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The role of women in Orthodoxy


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#41 Rick H.

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 06:55 PM

Thanks for the posts Frs. David and Raphael. I agree with you Father Raphael, when we men listen to the women we can learn much in areas that we are lacking. I have learned and continue to learn so much from my wife and other women that I don't think I would have otherwise. I think in some ways women are far superior to men as a whole and they help us to see things that we would not have seen, and I think there is a vice-versa on this as well. I am a fan of the interdependence in a marriage that Anna wrote about yesterday.

My intuition tells me it is time to simplify this.

When I wrote earlier:

Go to just about any non-Orthodox church and ask them to tell you what their stand is on 'the role of women in their church' and they will tell you what it is on different levels.

Boom-boom-boom, there it is and you will have it.



I meant I can have this question answered from most non-orthodox churches plainly and clearly in the form of bullet points. I wonder if we could do that here now with what has been presented? I think it is possible that a handful of bullet points could be laid down in the same way. If we hold off on authority and other possible questions for a moment, I wonder if we can do this starting with our first bullet point?

Starting with Father David's reply to Anna above:

Well, since you asked, I certainly believe that a woman is prevented by her nature from fathering a child. That is a role that is proscribed by her nature. I also believe that a woman, because of her gender, is proscribed from the priesthood. Beyond that nothing else comes to mind.



Could we have something like this for our first bullet point?:


-- There are no restrictions on a woman in terms of how she may serve, teach, or minister in the Orthodox Church with the exception that she is proscribed from the priesthood because of her gender.


Feel free to edit or change this in any way--there are no tricks here, I'm just trying to get a short set of points based on what is being said.

I think what is being said in this thread is that with a blessing from her priest, a woman can hold any position (other than priesthood) . . . she can do anything from facilities maintenance/management, administrative duties, teaching theology to men as a teacher of adult classes, and she can minister however her gifts seem apparent and with the blessing of her priest, she can do whatever with no restrictions?

Is this what is being said in this thread?

Is there any aversion to putting together a handful of bullet points that might express the answer to this question on different levels in a quick and painless way?

Edited by Rick H., 17 October 2012 - 07:19 PM.


#42 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 07:40 PM

-- There are no restrictions on a woman in terms of how she may serve, teach, or minister in the Orthodox Church with the exception that she is proscribed from the priesthood because of her gender.


Feel free to edit or change this in any way--there are no tricks here, I'm just trying to get a short set of points based on what is being said.

I think what is being said in this thread is that with a blessing from her priest, a woman can hold any position (other than priesthood) . . . she can do anything from facilities maintenance/management, administrative duties, teaching theology to men as a teacher of adult classes, and she can minister however her gifts seem apparent and with the blessing of her priest, she can do whatever with no restrictions?


First and in my opinion the only "bullet point" necessary is this:

-- There are no inherent restrictions on a woman (or any person for that matter) in terms of how she may, with the blessing of the appropriate ecclesiastical authority (ruling bishop, rector, spiritual father), serve, teach, or minister in the Orthodox Church in any position for which she is otherwise qualified. The only obvious condition relating to the above is that a woman is proscribed from the sacramental priesthood because of her gender.


Fr David

#43 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 07:01 PM

We have to get the principles right before we can know what's appropriate in various cases. The practical principle is male headship, which means it's always better if men take the lead. When both men and women understand and accept this, knowing what's appropriate in all the various cases isn't much of a problem. They will both sense when the headship of the man is or is not being respected, and they will adjust their behavior accordingly.

For example, a wise woman directing a choir will take special care not to lord it over the men in the choir. She will not order them about or correct them curtly, as she might women or children. She should defer to them on some matters, for instance, asking them to lead any prayers said before practice or before meals, and asking them to chant the parts of clergy if needed. I have know several female choir directors, typically older women, who were very good at treating men respectfully, but I have also known several who treated men like women and even like children, which is especially wrong.

It would be better if choir directors were male, since choir directors do plainly exercise authority over their choristers, telling them what to do, where to stand, when to sing, how to sing, etc. The centurion tells us what authority means:

"For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." (Matt. 8:9)


It is not natural for women to relate to men this way, and we should avoid it whenever possible.

Teaching is often also an exercise of authority. The Romans addressed their teachers as magister — from which we have master. The Apostle Paul speaks of teaching and authority in the same breath; the Fathers do as well. They allow that women might have something to teach men and might do so informally, through conversation (as Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos), but they explicitly and consistently forbid public teaching of men by women. The sources to cite are many: St. Cyrian of Carthage's precept #46, St. Basil the Great's rule #73, St. Jerome's letter #127, St. John Chrysostom in many places, Canon 70 of the Sixth EC, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Constitutions, among others. Reading the Gospels and Epistles aloud in church was also considered teaching and was reserved for the priestly offices and forbidden to women. (St. Jerome faults Pelagius on this point.)

