Learn About Orthodox Canon Law with This Reference Book in PDF Format
Orthodox Canon Law Reference Book Book Pdf
If you are interested in learning more about the tradition and practice of canon law in the Eastern Orthodox Church, you might be looking for a reference book that can provide you with reliable and comprehensive information. However, finding such a book can be challenging, as Orthodox canon law is not as well-known or widely studied as its Roman Catholic counterpart. In this article, we will introduce you to the basics of Orthodox canon law, its sources, characteristics, major collections, and current challenges and prospects. We will also suggest some books that you can download as pdf files to deepen your knowledge and understanding of this fascinating topic.
Orthodox Canon Law Reference Book Book Pdf
What is Orthodox canon law and why is it important?
Canon law is the term used to describe the rules and regulations that govern the life and organization of the Church. Canon law covers various aspects of Church life, such as ecclesiology, liturgy, sacraments, discipline, ethics, and relations with other churches and religions. Canon law reflects the doctrine and spirituality of the Church, as well as its historical and cultural context.
Orthodox canon law is the specific tradition of canonical legislation that belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which comprises about 300 million faithful in various autocephalous and autonomous churches around the world. Orthodox canon law is important because it expresses the identity and unity of the Orthodox Church, as well as its pastoral care and guidance for its members. Orthodox canon law also serves as a basis for dialogue and cooperation with other Christian churches and communities, especially those that share a common heritage of the first millennium.
Sources of Orthodox canon law
Orthodox canon law has three main sources: the Bible, Church legislations, and ecclesiastical customs.
The Bible is the primary source of Orthodox canon law, as it contains the revelation of God's will and truth for his people. The Bible does not provide a detailed system of Church organization or discipline, but it embodies principles and values that can be applied to various situations and circumstances. The Bible also contains some specific rules and norms that were relevant for the early Church, such as those found in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul. However, these rules are not considered binding for all times and places, but rather as examples or models that need to be interpreted in light of the changing context and needs of the Church.
Church legislations are the written rules and decrees that have been issued by various authorities in the Church throughout history. These include the canons of ecumenical councils (the highest level of authority in the Church), local or regional councils (such as those held in Africa, Asia Minor, or Spain), synods or assemblies of bishops (such as those convened by patriarchs or metropolitans), individual bishops (such as those who wrote pastoral letters or instructions), saints or fathers of the Church (such as those who composed monastic rules or spiritual treatises), and even emperors or civil rulers (such as those who enacted laws concerning religion or church affairs). Church legislations reflect the doctrinal consensus and pastoral wisdom of the Church in response to various challenges or questions that arose in different times and places.
Ecclesiastical customs are the unwritten rules and practices that have been developed and transmitted by the living tradition of the Church. These include liturgical rites and ceremonies (such as those related to baptism, marriage, or funerals), disciplinary norms and procedures (such as those concerning penance, excommunication, or appeals), and administrative or organizational arrangements (such as those concerning the election, ordination, or transfer of clergy). Ecclesiastical customs are not the same as the Holy Tradition, which is the source of dogma and doctrine in the Church. Ecclesiastical customs are subject to change and adaptation according to the needs and circumstances of the Church.
Characteristics of Orthodox canon law
Orthodox canon law has four main characteristics: it is uncodified, corrective, pastoral, and dynamic.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which has a formal code of canon law that organizes and harmonizes its canonical legislation, the Orthodox Church does not have a codified canon law. Instead, its canonical corpus consists of a vast and diverse collection of sources that have never been systematically arranged or reconciled. This means that some canons of Orthodox canon law may contradict each other, or may be obsolete or irrelevant for the present situation. It also means that there is no single or definitive interpretation or application of Orthodox canon law, but rather a variety of opinions and approaches that depend on the authority, tradition, or context of each church or region.
Orthodox canon law is not prescriptive, but corrective. This means that it does not aim to impose a rigid or uniform system of rules and regulations on the Church, but rather to provide guidance and correction for specific problems or situations that arise in the Church. Orthodox canon law is not based on abstract principles or ideals, but on concrete realities and experiences. Orthodox canon law does not seek to control or restrict the freedom and diversity of the Church, but rather to protect and promote its unity and harmony.
Orthodox canon law is not legalistic, but pastoral. This means that it does not focus on the letter or the form of the law, but on the spirit and the goal of the law. Orthodox canon law is not concerned with technicalities or formalities, but with values and virtues. Orthodox canon law does not aim to punish or condemn, but to heal and restore. Orthodox canon law is not rigid or inflexible, but adaptable and merciful. Orthodox canon law recognizes the principle of oikonomia (economy), which allows for exceptions or dispensations from the strict application of the law in cases of necessity or benefit for the salvation of souls.
