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Reconstructed Text from Seven Manuscripts. The Ordination of Women Deacons in the Byzantine/Greek Tradition

Reconstructed Text from Seven Manuscripts

The Ordination of Women Deacons in the Byzantine/Greek Tradition

This is the ordination rite for Deaconesses compiled from at least seven manuscripts by Jacob Goar in 1647. Goar says he found them in the Royal Library (in France?), and in the collections of Barberini, Grotta-Ferrata, St. Mark in Florence, Tillianus, Allatianus and Coresianus. These included, no doubt, the Nicolai and George Varus manuscripts, but others too.

The Greek text has been published, with a Latin translation by Jacob Goar, in Euchologion sive Rituale Graecorum, Paris 1647; pp. 262-264; with notes on pp. 264-267.

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

comments ‘Prayer at the Ordination (cheirotonia) of a deaconess’
All major orders are conferred in the sanctuary, in front of the altar. After the sacred offertory, when the doors of the sanctuary have been opened, before the Deacon starts the litany ‘All Saints’, the woman who is to ordained Deacon is presented to the Bishop.
This was a public declaration that the person was elected to the diaconate. See full text in the Vatican gr 1872 manuscript. He proclaims the ‘Divine Grace’ [statement].
The imposition of the hand is the ‘matter’ of the sacrament of Holy Orders. And while she bows her head, the Bishop imposes his hand on her forehead , makes the sign of the cross on it three times, and prays thus:
This is the ordination prayer, the ‘form’ of the sacrament, consisting mainly in the invocation of the Holy Spirit. “Holy and Omnipotent Lord, through the birth of your Only Son our God from a Virgin according to the flesh, you have sanctified woman. You grant not only to men, but also to women the grace and coming of the Holy Spirit. Please also now, Lord, look on this your maid servant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the abundant giving of your Holy Spirit.
Preserve her while she performs her ministry (leitourgia) according to what is pleasing to you, in the orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct.
For to you is due all glory, honour and worship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always and in all ages. Amen.”
Prayers for the new woman deacon is included in the intercessory litany. When [people] have responded: ‘Amen’, one of the Deacons prays as follows:
‘Let us pray the Lord in peace.
For heavenly peace and the welfare of the whole universe, let us pray the Lord.
For peace in the whole world, let us pray the Lord.
For our Archbishop so-and-so, for his priesthood, help, perseverance, peace, wellbeing, health and the works of his hands, let us pray the Lord.
For so-and-so the Deaconess, who has just been ordained, and for her salvation, let us pray the Lord.
That the most merciful Lord may give her a sincere and faultless diaconate, let us pray the Lord.
For our most devout and beloved-by-God Emperor so-and-so, let us pray the Lord.
That we may be liberated.
Reeceive . . . Save . . . ”
Again the imposition of the hand is important. And while the Deacon prays the intercession, the Bishop, still holding his hand imposed on the head of the woman that was ordained, prays in this manner:
This is the second ordination prayer. All ordinations to major Holy Orders have two ordination prayers. “Lord, Master, you do not reject women who dedicate themselves to you to serve your holy precincts with sacred counsel as should be done, but admit them to the order of ministers [leitourgôn].
Grant the gift of your Holy Spirit also to this your maid servant who wants to dedicate herself to you and perform the grace of the diaconate, as you have granted this grace to your hand maid Phoebe, whom you had elected to the work of the ministry [leitourgia].
Give her also, Lord, that she may persevere without guilt in your holy temple, that she may be careful in her behaviour, especially in her modesty.
And make your maid servant perfect , so that, when she will stand before the judgement seat of your Christ, she may receive the worthy reward for her good behaviour, through the mercy and humanity of your Only Son, to whom and-so-on.”
Vesting the minister with the appropriate vestment is public affirmation of her new status as deacon. After the response ‘Amen’, the Bishop puts the stole of the diaconate round her neck, under her [woman's] scarf, arranging the two extremities of the stole towards the front. The Deacon who stands in the ambo then says: ‘Remembering all the saints, and-so-on. ’
Making the woman deacon hold the chalice again confirms her as a fully ordained deacon, even though she does not normally distribute communion. When [at the time of communion] the newly ordained has taken part of the sacred body and precious blood, the Bishop hands her the chalice. She accepts it and puts it on the holy table [= the altar].

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.

Introduction? Overview? Manuscripts? Search?
Full documentation on all the ancient
Women Deacon Texts
is now available in print!

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

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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