Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church

88Devin12

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Well, and the other fact that in the West, pews were adopted because worship was seen more and more as an entertainment, with the faithful as the audience. This, coupled with the sermon gaining a more important role over communion is why many of these things were adopted in the West.

Pews are immovable, heavy & restrictive. I am much more ok with seats which can be moved around and even moved out. The parish I'm currently attending has seats setup similarly to pews, but many are removed when high attendance is anticipated. I also heard that the chairs are still an object of debate.

Even in more traditional churches, there are chairs, but as we know, they line the walls of the churches, and are for those that are physically unable to stand for the whole service.

______________________________________

As for women Priests, we need to answer the feminism movement of the West, as well as the machoism movements that also occur. There are reasons that women aren't allowed to be certain things in the Church. There are also reasons why men cannot do certain things. Women already have important roles to play in their Churches. Their roles cannot be filled by men in the same way that male roles cannot be filled by females.

Women can even preach (given a blessing by the Priest of course) the sermon/homily. They can (or could) serve as deaconesses.

Look at  Ss. Mary Magdalene, Mary of Egypt and others. Especially we see the Theotokos. Women fill a roll that us men could NEVER fill. So it is (in my opinion) with the Priesthood. We are all a part of the royal priesthood, but only a few are called to be ordained Priests.
 

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stashko said:
I vote yes for womens Ordination as Deaconesses....Да Да Да
A very important use of words.  Earlier in this thread the masculine word "deacon" was used in connection to the female diakonia.  We must not give way to gender neutrality.  English is not blessed with masculine/feminine distinctives in its noun endings and definite articles.  Therefore, we should be extra careful to dinstinguish as best as we can such concepts as male deacons who have specific liturgical and other roles in the church vis a vi possible future female deaconesses whose role liturgically was limited to assisting with baptisms, chrismations of the entire body (when this was practised) and visitation of women.  I am concerned that in this gender neutral society, the devil was use a female diaconate to further erode male fathership at home and in the Church.  But this is a concern only.

Regarding women "preaching", I believe that the practise of a women speaking a message normally occurs after the Liturgy is over.  Although it would not surprise me if somewhere a woman is allowed to speak immediately after the reading of the Gospel, this would be an innovation from the last two thousand years, would it not?
 

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Aristobolus said:
stashko said:
I vote yes for womens Ordination as Deaconesses....Да Да Да
A very important use of words.  Earlier in this thread the masculine word "deacon" was used in connection to the female diakonia.  We must not give way to gender neutrality.  English is not blessed with masculine/feminine distinctives in its noun endings and definite articles.  Therefore, we should be extra careful to dinstinguish as best as we can such concepts as male deacons who have specific liturgical and other roles in the church vis a vi possible future female deaconesses whose role liturgically was limited to assisting with baptisms, chrismations of the entire body (when this was practised) and visitation of women.  I am concerned that in this gender neutral society, the devil was use a female diaconate to further erode male fathership at home and in the Church.  But this is a concern only.
Grammatical gender is not always indicative of social gender/sex.  They are mutually exclusive concepts and never have a one to one relationship. 
 

88Devin12

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Although it would not surprise me if somewhere a woman is allowed to speak immediately after the reading of the Gospel, this would be an innovation from the last two thousand years, would it not?
Again, I think it is only allowed upon the blessing of a Priest. But don't quote me on that ;)
 

ialmisry

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Schultz said:
Aristobolus said:
stashko said:
I vote yes for womens Ordination as Deaconesses....Да Да Да
A very important use of words.  Earlier in this thread the masculine word "deacon" was used in connection to the female diakonia.  We must not give way to gender neutrality.  English is not blessed with masculine/feminine distinctives in its noun endings and definite articles.  Therefore, we should be extra careful to dinstinguish as best as we can such concepts as male deacons who have specific liturgical and other roles in the church vis a vi possible future female deaconesses whose role liturgically was limited to assisting with baptisms, chrismations of the entire body (when this was practised) and visitation of women.  I am concerned that in this gender neutral society, the devil was use a female diaconate to further erode male fathership at home and in the Church.  But this is a concern only.
Grammatical gender is not always indicative of social gender/sex.  They are mutually exclusive concepts and never have a one to one relationship. 
German men depend on it:Fraeulein is neuter. :eek:
 

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Women deaconesses have already been ordained in Greece.  Granted, is for women's monasteries, but is no longer "liturgical archaeology plus St. Nectarios."    The highest ranking Saint in the Church is the highest ranking Saint (the Theotokos), but she was never made priest.  Isapostoli such as St. Nina and St. Helena--isapostoli are commemmorate before Holy Hierarchs, but nonetheless, were not priests.  Many deacons (female) yes, but no priests. 
 

