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Manuscript Barberini gr.336 also known as the Nicolai Manuscript, or as the Euchologion of St. Mark. The Ordination of Women Deacons in the Byzantine/Greek Tradition

Manuscript Barberini gr.336

also known as the Nicolai Manuscript,
or as the Euchologion of St. Mark

The Ordination of Women Deacons in the Byzantine/Greek Tradition

Written in southern Italy around 780 AD from a Constantinopolitan model, the contents reflect Byzantine practice during the height of the diaconate practice from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD. This codex was used by Greek-Byzantine  bishops for ordinations until the early Middle Ages. Nicholas Nicoli bought it,  around 1400,  and left it to the Florentine Monastery of St. Mark in 1441. Carlo Strozzi probably gave it to Cardinal Francesco Barberini around 1650. It was acquired by the Vatican Library in 1902. About the date and origin of the manuscript, read the introduction by Stefano Parenti.

A definitive publication of the Greek text with an Italian translation has been done by Stefano Parenti & Elena Velkovska, L’Eucologio Barberini Gr. 336, Bibliotheca «Ephemerides Liturgicae Subsidia» no 80, Edizioni Liturgiche, Roma 2000. For the text here published, see pp. 170-174 & 336-339.

The manuscript had already been published and translated into Latin by John Morinus, in Commentarius [sic!] de Sacris Ecclesiae Ordinationibus, publ. Kalverstraat, Antwerp 1695; here pp. 55 - 57. This is what Morinus writes in his introduction: “This beautiful codex [=parchment manuscript] has been written in capitals and uncials, not square ones but the longer and smoother ones which, in the course of time, developped from the square form. To anyone who is used to deal with ancient Greek codices, it [=the copy] cannnot be younger than 800 years, perhaps even exceeding that age with many years.” [Morinus saw the codex in 1655 AD!]

fragment of the Barberini mss

Sample of the late uncial script Morin talks about.

The sample is taken from mss. Barberini gr. 336, fol. 170v. It reads: “Dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit. Preserve her so that she may always perform her ministry with orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct, according to what is pleasing to you.” etc.




The Barberini gr. 336 Manuscript

Text translated from the Greek, and made available on the Internet, by John Wijngaards.

In the original text, the ordination of the male deacon and the woman deacon are described separately. I publish them here side by side to show that the two ordinations are substantially the same. For the original text in Greek, click here.

