Archive for September, 2010

Come and See

When I started this series on female Orthodox Saints, I did so with the desire to demonstrate that many women whom the patriocentrists would consider “non-normative” and therefore easily dismissed, are actually venerated as Saints by 250 million Christians worldwide.  I did not set out to defend Orthodoxy or convert anyone.  Some people have expressed an interest in Orthodoxy to me personally and I’d like to provide some resources for people who really want to learn about what the Church teaches instead of what they may perceive is the teaching of the church.

This great quote by Fulton Sheen comes to mind:

“There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Fulton Sheen

The same principle applies here- and maybe even more so because the Church is not nearly as well known as the Roman Catholic Church.  The Orthodox Christian Church does not need me to defend it. Its not because I can’t or because I am unsure in my belief in Its veracity, but because I don’t think I need to.   The Church has 2,000 years of life and history and teaching behind it.  Please, don’t take my word for it.  Come and See:

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction

Our Life in Christ

At the Intersection of East and West

The Orthodox Church by Father Thomas Hopko

Find an Orthodox Church in your area

Journey to Orthodoxy


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Double Standard

I’m not an Orthodox Christian.  Right now, my faith is in a very strange place.  I think I got so deeply caught up in ridiculous arguments about the minutia of Christianity, that I had to take a step back and detox from any kind of organized faith, lest I throw all the good out with the bad.  So, I’m not here to defend Orthodoxy, or anything else at the moment.  But something is bothering me, so I’m going to post about it.

I know Jennifer/Cally has been posting about Saints in Orthodoxy, recently.  Her goal was to show how women throughout church history have taken on “non-normative” roles while serving God, as they often did in the Bible.  These women weren’t doing the things that they Hyper-Patrios say should be doing.  And they’re recognized by the Orthodox church as extraordinary women, worth emulating.

Jennifer posted about St. Theodosia recently, and while I understand why, and respect that the Orthodox church holds this woman up as someone who would do anything to serve God, her story does make me a little uncomfortable.  I worry about setting up the idea that killing for God is something to be desired.

But if we’re going to say that we’re uncomfortable with that story, or that it’s not a Godly story, shouldn’t we be equally offended by stories like 2 Chronicles 15 where we hear that anyone who won’t worship God should be put to death, including women and children?  What about 1 Samuel 15 where the Israelites are commanded to kill men, women, children, nursing babies, and even the animals?

I’ll tell you the truth.  I have trouble with these stories.  I have trouble reconciling them to the loving God I believe in.  And I have yet to get a satisfactory answer to my questions about it.

It just feels like a double standard to take issue with some killings for Godly motives, and not others.  If it’s okay in the bible, why wouldn’t it be okay for St. Theodosia?  After all, it’s not like the woman went out into the community and began attacking people.  It sounds like she and her community were being attacked, as were things she believed to be holy, and that she defended them.  She wasn’t the aggressor.  I still find it sad that lives were lost because of differences in beliefs.  But I find that sad when I read it in the bible, church history, or in the newspaper.

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“The virgin Nino of Cappadocia was a relative of Great-martyr George and the only daughter of a widely respected and honorable couple. Her father was a Roman army chief by the name of Zabulon, and her mother, Sosana, was the sister of Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. When Nino reached the age of twelve, her parents sold all their possessions and moved to Jerusalem. Soon after, Nino’s father was tonsured a monk. He bid farewell to his family and went to labor in the wilderness of the Jordan.

After Sosana had been separated from her husband, Patriarch Juvenal ordained her a deaconess. She left her daughter Nino in the care of an old woman, Sara Niaphor, who raised her in the Christian Faith and related to her the stories of Christ’s life and His suffering on earth. It was from Sara that Nino learned how Christ’s Robe had arrived in Georgia, a country of pagans.

Soon Nino began to pray fervently to the Theotokos, asking for her blessing to travel to Georgia and be made worthy to venerate the Sacred Robe that she had woven for her beloved Son. The Most Holy Virgin heard her prayers and appeared to Nino in a dream, saying, “Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector.”

But the blessed Nino was overwhelmed at the thought of such a great responsibility and answered, “How can I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and how can I believe that this vision is real?” In response, the Most Holy Theotokos presented her with a cross of grapevines and proclaimed, “Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies!”

When she awoke, Nino was holding the cross in her hands. She dampened it with tears of rejoicing and tied it securely with strands of her own hair. (According to another source, the Theotokos bound the grapevine cross with strands of her own hair.)

Nino related the vision to her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal, and revealed to him her desire to preach the Gospel in Georgia. Juvenal led her in front of the Royal Doors, laid his hands on her, and prayed, “O Lord, God of Eternity, I beseech Thee on behalf of my orphaned niece: Grant that, according to Thy will, she may go to preach and proclaim Thy Holy Resurrection. O Christ God, be Thou to her a guide, a refuge, and a spiritual father. And as Thou didst enlighten the Apostles and all those who feared Thy name, do Thou also enlighten her with the wisdom to proclaim Thy glad tidings.”

