Tag Archives: Gender Differentiation

The Church is Different and We are Different

The Church is Different

Everything is different in the Church. It all looks different, sounds different, it even smells different. There are icons, there is a priest who wears special clothes, the singing is different from the songs I hear on my mobile phone, there are some special words in the service that I don’t always understand, people talk about prayer and fasting, confession and communion (you never hear that at school) and there is incense. There are people from many countries who speak different languages, people have different names from those at school (no Kyle, Wayne, Shelly and Jenny, but Peter, Joseph, Sophia and Alexandra), most people wear special clothes for Church, most men make a special effort to dress better than usual, most women put on dresses or skirts and cover their heads for church.

Why is it Different?

We live in two different worlds: the world of the Church and ‘the world’. And the Church does not begin to resemble the world, the world must begin to resemble the Church. This is because the Church believes in the God Who rose from the dead, the world does not believe in Him but faces only one prospect: death. That is why it tries to distract us from death with ‘stuff’, that is, everything you can buy in the shops. We believe in the values that the Risen God gives us, not in the values that the world gives us.

The world says: Let’s have wars, drop bombs on each other, be cruel, hurt each other, steal each other’s money and things, making sure people are unhappy by telling them that stuff from the shops will make them happy, which it will not, and not telling them that one day they will die.

The Church says: Let’s LIVE and in peace, be kind to each other, respect each other and each other’s property and help people to be happy by talking about the real problems, the things that can really make people happy, about life and death and what comes after death.

We are Different

Today this difference between the Church and the world, between Life and Death, is getting even bigger. It means that we can see some very strange fashions around us, that no-one ever thought possible even ten years ago. For example:

The world says that everybody can do whatever they want. For example, if you are a boy and want to become a girl, then you can do that. If you are a girl and want to become a boy, then you can do that. And if you are unhappy afterwards, then you can change back again.

The Church says, of course, you can do whatever you want, but there are certain things you can do that will make you very, very unhappy. If you want to be happy, follow what the Church advises, as far as you can.

For example, if you have feelings that you want to be different from what you are, the Church can help you to understand yourself, to find yourself, to accept yourself and, above all, to improve yourself so you can avoid that unhappiness.

So changing genders will not help you – it will just give you another set of problems, even worse than the first. In the Church we reinforce the differences between boys and girls, men and women, so we can avoid such unhappiness.

Why we Dress Differently and Have Different Roles

So, for example, in the Church we dress modestly but nicely. Men and boys should not dress in shorts; the Church is not the beach! We have not come to church to suntan! They would dress modestly but nicely for the theatre or some special occasion, so why not in church? They should put on something nice for church, shoes not trainers, a shirt not a T-shirt with an advertising slogan. We have not come to the gym, we have come to pray!

Women and girls should not dress in jeans and trousers, but in a skirt or a dress. They have not come to church to distract men and boys from prayer with their shapes! They cover their heads for the same reason: everyone knows that men and boys get distracted by women’s hair and that women distract them with their hair. Not in church, please! We have come to pray!

Boys can, if asked because they are good enough, go in the altar and help; girls can, if asked because they are good enough, go in the choir and help. Boys could one day become deacons or priests; girls could one day become choir directors. We each have different things to do in church, different roles, different tasks because we are different. Different does not mean we are not equal, it means that we cannot do without each other.

Different but Together

This is why children need a father and a mother. It is very difficult when one is missing. People grow up with many problems when they do not have both. This is not a case of one being superior or better than another. Quite simply, if there were no more men and no more women, the world would stop. Everyone would die out. We need each other. Again we see how the way of the world is Death and the way of the Church is Life. Yes, the Church is different; different because heaven is different from the earth and the Church is the foretaste of heaven.

(This first appeared in the Orthodox youth magazine Searchlight, Issue No 7)

ON PRIESTESSES AND BISHOPESSES [i]

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.