‘At the ordination (cheirotonia) of a deacon’ ‘Prayer at the ordination (cheirotonia) of a deaconess’
After the sacred offertory, the doors [of the sanctuary] are opened and, before the Deacon starts the litany ‘All Saints’, the man who is to ordained Deacon is brought before the Archbishop. And when the ‘Divine Grace’[statement] (see text) has been said, the ordinand kneels down. The Archbishop puts the sign of the cross on his forehead three times, imposes his hand and prays: After the sacred offertory, the doors [of the sanctuary] are opened and, before the Deacon starts the litany ‘All Saints’, the woman who is to be ordained Deacon is brought before the [Arch]bishop. And after he has said the ‘Divine Grace’ [statement] (see text) with a loud voice, the woman to be ordained bows her head. The Bishop imposes his hand on her forehead , makes the sign of the cross on it three times, and prays:
“Lord our God, in your providence you send the working and abundance of your Holy Spirit on those who through your inscrutable power are constituted liturgical ministers to serve your immaculate mysteries, please, preserve, Lord, this man whom you want me to promote to the Deacon's task [leitourgia of the diaconate], in all seriousness and strictness of good behaviour, that he may guard the mystery of faith with a pure conscience.
And give him the grace which you have given to Stephen your first martyr.
And after having called him to the work of your ministry, in your good pleasure make him worthy to perform the degree [of responsibility] you entrust to him.
For those who perform it well, will acquire for themselves a high degree.
Make your servant perfect, for yours are the kingdom and the power.”
“Holy and Omnipotent Lord, through the birth of your Only Son our God from a Virgin according to the flesh, you have sanctified the female sex. You grant not only to men, but also to women the grace and coming of the Holy Spirit. Please, Lord, look on this your maid servant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit.
Preserve her so that she may always perform her ministry (leitourgia) with orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct, according to what is pleasing to you.
For to you is due all glory and honour.”
One of (other) Deacons now starts this prayer: ‘Let us implore the Lord in peace.
For peace from above and the salvation of our souls, let us pray the Lord.
For peace in the whole world.
For this our Archbishop, for his priestly ministry, his reward, his endurance, his peace and salvation and the work of his hands, let us pray the Lord.
For so-and-so (man) who is to receive the diaconate and for his salvation, let us pray the Lord. That God who loves people grant him a pure and immaculate diaconate, let us pray the Lord.
For our pious Emperor, etc.etc.’
After the ‘Amen’, one of the (other) Deacons now starts this prayer: ‘Let us implore the Lord in peace.
For peace from above, let us pray the Lord.
For peace in the whole world.
For this our Archbishop, for his priestly ministry, his reward, his endurance, his peace and salvation and the work of his hands, let us pray the Lord.
For so-and-so (woman) who is to receive the diaconate and for her salvation. That God who loves people grant her a pure and immaculate diaconate, let us pray the Lord.
For our pious Emperor who is protected by God, etc.etc.’
While the Deacon makes these intercessions, the Archbishop, still imposing his hand on the head of the ordinand, prays as follows: While the Deacon makes these intercessions, the Archbishop, still imposing his hand on the head of the ordinand, prays as follows:
“God, our Saviour, with incorruptible voice you have foretold it, you announced that he would be first who would perform the ministry of the diaconate, as is written in your holy Gospel: ‘Who ever wants to be first among you, must be your servant [diakonos]’, please, Lord of all, fill this servant of yours whom you have made worthy to enter the ministry [leitourgia] of Deacon, through the lifegiving coming of your Holy Spirit with all faith, charity, power and holiness.
For grace is given to those you deem worthy, not by the imposition of my hands, but by the visitation of your rich mercy, so that, purified from sin, he may on that fearful day of your judgment be presented to you without guilt, and receive the reward of your unfailing promise.
For you are our God, God of mercy and salvation, etc. etc. [sic!]”
“Lord, Master, you do not reject women who dedicate themselves to you and who are willing, in a becoming way, to serve your Holy House, but admit them to the order of your ministers [leitourgôn].
Grant the gift of your Holy Spirit also to this your maid servant who wants to dedicate herself to you, and fulfil in her the grace of the ministry of the diaconate, as you have granted to Phoebe the grace of your diaconate, whom you had called to the work of the ministry [leitourgia].
Give her, Lord, that she may persevere without guilt in your Holy Temple, that she may carefully guard her behaviour, especially her modesty and temperance.
Moreover, make your maid servant perfect , so that, when she will stand before the judgement seat of your Christ, she may obtain the worthy fruit of her excellent conduct, through the mercy and humanity of your Only Son.”
And after the ‘Amen’, the ordinand’s scarf [phenolis] is taken from him and [the Archbishop] imposes the stole [to horarion] on him. He kisses him and hands him the holy fan and makes him fan the holy gifts when they are exposed on the [altar] table. After the ‘Amen’, he [= the Archbishop] puts the stole of the diaconate [to diakonikon horarion] round her neck, under her [woman’s] scarf [maphorion], arranging the two extremities of the stole towards the front.
When [at the time of communion] the newly ordained has taken part of the sacred body and precious blood, the Archbishop hands him the chalice. He in turn makes all those who approach him take part in the sacred blood. When [at the time of communion] the newly ordained has taken part of the sacred body and precious blood, the Archbishop hands her the chalice. She accepts it and puts it on the holy table [of the altar].
  For the original text in Greek, click here.

An analysis of this ordination rite shows that the ordination of the woman deacon is the same as that for the male deacon, and undoubtedly sacramental.

See also our mirror site for women deacons


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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

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