ozgeorge

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LizaSymonenko said:
If Christ, deemed to select only men as His disciples,
I'm not sure that this is correct. The Holy Myrrhbearers were women disciples, and one of them (Mary Magdalene) is even given the title  "Equal-to-the Apostles" by our Orthodox Church.
 

ialmisry

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ozgeorge said:
LizaSymonenko said:
If Christ, deemed to select only men as His disciples,
I'm not sure that this is correct. The Holy Myrrhbearers were women disciples, and one of them (Mary Magdalene) is even given the title  "Equal-to-the Apostles" by our Orthodox Church.
Yes, the Lord had female disciples, something not usual. All the more reason, since He conferred the priesthood on none of them, and the Church hasn't ordained any woman, following His example, for two millenia,  that the Church shouldn't start now.
 

ozgeorge

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ialmisry said:
the Church hasn't ordained any woman
That is not correct either. Deaconesses were, and are ordained members of the Clergy. They receive their office through the cheirotonia of the Bishop.
A good resource for information about this this is the work of Dr. Valerie A. Karras, in particular, her paper: "Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church," published in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture published quarterly by the American Society of Church History; volume 73:2 (June 2004): pp272-316 .  :)
 

ialmisry

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ozgeorge said:
ialmisry said:
the Church hasn't ordained any woman
That is not correct either. Deaconesses were, and are ordained members of the Clergy. They receive their office through the cheirotonia of the Bishop.
A good resource for information about this this is the work of Dr. Valerie A. Karras, in particular, her paper: "Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church," published in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture published quarterly by the American Society of Church History; volume 73:2 (June 2004): pp272-316 .  :)
Not to get into the debate on whether the deaconesses were ordained or not (I tend to the affirmative, btw), as it is moot: no woman was ordained bishop, and consequently none was ever ordained priest.
 

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ozgeorge said:
LizaSymonenko said:
If Christ, deemed to select only men as His disciples,
I'm not sure that this is correct. The Holy Myrrhbearers were women disciples, and one of them (Mary Magdalene) is even given the title  "Equal-to-the Apostles" by our Orthodox Church.
And, since that time, there are quite a number of female saints who have also been dignified with the title "Equal to the Apostles". A few of these are St Lyudmilla of the Czechs, St Olga of Kiev, St Nina of Georgia, (also known as "enlightener-saints", due to their efforts in bringing and spreading the Christian faith to their homelands) and, of course, St Helen, mother of St Constantine the Great. Great and worthy saints, all of them. Is their sainthood diminished because they were unable to be ordained as priests? Of course not. Even Great-martyr Euphemia played her posthumous part in renouncing heresy, and, in doing so, is (as far as I know) the only female saint who may be shown holding a Gospel book in her icons - this privilege is normally restricted to icons of Christ, the Apostles and Evangelists, and saints of clerical rank. Yet she was not a priest.
 

ozgeorge

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ialmisry said:
no woman was ordained bishop, and consequently none was ever ordained priest.
As far as the clear evidence we have, this is correct, however there is some debate about a 9th century mosaic (pictured below) in the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome which depicts a woman with a square halo (which indicates she was alive when the mosaic was done). Her name on the mosaic is "Episcopa Theodora", and "Episcopa" is the feminization of the Greek word "Episcopos" meaning "Bishop". It is not clear whether she was the wife of a Bishop or a Bishop in her own right.
At any rate, we have managed to correct a few misapprehensions in this thread, namely.
1) Our Lord Jesus Christ did have women disciples.
2) Some of them are counted as "Equal-to-the-Apostles" by our Church.
3) Women were and are ordained to the Clergy as Deaconesses.

BELOW: the 9th century "Episcopa Theodora" mosaic
in the St. Zeno Chapel of the Church of St. Praxedis, Rome

 

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So, ozgeorge, even if this woman was indeed a bishop (which I seriously doubt), is it really possible to extrapolate from this that it were once permissible for women to be ordained to the priesthood?

A far more likely explanation for this mosaic is that this Theodora was the wife of a bishop (it took a few centuries before the married episcopate "died out"), and was called episcopa, in the same way that, even in our day, the wife of a priest is called presvytera in the Greek church.
 

ozgeorge

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LBK said:
So, ozgeorge, even if this woman was indeed a bishop (which I seriously doubt), is it really possible to extrapolate from this that it were once permissible for women to be ordained to the priesthood?

A far more likely explanation for this mosaic is that this Theodora was the wife of a bishop (it took a few centuries before the married episcopate "died out"), and was called episcopa, in the same way that, even in our day, the wife of a priest is called presvytera in the Greek church.
To be honest, I am not sure that we can claim anything to be the "far more likely" explanation for anything unprecedented.

