In the Protestant, Neo-Protestant and Anglican denominations, with all their ramifications and sub-kingdoms, which, from the end of the second millennium, have gone on multiplying like weeds on an unploughed field, there has been a great deal of stir with the ordination of women. The New Order of Things (Novus Ordo Seculorum) operates pre-eminently in the spiritual field.
It seems that political correctness has won and, in the spirit of equality of opportunity, of professional non-discrimination, ‘good news’ is increasing. We not only have Christian priestesses…we also have Christian bishopesses! The arguments which motivate this trend go back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, while invoking the practices of Non-Christian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.
There is a lot of pressure on Roman Catholicism, but Pope Francis has remained firm on the their position: with all due respect and consideration for Roman Catholic women’s activities, as long as he is Pope, women will not be ordained to the priesthood. What is the argument? Jesus and His Apostles were men! True, but what are we supposed to do about the Mother of God, or Mary Magdalene, or the holy empress Helen, those who are called ‘equal to the Apostles’?
At this point, there must be a much stronger, much more logical and more serious argument…
In order for us to find it, we have to go back to the creation of the world. Then, God has formed Adam from the dust, (in Hebrew adama – ground, dust):”Then God formed man out of dust from the ground, and breathed in his face the breath of life; and man became a breathing soul”(Genesis, 2, 7). [ii] As for Eve, she was formed out of one of Adam’s ribs: Then the Lord God brought a trance upon Adam; and after he fell asleep, God took one of his ribs and filled up the flesh in its place. And out of the rib taken from Adam the Lord God has formed the woman and brought her to Adam. Then Adam has said:”This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”(Genesis: 2, 21-23). ”So Adam called his wife’s name Eve (Life), because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis, 3, 20) (in Hebrew Eve is Hava – the living one). Eve and her followers give life (but do not take life) by giving birth to babies.
Let us go on to Abraham and Sarah.
Then God said again to Abraham:”As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And will bless her and also give you a son by her; and I will bless him, and he shall become nations; and kings of peoples shall be from him.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his mind:”Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old, and shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” ”Then God said: No, Sarah, your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him and an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Genesis, 17, 15-17, 19). And where God wants, He changes the order of nature and cancels the barrenness of old age and Sarah gives birth/brings to life Isaac, from the seed of Abraham. ”For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in old age, at the set time, of which God has spoken to him” (Genesis, 21, 2). What a huge joy for both parents! But, when Isaac was a boy, God put Abraham to test: ”Take now your beloved son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a whole burnt offering on one of the mountains I tell you” (Genesis, 22, 2). We are not told by the Holy Scriptures what was going on in Abraham’s soul. Abraham arrived at Mt Moriah and when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped him: ”Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know you fear God, since for My sake you have not spared your beloved son” (Genesis, 22, 12). All of this episode is a prefiguration of our Saviour’s sacrifice on the Cross. ”He Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,…” (Romans 8, 32).
Let us now turn to the feminist version. God does not ask Abraham, but Sarah to take everything required and climb to the indicated place to sacrifice Isaac, whom she has borne in her womb, to whom she has given life, body and blood from her own body and blood. How would Sarah have reacted? What would God have said about a mother who, without pondering too much, lifts up a knife to sacrifice her own child?
Some with a prolific imagination see Mary Magdalene among the Apostles at the Mystical Supper. But why did Jesus Christ not invite His own Mother? Was it not truly right for her to be awarded a kind of priority by her Son?
The only thing we have to stress here is that the Supper was not a normal one, it was a sacrificial Supper, the premiere of the Sacrifice on the Cross:
”And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Lk 22, 19-20).
The Saviour asks the Apostles (at that moment they did not understand what he was talking about) to do this in remembrance of Him, by replacing the Roman soldiers who nail Him to the Cross and pierce His side with a spear. Who shall teach them how to do this? ”…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn 14, 26).
And ever since, from Pentecost, from the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire, through uninterrupted apostolic and faith succession, in the Orthodox Church, within the framework of the Divine Liturgy, the priests really do sacrifice Christ, Who offers Himself to the faithful in the form of bread and wine. At the Proskomedia (preparation table), with a knife (called a lance), whose cutting edge is in the form of a lance, the priest takes out of the offertory bread the Lamb (Agnus), and small particles and places them on the Paten (Diskos). Why? Since”I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world…Then Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed…He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn, 6, 51, 53-55, 58). No man, as long as he is sane in his mind, will ever put in his mouth human body and blood. And with good reason, the Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying:”How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (Jn 6, 52).
After invoking the Holy Spirit, that is, after the consecration of the Gifts, (the Lamb and the wine), in the Chalice (Cup) there is, in a real way, the very Body and Blood of our Saviour. How the bread and the wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – this is a mystery, something which cannot be understood either by angels or by men. By going back to the origins, we shall find neither grains of wheat, nor clusters of grapes, but the very bloody Christ on the Cross. For those who have doubted (even monks!), God, most benevolent and most merciful, showed to them that in the little spoon borne to the mouth there is indeed body and blood. The one who was about to partake of Holy Communion fell ill on the spot.
Consequently, while the sacrifice (execution) of Jesus Christ within the framework of the Orthodox Liturgy is real, woman cannot be an executioner, she cannot take life by virtue of the fact that she gives life. Where there no longer exists (and there does not exist, even if it is claimed) uninterrupted apostolic and faith succession, the Eucharist is a simulacrum, a mockery, the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine. In other words, Christ is absent from the Cup. Even if it is only a symbolical fact, the vision of women who gesture, acting as priestesses and bishopesses in order to sacrifice, is a horror.
Nicusor Gliga / Bucharest, Romania, 14 February 2014
(Translated into English by Fr. Dumitru Macaila / Romania)
[i] Even if there is no feminine form for this term in English, I have coined it; I could have coined it as she-bishopesses, also, to help people to understand that in the Orthodox Church there is no feminine form for the two terms.
[ii] All of the Biblical quotations are taken from The Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, 2008.