700 - 800 AD
from a perspective
of women in the Church
saw much political and social turmoil in the Middle East and
Muslims made more
conquests in North Africa, Spain and France. Their advance into
western Europe was successfully halted by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732.
Christianity was rift apart
by the conflict over the veneration of images. Byzantine Emperor Leo III
initiates a programme of iconoclasm. This process is reversed by the Second
Council of Nicea.
New political masters take
over in various countries. The Franks take control of France culminating in the
rule of the Carolingians. Carlemagne subjected most of present-day Germany and
the Netherlands. The Saxons consolidate various kingdoms in Britain. In all
those countries the Church was young, with monks trying to combine Latin
traditions with the new indigenous cultures.
Only in the Byzantine
empire, reduced to mainly Asia Minor and Greece, the Church continued its
Women Deacons 700 - 800
Ordination rites for women deacons have been
preserved in some very old manuscripts. The
Barberini gr. 336
manuscript was copied from a master text in Constantinople around 780 AD.
Its contents are much older and reflect Byzantine practice during the height of
the diaconate practice from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD.
While the bishop imposes hands on the woman
offering herself for the diaconate, he prays:
“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.”
The theme of
Marys priestly dignity
700 - 800
During this century the
spiritual writer Epiphanius II
clearly professed Mary's status as priest.
“ . . . . O
Virgin, awesome treasure of the Church
who holds the great mystery.
call the Virgin both priest and altar,
who has given us the Christ,
bread for the forgiveness of sins.”
Local Church Synods and councils 700 - 800
When women are mentioned in new
regulations, the concern is usually to reduce their involvement in the
While a priest is
celebrating Mass, women should in no way approach the altar..., etc.