The arguments against the theory that "Episcopa Theodora" was the wife of a Bishop include:
1) The fact that the only other known contemporaneous use of the word "Episcopa" is among some of the early gnostic sects such as the Montanists who had women clergy in all three ranks of the Priesthood: "Episcopa" (female Bishop), "Presbytera" (female Priest), and "Diakonessa" (Deaconess). 
2) There is no other record of a contemporaneous married Bishop.

The arguments in favour of the theory that Episcopa Theodora was the wife of a Bishop include:
1) the practice of calling a priest's wife "presbytera" (lit. "Priestess") and the wife of a Deacon "Diakonessa" (Deaconess). However, there is variation between Greek and Slavic practice with the Slavic Churches referring to a Deacon's wife with the same title as a Priest's wife dating back to pre-Nikonian times, which suggests this may have been the earlier Greek practice, with all wives of clergy referred to as "Presbytera".
 

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LBK said:
So, ozgeorge, even if this woman was indeed a bishop (which I seriously doubt), is it really possible to extrapolate from this that it were once permissible for women to be ordained to the priesthood?

A far more likely explanation for this mosaic is that this Theodora was the wife of a bishop (it took a few centuries before the married episcopate "died out"), and was called episcopa, in the same way that, even in our day, the wife of a priest is called presvytera in the Greek church.
In the Arab tradition:

priest = khoury
priest's wife = khouria

deacon = shammas
deacon's wife = shammasy

This naming tradition of the wife of an ordained man would seem to be prevalent in other parts of the Orthodox world.
 

ozgeorge

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Tamara said:
This naming tradition of the wife of an ordained man would seem to be prevalent in other parts of the Orthodox world.
True. But Episcopal celibacy was a requirement in Rome for 400 years before "Episcopa Theodora" was depicted as a living person in the mosaic. If a married man was to be ordained a Bishop, his wife would first have to become a monastic, and it is highly unlikely for a living monastic to bear a title indicating that (a) she was married, and (b) held a position of status.
 

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Pope Paschal of Rome, who happened to commission the mosaics, is also depicted with a square halo.  Theodora was Pope Paschal's mother.  The mother of the bishop of Rome ought to receive an honorary title, especially from her son, don't you think?

Of course, she could have been married to a bishop at one time, too. 
 

ozgeorge

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StGeorge said:
Pope Paschal of Rome, who happened to commission the mosaics, is also depicted with a square halo.  Theodora was Pope Paschal's mother.  The mother of the bishop of Rome ought to receive an honorary title, especially from her son, don't you think?
I would probably be more able to think this if there were any other examples of mothers of Bishops of Rome or anywhere being given honorary titles.
I think we create problems when we project on to history what we think "ought" to have happened. As I said: the only honest answer I can give with the evidence at hand is "I don't know" why she bears the title "Episcopa". If I knew of another example of a woman being called "Episcopa" in the Church, then I could at least hazard a guess, but the only examples I know of are female Bishops in gnostic sects. I think we need to leave the jury out on this one for the time being.
 

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Here is an article about the mosaics:

http://romancatholicwomenpriests.blogspot.com/

It's interesting.  I never knew about the square halos.
 

ozgeorge

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The 9th century Celtic text of the Life of St. Bigid ( "Bethu Brigte" ) recalls how St. Brigid went to Bishop Mel with her companions to be veiled as a nun. Bishop Mel mistakenly read the wrong text and consecrated her as a Bishop. The Bethu Brigte says:

"The bishop being intoxicated with the grace of God there did not recognise what he was reciting from his book, for he consecrated Brigit with the orders of a bishop. ‘This virgin alone in Ireland’, said Mel, ‘will hold the Episcopal ordination.’ While she was being consecrated a fiery column ascended from her head."
http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T201002/index.html

Whoops!
 

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LizaSymonenko said:
Orthodoxy can rightfully claim to be the True Church.  Unchanged.  Handed down from the Apostles.

If Christ, deemed to select only men as His disciples, why would we, mere mortals, choose to override His decision and wisdom?

As a woman, I vote NO to a female priesthood.
I'm with you! I vote NO to a female priesthood! I came to Orthodoxy because it had very little changes to it! Women are not unequal to men just because they can't be priests. We women have our own spiritual birthrights within Orthodoxy!
 

ozgeorge

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Myrrh23 said:
I'm with you! I vote NO to a female priesthood!
I didn't think this thread was a poll....is it?
I can't see the point of threads which are no more than "I want x, you want y".
As pointed out, LisaSymonenko was incorrect in her assumption that Christ had no female disciples, yet this fact is ignored and you "vote NO".
This is not how a discussion takes place.
 

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ozgeorge said:
This is not how a discussion takes place.
Is there a legitimate discussion in the Orthodox Church as to whether our bishops have authority from the Lord to ordain women priests?

Is there an open question?  Is Archbishop Seraphim of Johannesburg initiating an ivory-tower discussion with a foregone negative answer or does he believe he may ordain women if he chooses and is only holding off because it may be unacceptable to other bishops?
 

