Thursday, 30 July 2009

More on Festivals and Deacons

I've noticed lots of commemorations of women in the Church calendar at this time of year!

25th July was the festival in the Greek Orthdox Church of Olympias. She lived from c 360-408, and was both a patron (of St John of Chrysostom) and was also ordained deacon, after being widowed. Why have I not heard of her before? After her death she was venerated as a saint, and she is commemorated in both the Greek and Roman church - on different days! Yet another woman who exercised a ministry similar to that of male deacons in the third century - before the office was phased out.

Then a couple of days ago (28th) it was the festival of Irene Chrysobalantou (pictured left), another deacon and abbess, who lived in the late 9th to early 10th century. She was born in Cappadocia to an aristocratic family, and having turned down some marriage proposals, she gave her inherited wealth to the monastery of Chrysovaluantou and entered the community. After some years of study, service and leading many others to Christ, she became abbess, having previously been ordained deacon by Patriarch Methodius.

And yesterday was the Church of England lesser festival of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, 'companions of our Lord'. Two significant women in the New Testament: one who sat at Jesus' feet, the place of a trainee rabbi - and how frustrating that we have no idea of the end of her story - and Martha, whose affirmation that Jesus is 'the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world' is one of the high points of John's Gospel.

Watch out for festivals of more recent women in August: Mary Sumner (9th), Florence Nightingale and Octavia Hill (13th), Catherine and William Booth (20th), and Phoebe, deacon of Cenchreae and patron of Paul (Romans 16:1) on 3rd September.

Let's make the most of celebrating those women who have gone before us!

1 comment:

janetlees said...

Yes I do remember some of these.
When studying theology at Oxford i wrote an essay on 'Matristics' or the Early church Motehrs. The only comment from the marker was that I 'had made a grave error with the Capodocian Fathers'. I remember it to this day - and love it!!!