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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Answering a question about The Deaconess

As seen from the forum

We're tackling this issue at our church now....

shall we discuss??

Any takers?

love ya,

The deaconess didn't have the same role as the male deacons.

Some say they were the wives of deacons, while others don't see them as being wives of male deacons.

But from what we do know, is that they were mostly used as buffers between bishops(who were always male), Priests(who were always male).

They were used to help baptize women. Back then the custom was to be baptized nude. Now I don't know if this was a universal custom, but deaconess were used to help the Bishop Baptize women converts.

Like I said, they were mostly used as buffers, so that no evil could be spoken of the male bishops and priests.

"Let not any woman address herself to the deacon or bishop without the deaconess." Apostolic Constitutions (compiled around 390 A.D.)

"Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes the bishop cannot send a deacon (who is a man) to the women, on account of unbelievers. You should therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities. For examplle, in the baptism of women, the deacon will anoint only their forehead with the holy oil. And after him, the deaconess will anoint them. For there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men." Apostolic Constitutions (compiled around 390 A.D.)

Originally Posted by Azriel

I never knew that J....could you post
some links to where I could read up on that??Thanks fam...mad love, D


Some of what they said:

"The Office of Deaconess

The office of
deaconess was abolished in the West before the eleventh century, but in the East
it lasted to the end of the Byzantine period in the fifteenth century. It is now
retained only in some Orthodox convents.

St. Paul mentions the first
deaconess, St. Phoebe of the Church at Cenchrea, in his epistle to the Romans
16: 1-2: I commend unto you Phoebe our sister which is a deacon of the church
which is at Cenchrea. That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and
that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath
been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

The interpretations of
this passage vary. Those who would deny that there ever were ordained
deaconesses say that the word "deacon" simply means servant, and that anyone
could be a servant, male or female, ordained or not. That interpretation is at
odds with the Church's recognition of Phoebe as the first deaconess. It also
fails to take into account that the word "deacon" derived from the Greek and
meaning "helper" or "'minister" is exactly what the deaconess is supposed to be.

Another interpretation, more realistic in view of the historical facts,
is that this passage "refutes the hypothesis that [deaconesses] were appointed
to administer exclusively to their own sex (Coleman 115). In saying that Phoebe
"hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also," St. Paul is saying that
Phoebe ministered unto him, a male. (Some speculate that Phoebe nursed Paul back
to health from an illness or injury.)

"The office of deaconess was
already a position for women in the service of the Christian community in
apostolic times, but it was an inferior office until the middle of the third
century (House 97). It appears to have developed gradually, representing only a
small expansion of the role of widow. The Apostolic Constitutions required that
a deaconess either be a virgin or a once-married widow, and the Council of
Chalcedon (451 AD) forbade marriage after ordination.

The primary duties
of the deaconess were ministering to women in their houses and assisting at
baptisms. The rationale was that it was not proper for a deacon to go to the
house of heathens to visit a believing woman, and it was not proper for a man to
anoint a woman during baptism and to receive her as she emerged from the water,
because men should not see her unclothed. However, anointing the woman's head,
the immersion, and the pronouncement of the words of baptism were duties
reserved to the bishop or presbyter performing the baptism.

By the
fourth century, the deaconess was assigning places to female visitors in the
church, keeping order, admonishing and praying with latecomers, and assisting
"in a minor way" at the altar (House 98). What the qualification "in a minor
way" is not clear. The required age of sixty was reduced to fifty by the
Didascalia and then to forty by the Council at Chalcedon Other duties added to
her charge were to care for the sick and poor of her own sex; to be present when
bishops, priests, or deacons spoke with women; anti to introduce women

Several reasons are given for the ultimate demise of the
office of deaconess:
The decline of missionary activity and the resultant
decline in the number of adult baptisms with which deaconesses would assist.
The rise of monasticism which, to some extent absorbed and redirected the
activities of deaconesses.
The taking over of care of the sick and the poor
by the Byzantine state.
Abuses on the part of some deaconesses who took
ministerial functions upon themselves, such as reading the Scriptures in public.
Reaction against the prominent ministry of women in certain heretical
groups, particularly the Gnostics and the Montanists.
The office of
deaconess was abolished in the West before the eleventh century, but in the East
it lasted to the end of the Byzantine period in the fifteenth century. It is now
retained only in some Orthodox convents.
The office of deaconess was
conferred with an ordination practically identical to that of the deacon. The
ordination took place in the altar, which was not the case with ordination for
the inferior offices. The bishop laid his hands on the candidate and recited two
prayers, the first of which invoked divine grace. In matters of precedence she
came after the deacon and was robed with the sticharion and the orarion.

After her ordination, the bishop handed her the chalice which she placed
on the altar. She had the right to carry and give Holy Communion to sick women.
She could not take a ceremonial part in any of the sacraments or in other
ceremonies that required the assistance of a deacon. She was addressed as
"reverend, "most honorable" or "most pious." During the time when bishops were
selected from among the married clergy, their wives lived apart from them and
were ordained as deaconesses. They could subsequently remain in society or enter
a convent.

St. Elizabeth, New Martyr and Grand Duchess of Russia,
attempted to restore the ancient office of deaconess in Russia. She was
zealously supported by Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow but opposed by Bishop
Germogen of Saratov.

Particularly in the Eastern Church, the deaconesses
was an important ceremonial, instructional, and social-care intermediary between
the hierarchy and the women members of the Church. Up to the sacking of
Constantinople, during what is now regarded as the golden age of Orthodoxy,
deaconesses played a vital role in sustaining the faith of the family. By their
own good example, and through teaching, advising, and counseling, they guided
wives and mothers to the Orthodox way of living. Interestingly enough, a
significant movement to restore the order of deaconess has been occurring in the
Eastern Church in recent years in fact. St. Nectarios of Pentapolis ordained
deaconesses for his convent.

An attempt to re-establish the ancient
office or deaconess in Russia is described in Metropolitan Amvrossy’s account of
the life of St. Elizabeth, New Martyr and Grand Duchess of Russia. Her efforts
to restore the office were whole-heartedly and zealously supported by
Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow. However, Bishop Germogen of Saratov opposed the
idea because of a misunderstanding. He even went so far as to accuse her of
having Protestant tendencies - but he later repented of this accusation.
Nevertheless, the Grand Duchess abandoned her plans and submitted to Church
authority. It is significant that she did not take advantage of her position as
Grand Duchess to achieve her cherished dream.

It is clear from the
remarkable lives of women saints which we reviewed in Part 1, and from the
account of the orders for ordinary women in Part 2, that the role of women in
the first century Church was indeed much more extensive then it is today. In
Part 3 we will consider the historical explanations given for the expansive role
of women and what happened to curtail it."

Go to the website for the whole thing.



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