Irish Hermit

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St. Brigid, Mary of Ireland,
Ask for us all today
The courage to do God's bidding
Whatever the world may say.

The grace to be strong and valiant,
The grace to be firm and true,
The grace to be faithful always,
To God, His Mother and you.


Since George of Oz has brought up the topic of Saint Brigid and her
episcopal ordination, will the forum members indulge me by
tolerating a posting of my anecdote.


Due to my age stretching back into dim forgotten ages, I was
blessed to be educated in Catholic parochial schools at a time when they
were staffed by good Irish sisters. These sisters were walking
compendiums (compendia, if you like) of Irish oral tradition. They
functioned for us kids as apocryphal Gospels, and they knew everything,
whether within or without the Deposit of Faith. These holy nuns taught
us that St. Brigid was a bishop of the Church.

In catechism classes we learnt how Bishop Saint Mael came to Kildare to
install Brigid as abbess. Before the ceremony he was treated to the
hospitality for which she is so justly renowned and loved. Her liberal
provision of strong drink confused the bishop so that he mistakenly
consecrated her as bishop instead of abbess. And thereupon a great
debate arose though all Ireland. The decision was agreed that the power
of an episcopal consecration was irresistible, irremediable, irretractable,
even when administered in error and under the influence. Brigid had
become a bishop, but she was placed under a forbidding against the using
of her powers. Possibly at that period the Church had not expounded
theories of matter and form, of licit and valid and legal.  All they knew in
Ireland was that Brigid had been mistakenly turned into a bishop
-mistakenly, yes, - but a bishop she had been made.

The story affirms that Brigid was obedient in not exercising her
episcopal faculties, although she slipped up once or twice in ordaining
a priest or two, when the bishop was tardy. Saint Mael was remorseful
of his error, and undertook a pilgrimage of
expiation, to Jerusalem, and there at the grave of Mary he was
reproached by her for administering to Brigid an honour which even the
Queen of Heaven had neither sought nor received. She forgave him however
and laid upon him the penance of never touching strong drink until the
day when he would drink the new wine in the Kingdom of her Son. This
makes Saint Mael Ireland's first (and possibly only) teetotaller.

The good nuns at school delighted in this naughty tradition, this
breakdown of normal church order, although it was never recounted in the
presence of any priest. Nonetheless, it is part of the oral tradition
of the Irish Catholic Church, transmitted to me as a boy and with a fond
place in my heart even now.

The chapel in the convent of Anglican sisters in Christchurch, NZ,
contains a fine stained glass window of St.Brigid, a window they say is
over 80 years old, and which shows the Saint clothed in the vestments of
a bishop.

In the love of Christ Who is wonderful in His Saints,
Father Ambrose

 

ialmisry

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^Hard to see how it would be canonical: the Apostolic Constitutions call for three ordaining bishops.
 

Irish Hermit

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ialmisry said:
^Hard to see how it would be canonical: the Apostolic Constitutions call for three ordaining bishops.
ialmisry said:
^Hard to see how it would be canonical: the Apostolic Constitutions call for three ordaining bishops.
The British were probably unaware of the Apostolic Constitutions.  The dating is very problematic.

Certainly the British and the Irish consecrated with just one bishop.  This was seen as an anomaly in later centuries but at the time nobody thought badly of it.  It was not seen as rendering the consecration ineffective.

We find in Saint Bede's 8th century "History of the English People" the questions which Saint Augustine in the late 6th century addressed to Pope Saint Gregory concerning his work in Britain.  One of his questions (the sixth?) asks the Pope if bishops may be consecrated by a single bishop.  The Pope replies in the affirmative but asks that where possible there be three or four bishops present.
 

88Devin12

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In Orthodoxy the all-male priesthood is not based on the idea that women can't represent Jesus; if replication of the specifics of the Incarnation is the goal, only a first-century Jew could come near that. In Orthodoxy, it's not Jesus, but the Father whom those serving at the altar represent, and whatever else a woman can be (and, in Orthodoxy, she can be anything else: choir director, lector, teacher, head of the parish council) she cannot be a Father. She can be a Mother, of course, and so there is a recognized and honored role for the priest's wife, with a title: Khouria (Arabic), Matushka (Russian), or Presbytera (Greek).
—Frederica Mathewes-Green in "Prologue: In the Passenger Seat" from her book Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Ordination_of_Women
 

ozgeorge

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88Devin12 said:
In Orthodoxy, it's not Jesus, but the Father whom those serving at the altar represent
I'm wondering about this quote from Matushka Mathews-Green. Does anyone know what this idea that the Priest represents God the Father at the altar is this based on? Why would the Father have his back to us facing the same direction we are and supplicating the Trinity and offering the Gifts of the Holy Table to God "for all and in all"? I've never understood how anyone can think that the Priest "represents Christ"  or "represents the Father" when He is offering Christ to the Father. If the Priest represents anyone, it is we, the Church, that he represents.
 

