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this result. In deference to apostolic precedent, it was thought necessary that there should be only seven in a single church. “Even in the largest towns," says a canon of the council of Neo-Cæsarea, “there must be, according to the rule, no more than seven deacons. This may be proved from the Acts of the Apostles.” 1 This limit was indeed transcended before the close of the period, but it was observed for a sufficient interval to add somewhat to the relative importance of the dea
Still more influential, perhaps, to the same end, was the increase of the temporalities of the Church, and the close association of the deacons, particularly of the archdeacon, with the bishop in their management. At the end of the fourth century the archdeacon appears as the most important officer, after the bishop, in an individual church, in real influence ranked even above the archpriest. He was often made the special agent or ambassador of the bishop, and was quite likely to be his successor upon the episcopal throne.
The office of deaconess received some very positive acknowledgments in these centuries. The eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, which is supposed to have originated in the first quarter of the fourth century, prescribes, in connection with the induction of a candidate to this office, the laying on of hands and a regular formula of ordination. It has this constitution : “O bishop, thou shalt lay thy hands upon her in the presence of the presbytery, and of the deacons and deaconesses, and shalt say: O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who didst replenish with the Spirit Miriam and Deborah and Anna and Huldah; who didst not disdain that Thy only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, didst ordain women to be keepers of Thy holy gates, – do Thou now also look down upon this Thy servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Thy Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her, to Thy glory, and the praise of Thy Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to Thee and the Holy Spirit forever."1 The fifteenth canon of the council of Chalcedon seems likewise to assume a formal induction into the office. “No one,” it says, "should be consecrated deaconess until she is forty years old, and then only after careful probation."2 A testimony, not less clear than the above, to the fact that ordination and a species of clerical character at one time belonged to deaconesses, comes from the language in which this distinction was abolished by different synods of the Latin Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. The synod of Orange, for example, in 441 published this canon: “Deaconesses are no longer to receive any ordination (omnimodis non ordinandæ): such as may still be found should receive [at divine service] the benediction in common with the laity;” that is, not among the clergy as would seem to have been the case in former times. A similar implication is to be found in canons of the councils of Epaon and Orleans, held in 517 and 533 respectively. As might be judged from these decrees, the Western Church, at least in Gaul, had begun before the sixth century to entertain a strong prejudice against the office of deaconess. It was probably not 'long after this time that it became practically extinct in the Latin Church.
1 Canon 15.
1 viii. 19, 20.
2 Canon 15. The same requirement as to age was re-affirmed by Justinian, Novella cxxiii. According to an earlier prescription in the Theodosian code, Lib. XVI., Tit. ii., the required age was sixty years.
In the Greek Church the deaconess held an honorable rank for a longer period, and the office was not abolished till the twelfth century. Among the more illustrious representatives of the order appears Olympias, whom the correspondence of Chrysostom has commended to our notice. Left a widow in early life, she devoted her wealth to the poor, and herself to the service of the Church, and remained true to her special consecration, notwithstanding the flattering solicitation of the Emperor Theodosius that she should accept the hand of one of his own relatives.
2. THE BISHOPS AND ARCHBISHOPS. — The shaping of the episcopacy toward the aristocratic type went on with increased momentum. The small bishoprics of the country were in many cases absorbed by the larger ones of the cities. Legislation came in to hasten on this process of engrossment. The council of Sardica, in 343, decreed that the episcopal rank ought not to be dishonored by the appointment of bishops to such small places as might suitably be presided over by a simple presbyter.
A similar decree was passed, some years later, by the council of Laodicea ; and it was ordained that“ visitors" (periodeutai) — by which probably presbyters commissioned by a city bishop are denoted-should take the place of the country bishops. However, this order of dignitaries was not fully abolished until a later date. In North Africa the chorepiscopi, or country bish. ops, were still numerous in the fifth century; and representatives of the class appeared at a later date in both East and West.
Among the city bishops, those who presided over the capitals of the provinces enjoyed a certain pre-eminence, not merely in honor, but also in prerogatives. This superiority, awarded in the first instance by custom, was confirmed in the fourth century by the decrees of councils. Prominent points in the pre-eminence of these metropolitans, or archbishops, were the leading part which they took in the ordination of bishops, and their function in calling provincial synods and in presiding over the same.
3. THE PATRIARCHS. — The council of Nicæa acknowledged, in rather indefinite terms, a pre-eminence in the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch among the metropolitans of the Empire. This superiority in honor and jurisdiction came to be denoted by the title of patriarch. It was ultimately recognized as pertain ing to five episcopal centres; the council of Constantinople in 381 confirming it to the bishop of that city, and the council of Chalcedon in 451 confirming it to the bishop of Jerusalem. For an interval the metropol. itans of Cæsarea in Pontus, Ephesus in pro-consular Asia, and Heraclea in Thrace, held a position approximating to that of patriarchs; but the advancing power of the bishop of Constantinople ere long imposed limits upon their jurisdiction.
1 The ninth canon of the council held at Antioch in 341 is especially full and explicit on this subject.
First among the patriarchs, both in virtue of historical associations and the breadth of his jurisdiction, stood the bishop of Rome. His ambition was to extend his supervision over the entire West, and extensive advances were made in that direction. Substantial tributes to his authority were won in Spain, Gaul, and North Africa. In the early part of the period, however, his patriarchate proper probably included only the ten * suburban provinces;” that is, seven provinces in Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Even within the limits of Italy, there was territory which was not under the patriarchal authority of the Roman bishop, at least for a part of the period. An independent position was maintained for a time by the bishops of Milan, Aquileia, and Ravenna. “It must not be overlooked," says Hefele, in his comments on the Nicene canons, " that the bishop of Rome did not exercise over the whole West the full rights of patriarch; for in several provinces simple bishops were ordained without his co-operation.” 1
The patriarch of Constantinople, unlike the bishop of Rome, had worthy rivals in his section of the Empire. Still, the superior advantages which he possessed, as occupying the episcopal throne of an imperial city, enabled him easily to acquire and to maintain the first rank in the East. Moreover, apart from any encroachments on his side, his competitors suffered great depression. The schisms which resulted from the Christological controversies of the fifth century seriously crippled the
1 Conciliengeschichte, $ 42.