I have a question concerning the way in which Ecumenical Councils (and likewise, the Quinisext Council) are adhered to. Are the canons of these to be followed to the letter? Are they forever binding (can they be undone by another council)?
I understand that bishops can operate using the principle of economia towards individuals, but can they apply it to their jurisdiction as a whole (for example, a bishop decides that everyone should have the right to kneel on Sunday Liturgy)?
The reason I ask this is because there are a number of canons which I have seen neither followed nor heeded. Am I to think that this is negligence and disobedience to the canons or rather economy in practice. Perhaps there is another explanation (which I dearly hope because I have yet to visit a church that adhered to every canon ). Thanks in advance.
I would definitely go with economia on this one. The ones that are never applied are typically not applied because, for one reason or another, they are impractical now. To force submission to a canon that is impractical or unnecessary or unrealistic would be almost Pharisaical, if you ask me. The authority to decide rests in the bishop.
Dear Pres. Mari--First, your John is a handsome baby boy indeed! Second, having just visited the www.atlgoc.org
, I see that (a) Father C. is now The pastor and (b) John takes after both of you, something that puts him at risk for becoming a film actor.
Regarding OP's question, it may be useful to add the following. The Orthodox Church generally does not "follow canons to the letter" because:
1. The Orthodox Church has generally looked on the canons as "rules," unlike the Roman Church which looks on them more as "laws."
2. The Orthodox Church has also generally distinguished the dogmatic statements of the Councils from their decisions (canons) that usually have been attempts to correct an irregularity that existed at that time.
3. The Orthodox Church considers that bishops have the charism to discern (a) the reasons why a canon was decreed; (b) whether present circumstances are similar to those that caused the formulation of the canon; and (c) whether the literal application of a canon is for the good of his flock.
So, the Orthodox approach to the canons is similar to our approach to God, that is, based on love and oriented toward the future--aiming at theosis. The spirit of the canons are as important as the letter, but the most important thing for a bishop or a priest is the soul of his flock. Take the canon against "the bending of the knee" on Sundays. In my Church, all of our parishioners remain standing during the Anaphora, except for one man, who does a prostration at the Epiklesis, and a couple of folks who remain seated. The one who prostrates feels spiritually compelled, while the ones who sit cannot help themselves (physical problems). Does the rest of the congregation care? I think most are so deep in worship that they scarcely notice the exceptions, while the few who notice know that it is not their place to judge. Under these circumstances, why should it be an issue for our priest or anybody else for that matter? In other Churches, the entire congregation kneels at the Epiklesis and the Lord's Prayer. Technically they are violating this canon, but one must keep in mind that doing otherwise would be a huge issue for most of these congregants. More than likely, this is a multi-generational practice and standing throughout the Anaphora and the Epiklesis could be for them improper and frankly impious. The important point of the canon is that it was decreed to honor the Lord and to stress His victory over death. In the examples that I gave above both the standers and the kneelers are in compliance with the spirit of this canon, aren't they?