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The Journal of Religion 76 October By Terrence W. Tilley, et. Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 41 January By Catherine Mowry LaCugna. The Journal of Religion 73 July Orthodox theology from S. Bulgakov through V. Lossky and D.

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Staniloae to Metropolitan John D. In so many ways, he hearkens repeatedly back to St. Irenaeus' vision of Scripture.

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Irenaeus, in his well-known dissertation against a certain heretical sect, compares the person who uses his intellect to understand Scripture to an artist, who wrongly uses stones to create a mosaic portrait of a dog, when in fact the components of the mosaic might rightfully create the portrait of a king. In short, the final portrait depends on the vision of the artist when he begins his project.

If he knows that it is a king that he is to portray, he does so.

If he does not, he might neatly fit the stones together and create a hideous image. And so, one who attempts to understand Scripture without first being enlightened by the very content and spirit of Scripture itself envisioning it as the perfect icon of theological grace , will likely hideously distort what Scripture means.

In a more specific sense, St. Paul argues for the proper ordering of the Church in his statements regarding women. And, as we often fail to recognize, he makes distinctions between function and nature. Anyone schooled and experienced in the subtle paradox of spiritual life recognizes this sense in St. Not to recognize it leads to overstatements that yield either a non-Orthodox view of the spiritual potential of women or a wholly secular reaction against spirituality that dooms one to eternal ruination.

To speak to the issue of women in the priesthood is to recognize that on this issue, too, extreme voices have distorted the truth. Let us return to the moderation of what the Fathers teach us. No man, St. John Chrysostom tells us, is worthy of the priesthood and here we mean "men" as males and females. Yet for the functioning of the Church, we have a priesthood.


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It is, therefore, not a "right" which one holds, but a burden which one takes upon himself with the greatest fear and trembling—the archpriesthood epitomizing this deep fear in the human soul. Somewhere in the moderation between knowing oneself unworthy of the priesthood and trembling before the fact of its reality, the priest exists.

If he moves away from this delicate understanding, he imperils his soul. This is spiritual folly and a total misunderstanding of the visible manifestation of Christ's Church. It is foolishness inviting internal death.

It follows that in the early Church, the priesthood should have been restricted in every possible way. It is a fact that we received some traditions from the Jews, and that the Jewish priesthood was male. The Church is real, existing in reality, expressing the life of real people. It should not be strange, therefore, if we see the priesthood restricted to males. And yet, the Church manifested its supra-historical nature to us. Females, too, within the limits of the great regard the Church showed toward the priesthood, shared in priestly grace.

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Have we forgotten, perhaps, that the diaconate has been held by females, that social order, Church law, and human nature" at times yield to the spiritual? We have forgotten. We have so formalized the priesthood, so "Westernized" our understanding of it, that we have somehow reduced the grace and magnificence of the diaconate to a secondary position.

We have come to think of the deacon and deaconess as "half-priests," as though ordination could be measured and quantified in terms of the "amount" of grace bestowed. Who dares to assign greater grace to St. John Chrysostom a patriarch than to St. Stephen the First Deacon and Martyr?

Where does one find a sober Father speaking in such terms? Woe to us Orthodox if we forget that even in the priesthood, in a subtle way, the spiritual role of the female and male made one in Christ triumphs. Do we, as Orthodox, finally, deny the ministry to women?

Nor do we guarantee it to men. Nor do we minutely define it, as though it were under the microscope of the scientist. Nor do we violate its beauty by reducing it to a mere position or role.

Brief Comments from a Spiritual Perspective

It is much more. And what it is no man can claim with worthiness and no woman can claim by right. It is held by God's mercy and fails to burn and consume the unworthy holder, only because he is "girt with the grace of the priesthood. Any true servant, be he archpriest, presbyter, deacon, or deaconess, stands where he is precisely because he is neither man nor woman and precisely because God has granted him the grace to set aside his own, sinful nature in this one instance. Understanding this, the issue of the priesthood transcends social roles.

It is wrong to speak of it in such a context.

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The priesthood, ministry to the people, and service in the Church do not belong to the realm of sexual distinction, declarations of differing natures, or human prattle. Their focus is eternal, spiritual, and noumenal. They are the wards of a dimension where extremes do not exist, where all truth is witnessed in the royal way, in the mystical truth encompassed only by moderation. Moderation in thought and attitudes manifests itself to us also in flesh and blood, so that we can see in sober Orthodox men and women exactly what is wrong with our present intemperate thinking about men and women in "roles" dictated by their "natures.

Can one imagine the holy elder saying to himself, "Being a priest, I shall bless -this saint, for I am, by nature, worthy of that which she, by nature, is not"? God forbid! Rather, the holy elder fell before our beloved Mother and asked that she bless him. And could it be that the wondrous woman among God's saints said to herself, I will bless this man, since he, indeed, must know that I have a right to the priesthood"? Indeed, no. Which of us can forego tears thinking of what truly happened? Falling prostrate before the holy elder, St.