“Who can find a virtuous woman, because she is far more worthy than a pearl” (Proverbs 31, 10). “And, whoever found that woman has found good and obtained the favour of the Lord”(Proverbs 18, 22). “A good woman is God’s gift. A home and property is inherited from fathers, and a prudent wife is a gift from the Lord” (Proverbs 19, 14)
She is like a merchant ship that brings food from afar. She rises when it is still night and provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it. Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously, and her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable and her lamp doesn’t go out at night. She opens her arms to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She looks well to the ways of her household and eats not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” (Proverbs 31, 14-18; 20; 23; 26-28)
This is the Old Testament ideal; a display of a virtuous woman. Accented are the virtues: commitment, diligence, mercy, charity, reasonableness and dignity. And at the end of the praise in respect to the virtuous woman, at the core and culmination of all; The Wise Solomon indicates: “Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31, 30) In other words without spiritual components, without a woman’s personal relationship with God; all of her virtues are fraudulent and worthless. That type of woman who is without God’s blessings and spirituality, emerges as a cold marble likeness as a socialist-realist and nac-socialist models.
An Old Testament Wiseman that doesn’t quite speak directly, but sees and reads sacrifices of the woman. All her virtues are directed towards others and serving them. Her virtues are rewarded with a husband and children, and she of them has respect and praise. The sacrifices and painstaking fates did not separate women of any age, including this one. If so, she is betraying herself and purpose. With words of pain a woman came out of the heavens. Did God not say to Eve and through her to all women: “To you I will give many troubles getting pregnant, and in pain you will bring forth children, and the desire shall be yours to stand under the authority of your husband and he shall be your master.” (1, Moses 3, 16)
“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband; but she that shames him is as a rottenness in his bones (Proverbs 12, 4) states the Wise Solomon. It is better to live with lions and dragons than an evil woman (Sir, 25, 16) All wickedness is but little to the wicked woman. (Sir 25, 19) Wise Solomon adds: “It is better to sit in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Proverbs, 25, 24) “A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whoever hides her, hides the wind and the ointment of his right hand, which betrays itself. (Proverbs 27, 15-16)
The New Testament models are even more devoted to the sacrifices of others. St. Paul instructs his faithful disciple as to how a female figure should be fixed in his congregation. He states that “women are prudent, chaste, homemakers, good and obedient to their own husbands, that they may not blasphemy the word of God” (Titus 2, 4-5) The Holy Apostle shows that women, their conduct announces and spreads the word of God. She has no need to speak in the church, (1 Cor. 14, 34) it is inappropriate. (1, Cro. 14, 35) Her behaviour is the best sermon. “Likewise wives, be in submission to your own husbands – says the Apostle Peter – that if any do not obey the word, they may also without the word be won by the conversation of the wives when they see your chaste behaviour with fear.” (1, Peter 3, 1-2)
The Old Testament testifies to the Wise that beauty is deceitful, vain and misleading, while the New Testament of Christ, the Apostle explains further about the women and how they should be treated. “Let not the outward adorning be of plaiting the hair, decoration of gold or the apparel, but let it be in the hidden heart of the man, in the incorruptible meek and quiet spirit which is precious to God.” (1 Peter 3, 3-4) He points to the encouraging examples of the predecessors. “After this manner in the old time, the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord, whose daughters they are, as long as they do well and are not afraid with any terror.” (1 Peter 3, 5-6)
In regards to real beauty instructs the Spirit and St. Paul, as he writes to his disciple Bishop Timothy to teach women “in decent clothing, with modesty and chastity adorn themselves, not with plaited hair or gold or pearls or costly garments, but with good deeds as befits women professing Godliness.” (1 Tim. 2, 9-15)
Through the dedication and sacrifices to others, suffering women were being saved. In the Bible we are told that “women are saved through childbearing, if they remain in faith and charity and holiness and chastity within.” (1 Tim. 3, 15)
Nowadays there are abundant challenges and temptations. Women’s issues are actually boiling. From these tremors the Holy Church was not spared. We cannot help but to feel that some of the Protestant church groups, regarding this issue, has responded in such a way that that seems to exclude from the circle of God’s church. Guided by the utilitarian whirlwind logic and time, introduced the foreign and distant Church of Christ. Forgotten are the pleas of the Holy Martyrs, ascetics and of our Most Holy Mother, the shining examples of Christ’s saints who have deigned greatest glory in heaven. None of those wearing a hierarchical position were pleasing to God or reached spiritual heights and will not be “priestesses” during these times on this earth. Therefore, the Holy Orthodox Church responds to the women’s questions by pointing to the examples of the saintly women; from Sarah, the ancestors, to yesterday’s and today’s women the victims and the confessors.