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Irish Hermit said:
Is there a legitimate discussion in the Orthodox Church as to whether our bishops have authority from the Lord to ordain women priests?
1) What constitutes a "legitimate" discussion?
3) Our Bishops once had the authority from the Lord to ordain Deaconesses, then they didn't, now they do again. Our Bishops once had the authority from the Lord to marry, now they do not. Given this, I'm not sure that we can conclude what the Lord will grant authority to our Bishops to do in the future.
 

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ozgeorge said:
[I'm wondering about this quote from Matushka Mathews-Green. Does anyone know what this idea that the Priest represents God the Father at the altar is this based on? Why would the Father have his back to us facing the same direction we are and supplicating the Trinity and offering the Gifts of the Holy Table to God "for all and in all"? I've never understood how anyone can think that the Priest "represents Christ"  or "represents the Father" when He is offering Christ to the Father. If the Priest represents anyone, it is we, the Church, that he represents.
I also find the concept of the priest as an image of God the Father something I have not encountered before.

The image of the priest as "alter Christus" is not out of place within Orthodoxy and we do not have to shy away from it because the Catholics have emphasized it so very heavily.  But, as George says, he also represents the people of God.

"For Irenaeus the bishop is alter apostolus wheras for Ignatius the bishop is alter Christus. For Irenaeus, the bishop was someone who expressed the apostolicity of the Church whereas for Ignatius the bishop was someone who took care of his flock as a living icon of Christ. There is no contradiction in the two terms but simply a difference of emphasis; the terms are complementary."

Philip Kariatlis
St Andrew's Theological College,
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia

http://orthodoxchristian.info/pages/St_Irenaeus.htm
 

Irish Hermit

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ozgeorge said:
Irish Hermit said:
Is there a legitimate discussion in the Orthodox Church as to whether our bishops have authority from the Lord to ordain women priests?
1) What constitutes a "legitimate" discussion?
In the sense:  is it a legitimate discussion if we conduct it with open-ended possibilities,  yes, our bishops have the authority to ordain women or, no, our bishops do not have the authority to ordain women (we are speaking of women priests, not deaconesses.)  In other words, are we prepared to say that we are ignorant of the answer at this time and it awaits a resolution in the future?
 

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The ever-memorable letter from the ever-memorable Fr Alexander Schmeman

Concerning Women's Ordination -
a letter to an episcopal friend

by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Schmemann, S.T.D., LL.D, D.D.

http://www.episcopalnet.org/TRACTS/ConcerningOrdination.html



Dear Friend:

When you asked me to outline the Orthodox reaction to the idea of women's ordination to the priesthood, I thought at first that to do so would not be too difficult. It is not difficult, indeed, simply to state that the Orthodox Church is against women's priesthood and to enumerate as fully as possible the dogmatical, canonical, and spiritual reasons for that opposition.

On second thought, however, I became convinced that such an answer would be not only useless, but even harmful. Useless, because all such "formal reasons" - scriptural, traditional, canonical - are well known to the advocates of women's ordination, as is also well known our general ecclesiological stand which, depending on their mood and current priorities, our Western Brothers either hail as Orthodoxy's "main" ecumenical contribution or dismiss as archaic, narrow-minded, and irrelevant. Harmful, because true formally, this answer would still vitiate the real Orthodox position by reducing it to a theological context and perspective, alien to the Orthodox mind. For the Orthodox Church has never faced this question, it is for us totally extrinsic, a casus irrealis for which we find no basis, no terms of reference in our Tradition, in the very experience of the Church, and for the discussion of which we are therefore simply not prepared.

Such is then my difficulty. I cannot discuss the problem itself because to do so would necessitate the elucidation of our approach - not to women and to priesthood only - but, above all to God in his Triune Life, to Creation, Fall and Redemption, to the Church and the mystery of her life, to the deification of man and the consummation of all things in Christ. Short of all this it would remain incomprehensible, I am sure, why the ordination of women to priesthood is tantamount for us to a radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith, the rejection of the whole Scripture, and, needless to say, the end of all "dialogues" . Short of all this my answer will sound like another "conservative" and "traditional" defense of the status quo, of precisely that which many Christians today, having heard it too many times, reject as hypocrisy, lack of openness to God's will, blindness to the world, etc. Obviously enough those who reject Tradition would not listen once more to an argumentex traditione....

But to what will they listen? Our amazement - and the Orthodox reaction is above all that of amazement - is precisely about the change and, to us, incomprehensible hastiness with which the question of women's ordination was, first, accepted as an issue, then quickly reduced to the level of a disciplinary "matter" and finally identified as an issue of policy to be dealt with by a vote! In this strange situation all I can do is to try to convey to you this amazement by briefly enumerating its main "components" as I see and understand them.