When Nino arrived in Rome, she met and baptized the princess Rhipsimia and her nurse, Gaiana. At that time the Roman emperor was Diocletian, a ruler infamous for persecuting Christians. Diocletian (284–305) fell in love with Rhipsimia and resolved to marry her, but St. Nino, Rhipsimia, Gaiana, and fifty other virgins escaped to Armenia. The furious Diocletian ordered his soldiers to follow them and sent a messenger to Tiridates, the Armenian king (286–344), to put him on guard.

King Tiridates located the women and, following Diocletian’s example, was charmed by Rhipsimia’s beauty and resolved to marry her. But St. Rhipsimia would not consent to wed him, and in his rage the king had her tortured to death with Gaiana and the fifty other virgins. St. Nino, however, was being prepared for a different, greater task, and she succeeded in escaping King Tiridates’ persecutions by hiding among some rose bushes.

When she finally arrived in Georgia, St. Nino was greeted by a group of Mtskhetan shepherds near Lake Paravani, and she received a blessing from God to preach to the pagans of this region.

With the help of her acquaintances St. Nino soon reached the city of Urbnisi. She remained there a month, then traveled to Mtskheta with a group of Georgians who were making a pilgrimage to venerate the pagan idol Armazi. There she watched with great sadness as the Georgian people trembled before the idols. She was exceedingly sorrowful and prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, send down Thy mercy upon this nation …that all nations may glorify Thee alone, the One True God, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ.”

Suddenly a violent wind began to blow and hail fell from the sky, shattering the pagan statues. The terrified worshipers fled, scattering across the city.

St. Nino made her home beneath a bramble bush in the garden of the king, with the family of the royal gardener. The gardener and his wife were childless, but through St. Nino’s prayers God granted them a child. The couple rejoiced exceedingly, declared Christ to be the True God, and became disciples of St. Nino. Wherever St. Nino went, those who heard her preach converted to the Christian Faith in great numbers. St. Nino even healed the terminally ill Queen Nana after she declared Christ to be the True God.

King Mirian, a pagan, was not at all pleased with the great impression St. Nino’s preaching had made on the Georgian nation. One day while he was out hunting, he resolved to kill all those who followed Christ.

According to his wicked scheme, even his wife, Queen Nana, would face death for failing to renounce the Christian Faith. But in the midst of the hunt, it suddenly became very dark. All alone, King Mirian became greatly afraid and prayed in vain for the help of the pagan gods. When his prayers went unanswered, he finally lost hope and, miraculously, he turned to Christ: “God of Nino, illumine this night for me and guide my footsteps, and I will declare Thy Holy Name. I will erect a cross and venerate it and I will construct for Thee a temple. I vow to be obedient to Nino and to the Faith of the Roman people!”

Suddenly the night was transfigured, the sun shone radiantly, and KingMirian gave great thanks to the Creator. When he returned to the city, he immediately informed St. Nino of his decision. As a result of the unceasing labors of Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino, Georgia was established as a nation solidly rooted in the Christian Faith.

St. Nino reposed in the village of Bodbe in eastern Georgia and, according to her will, she was buried in the place where she took her last breath. King Mirian later erected a church in honor of St. George over her grave.”

Taken from the Orthodox Church in America

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The Virgin Martyr Theodosia of Constantinople lived during the eighth century. She was born in answer to the fervent prayers of her parents. After their death, she was raised at the women’s monastery of the holy Martyr Anastasia in Constantinople. St Theodosia became a nun after she distributed to the poor of what remained of her parental inheritance. She used part of the money to commission gold and silver icons of the Savior, the Theotokos, and St Anastasia.

When Leo the Isaurian (717-741) ascended the imperial throne, he issued an edict to destroy holy icons everywhere. Above the Bronze Gates at Constantinople was a bronze icon of the Savior, which had been there for more than 400 years. In 730, the iconoclast Patriarch Anastasius ordered the icon removed.

The Virgin Martyr Theodosia and other women rushed to protect the icon and toppled the ladder with the soldier who was carrying out the command. Then they stoned the impious Patriarch Anastasius, and Emperor Leo ordered soldiers to behead the women. St Theodosia, an ardent defender of icons, was locked up in prison. For a week they gave her a hundred lashes each day. On the eighth day, they led her about the city, fiercely beating her along the way. One of the soldiers stabbed the nun in the throat with a ram’s horn, and she received the crown of martyrdom.

The body of the holy virgin martyr was reverently buried by Christians in the monastery of St Euphemia in Constantinople, near a place called Dexiokratis. The tomb of St Theodosia was glorified by numerous healings of the sick.

I’m not sure I need to write about how she didn’t fit the patrio-mold.  Obviously, she was a nun and married to Christ.  She gave her life to protect the holy icons, something that a Western Christian probably wouldn’t think much of.

BUT, she is a great hero to me, probably because I used to be the biggest iconoclast I knew.  I could barely walk into Lara’s house without feeling the need to shield my eyes from all the “idols” she had hanging around.  Looking back, I can’t believe my arrogance and my ignorance.

