On Women

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7 Responses to “On Women”


  1. 1 Reza January 31, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    If you’re interested in a good read, “More Spirited then Lions: An Orthodox Response to Feminism” may interest you.

    Thou the Orthodox Church is a patronistic, there are many instances in which women went on to lead people. The Desert Mothers were a great example of this but one of my favorites is St. Catherine of Alexandria

    St. Catherine was an individual that went to Emperor Maximinus [II?] to tell him the truth and tell him to stop persecuting Christians. She had succeeded in converting his wife and even defeated his best and brightest pagan philosphers. Before Maximinus had them thrown into the fire, she had converted them and baptised them with that fire.

    A modern favorite is the Blessed Umina Irini, Mother of Saint Mercurius Convent in Old Cairo. Below is an excerpt from El Ahram Weekly, April 1999, which briefly discusses Tamav and shares some reflections that manifest her love, kindness and charity to others:

    Mother Ireni, mother superior at the Abu Seifein Convent, is deeply involved in her effort to bring to light women’s real contribution to monastic life in Egypt. Mother Ireni must be the one nun Coptic Christians today love the most; she is considered a living saint by the majority. While traditional accounts have consecrated St Paul of Thebes and St Anthony as the pioneers of monastic life and seclusion from the world, Mother Ireni insists that it was women who started this tradition, in the first century AD. Shortly after the resurrection of Christ, she believes, a group of women vowed to live a celibate life of prayer in a community at Mount Olive. They are supposed to have been in close contact with St Mary, the mother of Christ. Although this was the first of its kind, according to Mother Ireni, such communities of women proliferated and became commonly known as the “houses of virgins”. In the centuries that followed, women also sought a solitary life in the desert as anchorites, but disguised themselves as men. Their real identity was only discovered after their death. Mother Ireni, however, emphasises that some of the anchorites who reached high levels of spirituality even had monks as disciples, “like Anisimone, the anchorite who taught many monks.”

    The first convent, where 400 nuns lived, followed the rule of St Pachomious. In the first centuries, there were also women’s convents in Akhmim, Sohag, while another convent in Upper Egypt had more than 1,800 nuns within its walls. At one point, the number of nuns exceeded the number of monks; near Beni Suef, there were monastic communities where 10,000 monks and 20,000 nuns lived.

    Mother Ireni, who hails from Upper Egypt, became head of the convent at the age of 16. She holds fast to the tradition of St Pachomious in the monastic way of life. In the second half of the fourth century, St Pachomious began a movement in which monks and nuns were organised in strictly regulated communities. In his monastery of Tabenna near the Nile, 7,000 men and women lived in congregations. Their garments included a tunic of linen, a cloak of goat or sheepskin, and a hood. They came to live within a walled enclosure, which included a church, refectory, dormitory, garden, and a separate lodging for visitors. St Pachomious’s way of life has been instrumental in shaping the contemporary Catholic monastic movement. Mother Ireni insists on the importance of living in a community. “While it is up to each nun to decide on the level of austerity appropriate for her, our life is still essentially built on partnership and love.”

    Mother Ireni doesn’t run a convent like a traditional mother superior — she emphasises the importance of leading a community in a democratic way. “I don’t like to point to the sisters’ faults and shortcomings. Words of love and encouragement are more effective.” Still, despite her non-confrontational, non-aggressive philosophy, Mother Ireni is anything but a submissive, introverted woman. She is reputed for being outspoken and for not budging once she has taken a stand. In the Coptic Church, only priests are allowed to anoint people with oil, but Mother Ireni is an exception. This right was given to her by former Pope Kyrollos, and she continues to exercise it as people flock to see her, ask for her prayers and request that she anoint them.

    To all the questions about her philosophy and her community, she would state over and over again the importance of love.

    Was it all so simple for her?

    ‘In a family, different people take on similar features and traits. It is like that when you live your life with God. You are influenced by those you spend the most time with. Peace, joy and love come from prayer with God. That’s why our life here is a life of prayer.’

  2. 2 alana February 1, 2010 at 5:54 am

    These are some excellent first impressions and thoughts, Anna. I like how you described “where you came from” in the first video to serve as a back drop for what you are experiencing in the Orthodox Church. I totally know what you are talking about, but had actually forgotten, since it’s been a long time since we converted to Orthodoxy, about the “pretty pretty princess” aspect of things. yech.

    I’ve had several conversations with women who initially have a real problem with the Orthodox Church’s stance on “no women in leadership” (somehow they always got steered in my direction since I was ON that “go into the ministry” track, with my M.Div. and all), and if you’d like some more depth in perspective, we can chat via e-mail about it. Don’t want to steal your thunder on your blog if you’ve already done some learning on the subject and are just waiting to put up video number three.

    Well, gotta go. Time for a very early morning drive to Matins. Brrrrrrr.