The first dimension of our amazement can be termed "ecumenical." The debate on women's ordination reveals something which we have suspected for a long time but which now is confirmed beyond any doubt: the total truly built-in indifference of the Christian West to anything beyond the sphere of its own problematics, of its own experience. I can only repeat here what I have said before: even the so-called "ecumenical movement," notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, has always been, and still is, a purely Western phenomenon, based on Western presuppositions and determined by a specifically Western agenda. This is not "pride" or "arrogance." On the contrary, the Christian West is almost obsessed with a guilt complex and enjoys nothing better than self-criticism and self condemnation. It is rather a total inability to transcend itself, to accept the simple idea that its own experience, problems, thought forms and priorities may not be universal, that they themselves may need to be evaluated and judged in the light of a truly universal, truly "Catholic" experience. Western Christians would almost enthusiastically judge and condemn themselves, but on their own terms, within their own hopelessly "Western" perspective. Thus when they decide -- on the basis of their own possibly limited and fragmented, specifically Western, "cultural situation" -- that they must "repair" injustices made to women, they plan to do it immediately without even asking what the "others" may think about it, and are sincerely amazed and even saddened by lack, on the part of these "others" of ecumenical spirit, sympathy and comprehension.

Personally, I have often enough criticized the historical limitations of the Orthodox mentality not to have the right to say in all sincerity that to me the debate on women's ordination seems to be provincial, deeply marked, and even determined by Western selfcenteredness and self-sufficiency, by a naive, almost childish, conviction that every "trend" in the Western culture justifies a radical rethinking of the entire Christian tradition. How many such "trends" we have witnessed during the last decades of our troubled century! How many corresponding "theologies"! The difference this time, however, is that one deals in this particular debate not with a passing intellectual and academic "fad" like "death of God," "secular city," "celebration of life" etc.-- which, after it has produced a couple of ephemeral best-sellers, simply disappears, but with the threat of an irreversible and irreparable act which, if it becomes reality, will produce a new, and this time, I am convinced, final division among Christians, and will signify, at least for the Orthodox, the end of all dialogues.

It is well known that the advocates of women's ordination explain the Scriptural and the traditional exclusion of women from ministry by "cultural conditioning." If Christ did not include women into the Twelve, if the Church for centuries did not include them into priesthood, it is because of "culture" which would have made it impossible and unthinkable then. It is not my purpose to discuss here the theological and exegetical implications of this view as well as its purely historical basis, which incidentally seems to me extremely weak and shaky; what is truly amazing is that while absolutely convinced that they understand past "cultures," the advocates of women's ordination seem to be totally unaware of their own cultural "conditioning" of their own surrender to culture.

How else can one explain their readiness to accept what may prove to be a passing phenomenon and what, at any rate, is a phenomenon barely at its beginning (not to speak of the women's liberation movement, which at present is nothing but search and experimentation) as a sufficient justification for a radical change in the very structure of the Church? How else, furthermore, are we to explain that this movement is accepted on its own terms, within the perspective of "rights", "justice," "equality," Etc. -- all categories whose ability adequately to express the Christian faith and to be applied as such within the Church is, to say the least, questionable?

The sad truth is that the very idea of women's ordination, as it is presented and discussed today, is the result of too many confusions and reductions. If its root is surrender to "culture", its pattern of development is shaped by a surrender to "clericalism." It is indeed almost entirely dominated by the old "clerical" view of the Church and the double "reduction" interest in it. The reduction on the one hand, of the Church to a "power structure," the reduction on the other hand, of that power structure to clergy. To the alleged "inferiority" of women within the secular power structure, corresponds their "inferiority," i.e., their exclusion from clergy, within the ecclesiastical power structure. To their "liberation" in the secular society must therefore correspond their "liberation" i.e., ordination, in the Church.

But the Church simply cannot be reduced to these categories. As long as we try to measure the ineffable mystery of her life by concepts and ideas a priori alien to her very essence, we entirely mutilate her, and her real power, her glory and beauty, and her transcendent truth simply escape us.

That is why in conclusion of this letter I can only confess, without explaining and justifying this confession by my "proofs." I can confess that the non-ordination of women to priesthood has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with whatever "inferiority" we can invent or imagine. In the essential reality which alone constitutes the content of our faith and shapes the entire life of the Church, in the reality of the Kingdom of God which is perfect communion, perfect knowledge, perfect love and ultimately the "deification" of man, there is truly "neither male nor female." More than that, in this reality, of which we are made partakers here and now, we all, men and women, without any distinction, are "Kings and priests," for it is the essential priesthood of the human nature and vocation that Christ has restored to us.

