Greetings to all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Icon of the Synaxis of the Archangles

The Synaxis of the Archangels

As you know, the headquarters of GOCSA here in South Australia is the parish dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. We celebrated their feast day a couple of days ago (Tuesday the 8th of November), thus we thought it might be an appropriate time to discuss some facts about this feast that are related to our topic (ie, relevant to the schism here in Adelaide).

The Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels was established at the Council of Laodicea in AD 4th century. We mention this because of something else that this Council was famous for – it established many of the rules (ie, canons) that became part of the Orthodox Church’s code of laws (the rules can be found online here). Some of the rules are quite relevant to the schism here in Adelaide.  For example:

Rule 9: The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service, but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received.

This rule prohibits those in the Church from attending the prayer services of those outside the Church. This rule is still in force today as we forbidden to go to the non-canonical churches to pray.

Rule 13: The election of those who are appointed to the priesthood is not to be committed to the multitude.

This rule was established so that laypeople (“the multitude”) would not have power over chosing priests – this responsibility was supposed to be left with the bishop of the area. Likewise the election of a bishop is the responsibility of the bishops in the surrounding area (who together comprise the Synod). This did not mean that the bishop didn’t consult the people when making such a decision – it just means that the final choice was left to him. Note that GOCSA’s own rules explicitly contradict this rule of the Church because they give this responsibility to the GOCSA committee (which consists entirely of laypeople):

GOCSA Rule 15 – Powers and Duties of the Executive Committee: a) To arrange the engagement of priest or priests from the ranks of the Orthodox Church.

(Of course they don’t actually adhere to this rule because they don’t choose their priests from the ranks of the Orthodox Church – they choose them from those whom the Orthodox Church have stripped of their rank and/or have left the Orthodox Church. But we digress…)

Like any organisation, the Church must have rules so that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:40). Those who disregard these rules risk being cut off from the Church, so that the Church may keep itself pure.

There are of course many other rules in the Church that are in force today that were established by other Councils. We plan to address some of these in upcoming posts, but for now we will restrict ourselves to the above rules of the Council of Laodicea, in honour of the Archangels whose feast day we recently celebrated.

Troparion for the Synaxis of the Archangels

Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
“Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!”

O holy Archangels, intercede for us before God that He may heal the schism plaguing our blessed city!