by Carrie Frederick Frost | ελληνικά
The reinstitution of the ordained female diaconate in the Orthodox Church today would result in a much-needed and transformative outpouring of women’s gifts into the Church and into the world.
In order to appreciate the positive potential of the female diaconate, we must understand the absolute parity of women and men in the eyes of the Orthodox Church. The Church has always understood men and women to be equally created in the image and likeness of God, even if its broader cultural surrounding was highly patriarchal. As such, statements like this from Saint Basil were nothing short of radical: “The natures are alike of equal honor, the virtues are equal, the struggle equal, the judgment alike” (On the Human Condition). This thinking is representative of early Church Fathers, including Gregory of Nazianzus and Clement of Alexandria, and amounts to a rejection of any hierarchical understanding of the relationship between men and women in the Roman world. Indeed, this understanding of women and men as equal in their creation by God is one of Christianity’s great gifts to the world. Continue Reading…
by Carrie Frederick Frost
Material piety was central to the early Church and it flourishes to this day within Orthodox Christianity. That Christians would love the material, created world makes perfect sense—their God took on matter in order to appear in the world of His creation. And early Christians understood that their path to God would be walked in that world; embodied as a human, among the other animals, alongside the trees, over the earth, beneath the sky.
Early Christians expressed this love for matter through their ornamentation of the catacombs of Rome, which were places not just of burial of the dead, but of gathering, of worship, and of praise. The same goes for outside spaces in later centuries, when noble women gathered in cemeteries to care for the graves and their park-like surroundings. The faithful also crafted religious objects: rings, bracelets, and ampullae for oil from holy sites, thus feeding their proclivity for, as Robert Wilken calls it, tactile piety: “worship with the lips and fingertips.” Continue Reading…
by Carrie Frederick Frost | ру́сский
Multiple petitions are offered for the fruitfulness of a couple’s union during an Orthodox marriage service, so many that a college friend characterized my wedding as a fertility rite. One such example: “That He will grant unto them the enjoyment of the blessing of children…let us pray to the Lord.”
Based on the sentiment that children are a blessing to be enjoyed that is expressed in the marriage service, one might assume that the Orthodox prayers said after the birth of a child are full of thanksgiving and rejoicing; the nuptial prayers have, after all, been answered. Instead, these qualities are noticeably lacking from the post-childbirth prayers that are part of the Orthodox Euchologion, the compendium of services: the First Day prayers (said soon after childbirth) and the Churching (for when the mother and child come to church the first time after childbirth). Continue Reading…
by Carrie Frederick Frost
History was made on February 17, 2017 when five women were consecrated deaconesses in the Orthodox Church. For many of us, this is a welcome but shocking development.
Speaking for myself, I expected the reintroduction of a female diaconate to occur in Greece, or elsewhere in Europe, or, even more likely, the United States; say, Pittsburgh. These are the places with multiple advocacy groups and a robust academic investigation into the history and pastoral function of the female diaconate.
Frankly, I anticipated—in a most unexamined way—the first Orthodox deaconess of our era would be white woman. (Let me pause and be clear, lest my readers be distracted: even though I am a white American woman advocating for the female diaconate, I have neither call nor desire to serve in this way.)
I now know that I suffered a serious failure of imagination. Continue Reading…