Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Of mystics and uninterchangables

In Orthodoxy there is no putting of ‘mystics’ on a pedestal, and we don’t have mystics like the Roman Catholics do, of either sex. Orthodox mysticism is akin to Jewish mysticism, very experiential, apophatic, imageless, even existentialist, and difficult to put into writing. Not only that, but Orthodox mystics tend not to think of themselves as mystics.

Female saints, spiritual mothers, the Orthodox have in abundance. None of them, I don’t think, would presume to write and teach men in the way that Theresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, and other Roman Catholic female saints have done, nor do we have (at least not yet) the Joyce Meyer type of female teachers.

In the Greek Church there is beginning to be a presence of women in teaching (other than Sunday school) and even preaching (more as ‘witnessing’ from the pulpit), but the scripture cannot be put aside without consequences. In Orthodoxy, as in the Christian denominations, women can serve the church in many positions of authority, just not in the offices of bishop, priest, and deacon.

On the other hand, as I mentioned, the Orthodox have female saints and some of them have teachings and writings.

Among the early apostles are included women who are called Isapóstoli, ‘equal to the apostles.’ and we cannot imagine that these women did not exert some sort of didactic and moral authority over everyone they came into contact with, including men.

Still, as with the Theotokos, who is certainly higher than even the apostles without ever presuming to teach them, women in the Body of Christ can have any role that God assigns them: How that looks in practice is not what most modern Christians are prepared to accept. They are still looking for equality and interchangeability of women and men in the same functional roles. This, for the Orthodox, the scriptures and tradition cannot allow. Men and women are simply not interchangeable, not in physical roles, or spiritual ones either.

I hope I have not put my thoughts forward as an authoritative statement or as a challenge to anyone: I am just an ordinary layman in the Greek Church, writing about what I have observed. As to my personal opinion, I have none, but leave the Church to decide what it will do.

My life in Christ is just to love the brethren close up and minister to them, and let them do the same to me, and never to let myself become an enemy where I should remain a friend.

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