from Order of Creation/Order of Redemption
Michael Azkoul, publ. Orthodox Research Institute, 2007, pp. 15-17.
Republished on our website with permission of the author.
In the introduction to the Rudder, Sts.Agapius and Nicodemus declare, "Thou must keep them safe and above every calumny of caviling critics, and render them trustworthy and indisputable, to be received by all Christian peoples with the authority of Councilor and Apostolic decision." In a word, the Canons are an integral component of holy Tradition. None may tamper with their prescriptions nor ignore their purpose. They are the culture within which the "new man" is formed. The proponents of women's ordination argue that some of the Canons are demeaning to women. They are forbidden to enter the Sanctuary.(10) They are denied Holy Communion during menstruation.(11) They are commanded to remain silent during the Liturgy.(12) Such restrictions are viewed as the implicit recognition of female inferiority.
Those who favor the admission of women to the Orthodox priesthood hold that the existing Canons should be supplanted or economized, which suggests that they understand the Sacrament or Mystery of Ordination as a legal convention. They want Canons to be added that legislate a woman's "right" to the sacerdotal priesthood. New Canons, indeed, may be added to the extant body of ecclesiastical ordinances, but they may not replace or supercede the old. Tradition does not allow the negation or mutilation of extant Canons. In addition, to apply the principle of leniency (economia) does not imply the contravention of the legitimate ends of any Canon. Neither is "economy" a surrender to circumstance as the Latin legal aphorism states "Necessity creates what is not permitted by law" (quod non est licitum lege necessitas facit licitum).This principle can, as I believe it eventually shall, provide a basis for the admission of women to the Roman Catholic priesthood. In the case of the Orthodox Church, however, there has never been, nor can there be, a revision of existing Canons. She does not understand her Canons as "laws," but rather as moral and spiritual imperatives.
The Orthodox Church has always recognized the Canons as the work of the Holy Spirit. Listen to the first Canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council:
"... We welcome and embrace the divine Canons, and we corroborate with rigid fiat the entire body of them that have been set forth by the renowned Apostles, who were and are trumpets of the Spirit, and of the six holy Ecumenical Councils and those composed by the regional synods for the purpose of setting forth such edicts, and the (sic)of our holy Fathers. For all those men, having been guided by light dawning from the same Spirit, prescribed rules that are to our interest. According, we too anathematize whomsoever they consign anathema; and we too depose whomsoever they consign to deposition; and we too excommunicate whomsoever they consign to; and we likewise subject to a penance anyone they liable to penance..."
There is no remedy for the advocates of the female priesthood in the Canons. As they are, the Canons cancel what the egalitarian demands. Orthodox "progressives," if they do not ignore the Canons altogether, simply minimize them into irrelevance, a practice that encourages feminists to believe that in the future, there maybe a canonical solution to their frustration.
10. Canon 44 of Laodicea.
11. Canon 2 of St. Dionysius of Alexandria
12. Canon 70 of Quinisext. Canon 2 of the Quinisext Council ratified as "ecumenical" or "universal" all the Canons of regional Councils as well as those composed by the holy Fathers.
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