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Early church view of women (Orthodox)

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by All4Christ, Aug 13, 2019.

  1. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Please note that this is in the Orthodox forum. I am looking for the understanding of teachings of the Orthodox church.

    I tend to go to the church fathers for commentaries. I recently was reading 1 Timothy 2, and pulled up the commentary from St John Chrysostom. He says that we are naturally talkative. apt to much noise, clamor and unprofitable chatter, men are superior to us, we are the weaker and fickle sex, etc in his remarks.

    This is bothersome on multiple levels. Granted, it isn’t the only thing he said in the commentary, but reading them bothers me, especially since St John is one of the Fathers who taught respect and rights of women. Many others were much more critical of women.

    What troubles me even more is the Scripture in 1 Timothy 2:15 (which is troubling in and of itself) - and his related commentary about being saved through childbearing.

    “You women, be not cast down, because your sex has incurred blame. God has granted you another opportunity of salvation, by the bringing up of children, so that you are saved, not only by yourselves, but by others.”

    What about those of us who are infertile or unable to have children? What about those who voluntarily remain virgins for life?

    I may be overthinking this - but it is on my mind recently - and I am hoping you all may have some insight.
     
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  2. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I'm no expert but two things come to mind.

    I was listening to a podcast recently where they brought up St. John Chrysostom's perspective on women and questioned it. The response was that he would first likely be comparing uneducated women with educated men, and given his social climate ... we should regard his comments as a product of his time and not an indication that the Church regards women poorly.

    The second is how we are taught that salvation comes to us in many ways. Of course - that doesn't mean there is salvation by any other means than through Christ. But the Scriptures talk about perseverance for example and "in your patience you possess your souls". And we are told that both marriage and virginity are paths to salvation. And many such things. I take this to mean that we are all given multiple ways to cooperate with God in "working out our salvation". (Not in "performing works" for merit to "earn salvation" of course, but that God uses many means and many kinds of experiences through which we are shaped to be like Christ.)

    Children can be one way to do this, but only one among many. I certainly don't see not having children as making it impossible for a woman to be saved. That verse always used to puzzle me before. But seeing how MANY things - everything in our lives really - that God uses to shape us, it makes more sense to me now. But we (as Orthodox) are always seeing "yes/and" as an answer. This does not mean it is the only avenue given to women. But in the way God often does such things - it is one path of many.

    This would be my understanding and what immediately comes to mind from what I've heard and read.
     
  3. The Faceless

    The Faceless Has A Face

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    I will just say that I don't find the Fathers or Scripture troubling or problematic or any other such word we can come up with. All of us have at least something we don't like about what is written and/or taught, but sometimes that's the point: it's an us issue. We do not know best.
     
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  4. JohnTh

    JohnTh Newbie

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    „Therefore, just as the power which destroys what is born is begotten along with physical birth, so it is clear that the Spirit bestows a lifegiving power upon those born through it. What, then, can be deduced from what we have said? That separating ourselves from life in the flesh, which death normally follows upon, we may seek a kind of life which does not have death as its consequence. This is the spiritual significance of the life of virginity. That this is true will be clearer if we explain a little further. Everyone knows that the function of bodily union is the creation of mortal bodies. But life and incorruptibility are born to those who remain united in their participation in the Spirit. It is not having children as such that is important but this spiritual regeneration. Excellent is the apostolic saying about this, that the mother blessed with such children “will be saved by childbearing,” just as the psalmist utters in the divine hymns, “He establishes in her home the barren wife as the joyful mother of children.”

    - St. Gregory of Nyssa

    A nun is called „mother” and a monk is called „father” even if they do not have children. Why? Because they give birth, with God's grace, to themselves on the spiritual plane (which is much more important than the bodily plane - see the quote above) and after that to others - God willing.

    Well.... ....if St. John Sez so... who am I to contradict him? :)

    The truth is that the two are different.

