Facebook celebrity Hyperdox Herman has offered ten satirical reasons for banning men from the priesthood, including:
“The physical features of the structure of the male body indicate that the man was created for hard work, and not for serving in the temple, which does not require great physical strength.”
“Men are too prone to emotions – this is easy to see by attending any football match. A priest must be able to control himself, and this is often not given to men.”
“Caring for spiritual children is akin to caring for children, and such care is a natural ability and prerogative of a woman.”
I used to think that the kinds of reasons for excluding women from the priesthood that Hyperdox Herman cleverly spoofs were different in kind from symbolic reasons for not ordaining women. I have heard many thoughtful Orthodox Christians explain that the significance of Christ’s sex is his saving relationship to the Church, which takes the form of that of a bridegroom and his bride. The priest represents Christ in Liturgy. So, it is only fitting that a male (and not a female) priest represent Christ.
On 20 November 2022, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow celebrated his 76th birthday. At a reception to mark the occasion, held in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the Patriarch warned his guests in apocalyptic terms of the current dangers facing Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Without explicitly mentioning the war in Ukraine, Kirill called on the Church to play an active part in “the struggle of our Fatherland against global evil” and against “this movement of the Antichrist, which is capable of destroying both the entire world and Russia.” All the forces of the Antichrist, he claimed, would be directed against Russia, because the Russia of today was the “restraining force” (uderzhivuaiushchii) that was mentioned in Scripture in relation to the appearance of the Antichrist in the world.
Speaking to the audience at his birthday reception that mostly comprised hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, Kirill evidently did not feel the need to explain the Biblical concept of the “restraining force.” Several months earlier, however, in a sermon he preached in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 7 April, Kirill had called for prayers to be said for peace in Ukraine and for the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church. Why, he asked, had external forces attacked the “Russian land”? The Bible, he explained by way of an answer, contains a reference to a certain force that restrains the coming of the Antichrist into the world. It does not say what this force is: some think it was the Roman Empire; others believe it is the Church. The latter view is correct, Kirill claimed, but the restraining force is also “the entire pious people of all times and all countries, it is the Orthodox faith which lives and acts in the Orthodox Church.” This, he concluded, is why the enemies of the Church are now attacking its unity.
On January 11, 2023, the second Mega-Conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) held its formal opening at the Volos Academy for Theological Studies.
His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatius (Georgakopoulos) of Demetrias presided over Vespers at the Saints Constantine and Helen Church. In his welcome to the conference participants he said he was grateful that each day would begin with prayer, a sign of the ecclesial significance of the conference. Following Vespers the approximately 400 participants traveled to the Academy and filled its Great Hall for the opening ceremony.
There, the audience received a welcome from host Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Director of the Academy. Dr. Kalaitzidis noted that holding the conference in Volos is a testament to the Academy and the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias’s vision of being an internationally recognized place for encounter and dialogue, and open to scholarly thought. He focused on the incarnational reality of the Gospel and the conference’s theme, “Mission and the Orthodox Church.” He stated that mission cannot be only a theoretical or historical concern, but must be a contemporary one, since “God’s revelation takes place in history.” Kalaitzidis said: “A fleshless mission theology which refuses to converse with the wider social and cultural realities of its time is inconceivable. A mission theology that does not assume the flesh of its time is equally as inconceivable, just as it is inconceivable for the church to be insular, refusing to be drawn out of itself to meet the world and history, to evangelize and transform.”
One of the keystone prerogatives claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is its jurisdiction over the so-called “diaspora”—regions not included within the geographic boundaries of the other Autocephalous Churches. She insists that this exclusive extraterritorial jurisdiction is rooted in Canon 28 of Chalcedon which states:
[O]nly the metropolitans of the Pontian, Asian, and Thracian dioceses, as well as the bishops of the aforementioned dioceses among barbarians are ordained by the aforementioned most holy throne of the most Holy Church of Constantinople.
But that’s not what the canon explicitly says; it’s an interpretation. On its face, the canon seems to refer only to bishops who belong to the dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, who are ministering among certain barbarians. The standard canonical commentators—Zonaras, Balsamon, Aristenos—all interpret the phrase literally, referring to specific barbarian groups who were adjacent to Pontus, Asia, and Thrace. At the turn of the 19th century, St Nikodemos repeats this interpretation in the Pedalion. The modern theory is nowhere to be found.