It is of this priestly life, it is of this ultimate reality, that the Church is both gift and acceptance. And that she may be this, that she may always and everywhere be the gift of the Spirit without any measure or limitations, the Son of God offered himself in a unique sacrifice, and made this unique sacrifice and this unique priesthood the very foundation, indeed the very "form" of the Church.

This priesthood is Christ's, not ours. None of us, man or woman, has any "right" to it; it is emphatically not one of human vocations, analogous, even if superior, to all others. The priest in the Church is not "another" priest, and the sacrifice he offers is not "another" sacrifice. It is forever and only Christ's priesthood and Christ's sacrifice -- for, in the words of our Prayers of Offertory, it is "Thou who offerest and Thou who art offered, it is Thou who receivest and Thou who distributest..." And thus the "institutional" priest in the Church has no "ontology" of his own. It exists only to make Christ himself present, to make this unique Priesthood and this unique Sacrifice the source of the Church's life and the "acquisition" by men of the Holy Spirit. And if the bearer, the icon and the fulfiller of that unique priesthood, is man and not woman, it is because Christ is man and not woman.....

Why? This of course is the only important, the only relevant question. The one precisely that no "culture," no "sociology," no "history" and even no "exegesis" can answer. For it can be answered only by theology in the primordial and essential meaning of that word in the Church; as the contemplation and vision of the Truth itself, as communion with the uncreated Divine Light. It is only here, in this purified and restored vision that we might begin to understand why the ineffable mystery of the relationship between God and His Creation, between God and His chosen people, between God and His Church, are "essentially" revealed to us as a nuptial mystery, as fulfillment of a mystical marriage. Why in other terms, Creation itself, the Church herself, man and the world themselves, when contemplated in their ultimate truth and destiny, are revealed to us as Bride, as Woman clothed in sun; why in the very depth of her love and knowledge, of her joy and communion, the Church identifies herself with one Woman, whom she exalts as "more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim."

Is it this mystery that has to be "understood" by means of our broken and fallen world, which knows and experiences itself only in its brokenness and fragmentation, its tensions and dichotomies and which, as such, is incapable of the ultimate vision? Or is it this vision and this unique experience that must again become to us the "means" of our understanding of the world, the starting point and the very possibility of a truly Divine victory over all that in this world is but human, historical and cultural?

 

ozgeorge

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Irish Hermit said:
These holy nuns taught
us that St. Brigid was a bishop of the Church.
Is this still common knowledge in the Catholic Church or has it been forgotten? I'm surprised that groups such as "Roman Catholic Women Priests" (mentioned earlier in the thread) haven't run with it. A search of their website for the strings "Brigid" and  "Briget" bring up nothing.
 

Irish Hermit

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ozgeorge said:
Is this still common knowledge in the Catholic Church or has it been forgotten?
As you mention, her episcopal consecration by Saint Mael is recorded in one of her Lives (circa 8th century)  but I don't think it has ever been given great credence. 

For the text:
http://mm.usc.edu/bibliographia/?function=detail&id=6740

There are five or six earlier Lives of Saint Brigid (Saint Broccan Cloen's, Saint Kilian's, Saint Donatus, Saint Alerian the Wise, Saint Colgan of Kildare - these would all be interesting to check whether or not they mention the consecration.)

The Book of Lismore bears this story:

"Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the church. Then said Bishop Mel: "Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the form of ordaining a bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille [another bishop present] said that a bishop's order should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel "No power have I in this matter. That dignity hath been given by God unto Brigid, beyond every other woman." Wherefore the men of Ireland from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid's successor."

Most likely this story relates to the fact that Roman diocesan system was unknown in Ireland. Monasteries formed the centre of Christian life in the early Church of Ireland. Therefore, abbots and abbesses could hold held some of the dignity and functions that a bishop would on the Continent. Abbots and abbesses were presented with an abbatial staff and sometimes with a crown/mitre - these items could have caused the confusion?

Women sometimes ruled double monasteries, thus governing both men and women. Bridget, as a pre-eminent abbess, might have fulfilled some semi-episcopal functions, such as preaching, hearing confessions (without absolution), and leading the neighbouring Christians.
 

LizaSymonenko

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ozgeorge said:
Myrrh23 said:
I'm with you! I vote NO to a female priesthood!
I didn't think this thread was a poll....is it?
I can't see the point of threads which are no more than "I want x, you want y".
As pointed out, LisaSymonenko was incorrect in her assumption that Christ had no female disciples, yet this fact is ignored and you "vote NO".
This is not how a discussion takes place.
I don't think I was incorrect.

While there are women who are considered "Equal to the Apostles" - none of the original twelve were women.

I hold the myrrhbearers and all the female saints, and especially the Mother of God in the highest esteem and respect. I love them all, and do not diminish their lives or the role they have played in the Church.  However, that does not change the fact that of the disciples that Christ called (the original 12), none were women.  Or am I reading a different Gospel than the rest of you?

