“We have heard as they were read aloud those words, so shining and luminescent, we have taken in by ear, we have considered in our minds and honored in our belief.”
It is wonderful to be able to share with you how grateful I am for all the encouragement and support from the team at the Institute for Studies in Eastern Christianity throughout the time that I was developing and writing my new book. During the worst of the pandemic, I worked with Gorgias Press developing it, and editing it and preparing the type, and now it is a real pleasure for me for me to be able to share with you: From Their Lips: Voices of Early Christian Women.
It should come as no surprise that early Christian women are heard praying to the Lord from the beginning to the end of it. So, it offers the reader the opportunity to take a good look at early Christian prayer as it was remembered by generations of faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. By exploring the lives and ministry of a dozen early Christian women from the first centuries after the Resurrection, it delves deeply into their prayer lives. For professors, in their teaching; for students, in their studies—you will find this book helpful in bringing to life women whose faith and prayer to the Lord contributed to the history of early Christianity.
In fact, the volume opens in the New Testament, down by the river-side in Macedonian Philippi, in a scene I’m convinced was inspired by the living prayer of a woman. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the Apostle Paul had come to town and was looking for people to evangelize about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He heard that Jewish people met to pray together out by the river; so, on the Sabbath Day, he went out bright and early to meet them. As it happened, on this particular day, it was the women who were gathered there praying. And he spoke with Lydia—and Lydia spoke back (Luke 16:14-15).
On January 17, 2022, a deaconess of the Orthodox Church was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Church Triumphant. Maria Spyropoulou, deaconess of the missionary Church of Korea, fell asleep after an 89-year journey to earth.
Born February 6, 1933 in Greece, she studied Pedagogics in Athens (1952-54) and worked as a teacher. She studied theology and journalism in France (1963-66) and collaborated with the magazine Contacts of the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris. She then went to Bucharest (1968-70), where she attended courses on the Romanian language and theology.
Returning to Greece, she worked on the Standing Synodal Committee and at the Inter-Orthodox Center of Athens, responsible for relations with the Church of Romania.
Ultimately, however, the European context played a small role for Maria, who already felt that mission was (as she told us) “a madness”—a stretching forth of the wings to the ends of the earth!
Equality is a core idea and value of modernity. Yet contemporary societies are marked by multiple forms of inequality, for instance, socioeconomic and gender ones. What is the attitude of the Orthodox Church towards inequality? Do unequal relations exist within the Church too, and if yes, how does it address them?
No doubt, Orthodox churches develop rich and multifaceted philanthropic activities to palliate the consequences of inequalities and also condemn forms of exploitation as violation of the sacredness of the human person. However, I wish to argue that a number of factors do not permit the Church to develop a more activist attitude that would go beyond verbal condemnation and traditional philanthropy.
First, the structural position of the Church in the existing system, particularly in countries where the Church functions as a close ally of the state, makes it objectively difficult for church officials to challenge state policies that produce new or deepen established forms of inequality. The role of the Church in Greece during the period of the serious Greek debt crisis is a case in point: although it criticized neoliberalism, it nevertheless offered crucial support and legitimacy to the political authorities, which imposed austerity measures that increased poverty and inequality (see my article here).
The first rising of the sun in the East shoots rose light across the dim landscape; it is a time the early monks knew well, for a prayer service was starting, when the bell-ringer could just begin to see the lines in his hand. The Evangelist Mark leaves us in the Garden by the Tomb of Christ, at what may be the most extraordinary moment in history. For it was when those vivid shards of dawn light shot through the darkness from the East that Mary Magdalene and the other women came bearing myrrh to properly finish the burial preparations for their dear Lord, Jesus. As they approached, the Evangelist says they were anxious about how they would gain access to the tomb, for the stone was heavy.
Then, something profoundly miraculous happened. The Myrrhbearing women experienced something life-changing. All four Gospels describe the moment. Although each tells it a little differently, the message is so profound, and so utterly seminal to our life as Christians, that the details fall away and something utterly transcendent has happened and is revealed. And we too experience it personally and transcendently at Pascha. It is so luminously divine that it can only be described as something like a flashing white angelic figure—like lightning, really—a vision so powerful that the stone is moved and the empty tomb is visible; and in some dazzling way, the women suddenly know to depth of their hearts—He is not dead. Surely, this is the first truly apophatic apprehension of the Resurrection. He is not here! He is not dead! Christ is alive! And the radiant angel cried out to the Myrrhbearers: “Why do you women mingle myrrh with your tears? Look at the tomb and understand: the Savior has risen from the dead!” (Tone 2; Stichera of the Myrrh-bearers, Pentecostarion, for Myrrhbearers Sunday)