Word Magazine May 1975 Page 20
THE ORTHODOX WOMEN
Rt. Rev. Athanasius E. Saliba
Archbishop PHILIP proclaimed the month of March as the Antiochian Orthodox Women Month throughout our Archdiocese. This of course is an honor well deserved by the women of our archdiocese in the United States and Canada who have worked hand in hand with the Orthodox men in building our churches and institutions for the past seventy-five years.
The Orthodox Church has always honored the faithful woman. There is no woman more honored in the history of humankind than the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. This week the Orthodox Church honors the Mother of God by celebrating the service of the Laudations in her honor. This service is celebrated every Friday during the first five weeks of the Lent. The Virgin Mary is considered as the holiest human being after Her Son, Jesus Christ. She is considered as higher and closer to God than the angels.
We honor the Mother of God in every church service, sacramental or non-sacramental. We celebrate several special feasts in Her honor: Her birth, Her entrance into the Temple, Her response, etc.
The church, in honoring the Theotokos honors every woman who believes in the Orthodox faith and lives according to the Orthodox morality and the Orthodox discipline.
The Orthodox women have been vital and quickening members of the body of Christ. They have worked side by side with the Apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests to uphold, defend and propagate the Orthodox faith. Millions of women have dedicated their life to the service of the church as missionaries, apostles, preachers, teachers and messengers of the good news.
The Orthodox Church honors throughout the year many women Saints. The number of women Saints who are called by their name exceeds sixty-three. At some stages in the church calendar we find the feast of one to as many as five or ten women a week.
At a time when many voices have been raised for women’s equality, especially when the women are asking some of the churches to grant them equality by ordaining women as priests and bishops, we must make the stand of the Orthodox Church clear on this issue. Unless we do that, we might be considered as sexists or male chauvinists.
Men and women are equal in the Orthodox Church. Equality does not mean that the man must do everything that the woman does or vice-versa. The difference in roles or talents is not a sign of inferiority or superiority.
The Orthodox faith is based on the Divine revelation. The revelation of the will of God for His children and His requirements from them. This revelation began with Abraham, Moses and the prophets and was made clearer by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
When the time came for Christ to be crucified He chose from the men and women who had followed Him and listened to His teaching, twelve men as the Twelve Apostles. He knew
many faithful and qualified women. He loved them and yet He did not choose any woman as an apostle.
Two thousand years later our brothers the Protestants and some Roman Catholics are saying in fact, that Christ was a male chauvinist and that He considered women as inferior to men!
Our answer must be firm in this regard. Christ chose men to be apostles, bishops and priests. We, the Orthodox people believe in Christ as the Son of God and are willing to carry out His wishes and His commandments faithfully without alterations, without disobedience and without treason.