As I recall the woman, such as Mary Magdalene were not "called" by Christ.  They joined Him on their own.  He did not go out in search of them, or call them by name.
While Christ did not rebuff them, for He came to teach and save everyone, He did not include them in the "inner" circle.

I fully agree that women have a significant role to play within Orthodoxy.  However, priesthood is NOT one of those roles.  To satisfy one's own ambitions and "calling" while in the process rocking the Church and Faith is unacceptable.  If a women has a "calling" than fill it some other way!

Female deacons were necessary in the old days.  The priests (men, by the way) were not permitted to touch women while ministering to them, nor to visit a sick woman alone.  This is where the deaconess came in to play.  She would, on behalf of the male priest, minister to women.  She would visit the infirm, etc.

I respect the Church too much to just sit by and have someone change it because they feel the "need" to serve!  Please!  That's just pride on the woman's part.

If it ain't broken, don't fix it!

Matthew 10:1
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

Matthew 11:1
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

Matthew 26:20
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

# Mark 6:7
And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;


I could go on...however, I am trying to make the point that the TWELVE were not women, even though there were women disciples and there were and are women "Equal to the Apostles".

OzGeorge, welcome back, but, don't be so condescending.  You will hamper the very discussion you are trying to have.


 

ialmisry

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ozgeorge said:
88Devin12 said:
In Orthodoxy, it's not Jesus, but the Father whom those serving at the altar represent
I'm wondering about this quote from Matushka Mathews-Green. Does anyone know what this idea that the Priest represents God the Father at the altar is this based on? Why would the Father have his back to us facing the same direction we are and supplicating the Trinity and offering the Gifts of the Holy Table to God "for all and in all"? I've never understood how anyone can think that the Priest "represents Christ"  or "represents the Father" when He is offering Christ to the Father. If the Priest represents anyone, it is we, the Church, that he represents.
The priest actually represents the bishop, a living antimens, but I'm with you: I don't find the male iconic argument much in Orthodoxy as we do in the Vatican's defense of a male priesthood.  But then, we don't have the same problems as they do. Not alter Christus, but in peronsam Christi.
 

ozgeorge

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LizaSymonenko said:
ozgeorge said:
Myrrh23 said:
I'm with you! I vote NO to a female priesthood!
I didn't think this thread was a poll....is it?
I can't see the point of threads which are no more than "I want x, you want y".
As pointed out, LisaSymonenko was incorrect in her assumption that Christ had no female disciples, yet this fact is ignored and you "vote NO".
This is not how a discussion takes place.
I don't think I was incorrect.
I see now that you are equating the terms "Apostle" and "Disciple". This is where you are incorrect. An Apostle is a Disciple, but a Disciple is not necessarily an Apostle. For example, in John 19:38, we read that St. Joseph of Arimithea was "a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews",  But St. Joseph was not "one of the Twelve" (i.e., Apostles).

LizaSymonenko said:
there were women disciples and there were and are women "Equal to the Apostles".
Thank you for clearing that up. That's all I was saying. How else was I supposed to know that you meant "the Twelve" when you said "Disciples"?

LizaSymonenko said:
OzGeorge, welcome back, but, don't be so condescending. 
 I find the sincerity of your welcome is quenstionable seeing that you think I am being condescending.

LizaSymonenko said:
You will hamper the very discussion you are trying to have.
Well, the discussion has actually been quite enlightening so far; I'm learning a lot about St. Brigid, Consecration of Bishops by one Bishop alone in the early Church of the British Isles, the correspondence of St. Augustine with Pope St. Gregory to name a few, so the discussion doesn't seem hampered from my perspective. Is something hampering your discussion?  
 

Irish Hermit

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"Women and the Priesthood" was Orthodoxy's first attempt at a response to the Anglican ordination of women.  Contributions from Meyendorff, Schmemann, Afanassiev.  I remember how greedily we drank in this book because we needed some intelligent, and orthodox,  response to all our Anglican friends.  One of the main planks of the argument is based on the symbolic and iconic function of the male priest as alter Christus and the relationship of the priest to the Church (the male priest to the Bride of the Church.).    Since then Saint Vladimir's have gone on publishing more material from theologians and the iconic image of the male priesthood plays a large role.

However, in the end the argument is always reduced to one - we cannot do it because it is contrary to what we have received.  A response similar in its simplicity to Pope Jean Paul's response:  I cannot ordain a woman since I don't have the authority.
 

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ozgeorge said:
Consecration of Bishops by one Bishop alone in the early Church of the British Isles
This has taken place in the history of the Russian Church Abroad, even within the last few decades, although the details have slipped into the irretrievable section of my memory banks.  If ROCORthodox is reading this he may have details.
 

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Lets just ask a plaing question... WHY should we ordain women as Priests if the Church has never done this before (that is w/o it being an accident/mistake)?
 
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