Icons are not idols and the people depicted in them are not being worshiped.  Icons themselves have no mystical powers (unless imbued by God Himself and those are extremely rare), but they serve as reminders to us that God became Man.  They are witnesses to the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  They remind us of certain events in redemptive history as well as the Saints who stood for Truth and so often died for it.  Icons remind us that our God is not the God of the dead, but of the living and those Saints who are depicted in those icons are not dead, but are alive with God in Christ, surrounding the Throne of the Father, engaging in worship and praise and prayer without ceasing.

For those whose curiosity has been peaked, I’d like to humbly encourage you to check out Jim and Nancy Forest’s website.  They are converts to Orthodox Christianity have both written numerous articles that you might find interesting.

Pertaining to icons, let me send you here, specifically:

Icons: Word and Image Together

Icons and the Mysteries: Meeting God in the Material World (4 part lecture series)

Edited to Add 9/20/10: Icons are not statues.  Icons are almost always two dimensional portraits painted on wood, canvas, the wall of a church, etc.  As stated above, they have no power in and of themselves, but they are sacred and holy to Orthodox Christians.  To learn more about icons, please visit this site:

The Icon FAQ

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I am fully accepting that Chrysostom, a man of his times, often wrote about the “inferiority” of women.  But in light of this section from his homily on Romans 16, I am wondering whether or not his views are so cut and dry.  I think not.

Ver. 6. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us.

How is this? A woman again is honored and proclaimed victorious! Again are we men put to shame. Or rather, we are not put to shame only, but have even an honor conferred upon us. For an honor we have, in that there are such women among us, but we are put to shame, in that we men are left so far behind by them. But if we come to know whence it comes, that they are so adorned, we too shall speedily overtake them. Whence then is their adorning? Let both men and women listen. It is not from bracelets, or from necklaces, nor from their eunuchs either, and their maid-servants, and gold-broidered dresses, but from their toils in behalf of the truth. For he says, who bestowed much labor on us, that is, not on herself only, nor upon her own advancement, (see p. 520) (for this many women of the present day do, by fasting, and sleeping on the floor), but upon others also, so carrying on the race Apostles and Evangelists ran. In what sense then does he say, I suffer not a woman to teach? 1 Timothy 2:12 He means to hinder her from publicly coming forward 1 Corinthians 14:35, and from the seat on the bema, not from the word of teaching. Since if this were the case, how would he have said to the woman that had an unbelieving husband, How do you know, O woman, if you shall save your husband? 1 Corinthians 7:16 Or how came he to suffer her to admonish children, when he says, but she shall be saved by child-bearing if they continue in faith, and charity, and holiness, with sobriety? 1 Timothy 2:15 How came Priscilla to instruct even Apollos? It was not then to cut in sunder private conversing for advantage that he said this, but that before all, and which it was the teacher’s duty to give in the public assembly; or again, in case the husband be believing and thoroughly furnished, able also to instruct her. When she is the wiser, then he does not forbid her teaching and improving him. And he does not say, who taught much, but who bestowed much labor, because along with teaching (τοὓ λόγου) she performs other ministries besides, those in the way of dangers, in the way of money, in the way of travels. For the women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way they went travelling with them, and also performed all other ministries. And even in Christ’s day there followed Him women, which ministered unto Him of their substance Luke 8:3, and waited upon the Teacher.

So yes, Chrysostom does forbid women from  being priests, but he does not forbid them to teach elsewhere or even to teach their own husbands.  And he speaks of the zeal of the women in his company and the Christian women of the past, using them as an example for ALL Christians, men and women to emulate.


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In light of a discussion I probably shouldn’t have entered into, I wanted to post the link to an EXCEPTIONAL podcast by Dr. Jeannie Constantinou about how to think about some of the statements of the Fathers to which we, as modern-day Christians, might take offense.  Click on the picture and enjoy!

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Saint Xenia of Rome, in the world Eusebia, was the only daughter of an eminent Roman senator. From her youth she loved God, and wished to avoid the marriage arranged for her. She secretly left her parental home with two servants devoted to her, and set sail upon a ship. Through the Providence of God she met the head of the monastery of the holy Apostle Andrew in Milassa, a town of Caria (Asia Minor). She besought him to take her and her companions to Milassa. She also changed her name, calling herself Xenia [which means “stranger” or foreigner” in Greek].

At Milassa she bought land, built a church dedicated to St Stephen, and founded a woman’s monastery. Soon after this, Bishop Paul of Milassa made Xenia a deaconess, because of her virtuous life. The saint helped everyone: for the destitute, she was a benefactress; for the grief-stricken, a comforter; for sinners, a guide to repentance. She possessed a deep humility, accounting herself the worst and most sinful of all.

In her ascetic deeds she was guided by the counsels of the Palestinian ascetic, St Euthymius. The sublime life of St Xenia drew many souls to Christ. The holy virgin died in 450 while she was praying. During her funeral, a luminous wreath of stars surrounding a radiant cross appeared over the monastery in the heavens. This sign accompanied the body of the saint when it was carried into the city, and remained until the saint’s burial. Many of the sick received healing after touching the relics of the saint.

Taken from the Orthodox Church in America

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