Quinisext Ecumenical Council on Hermits

It is significant that, although Hermits existed almost from the beginning of the Christian Church, it was not until the Council in Trullo in 692 that formal Canons attempting to regulate them appeared. This was characteristic of attempts to regularise (and control) the eremitical life which had, from its origins, essentially been idiosyncratic, individualistic and on the very margins of the institutional Church. Hermits came increasingly to be viewed as part of, and to be forced (directly and indirectly) into the coenobitic tradition of monasticism. Over many centuries, those following, or desiring to follow, the eremitic tradition “disappeared”, either being incorporated into coenobitic or semi- coenobitic monasticism, or withdrawing from visible existence within the Church. This was particularly true in the Western Church, and many writers came to assume (more or less correctly) that the eremitic way of life had ceased to exist. It was not until 1983 in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, that revised Canon Law (Canon 603) provided for formal recognition of the Hermit.

A good brief introduction to the development of coenobitic monasticism can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenobitic_monasticism
“The Quinisext Council (often called the Council in Trullo or the Penthekte Synod) was a church council held in 692 at Constantinople under Justinian II.
It is often known as the Council in Trullo, because it was held in the same domed hall where the Sixth Ecumenical Council had met. Both the Fifth and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils had omitted to draw up disciplinary canons, and as this council was intended to complete both in this respect, it took the name of Quinisext (Latin:Concilium Quinisextum, Koine Greek:Penthekte Synodos), i.e. the Fifth-Sixth Council. It was attended by 215 bishops, all from the Eastern Roman Empire. Basil of Gortyna in Crete, however, belonged to the Roman patriarchate and called himself papal legate, though no evidence is extant of his right to use that title.
Many of the canons were reiterations of previously passed canons….
The Eastern Orthodox churches hold this council be part of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, adding its canons thereto. In the West, Bede calls it (in De sexta mundi aetate) a “reprobate” synod, and Paul the Deacon an “erratic” one….The Catholic Church has never accepted the council as authoritative or ecumenical.”
“41. Those wishing to depart from cities or villages where they are living in cloisters, and to look after themselves alone by themselves, must first enter a Monastery, and become duly accustomed to anchoretic conduct, and to submit for three years straight to the Prior of the Monastery in fear of God, and to fulfill obedience fittingly in all respects; and thus while confessing a predilection for such a life, they may embrace this with all their heart, and the fact must appear and be verified by test of trial by the local president. It is wishable, though, that they may spend another year staying outside by waiting with fortitude in the cloister so that their aim may come to light more clearly. For they shall afford such clear evidence that they are not hunting empty glory, i.e., are not in pursuit of vainglory, but are striving after this quietude for the sake of what is really good itself. When such a long time has been completed, those who persist in the same preference shall be shut up and it shall no longer be possible for them to leave this solitary confinement when they want to, except and unless it be for the common advantage and benefit, or some other necessity forcing them towards death, and they are being drawn towards this alternative, and thus, with the blessing of the local Bishop. But apart from
the said pretexts, in case they should attempt to make an exit from their resorts (or dungeons), the first formality is that they must be duly imprisoned in the said cloisteragainst their will, and must be forced to fast again and again, and to submit to other hardships, so as to be made well aware of the fact that “No one who, after putting his hand to the plow, looks back, is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven”(Luke 9:62.)

42. As touching so-called hermits, who dressed in black and with a growth of hair on their head go about the cities and associate with laymen and women, and insult their own profession, we decree, if they choose to tonsure their hair and adopt the habit (or garb) of other Monks, that they be installed in a Monastery and be enrolled with their brethren there. But if they do not prefer to do so, they must be driven out of the cities altogether and be forced to dwell in deserts, from which they formed the name they have applied to themselves.

43. It is permissible for a Christian to choose the ascetic mode of life and abandoning the turbulent whirl of ordinary life to enter a Monastery, and to take a tonsure in accordance with monkish habit, even though he should have been found guilty of any offense whatsoever. For our Savior God said: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”(John 6:37). As therefore monachal life represents to us a state of repentance as though engraved upon a pillar, we join in sympathizing with anyone that genuinely adopts it, and no manner of means shall prevent him from accomplishing his aim.”

rudder 2
See also, with commentary, “The Rudder (Pedalion)” (translated by D. Cummings)[The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago, 1983], pp. 388-343.

See also:
Rudder CD
Now available in PDF format on CD, thoroughly indexed and hyperlinked by topic and council for ease of use. The new revision contains only the canons and decisions of the ecumenical and regional synods, and the ancient and patristic commentaries contained in the original Greek edition of 1800 compiled by Agapius, Hieromonk and Nicodemus, Monk of the Holy Mountain (Athos). A complete and faithful English translation.


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