Of course women can teach other women as well as children, but it is better if men teach older children, especially older boys, who are trying to become men and greatly resent being forever mothered. Boys aspire to be men not women, so we should give them men as teachers and leaders. We should also teach boys to be leaders and not make them subject to their elder sisters if the age difference is slight. St. John Chrysostom actually says that sex trumps age when it comes to precedence, "since among the children the female doth not possess equal sway." (Homily 34 on 1 Cor.) No one, of course, would put a boy of six in charge of a girl of 14, but it would teach boys and girls something important if the boy of six were asked to say grace before supper when his father isn't there.

The Fathers do teach that greater modesty is expected of women. Some ancient Christians objected to women writing books. Nowadays everybody has become so immodest that that hardly seems an issue, but women should give more consideration to how forward they are being. God does give the lead to men; it is therefore only fitting that the Church's leading writers and teachers be men. If instead they are women, something's wrong. It may be that men are weak in faith and not living up to their responsibilities, but it may also be that both men and women are weak in faith and not living up to the Church's teaching with respect to the sexes.

The Church's public worship should reflect the order of creation so that men and women both understand, and feel called toward, their respective responsibilities. Men should therefore be easily seen as in charge. What then is the reason to create offices for women or girls, making them responsible for passing the collection basket, controlling entry into the church or the flow toward the Chalice, or holding the cloth at the Chalice? Are such things not often deliberately intended to equalize the roles of men and women, out of the mistaken view that the Church is too male-dominated? Sometimes the justification is that this is a way to interest girls in church, but I have raised two faithful Orthodox females to adulthood, and neither ever complained about having nothing to do in church. I believe that complaint originates with the parents, who have wrongly taught their daughters that it's unfair for girls not to be allowed to do everything boys do.

Finally, it only makes sense, if we truly believe what the Church has always taught about men and women, that our councils would be composed of men. It's their responsibility. It's important that they believe that and feel inspired, by the honor shown their manhood, to step forward and assume responsibility for the community. The welfare of the community depends on men doing so, for when men are not taking responsibility for the community, women and children suffer greatly.

I think that about covers it. Let me know if I've missed anything.

In Christ,

Dn Patrick

#44 Rick H.

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 10:41 PM

Father Raphael,

Take what has been said in this thread (before Fr. Dcn. arrived) to it's logical end. Everybody is responsible for correcting/rebuking everybody who everybody thinks is in error (regardless of whether they are lay or clergy or bishop or whoever). Everyone is responsible for correcting everyone when they percieve the other is in error. There will never be unity in this approach even within a particular group, this can only cause division and 'sides.'

Another name for that is Protestantism. Another name for that is chaos. Don't you think?

#45 Father David Moser

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 11:42 PM

Olga, Fr. Dcn. is saying women who have been given a role of responsibility in Orthodoxy should not be sharp tongued and curt to the men in their group.


This actually has nothing at all to do with gender roles. No one, male or female, clergy or laity should be "sharp tongued and curt" to anyone (male or female, clergy or laity). This isn't about gender roles or inherent differences or "archy" (whatever that is), its about whether or not a person is a sinner.

Fr David

#46 Father David Moser

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 11:49 PM

an archy of men over women.


I find this problematic since there is no such thing as an "archy". This word, essentially coined by Fr Patrick, expresses a concept that he has proposed as an alternative to "hierarchy" (which is a real word with a recognized definition). I can accept this "archy" as a proposal to consider, but as far as I know it has no standing in any official dictionary. So I would request that in the future we avoid using this made up word and use words that we all understand and agree on the meaning.

Is there an "archy" of men over women - who knows since no one (except Fr Patrick) knows what an "archy" is. Please rephrase the question using standard English.

Fr David

#47 Anna Stickles

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 12:11 AM

I wrote my post above before I saw this one Father. But, it actually answers this question because when we are divided and we live according to our beliefs then we are Protestants unaware (even if we claim the same label). And, regardless of living according to our beliefs the chaos remains. The protestants continue to live by their beliefs and enter cycles of chaos, division, reproduction, etc . . . Without a proper order in families we have dysfunctional families, without a proper order in churches we have dysfunctional churches--this is what I was trying to communicate earlier this week in this thread.

