A DEACONESS IS NOT A FEMALE DEACON
Bishop Brian J. Kennedy, O.S.B.
Holy Trinity Celtic Orthodox Church
There are those within the larger church catholic who are resolved to promote the Ordination of women to the Holy Priesthood. They are undaunted by the prohibitions of Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Sacred Deposit of Faith received from the Apostles and the Apostolic Church. They are as one under compulsion and not constrained by the Word of God.
They have developed a plan to win converts from the ancient faith and praxis. The first thing they bring out of their bag of tricks is the “reinvention of history”. If they can distort the historical position of the church they have hope they can bring unsuspecting and uninformed believers to their diabolical cause. They must first reinvent the church and historical church teaching if they hope to succeed.
Secondly, they must make the issue less a matter of moral and church teaching and more a matter of civil rights. They claim it is wrong to discriminate against women by limiting their function within the church.
They use Scripture out of proper context to deceive some into believing the Bible does not discriminate between gender in Holy Orders. They do not realize error cannot be a civil right.
Thirdly, they must reinvent language. It is well known and historically documented that the reinvention of language precedes any major social change. The term “Priestess” is repulsive to the ear so they seek to redefine a female from being a Priestess to being a “Priest”.
They want people to suspend any intellectual exercise and view the term Priestess as discriminatory and not politically correct. They want people to suspend their knowledge of the English language and accept the term Priest means either male or female. The term Priestess sounds ‘pagan’ and so they seek to distort the meaning of the word Priest. In truth, the term Priestess is a female Priest and only in paganism do you find a Priestess.
The term Priestess and a female in Holy Orders are alien to all that is Orthodox and Catholic.
Their next step is to promote among the people the concept that a Deaconess is really a female Deacon. As they seek to redefine the term Priest so they seek to redefine the term Deacon and Deaconess.
The Holy Spirit through St. Paul teaches women are to remain silent in the churches. This would strongly give witness women were not admitted to Holy Orders or a Priestly function.
The function of a Deaconess was focused on ministry to women. The Apostolic Constitutions clearly teaches:
“A Deaconess does not bless, nor perform
anything belonging to the office of
Presbyters or Deacons,
but only is to keep the doors,
and to minister to the Presbyters
in the baptizing of women, on account of decency.”
Here there is no mention of any service at the altar but only assistance at the doors and with baptism such as anointing the body of an adult female with oil before the baptism and helping her into the water. She also was able to take the Eucharist to women at home who were unable to come to church. This rightly explains why the Deaconess is permitted to take the chalice after her communion and place it on the altar, an action not found in any of the other ordination rites. There is no mention of her giving the chalice to communicants during the liturgy, as was done by the male Deacons, so her ministry clearly was limited to taking the Eucharist to women not able to attend the Liturgy.
She receives a stole at her ‘ordination’ but it is placed around her neck and not worn in the same manner as would a Deacon wear a stole. She does not wear any other vestments. She does not kneel but only stands, which according to Dionysius the Areopagite, means that she does not have a position of leadership in the Church. This conforms with her being a servant to the Deacons, as mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions and also with the writings of Paul, who in his epistle to Timothy says that a woman is not permitted to have authority over a man.
The Deaconess corresponds to the male station of Sub-deacon. Neither the Deaconess or the Sub-Deacon are ordained to Holy Orders but rather are appointed to a station of service to the Deacon.
At their death, the Deaconess and the Sub-Deacon are both buried among the laity and not among the clergy. Those who would advance women to any level in Holy Orders do not understand the Scriptures and the power of God.