According to the late +Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, the percent of women commemorated in the church’s sanctoral tradition was, by his best estimate, 5%. How unfortunate, he conveyed in a lecture in March, 1982, at St Vladimir’s Seminary. Fr John felt that in the eyes of God, it surely was 95% of women who had gained favor with God.
It is fair to say, the church would not have existed without women. There is no debate.
Even the interaction our Lord had with women recorded in the Gospels, was greatly respected. There is no instance where Jesus disagrees, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes women. Instead, Christ Jesus liberates and affirms their existence and role in their respective communities.
Women in the church’s liturgical tradition is real and emphatic. There are a) female martyrs (St Barbara, St Paraskeve, among others), b) ascetics (those who battled against the flesh, and others who chose the monastic life, such as Mary of Egypt, Saints Eupraxia and Fevronia), c) those who were devoted to learning (St Katherine of Alexandria), d) those who the church refers to as ‘equal to the apostles’ because they preached the Gospel, (Mary Magdalene, St Thekla) and e) those who devoted themselves to motherhood, St Anna the prophetess, St Elizabeth, and of course, the Theotokos, the Mother of God.
Sanctity is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is neither abnormal, exceptional, or age or gender specific. The call to holiness is addressed to each person, and is done so by living out our charisms, our gifts, our graces, given to us by God and strengthened through our own prayer and good works.
The Apostle Paul encourages each person to use their gifts “with zeal … with cheerfulness … with simplicity” (Romans 12:6). There is no question that the spirit and loyalty these gifts are carried out is actually more important that the act itself. Women, perhaps more than men, recognized this, and did something about it.
There are however, special duties which are common to all:
- Genuine love
- Hope and patience in times of tribulation
- Constant prayer and hospitality
Each special grace corresponds to each minute, even each second of my life; if that minute, that second, is offered to God in prayer and in gratitude. God receives it graciously, and then continues to extend to each person the free gift of his life-changing grace.
- Fr Marc Vranes
February 9, 2013