Dysfunction breeds dysfunction.


But Rick, what is a proper order in families? One where the women and children are depending on the man, or one where there is interdependence? One where the man only listens to himself not his wife, or where they listen to one another? I think you would agree that what we are striving for is not an absolute order of relation but an interrelation.

As far as division in churches - proper order as a set of rules will never heal this because the root cause is not rebellion against the proper order (which is basically what Fr Dn's doctrine of archy is teaching as far as I can see) but sin and self-will as a rebellion against a personal God. It is turning away from love as a movement of selflessness that does not demand honor or place, but rather waits for it to be offered freely.

What heals division is voluntary humility, not enforcing a set of rules on the underlings to keep things in order. In the Orthodox Church then healing of divisions comes not through setting up a bunch of rules, but through ascetic struggle toward denying ourselves and through our deeper submission to the unity in Christ which exists in the sacramental authority and life in the Church.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 19 October 2012 - 12:46 AM.


#48 Olga

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 04:27 AM

From Rick H's post #70, on page 3 of this thread. The "you" which opens the quote is referring to me:

You usually have a wealth of info to present on a given subject from the hymms or whatever, but you are mute on this subject, what do the hymms say about the role of lay women in Orthodoxy?

Can anyone tell me why we are getting the silent treatment here on source material from the treasury? Right now, I can, with great speed, give a very detailed account of how different non-Christian groups view the role of lay women (or women clergy) in their particular group. But, as it relates to Orthodoxy I got nothin' but stories about how some folks do it or what some folks think.


There are many, many adjectives and descriptives to the Mother of God used in Orthodox hymnography, in an attempt to express the many facets of her person. One of the most frequently-used is the Greek Despoina, its Slavonic equivalent Vladichitsya, and properly translated into English as Mistress. Dcn Patrick touched on the etymology of Master in an earlier post, correctly pointing out its origins in the Latin Magister. Mistress, likewise, is derived from the feminine equivalent of Magister, which is Magistra.

Here is a fuller etymology of Mistress, from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Etymology:
< Anglo-Norman and Middle French maistresse, mestresse (c1180 in Old French; French maîtresse ) < maistre master n.1 + -esse -ess suffix1. Compare Old Occitan mestressa (1450), Italian (arch.) maestressa (a1348), and also post-classical Latin magistrissa (1269), magistressa (mid 14th cent.). Compare miss n.2, missus n., Mrs n.1 Among parallel senses of the word in Old French and Middle French are: ‘governess, duenna’ (c1180; compare sense A. 1), ‘female head of a household’ (13th cent.; compare sense A. 2a), ‘object of reverent love’ (first half of the 13th cent.; compare sense A. 5a), ‘woman who is proficient in something’ (first half of the 13th cent.; compare sense A. 9), ‘female teacher’ (1332; compare sense A. 8), ‘female possessor of something’ (c1372; compare sense A. 4c). The Middle French word occurs as an adjective used attributively from the late 15th cent. (compare sense B.).


It is abundantly clear that Mistress, and its Greek and Slavonic counterparts, refers to a woman in a position of authority, just as Master refers to the same for a man. Hymnographers must be scrupulous in their choice of words, so as to faithfully and accurately convey what the Church teaches and espouses. It cannot be an accident that Mistress is not only used as a title for the Mother of God, but is also used so very, very frequently.

Furthermore, the Mother of God is also referred to liturgically as the Queen and Mother. This is a cultural and scriptural reference to her as mother of the King, a dowager queen. In many cultures, the mother of the king held a special place in the royal or imperial court, as an advocate for the people, and as an adviser to the king. The Mother of God is no different. There are many Theotokia which contain the phrase "as you have maternal boldness before your Son", indicating her special relationship with her Son and God in interceding on behalf of those who pray to her for help.

#49 Antonios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 04:46 AM

God made man and woman in His image and likeness. Think on that.

God granted the priesthood to man and the generation from within women. Pretty interesting stuff.

God sent His Son to save the world and made men and women saints.

The greatest saint of all of these is the Holy Mother of God. Glory to God for all things!

#50 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:02 AM

"The very message of Orthodoxy, then, is that men and and women are called away from the erroneous "natures" which they have taken to themselves, away from the labor and pain, to deification, to union with God, through the grace of Christ. The very task of the Church in the world is to preserve this notion of salvation, to protect the vessel in which rests this great and sacred potential. If, then, the Church exalts the woman as child-bearer, it is to lift her nature, to emphasize her unique social role. But should she choose to be called to the higher "nature" Of holiness, the Holy Church even more greatly honors her. In that higher calling, she gives birth to Christ, as did the Blessed Theotokos, bearing "asomatos" ("in an unbodily way"), as St. Maximos says, God within her. And this potential is not that of women alone, but of men, too. The spiritual child-bearing of the human is a male and female role.