    In fact, we cannot say in absolute sense that one is superior to another or, worse, that they are equal. We cannot compare an oak with a rose.
    Father Dumitru Stăniloae says that men are a leading presence while women are a comforting presence - thing with which I fully agree. St. Ap. Paul, St. John Chrysostom (and others) give to men just this leading role which fits to them.

    In fact, we aren't separated because God created just one man as He is just one God.
     
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  5. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Thank you. This (as well as some other things you wrote) reminds me of some things I have read. But I'm still just connecting the dots.

    Thank you for sharing it.
     
  6. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I will add as far as the childbearing goes, that St Paul, who was celibate and St John Chrysostom's favorite, calls himself a father in the faith and says he begat the Corinthians.

    so there is more to the bringing up of children than the physical bearing of them.
     
  7. JohnTh

    JohnTh Newbie

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    Can I help?

    You're welcome! :)

    Question: Your signature includes

    „We can know a theology is true if it is able to cure people. If it cannot cure them, it is not true theology. In the Orthodox Church we have a perfect therapeutic system, applied and expressed through the Mysteries and asceticism.

    When practiced correctly, people are cured.

    Curing people [involves] man’s co-operation in order to share in the purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God. This is the key to the therapeutic experience of those within the Church.”


    From where is it? fr. John Romanides? metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktou? - it is their style.
     
  8. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Troubling means causing anxiety or distress. That’s a personal feeling; it isn’t not saying that it isn’t true. The other thing I’d say is that the Church fathers can say things that are problematic. It’s their consensus and the understanding of the Church of the church fathers’ teachings that matters most. They aren’t infallible in and of themselves - though I’m not diminishing the importance or truth of their teachings.

    That said, I understand your point - which is why I posted here asking for help :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  9. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Thank you all! I’m heading out the door so I can’t write long, but what you all posted is very helpful. I’ll write back in regards to them soon!
     
  10. rusmeister

    rusmeister A Russified American Orthodox Chestertonian

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    The problem with reading any one of the fathers is that we are likely, somewhere, to find something that doesn’t jive with what we think Orthodox Christianity to be. I’d say every father has some kind of 1% issue he goes off in, making a universal observation out of what is actually just local and context-specific in time and place. The real question is whether we find consensus among the fathers. If we find them again and again agreeing on something that we don’t like, then the problem is in us, not in them.

    Also, what Anastasia said.
     
  11. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Just got out of church for the Dormition. Something struck me with the gospel reading:

    And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
    28
    But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!

    Mary was blessed because of her bearing Christ - but was blessed even more because she heard the word of God and kept it. That is something we all can do, no matter what our vocation is.
     
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  12. SingularityOne

    SingularityOne Active Member Supporter

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  13. rusmeister

    rusmeister A Russified American Orthodox Chestertonian

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    On the “talkative” bit, I think there is a general consensus that women have more aptitude for language learning, both native and foreign. A stereotype may be true for a majority while not being universally true, and a characteristic may cut both ways.

    My wife fits the stereotype. I’m almost tempted to find a picture of her talking on two phones at once. I think she’s going to get a crick in her neck some day from holding one of the two phones with her shoulder...
     
  14. JohnTh

    JohnTh Newbie

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    Mary was worthy to bear Christ because before of her pregnancy she heard the word of God and kept it.

    Christ didn't bless His "clan". Christ which is perfect God doesn't have sentimental preferences to anyone. So, His mother is the most blessed saint not because is His mother but because she kept the word of God like nobody else and because of this she was found worthy to become His mother. She convinced God to become flesh.
     
  15. archer75

    archer75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I don't know about this, but I will suggest that at many times and places, likely in the first century, the bringing up of children was not what it is in some parts of the US context today. Now (to many people, and as widely represented in movies and TV shows), raising children means anxiously googling how to get them to do something or other, and transporting them to various activities. But the full task of child-rearing involves their slow enculturation from day one, the non-stop singing of rhymes, songs, extremely frequent feedings, conscious and semi-conscious monitoring...all this requires more than a biological mother can provide alone. The entire community is involved, but if the greater part of the task falls on women as a sex (regardless of fertility, virginity, etc.), that is a rather extreme challenge. It is not to be thought of as some kind of "joke" assignment.

