A Challenge from the Canons

I need to more frequently catch up on available podcasts over at Ancient Faith radio. I hadn’t realized what a treasure a series by Deacon Michael Hyatt is. The information is all good, but there is the occasional special gem that you hear. While listening to his series on the Council of Nicea, I was struck by one of the Canons of the Council of Nicea that deals with people who fell away from the faith, but not by compulsion (basically, who sacrificed to idols with only the social pressure to do so). Here is the Canon:


CONCERNING those who have fallen without compulsion, without the spoiling of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Synod declares that, though they have deserved no clemency, they shall be dealt with mercifully. As many as were communicants, if they heartily repent, shall pass three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation.


The hearers were basically like the catechumens. They could attend the liturgy until the deacon called to close the doors, then they had to leave. As prostrators, they had to kneel outside the church, begging the faithful to forgive them. Notice they had to do this for seven years. Not seven weeks, not seven months, but seven years! I’m not sure how many people would be willing to do this these days (especially me). Most would probably wander down the road to the local non-denominational where a quick sinner’s prayer would do the job.