Thus it is that we must not speak too boldly about women in society. If "Kinder und Kuche" are our banner words, we discredit those holy women who surpassed human nature. We dishonor the Holy Mothers and women saints of the Church. We impose on women a role which must never be overemphasized or placed above the higher spiritual calling of man and women. Moreover, in a certain sense we fail to understand that the worldly role of women in the Orthodox Church, as evidenced by the Byzantine empresses who stand as saints in the Holy Church, is not dogmatized and fixed. There are, as always, exceptions, paradoxes, and unique circumstances which a rigid view can never capture. Indeed, the liberty to fulfill the role to which God calls us must never be compromised by those roles which we preserve as salutary for the correct ordering of society.

Our goals together, as Orthodox men and women, are to make society, as much as possible, an image of the divine. To do this, the family must be sacrosanct and the parents must fulfill the roles necessary to the preservation of social order. But this means that men and women must be caretakers in the home together, that they must be what they are because a greater goal than fulfilling social roles or would-be "natures" calls them. This is not the denigration of the man or woman, but the calling of each to serve ultimately spiritual goals."



the above is from http://orthodoxinfo....eral/women.aspx

kinder and kuche is German and means children and the kitchen. No comment from me on this.

Christ honoured women. Have we forgotten him? A soul is a soul. Is it feminine or masculine? Who can truly believe that it is either.

New Living Translation (©2007)
"Haven't you read the Scriptures?" Jesus replied. "They record that from the beginning 'God made them male and female.'


Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

#51 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:10 AM

'However when St. Paul announces in his letter to the Galatians, that there is neither male or female but both are considered equal in Christ's redemptive work, this represents from a historical perspective the most radical statement made on the status of women up to that point in the history of ideas. The message of Christianity claims that both men and women are empowered; saved and sanctified by Christ in an equal manner. In the final analysis Christianity claims both man and women equally receive the gifts and virtues bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Gender does not disqualify a Christian from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today women make enormous and significant contributions to human societies.'

The above is from http://www.orthodoxr...le_of_women.htm

Respect towards each other no matter whether you are female or male is of utmost importance.

In previous posts I have mentioned one incident that took place in one of the large churches in our city. One of the women on the church council disagreed with the priest and during the Sunday liturgy he said that he would not give communion to this woman. Why? Because she disagreed with him......................... There were mutterings and then loud protests from the congregation. He was not allowed to get away with this arrogant behaviour. I was a witness to this and am proud of all the people who protested. We are the church ........ the men and the women who gather together to worship God.

#52 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:18 AM

Matthew 28:1-7

New International Version (NIV)


Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Does the above mean that these two women were the first apostles?

#53 Olga

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:22 AM

Does the above mean that these two women were the first apostles?


St Mary Magdalene is referred to liturgically as the Apostle to the Apostle, as she was commanded by Christ to go to the disciples to tell them of His resurrection. The "other Mary", according to the iconographic tradition, is the Mother of God.

#54 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:25 AM

I liked this site : http://www.goarch.or.../sessions/women

#55 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:30 AM

St Mary Magdalene is referred to liturgically as the Apostle to the Apostle, as she was commanded by Christ to go to the disciples to tell them of His resurrection. The "other Mary", according to the iconographic tradition, is the Mother of God.


Would the mother of God be described as "the other Mary"? This seems strange to me.

John: 19:25 New International Version (©1984)
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Off topic : Was his mother's sister the mother of James and John? I think she was.

#56 Olga

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 08:32 AM

Effie quoted this Gospel passage:

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”


Here is a famous icon illustrating this Gospel passage, from the Stavronikita Monastery at Mt Athos. The Mother of God is clearly recognisable from the colours of her garments, and the stars of ever-virginity on her shoulder and head.

Attached File  emptytomb.preview.jpg   97.5K   83 downloads

#57 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 09:18 AM

Olga, there seems to be some controversy about this.

"
Mark 16

New International Version (NIV)


Jesus Has Risen

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. "

"
The four canonical gospels all agree that "Mary" visited Jesus' tomb, though they differ on which Mary and whether she was on her own.

