Deaconess?


#1

I’ve read in Catholic books in which some women who worked in the early church were called deaconesses. I know that it’s impossible for a woman to be ordained, so I’m wondering if this is just a use of the word deaconess in a figurative sense, such as the “baptism” of bells. Could someone explain this to me?


#2

I’m sure someone who is able to be able to explain it fully will be along shortly, and hopefully doesn’t push submit before I do, but here is what I know:

It wasn’t the same position as it is today, and the male/female had different roles. Female deacons were used mainly because of baptism of adult females, as it was done in the nude. I don’t know what all their responsibilities and such entailed, but I believe that was one of the primary reasons.


#3

[quote=alyssa]I’m sure someone who is able to be able to explain it fully will be along shortly, and hopefully doesn’t push submit before I do, but here is what I know:
It wasn’t the same position as it is today, and the male/female had different roles. Female deacons were used mainly because of baptism of adult females, as it was done in the nude. I don’t know what all their responsibilities and such entailed, but I believe that was one of the primary reasons.
[/quote]

Here is a priime example of what a deaconess was in the time of Jesus.
Luke 2:36-38 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Please note: There weren’t too many and they were widows.


#4

Deaconesses were consecrated for a sacred purpose by the laying on of hands by the bishop. They can not be considered, however, in the modern Catholic sense of the term, clergy who have received Holy Orders, but it was an established office/ministry of the Church. From what I know, they performed tasks similar to that of a deacon…serving the Church. For one, they were often (or always?) charged with the baptism of women.


#5

[quote=twf]Deaconesses were consecrated for a sacred purpose by the laying on of hands by the bishop. They can not be considered, however, in the modern Catholic sense of the term, clergy who have received Holy Orders, but it was an established office/ministry of the Church. From what I know, they performed tasks similar to that of a deacon…serving the Church. For one, they were often (or always?) charged with the baptism of women.
[/quote]

Actually they assisted in the baptism of women they did not perform them. In the days of the Deaconess baptisms occured in the nude by full immersion. So to assist the priest, to make sure nothing wrong happened or could be said to have happened, a deaconess assisted.

Rather than saying that a deaconess performed tasks simular to the deacon, I would say that they performed tasks simular to uncloistered nuns as in the days of the deaconess there was no such thing as an uncloisted nun, all nuns during that time were cloistered, that is they had no contact with people out side of their monastery.

That is part of the problem, today (especially in the Latin Church) the deacon really appears to be nothing but a “junior” priest. The eastern churches have more of a separation of “duties” than the west does.

IMHO, more work needs to be done to restore the proper ministery of the deacon. At least in the east he has more of a liturgial role to fill.


#6

Here’s the Catholic encyclopedia article on Deaconesses:

Deaconesses


#7

Thank you all for your replies!


#8

The Eastern Catholic Church kept up the office of deaconesses for longer than the Western Catholics, and they have never entirely disappeared from the East.

Just recently the Greek Orthodox Church made a decision to actively encourage them.

There is a whole thread devoted to this at
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=20474

**Bishops May Ordain Deaconesses At Their Own Discretion **
The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church - Friday 29th October 2004.

The church High Clergy [sic] also re-examined the matter of the ordination of deaconesses, a practice common in the Church during the 4th and 5th centuries which was later faded away. The synod decided that bishops could decide at their own discretion to ordain certain high-ranking nuns if no priest was available, for example in isolated monasteries."

ana.gr/anaweb/user/showplain?maindoc=2182957&service=10


#9

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