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Female saints who disguised themselves as men


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#1 Michael Normandin

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 02:26 PM

We celebrated a saint about a week ago. She disguised herself as a man and lived in a male monastery. Why would the church be okay with this act regardless if she was a saint or not? I don't see what the point was for her to disguise herself at all. Why didn't she just repent like we are told to do and enter a woman's monastery? I mean the saints are there to be examples for us to live like. I cannot imagine if my wife decided to dress up as male and lived at Mt Athos that would go over well. Correct me if I am wrong. What about what is says in Deuteronomy 22:5, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God."

#2 Kusanagi

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 04:24 PM

There are a few saints that disguised themselves as monks. Like St Doratheus who advised St Seraphim of Sarov to be a monk. St Xenia of Rome, St Mary who is called Marius. St Pelagia the penitent.
Some fathers have interpreted this as because they went beyond the limits of the weakness/ boundaries of the female sex, subjecting themselves to strict asceticism usually seen in male monastics.

Your wife cannot be a monk on Athos as previous women have been stopped by the Mother of God herself.

#3 Michael Normandin

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 05:23 PM

Isn't that bad blurring the lines of gender? And cannot the female monastics do that too with out having to deceive? I am having a hard time with this.

#4 Michael Normandin

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 05:27 PM

What about the part where Holy Scripture says, it was an abomination to dress as a man?

#5 John S.

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 08:16 PM

Isn't that bad blurring the lines of gender? And cannot the female monastics do that too with out having to deceive? I am having a hard time with this.


Michael,

Oftentimes when we read Saints' lives, we find some Saints who do things that are outside the norm for most Christians. Women dressing as men and going to a men’s monastery is an example. There are others:

Sometimes we hear of married couples deciding to go off to separate monasteries and live as monastics. This is certainly not the calling for many married people. Indeed, in most cases, to do so would probably be seen as abandoning your spouse and vows!

Sometimes we read of others who abandon family members to go to the desert, leaving parents, or spouses, or even children. Obviously, 99% of this time, this would be sinful.

Or look at the Fools for Christ. They do not provide for themselves, or work, or otherwise support themselves or their families. This is unacceptable for the majority of us, and would be slothful.

And on and on. But these people are Saints, and God carved out a special place for them. Saints are an example to us to show us how to live, but they are also above and beyond us. As the apostle says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” They see past the rules and doctrines put in place to help us, and so sometimes they seem to do things contrary to what is “right.” Nevertheless, this is not so, for they do these things because they see and live beyond those structures. Many commandments are given to guide us to God. But if the Saint has already attained divinization, some of the commandments, for them, no longer serve the purposes they once did.

So don’t worry, there is obviously cause for wonder at what they do, but no need to be scandalized. We laypeople stick to the basics, and leave the rest to the Saints. They know what they are doing.

- John

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 September 2011 - 08:34 PM

Today the President of the United States awarded the highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor, to a Marine who disobeyed a direct order, not something that is generally recommended and certainly not encouraged. Disobeying an order in the military is an "abomination" of sorts, it can earn you a dishonorable discharge, but this man got a medal, not just any medal, but the highest honor the US military can bestow.

The Church certainly does not encourage women to dress as men, it doesn't encourage men to live on top of poles either, but it has declared certain people who do both things to be saints. Then again, monastic garb, at least for the Orthodox, is not all that different between men and women. More than how she dressed is the fact that she took on a difficult challenge to live like the male monastics. Ultimately it was the fruit that is produced as holy people that mattered most, not the rules that were bent.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#7 Michael Normandin

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 12:37 AM

Well thank you all for the insight. It really does help. My frustrations come from a multitude of questions not just this one so please forgive if I seemed overly irritated by this. As I dig into Orthodoxy I find myself putting things up on shelves so that I can just accept the churches teachings on everything. Well my self broke about two days ago, I had too much stuff on it. I will over time unload my shelf on your guys to hopefully explain to me how I am misunderstanding things.

In Christ

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 02:21 AM

WIth this same story, I had a problem with the abbott showing the other abbott and all the brethern her bosom to prove she was a she.

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 01:36 PM

Intention is what's important here.

In past tradition when a woman showed up as a man in a men's monastery this was due to humility- to hide who she was for modesty's sake or for some other appropriate reason.

However if she appeared this way as a cross dresser- then you've got a problem!

Anyway- that's what abbots are for- to spot the difference and act accordingly.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#10 Michael Normandin

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 03:41 PM

Thank you all for the posts you again have helped me through a tough spot in my walk.

#11 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 07:55 PM

As I dig into Orthodoxy I find myself putting things up on shelves so that I can just accept the churches teachings on everything. Well my self broke about two days ago, I had too much stuff on it. I will over time unload my shelf on your guys to hopefully explain to me how I am misunderstanding things.


LOL. Nice way to put it. God bless you, Michael.

#12 Ryan

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 08:19 PM

St. Theodora's situation was unique. If she wanted to be a nun, she would probably have to get permission from some male authority figure (ie her father). Since she was still married, that would be trouble. I think men had much more autonomy in these questions.

#13 Olga

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 09:09 PM

St. Theodora's situation was unique. If she wanted to be a nun, she would probably have to get permission from some male authority figure (ie her father). Since she was still married, that would be trouble. I think men had much more autonomy in these questions.


St Theodora was not the only woman who lived a male monastic life. There is also St Appolinaria of Egypt, who was known to the monks as Dorotheos. And there may be one or two more, if memory serves.

#14 Paul Cowan

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 11:25 PM

Venerable Euphrosyne of Alexandria

#15 Michael 'Anthony' Cornett

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 04:51 PM

The Hermitess Photini also comes to mind. She is a relative of someone in our parish.

#16 Nina

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 07:16 PM

Venerable Euphrosyne of Alexandria


Because of her, her father Paphnutius became a Saint as well.

#17 Nina

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 07:19 PM

P.S As we can see also that St. Euphrosyne went to a male monastery out of fear that her father would find her in a women's monastery and take her away and make her marry, since also the igoumen gave her blessing to get married.

#18 Owen Jones

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 11:36 PM

Perhaps we should all be willing to take more risks in our spiritual lives.

#19 Nina

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Posted 21 June 2012 - 02:15 AM

Perhaps we should all be willing to take more risks in our spiritual lives.


Yeah, like not disguising ourselves as men and still going to a male monastery in ultra-feminine clothing. giggle :P

Seriously now, I think Owen is very right.

#20 Nina

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:56 PM

In this other link about the life of St. Euphrosyne we see how her father was asking always God for a son. :)




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