    Let anyone who thinks it is some kind of joke conduct a thought-experiment in which women as a sex go on strike from such tasks for one week. Enjoy contemplating the near-complete destruction of human society.
     
  16. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I wasn’t trying to imply that Christ “blessed His clan”. That said, are you suggesting that Christ did not have the bond between mother and son? Father always spoke about that being a special relationship - and that in light of that, she approaches God with motherly boldness. That’s why we also consider her to be our mother and have a special relationship with her. (I do consider it to be a blessing though that God chose her to be His mother, which as you said is due to her obedience, etc...just not in the sense of God giving special blessings to his family in greater measure than all of us)

    My point, however, was that she is the most blessed saint for the reason you posted above.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019 at 6:13 AM
  17. JohnTh

    JohnTh Newbie

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    Yes, I know. I didn't meant this. Sorry for not being clear.

    Not "that" bond. In our worldly mother-son relationship, normally there is a lot of sentimental charge between the two. This didn't exist between Mother of God and Her Son because they were perfect. Their love is without sentimentalism - that is is not a "direct" God-less love.

    See, Christ said to His mother in John 2:4
    „Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”

    Is not quite the way in which we speak with our mothers, isn't it? :)

    Then Mother of God turns to the servants and said „Do anything He tells you” - that's all. She didn't say why (Jesus was unknown at that time) or tried to convince anyone. Also, She didn't speak at all to Her son (!).

    Then Jesus obeyed to His Mother and changed the entire divine plan of human salvation and started his work of our salvation there. Normally „His hour” wasn't there, but He shown His perfect love to Her through His perfect obedience to Her.

    Sure. Very special. See above. We are accustomed to smile to our children, to make jokes - things like these. Well, due of our fallen nature these things aren't sinful now - God forbid! - but the perfection is something else.

    Also, when someone (some say that it was St. Mary Magdalene) praised His Mother in Luke 11:27
    Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
    He didn't shown again any trace of sentimental love (praise) to Her mother or to anyone else, keeping His entire love for God by saying:
    rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
    In nowadays translations there is an „Yes” (or „Indeed”) in front of this passage but in the original text (in Greek) there is only Μενοῦν or Μενοῦνγε which means only "rather" (μάλλον in New Greek, „mai degrabă” in Romanian). Read St. Gregory Palamas which explains analytically why Christ didn't gave any sign of sentimental love to anyone.

    Sure - but the core cause is because Christ on the Cross gave Her to us by making Her the mother of humanity represented there by St. John the Theologian. See John 19:26
    Also, note that even on the Cross, Jesus called her "Woman" and didn't say anything to comfort Her, to say a farewell or something like that. Also, the opposite is true, even if we know that at the Cross the pain of the Mother of God was so big that She must die if She hadn't a special grace from God in order to sustain Her.

    Dispassionate (true) love is waaay above what we know about love.
     
  18. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Ok, we can agree to disagree about some of this.

    I’ll go with what Father T taught about some of this. He said that Woman didn’t mean the same type of thing in that time - it wasn’t a disrespectful term, so it shouldn’t be used to say that he didn’t love or respect her.

    The bond between mother and child (in its truest form) is pure and special. It is a gift from God. Saying it is “not sinful” because of the fall implies that there shouldn’t really be a bond in God’s perfect design. Having a bond between a mother and child doesn’t mean that we are allowing it to influence us to not focus on God.

    Children are a blessing from God - and love between them is crucial. Christ did have perfect love, but love between family is not because of the Fall. One can still smile at his / her child if they have dispassionate love. The difference of dispassion is not allowing yourself to be swayed by emotions and focusing all on God above all else. We don’t have to be apathetic to have dispassionate love.

    In fact, Christ and Mary both were certainly not apathetic. They both expressed love and sorrow.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 7:02 AM
  19. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    ...
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 7:08 AM
  20. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think you are defining apathetic differently. in the Fathers, to be apathetic means to be dispassionate, or in complete control of the passions.
     
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