Newnan woman challenges Catholic church
#11
Weren't there Deaconesses in the early Church?
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#12
Yes, but they were not ordained (they were lay). Even though some of the rites instituting them to their office are very similar to the ordination of deacons, the First Council of Nicea was clear that they are lay:

"We refer to deaconesses who have been granted this status, for they do not receive any imposition of hands, so that they are in all respects to be numbered among the laity."

Here's a good article on deaconesses and women generally in ecclesiastical and liturgical offices and roles:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04651a.htm
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#13
(11-15-2010, 05:23 PM)3Sanctus Wrote: Weren't there Deaconesses in the early Church?

Yes, but I don't even think they were allowed on the Altar or to assist the priest in anyway during the Holy Sacrifice of Mass.

"Roles

In the Byzantine church deaconesses had both liturgical and pastoral functions within the church.[1] These women also ministered to other women in a variety of ways, including instructing catechumens, assisting with women’s baptisms and welcoming women into the church services. They also mediated between members of the church, and they cared for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the imprisoned and the persecuted.[6] They were sent to women who were housebound due to illness or childbirth. They performed the important sacramental duty of conducting the physical anointing and baptism of nude women. Ordination to the diaconate was also appropriate for those responsible for the women’s choir, a liturgical duty. Evidence in the Vita Sanctae Macrinae (or Life of St. Macrina) shows that Lampadia was responsible for the women's choir. Some believe that they were also presiders of the Eucharist, but this practice was always seen as aberrant and invalid.[7]"


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#14
FWIW, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia article I posted above, in the 5th century they did have have a position in the sanctuary, standing behind the presbyters during the anaphora. They also received Holy Communion after the deacons, but before the readers, etc.
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#15
So why did the existence of deaconesses fade out if they were so useful or important in the early Church?
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#16
(11-16-2010, 04:07 AM)winoblue1 Wrote: So why did the existence of deaconesses fade out if they were so useful or important in the early Church?

Good question. Here's another one: why are we so interested in the early Church and so ashamed of the medieval and modern Church?
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#17
(11-16-2010, 04:07 AM)winoblue1 Wrote: So why did the existence of deaconesses fade out if they were so useful or important in the early Church?

One could ask the same question about deacons, subdeacons and the minor orders.

But anyway, it looks like deaconesses were primarily the wives of married deacons (and also priests and bishops). As the existence of married clergy in the west declined, so did the existence of deaconesses. Eventually, only nuns were made deaconesses, but for various reasons, the practice of naming them deaconess became obsolete. (In the East, deaconesses continued until the Church imposed laws against women entering the sanctuary while menstruating. That probably pushed deaconesses into obsolescence.)

Another thing related to the deaconess thing might be how there were mitred, crosier-swinging abbesses up until the turn of the 20th century; weird vestiges of eras that are alien to us now.


ardens Wrote:Good question. Here's another one: why are we so interested in the early Church and so ashamed of the medieval and modern Church?

That one's easy. That comes from the belief that the closer you are to the time of Christ, the more authentic the practice of Christianity was. Sounds pretty Protestant, with good reason, but even Counter-Reformation popes talked about removing medieval accretions to the Missal or Breviary. Pius V's radical revision of the general calendar, and Urban VIII's revision of the Office hymns to conform to classical Latin standards come to mind. Today, the most obvious expression of this in trad-dom is in all the ink spilled on how to get Gregorian chant to sound like its original forms.

So Christians of all ages have been interested in getting back to early Church practices.
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#18
I've read that the Orthodox churches are considering bringing back the deaconess.. not that we care what the Orthodox do, of course. But apparently they believe it was a real office in the early church.
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