Category Archives: Canons and Liturgical Practices

Some Common Misperceptions about the Date of Pascha/Easter

by John Fotopoulos  |  ру́сский

There is a common misperception among Orthodox Christians that the reason why Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter is because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1stEcumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 AD and thus the Orthodox must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha can occur. Despite this view being held by so many Orthodox Christians as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, it is not accurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants has nothing to do with the Orthodox Church following the Paschal formula of Nicaea and the Western Churches not doing so, nor is it because the Orthodox must wait for Jewish Passover to be celebrated. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is in order to help explain precisely what the problems are. Continue reading

Women for the Church Chanters, Readers, and Their Sanctioned Roles

by Donna Rizk Asdourian  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

It is a very happy time for many Orthodox Christians across the globe since the order of the female sub-diaconate was re-installed in Alexandria, Egypt by Patriarch Theodore of the Greek Orthodox Church of all of Africa this past February 2017, where he ordained five women to the female diaconate (although without laying on of hands, that is cheirothesia not cheirotonia).  Although overly due, this historic event in our modern day gives many hope that the Church at large is heeding the pastoral needs of its people. Female deacons existed in the Orthodox Church, and has been kept in some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, as Dr. Petros Vassiliadis’ mentions regarding the revival of the female diaconate this past November.

The role of women in the Church is, of course, broader than an ordained female diaconate.  Indeed, men and women across the Christian world have thought more seriously about the role of women in the church in recent decades. They understand the pastoral benefit conferred to the entire community when women are more integral in the life of the Church.

Contrary to what many may assume, active roles for women is the Church’s Tradition. Continue Reading…

Beyond the Binary: Hymnographic Constructions of Orthodox Gender

by Ashley Purpura  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

Much like gender itself, Orthodox understandings of gender span a spectrum of diverse views. Many who address “the problem of gender” or the “role of women in the church” rely on an assumption that any theological interpretation of gender is necessarily situated along a cisgender binary. Simply, individuals with male bodies identify as “men” and display masculinity, and individuals with female bodies identify as “women” and display femininity. Byzantine hymns commemorating prominent saints and feasts, however, evidence that there is an aspect of Orthodox tradition where the performance of gender identities and masculine and feminine attributes does not necessarily correlate with particularly male- or female-sexed bodies. In these hymns, gender functions along traditional patriarchal lines as a means to make a saint’s holiness discernable to a temporally constrained ecclesiastical community. Gender as it is liturgically constructed through the singing of the hymns, however, functions beyond a binary categorization in relation to God. In short, a more encompassing and complex conception of gender is already present in the universally prescribed liturgical voice of the church.

The content of the general hymns for male and female martyrs, for example, reveals striking distinctions drawn along a binary gender divide. Continue Reading…

Ephesians 5:20-33 as the Epistle Reading for the Rite of Marriage: Appropriate or Problematic?

by Rev. Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas and Rev. Dr. Philip Zymaris  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

In modern times the appropriateness of the established Epistle Lesson (Ephes. 5:20-33) in the rite of marriage has been questioned.  How is it perceived by the contemporary listener and what does it say about spousal relationships?

At a basic level this established passage can be understood within the context of the household code adapted to the Greco-Roman world in which the early Christians enacted their life of faith. This world was essentially patriarchal. Domestic codes were meant to guide household members, husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters in the pursuit of their duties and responsibilities. At the heart of the exhortations are ethical perspectives that flow from the new life in Christ acquired through faith and baptism. Such codes have been incorporated in other New Testament writings (Col. 3:1-4:5; 1 Tim. 2:8-15, 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; and 1 Peter 2:13-3:7).

The established Epistle lesson therefore defines the manner by which a husband and wife are expected to relate to one another. Husbands are told to love their wives (25), while wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands (22). There is nothing exceptional in the latter admonition. Ancient social morality assumed as a given the submission of wives to their husbands. The Ephesians Letter, however, gives us more. It provides us with an exalted view of marriage by introducing radically new concepts, including the previously unheard admonition, “husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” which transforms the natural nuptial bond into a sacrament.

Interestingly enough, a grammatical examination of the text indicates that the entire pericope should be understood as an explanation of verse 5:21: “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Continue Reading…