Orthodox canon law is not static, but dynamic. This means that it is not fixed or immutable, but evolving and developing. Orthodox canon law is not bound by the past, but open to the future. Orthodox canon law is not indifferent to the changing world, but responsive to its challenges and opportunities. Orthodox canon law recognizes the principle of akribeia (accuracy), which calls for the revision or renewal of the law in light of new circumstances or insights. Orthodox canon law is not isolated from other sources of knowledge and wisdom, but in dialogue with them.
Major collections of Orthodox canon law
Although Orthodox canon law is uncodified, there have been several attempts to compile and organize its sources into more accessible and manageable collections. Some of these collections have gained wide acceptance and authority in the Orthodox Church, while others have remained more limited or controversial. Here are some of the major collections of Orthodox canon law:
The Rudder (Greek: Pedalion; literally: "rudder") is a compilation of canons from various sources that was made by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain in 1800. It includes 85 canons attributed to the Apostles, 318 canons from seven ecumenical councils, 102 canons from nine local councils, 17 canons from six fathers of the Church, and one imperial decree. It also contains extensive commentaries and interpretations by St. Nicodemus himself and by earlier canonical experts such as John Zonaras, Theodore Balsamon, Matthew Blastares, and Alexios Aristenos. The Rudder is considered by many as the most authoritative and comprehensive collection of Orthodox canon law, although it has been criticized by some for being too conservative or outdated.
The Syntagma (Greek: Syntagma; literally: "arrangement") is a collection of canons from various sources that was made by Matthew Blastares in 1335. It includes 24 titles (chapters) that deal with various topics related to Church life and organization. Each title contains a summary of the relevant canons from different sources, followed by a commentary and explanation by Blastares himself. The Syntagma is considered by many as the most systematic and comprehensive collection of Orthodox canon law, although it has been criticized by some for being too liberal or innovative.
Challenges and prospects of Orthodox canon law
Orthodox canon law faces several challenges and prospects in the modern world. Some of these are:
Orthodox canon law plays an important role in the ecumenical dialogue and cooperation with other Christian churches and communities, especially those that share a common heritage of the first millennium. Orthodox canon law can provide a basis for mutual understanding and recognition, as well as for addressing issues of ecclesiology, sacraments, ministry, and discipline. Orthodox canon law can also benefit from the insights and experiences of other churches and traditions, as well as from the developments and reforms that have taken place in their canonical legislation.
Orthodox canon law also faces the challenge of responding to the modern issues and questions that arise in the Church and society, such as those related to human rights, bioethics, ecology, social justice, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, globalization, secularization, and pluralism. Orthodox canon law needs to find ways to apply its principles and values to these new situations and circumstances, without compromising its identity and integrity. Orthodox canon law also needs to find ways to communicate its message and relevance to the contemporary world, without losing its authenticity and depth.
Orthodox canon law also has the prospect of undergoing a process of canonical renewal and development, which would involve revising or updating some of its sources and collections, harmonizing or reconciling some of its contradictions or inconsistencies, codifying or systematizing some of its rules and regulations, and creating or adopting some new canons or legislations. Such a process would require the collaboration and consultation of all the autocephalous and autonomous churches in the Orthodox communion, as well as the participation and contribution of all the clergy and laity in the Orthodox Church.
In conclusion, Orthodox canon law is a rich and diverse tradition of ecclesiastical legislation that reflects the doctrine and spirituality of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has three main sources: the Bible, Church legislations, and ecclesiastical customs. It has four main characteristics: it is uncodified, corrective, pastoral, and dynamic. It has several major collections: the Rudder, the Nomocanon, and the Syntagma. It faces several challenges and prospects: ecumenical dialogue, modern issues, and canonical renewal. If you want to learn more about Orthodox canon law, you can download some reference books as pdf files from these links:
What is a nomocanon?
A nomocanon is a collection of ecclesiastical law that contains both canon law proper and civil legislation impacting the Church.
What are the three sources of Orthodox canon law?
The three sources of Orthodox canon law are the Bible, Church legislations, and ecclesiastical customs.
What are the four characteristics of Orthodox canon law?
The four characteristics of Orthodox canon law are that it is uncodified, corrective, pastoral, and dynamic.
What are the major collections of Orthodox canon law?
The major collections of Orthodox canon law are the Rudder, the Nomocanon, and the Syntagma.
What are some of the challenges and prospects of Orthodox canon law?
Some of the challenges and prospects of Orthodox canon law are ecumenical dialogue, modern issues, and canonical renewal.