Malankara World

Position of women in the Syrian Orthodox Church

by Rev. Fr. Jomy Joseph, Switzerland

The discussion over the "position of women in the Church" is a dream to be cherished in praxis level. We cannot ignore or sideline the contributions from their part. As I am doing my doctoral disserataion (waiting for the defense) on Ephrem's theology, I know how much importance Ephrem gave to women and their participation in the liturgy. I quote a small portion of my thesis (Chapter 3. Ephrem. A Survey of Life and Work, P. 45):

"Ephrem was a promoter of women folk from silence to dignity of their own. According to Jacob of Serug, the whole aim of Ephrem's teaching was a new world in which men and women would be equal. Moreover, he calls Ephrem as the second Moses for women because Ephrem has taken the revolutionary step of forming a women's choir (may be first in the history of Christianity) and many of Ephrem's hymns were written exclusively for women's choirs. To him, Ephrem founded the women's choir in order to teach the Edessan Christianity right doctrines, made women teachers in the church and thereby promoted women folk from silence to the dignity of teacher. Thereby, "Ephrem presents his church with a new sight of women uttering proclamation". [ HARVEY, Revisiting the Daughters [18].]

Ephrem convened the women's choir (composed of the Daughters of Covenant) in order to sing a variety of hymnography Doctrinal Hymns, Antiphons and also for the morning and evening services in the church at Edessa and at the memorial services of saints and martyrs. Cf. AMAR, The Syriac Vita Tradition 158f. Hymns on Faith 4 was most probably designed for female choir. In the same hymn, the eleventh stanza seems to refer to the high voices of the women (Soprano and Tenor), mingled with the low voices of the men (Bass and Treble) in the bleating refrain. Likewise 1, 3-4, 7-8, 10-12, 23 and 27-28 of Hymns on Faith are clearly suited to be sung by women's choir. Cf. PALMER, A Single Human Being [10]. Ephrem introduces female voices in order to give them a voice of their own, "designed to reinforce the patriarchal status quo, rather than to reform it". PALMER, A Single Human Being [11]. Thus, Ephrem's positive attitude to include women folk in the religious activities was a unique attempt in male dominated Christianity. For further details, see AMAR, A Metrical Homily. BROCK, St. Ephrem [6]. HARVEY, Revisiting the Daughters. McVEY, Jacob of Serug 36-41. JENSEN, Ephrem 16-23".

During that period, where the patriarchal status quo was on its zenith, Ephrem equipped them with dignity of their own. This is a clear example that how our Church Fathers had considered them. So we do need a conscious discussion and awareness so much so that how fruitfully we can implement "their position in the Church".

Position of women in the Syrian Orthodox Church

by Dn. Michael Poe

It is very clear from the Holy Gospels the equality our Lord bestowed upon woman. His very ministry and company of the Holy apostles was founded and provided for financially in regards to the essentials of daily life by well to do women who were very prominent female disciples such as Mary Magdalene, Salome, Martha, Mary, etc. As Fr. Jomy pointed out it was women, namely Mary Magdalene, Mary, etc. who came to the tomb early and received the blessed news of our Lord's resurrection. It was to Mary Magdalene that He first revealed Himself to after His resurrection. It was women who announced to the male apostles the glorious resurrection. It was through women, the Holy Theotokos- "Yoldath Aloho" that our Lord took the flesh of our humanity in His Holy incarnation for the redemption of mankind. He whom through all things came into being and all creation as His throne, the incontainable, became man in her holy womb making her more holy than the very Ark of the covenant.

Our holy tradition teaches us that the holy virgin Mary was brought to the temple when she was 3 yrs old by her holy parents Joachim and Anna as a holy dedication where she took part in weaving the holy veils within the sanctuary before the Holy of Holies. It is said the high priest Zechariah took her into the holy of holies and placed her on the steps of the altar, the very place at which only the high priest was permitted to enter and only on Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, to which she responded with an awe, rapture filled dance filled with the Holy Spirit. It was her utter and complete purity, holiness and humility and perfect surrender to Almighty God which prepared her to be the true burning bush and her womb the saving ark for through her our Lord assumed the fallen flesh of humanity fully and completely except for sin for that which is not assumed cannot be redeemed to which He joined His perfect Divinity and divine nature which were joined and united perfectly in the one perfect united and composite nature of the one incarnate nature of the logos. She became the new Eve.

When she attained to puberty and could no longer remain in the temple with the other virgins dedicated to temple service in the weaving and sowing of the holy veils, etc., at the tender age of 12, she was entrusted to the care of Joseph. She received the Holy Archangel Gabriel and the Holy news he brought from the Almighty Heavenly Father that she was to be the mother of the only begotten son of God, God the Word, the Messiah and Saviour of the universe. With complete loving trust and humble surrender to the will of God she accepted and henceforth was crowned as the Yoldath Aloho as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and the mystical, divine conception took place. This is one of the most important events in the history of God's glorious creation, through the vehicle of women.

The vast witness of women martyrs and saints from all the holy Orthodox churches is incredible. The women who have dedicated and given their lives completely unto God as monastics are beyond number. The Holy Spirit in the original Hebrew and Aramaic is in the feminine tense linguistically. The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is a masculine singular prefix followed by a plural feminine suffix. The ancient Jewish mystical and spiritual concept of the Shekinah, the presence of God within creation has been alluded to in the Jewish mystical tradition as the bride of God with creation as the Heavenly bridal chamber. These are interesting concepts to explore.

We, as members of the body of Christ, the Holy Orthodox church, are referred to very often as the bride of Christ as we spiritually are wed to Christ and are called to ever deepen and deepen our oneness with Him-Our Lord, our master, our God and Saviour. In all ways are women equal to men. The Holy Trinity-God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit-the One true God and trinity one in essence and undivided has assigned various distinctive roles to us as men and women but with absolute equality in the all knowing omniscience of Almighty God.

In Yashua Mshiho,
Deacon Michael.

See Also:

The Role of Women in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
by Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas
The Role of Women is a topic of importance today in our Syriac Orthodox Church which is a deeply rooted traditional apostolic church. In our presentation, we shall depend upon the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, namely the teachings of the Apostles which have not been recorded in the Scriptures.

Role of Women in the Church
The ignorance of the vast majority of our lay people and clergy on the stand of the Syrian Orthodox Church's views about the role of women in the church are really very astonishing.

Rights of Women in Jacobite Church
The uniqueness of our church (comparing to any other Apostolic or Protestant) churches is that, the church practices are based on Bible Laws, Traditions and Teaching of church fathers. If you look at the history, social laws were always derived from religion.

Role of women in our church
Male chauvinism is the only reason for the disparity and inequality of women in our church. God created men and women in Adam. In Christ all are equal. There are some special roles for men and women to be played according their body built not according to their abilities and gifts.

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