the mistake, or, at any rate, ‘Let it be from a eulogia?’" (c. VIII of Theophilus; c. XVIII of Nicephorus.)

Answer: For one to be deprived of the eulogia given in church.

Question 10: Ought those who are prohibited from communing to eat elevated offerings? (c. VIII of Theophilus; c. XVIII of Nicephorus.)

Answer: In the Life of St. Theodore the Syceote we find it written that such persons are prohibited from eating such offerings. (Read also c. XVIII of Nikephorks.)

Question 11: Ought one to canonize penitents in accordance with the Canonicon, or, in other words, the Canons of the Faster!

Answer: That Canonicon, because of the fact that it encourages too great leniency, has led many persons to perdition. For this reason those who have knowledge of what is good and fail to keep this (i.e., fail to do this which is good), ought to be corrected.