“Deaconesses in the early Church were akin to the Myrrh-Bearing Women”

Sermon on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women


Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Today [last Sunday], on the second Sunday after Pascha, we commemorate the Myrrh-Bearing Women, who, as the Holy Scriptures tell us, dedicated themselves to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. They followed Him, served Him, and served His disciples.

After God created Adam and granted him authority, He created Eve to be a helper for Adam. Thus, God assigned one service to the man and another service to the woman, so that they would complement each other. The Church followed this order that God determined for His creation. However, in our days, we are witnessing a reversal of this order and a distortion of the system that God set since the beginning of creation.

Today, we see a push for the female priesthood within Church circles, by both clergy and laity. Recently, we heard about the ordination of a deaconess in the Orthodox Church in Zimbabwe, that is under the Patriarchate of Alexandria. This deaconess participates in liturgical service, reads petitions, and administers the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ to the faithful. It should be noted that deaconesses in the early Church were akin to the Myrrh-Bearing Women, and their service was limited to assisting bishops in the Baptism of women and anointing them with holy Chrism, so that the bishop would not touch the woman’s body. At that time, many converts to Christianity were adults. However, as Christianity spread more widely within the empire, the need for this service decreased, as infant Baptism became more common than adult Baptism. At that point, the ordination of deaconesses ceased in the Church.

There is now a promotion of strange practices within the Church that were never part of its history or Tradition. Such ordinations are innovations that amount to heresy. We hear voices demanding equality between men and women, as if the Church has wronged women by assigning them a specific role! We see a reversal of roles, a reversal of service. God, as I said in the beginning, assigned each one their role, but now everyone seeks to take the role of the other. We also see a significant promotion of homosexuality, transgenderism, and the ordination of women by Orthodox clergy and laity.

Bishops and priests are appointed by God as servants of His word and stewards of the Church’s Tradition. Any bishop, priest, or layman who betrays this trust and distorts the Church’s faith and Holy Tradition is a servant of satan, not Christ. There is no middle ground in Christianity. Christ said, “You are either with Me or with the devil.” Anyone who distorts the faith and Tradition and desecrates the holy Sacraments, as the Orthodox bishop of the American Archdiocese under the Ecumenical Patriarchate did by baptizing children adopted by a same-sex couple, is a servant of satan and a desecrator of the Church’s Mysteries.

This is what is happening in our days, and more is expected to come. We read in the Bible about a time of apostasy. This apostasy is a departure from the true faith in Jesus Christ, the true God, and the promotion of a distorted Christ. Those bishops and priests who promote a distorted Christ are servants of the rulers of this age, servants of a new world order that seeks to change the entire order of creation, and servants of the spirit of the age that wants to modernize the Church, the heavenly Church of Christ, and turn it into a worldly institution no different from other worldly institutions, organizations, and worldly parties.

The Church must remain faithful to all it has received from Christ, just like the Myrrh-Bearing Women who did not deviate from Christ’s obedience and did not innovate, but served the Lord and His Apostles with all their strength. The Apostles of Christ preached and ministered the Sacraments, becoming a foundation for the spread of Christ’s Church.

Each of us must confront this worldly, satanic spirit that seeks to destroy all Church Tradition and the foundations of the faith. Nowadays we are witnessing a dangerous shift away from the faith. Even more dangerous is the silence. Any Orthodox bishop who remains silent about what is happening is complicit in this act. The primary mission of a bishop is to preserve the faith, and if he remains silent, he is, willingly or unwillingly, complicit in this betrayal. Those who are appointed as guardians of the faith become desecrators of the Church’s faith and Mysteries, celebrating everything that contradicts the Holy Tradition of the Church and becoming mercenaries for the spirit of the age.

All those who contribute to this neither know nor live by the Tradition. They want a Church that accepts all the heresies and transformations of this age. Thus, they become children of a satanic spirit and servants of satan, who seeks to weaken the Church of Christ to impose his rule and law in this world.

The Church is strengthened by its faith and by preserving the Holy Tradition. This is how it remains faithful to Christ and how it confronts the rulers of this age. But if it allows heresies to enter and destroy the faith, the gates of hell will overcome it. This is what satan and his agents desire, from bishops, priests, and laity who have succumbed to the spirit of the age.

Do not be influenced by all these things resulting from human logic, which only calls for fake love. True love is in Christ and is the fruit of true faith in Him. Whoever does not believe in Jesus Christ can only love himself. Whoever loves Christ will be faithful to Him and His commandments and to the Church’s Tradition. This is how we love Christ and love one another, submitting our will to the will of Christ, and becoming faithful servants.

Archimandrite Gregorios (Estephan),
Abbot of Holy Dormition Orthodox Monastery, Bkeftine, Lebanon
Translated from Arabic by Wadih Rahal

St. Gregory Palamas Publications


James5/25/2024 10:18 am
I noticed that you used "layperson" instead of "layman". "Layperson" is a gender neutral word that has appeared only recently. It is, of course, a demonic innovation. The word "layman" in traditional English refers to both men and women. It is similar to how "for us men" in the creed applies to both men and women. You might therefore want to use "layman" instead of "layperson" in articles such as this. Please feel free not to publish this comment.
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