According to most ancient versions of the gospel of John (and most modern translations) Mary was Mary Magdalene, though the Codex Sinaiticus' version only calls her Mary. No other woman is mentioned explicitly, though when Mary says that she doesn't know where Jesus' body is, she uses the plural, which may indicate that there were other women with her.

In the Gospel of Mark both Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James are mentioned, joined by Salome.[2]

The gospel according to Luke relates that the women from Galilee visited the tomb and that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and the other women from Galilee later told the disciples about the visit to the tomb.

In Matthew, Mary Magdalene is with another Mary, presumably the mother of James."
http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Empty_tomb

Mary was the mother of James and was also referred to as wife or sister of Cleopas.

#58 Olga

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 09:25 AM

My dear Effie, I have yet to see any icon of the Myrrh-bearing Women, whether Greek, Russian, or other tradition, which does not feature the Mother of God. She is always there. The Gospels vary in stating how many Maries went to the tomb, and, indeed, vary in the number of women who did go. This does not at all interfere with the truth of what happened. :-)

#59 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:13 PM

Anna Stickles wrote:

As far as division in churches - proper order as a set of rules will never heal this because the root cause is not rebellion against the proper order... but sin and self-will as a rebellion against a personal God. It is turning away from love as a movement of selflessness that does not demand honor or place, but rather waits for it to be offered freely.


I wanted to pause here a moment and look at this point about order. For the Fathers often refer to this. But what do they mean?

That they do include a given discipline of order is never to be denied. We see clear references to this in the Fathers at least from the time of Clement of Alexandria on; and our whole liturgical and then ascetic (what becomes the monastic) tradition assumes a kind of external order.

Did this order include respect of females for males in authority? This also is implicit as part of the order of the Church since the time of the Apostles. Doubtless it soon was related to the virtue of humility.

But here precisely is where we have to be careful. For this very same life of the Church reveals a broader kind of order that developed the external order of discipline and propriety, into an order based on humility. It didn't set this order aside. But it did transform it totally.

So in the Gospels we also see an immediate reference to female apostles, something that (as far as I know anyway) was unknown in the ancient world. We hear of women actively involved in and supportive of the life of the Church. And then of course in the next generations we know for certainty of the important role which women played in the monastic movement.

What this tells us then beyond the fact that the Church broadened out paagn society to include all, is that the Church was and is a place based on listening and paying heed to each other. Is the Holy Spirit restricted to one set of people in the Church? Since it obviously is not, then it is likely that the ability to listen to all developed because it was rapidly recognized in the early Church that the various charisms inspired by the Holy Spirit were also available to all. And then in these terms it would be harmful to the Body of the Church not to pay heed to this.

Of course it can be objected that this describes just some sort of anarchy. Indeed over the centuries up to our own time this is exactly what some heretical groups have done in distorting the new order of the Church. But where this has occurred it can be seen that what was lost sight of was discernment; that paying heed to the wider Body of the Church doesn't mean that we open the door to self will. On the contrary it means that the voices we pay heed to come from the direction of humility. Or conversely those voices which are somewhat more challenging are then healed via our humility.

Thus there truly is an order to the Church that is based on discipline & propriety. This does include the question of respect of female for male and inseparably of male for female too. But a much wider circle is always drawn around this order so that it does not become one more example of human order; of power in a human sense. Which is what all human patterns of order can rapidly become either in maintaining themselves or in trying to balance themselves.

Thus the wider circle drawn around the Church is humility, so that wife hears husband, and husband hears wife. Parishioner hears priest, and priest hears parishioner. In this way the order of the world as Fr Zacharias (of Essex) using the image of a pyramid explains is inverted. Whereas in the world we all seek to get to the top of the pyramid, in the Church by going to the bottom, by all of us humbling ourselves before each other, the Body is maintained, and we find salvation.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#60 Dan L.

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:25 PM

Getting back to the question at hand. Perhaps it would be most appropriate rather than looking at it through the lense of whether Fr. David or Fr. Deacon Patrick are right, we should approach it by saying that making overarching generalities on what women can and cannot do is simply not beneficial and we should follow what our spiritual fathers direct. What may be appropriate in one culture can be different in another and we should be focused on submitting one to another rather than arguing over who can do what in the Church. The Church has always glorified women, starting with Theotokos who discoursed with the Apostoles and both Aquila and Pricilla taught in the early Church, not just Aquila. I think those advocating a more active role of women in the church and particularly on this forum are not doing so because of some radical leftist feminist theology, rather, they are humbly seeking opportunities whereby they can honor God through their actions. I don't see anyone advocating for the ordination of women or any such thing, just a simple desire to serve.




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