"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Diaconate

In a forthcoming issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, we have a review of John Chryssavgis, Remembering and Reclaiming Diakonia: The Diaconate Yesterday and Today (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2009), 190pp. The review is written by the Protodeacon David Kennedy, author of the fascinating blog Diaconate in Christ. This book seems to have had a small print run, which is often the problem with Eastern Christian publications of all types.

Chryssavgis offers a briefer treatment of the diaconate in his article "Deacon" in that excellent and handsome resource Wiley-Blackwell has just published, viz., John McGuckin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

In this article, Chryssavgis notes several striking things, including the fact that "from the 11th century, deacons were even members of the Endemousa Synod, wielding considerable influence within the ecumenical patriarchate." He further notes that "the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, while still deacon, served as secretary general of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece (1919-22)."

Chryssavgis's article is immediately followed by "Deaconess," a longer article written by Maria Gwyn McDowell who argues, inter alia, that a deaconess is "an ordained female member of the priestly order, at the level of the diaconate." Such an office fell into desuetude for "no clear reason" but several Orthodox Churches have talked of reversing this and restoring the order especially in Greece and Russia. She advocates restoring it today in a careful "way that appropriate addresses contemporary cultural expectations and needs." These arguments were developed at greater length in Kyriaki K. Fitzgerald, Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: Called to Holiness and Ministry (Holy Cross Press, 1998), 226pp.

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