A woman may not be a priest in the Orthodox Church, because that is the way it has always been. That is how our Holy tradition teaches and maintains the traditions of our church. Our Lord, the Highest Priest that passed into the Heavens (Heb. 4, 14) incarnate as a man, and his successors; the Holy apostles – the men he chose. And the women followed the Lord Christ, absorbing his teachings into their souls, and were counted as amongst His friends. However, the Lord did appoint them to be apostles. “Orthodox theologians teach that the likeness of the priest is the likeness of the Lord (male), as an image of Christ. We believe that there is something in the nature of the man, allowing it to be hallowed and the mystical embodiment of the bridegroom and the church of the Lord.” (Phyllis Michele Onest)
What is the key issue of a truly believing Christian, to climb the hierarchal ladder here on earth or in the midst of God’s salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven? If salvation is indeed the goal then indeed we are all equal. No privileged, no Judaism or Hellenism, no slaves or freedoms. There is neither male nor female, because we are all on in Christ our Lord.
Our Orthodox memory is rich and opulent to our memories of Holy women, from the Holy and Immaculate, more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the seraphim, the Mother of God, Our Lady, to the saints of our times and to the defenders of our Holy Orthodox religion. Much time has passed since the practice of introducing women into the sacred ranks began. It wise and advisable to consider how far they have come and what the results were. If this were to the glory of God, it would not have melted and thinned as the Arctic ice, becoming a smaller and thinner herd where the shepherdess can slue.
Often times I am asked of our own parishioners; “Why on earth may we not approach Hilandar?” Curiously, not one of them can realize within their own church as to the reasons. If with a pure heart you would attend your church more often, it would be sufficient enough for them, and they would not yearn to visit Hilandar.
Women have enough room for involvement in their church. Firstly, in their own homes and churches they make sacrifices by raising their offspring – the new people of God. The first taste of faith and devotion is taken in their homes – “If anyone of our own, especially those of their own house has denied the faith, is worse than the infidel” (1 Tim. 5, 8) If one cannot control their own homes, how shall they take care of the church of God? (1 Tim. 3, 5) asks the Apostle Paul. Make yourselves and incorporate yourselves into one honestly and godlike being, much greater than any success in careers of formal titles.
The female followers of Christ, the humble and saintly women, and most of all His Holy Mother were raised to previously unreachable heights. In respect to the feminine nature of humanity, she has received the highest possible honour; worthy of the Lord to born of her; through a woman He came down amongst us.
Shaken and frightened the apostles fled, and Peter denied Christ three times, and those with Most Holy Mother of God upon their foreheads had climbed to the top of Golgotha , shattered by pain, stood by the cross of Jesus. (John 19, 25) The women, and not the apostles, followed Joseph and funeral procession. (Luke 33, 55) To them it was delivered the most joyous of all news – the resurrection of Christ. Nothing could be greater than this honour. After they returned from the tomb they informed eleven others and more, yet their words were considered as ravings and were not believed. (Luke 24, 9)
Peter who had witnessed countless miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ so many times, and whom had heard from his mentor what will be; upon seeing the empty tomb had wondered to himself what had happened. (Luke 24, 12)
The humble myrrh bearers of our day silently follow the examples of their predecessors; with dedication in the hive of the Church’s business and contribute significantly to her growth and prosperity. And as the saintly myrrh bearing women with a strong heart followed their master, suffering alongside with Him, so our sisters and mothers in these hard times are turning and following the fate of the Church of Christ. If it were not for their devotion and determination, the doors to the church would be waiting for a long time to be opened. With their love and care, they have opened the doors to the church. Upon the church walls are the breaths of vitality. Quietly and persistently our faithful mothers and grandmothers instilled the faith and love of God and the love for His church to descendents, dissuading the challenges of the times before they arise.