600 - 700 AD
from a perspective of women in the Church
In the Byzantine part of the Church, theologians and preachers had been reflecting on Mary's relationship to Jesus the Highpriest. They realised that Mary had to be priestly herself since she gave birth to the Priest of Priests.
A legend grew up that stated that Mary had spent her youth in the Holy of Holies of the temple of Jerusalem.
“There where only the High Priest may enter, and then rarely - only once a year, it is there in this holy sanctuary of grace that Mary is offered to stay there indefinitely. Who has ever heard anything similar? Who has ever seen or heard, now or formerly, that a woman was introduced into the intimacy of the Holy of Holies, and that it was in this place, almost inaccessible even to men, that she lived and ate. Is this not a striking demonstration of the strange magnificence of which her womb would be the object? Is it not a manifest sign, a irrefutable proof?” - St Germanus 633 - 733
The Greek Fathers expressed their belief in Mary's priestly status in the many new titles which they gave her. St Andrew of Crete mentions the following:
* ‘spiritual altar of the divine victim, altar consecrated and dedicated to God’;
* 'priestly staff';
* ‘sanctuary of all sacrificial worship’;
* 'the most holy table [= altar] which has carried by itself the living bread, Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, eternal life made bread . . . . ’.
from an ancient fresco
Women Deacons 600 - 700
Women continued to minister as deacons during this century.
Maria of Moab's epitaph (left) reads: "Here lies deacon[ess] Maria daughter of Valens who lived thirty-eight years and died in the year 538 [= 643 or 644 AD]."
The theme of Marys priestly dignity
600 - 700
In the oratorio of San Venanzio, Rome (642 AD), Mary is portrayed as the High Priest, raising her hands as she intercedes for people and wearing a pallium.
Local Church Synods and
councils 600 - 700
Fear of menstruation and of women in general underlies many regulations about women laid down in local synods.
A priest should not put the
holy Eucharist into the hands of any lay person or woman, but only into their
Bishop Timothy of
Alexandria made a number of pronouncements concerning women
During the time of
menstruation women should not enter into church or receive communion ...
Attended by 211
Greek-speaking Bishops. Made a number of decrees concerning women.