  3. 3 Jenny February 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Anna,
    You did a good job talking about a “touchy” subject… 🙂 I remember very well what you were talking about with the “men’s and women’s” books and such. Just to add, since I had a stint in the Catholic Church as well… this type of thing is there too – so I’m guessing it’s a Western Christianity thing. You can see the difference between Catholic and Orthodox thought on women in their music and art about Mary. Catholic art and music is very “flowery” as far as carrying a soft feel… extremely feminine – think about all the different “Madonna” paintings. In contrast Orthodox icons of Mary emphasize her importance as the Mother of Christ, AND we have songs about her being our Champion Leader. She’s not just a mother, but a warrior on our behalf as well… you know what I mean? She might be all woman, but she’s REALLY tough too… a worthy role model for all Christians – not just women. 🙂 Like you said, the Lives of the Saints reveal how alike men and women are spiritually – how tough we can be, and have to be, in this struggle towards humility and Christ-likeness. We are different, but completely equal in the eyes of God… and we’re all “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). 🙂

  4. 4 Amber February 2, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I enjoyed these videos a lot. And I have to admit to snickering every time you mention ‘pretty, pretty princess’. I kind of lucked out in that I came from a Protestant tradition that didn’t allow women in ministry (though they’ve apparently begun to cave on that…), so the concept wasn’t that weird an idea for me, and I left it before I was old enough to be a part of the ‘women’s ministries’, so I never got any of that stuff. For my part, I grew up knowing that only men were allowed to be pastors, and it never seemed to be ‘unfair’. I just assumed that’s the way God wanted it, for whatever reason, and that’s just the way it was. 🙂

  5. 5 Kristy February 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I have come to see much of what you are talking about regarding liberalism of women opening up the door to other forms of liberalism. Girl, you are totally right about the two different types of women. Today, we have to choose to be either a hard, “strong,” kind of woman that people refer to as a word I will not say here or some Disney princess, girly-girl. True femininity has been lost. I see much of this occurring in the ’60’s with the “sexual revolution,” removal of prayer from school, the liberation of women (as if women caring for their family & household was akin to slavery). I feel like I should be ashamed of desiring to be a stay-at-home wife/homeschooling mom one of these days. Like those are menial type jobs. I know I’ll have to deal with judgment from many in my family one day regarding those choices should I ever be blessed with a husband but I think that that choice is just as important, if not more, than many other jobs I could hold. Personally, I too, would love to get a divinity/theology degree, but more-so for my own knowledge rather than the desire to evangelize. I would love to write one day but that is not the same as preaching from the pulpit. My mother is pretty much a feminist & I grew up feeling it would be great to have a female church leader however, since getting my life back in line with Christ & growing in my relationship with Him, I am beginning to see His plan for us as women & it is quite different from what I have always believed.

    I completely understand your feelings about women’s get-togethers at church (“playing games & eating jelly beans”). My church has just started it’s new semester of small group studies & I was searching through the site looking for one that would fit my schedule & what I am looking for. I was quite disappointed in most of them. Most of the women’s groups use a book as a guide & most of the titles would make one want to vomit. They are very superficial topics & have no “meat.” While last year, that would have been right up my ally, this past year I have grown exponetially in my spiritual life & I am searching for true discipleship. I have finally settled for a class called “Bible 101” but, again, I’m thinking I may not be too happy with this class either. I was expecting it to be maybe getting back to the basics of Christianity or even the Bible but, from what I gathered at our first meeting, it is basically how to study the Bible. Oh well, maybe I’ll learn somthing or be able to share some of what I have learned. I hope this doesn’t make me sound like I feel like I am so much more mature than everyone else, I just feel like most people in the church are kind of satisfied with where they are spiritually & aren’t that interested in studying the deeper stuff, like theology, apologetics, or prophecy. I’ve done those “Who I Am As A Woman In Christ” type studies, & while they did push me just slightly when I needed just a nudge, I’m now to the point where I feel I need more. I’m not sure if I’m making sense or if I’m sounding “snarky” now. Oh well, great videos, loved them.

    BTW, your skin looks so great & sorry I wrote so much. 🙂

    • 6 Anna February 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

      Hey Kristy,

      Yes, I was in that church-boat not too long ago. Empathizing with you! I pray you find some serious minded ladies with whom you may learn more of God’s Word together. 🙂

      Thanks for the compliment on my skin…it can look fabulous one day and the next, zit-ville. But I am learning to stay away from trigger foods and wash twice a day.

  6. 7 chaidrinkingfool March 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I am amused to hear you talk about the “pretty pretty princess” materials that are promoted for girls (who, unfortunately, I think are “girls” no matter how many decades they live on this earth) in some Protestant denominations. This sort of “pink and blue theology” is very frustrating to me: Does Christ not serve as the example for how we all should live our lives?

    A friend gave me an excellent gift, recently. It is the word “crazypants.” So now, whenever I find myself getting angry about things like this, I just think to myself how “crazypants” the “pretty pretty princess” stuff is and the silly word helps to defuse my anger.

    I also recognize the de-sexing or the masculinization issue of some women in ordained ministry. It is unfortunate that some women feel that in order to be accepted–or in order to try to be accepted–in the role of minister/pastor/elder/deacon, they must put a damper on their femininity/femaleness.

    Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is an organization I like (but do not represent, and I won’t link to it, as I figure if someone is interested, she or he will look it up) that believes that women in ministry should not try to hide the fact that they are women. I mention CBE because its view differs from the others I’ve heard and seen presented here. CBE’s idea is not that women have to be men or are men or should want to be men or try to be men. It is that Christians are called to serve the body by gifting, rather than by gender. Along with that is the idea that, should a man or woman be gifted by the Holy Spirit, then we are not to limit who in the church may benefit from that gift. Thank you for reading.


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