Monday, November 27, 2017

Qualification of Deaconesses

A series of treatises on Early Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine written c. 375 CE called for women ordained to the diaconate to be unmarried, or only married once and widowed.  The age requirement originally was forty years of age, but later this was changed to sixty years of age, presumably to ensure the woman was past the age of child-bearing.  

Book VIII Chapter XX of the Apostolic Constitutions gave the formula for ordaining deaconesses.  The Bishop lays hands on the head of woman to be ordained and prays the following:
“Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator man and woman; who didst with the Spirit replenish Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who didst not disdain that thine only-begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also, in the tabernacle of the testimony and in the temple, didst ordain women to be keepers of thy holy gates; do thou thyself also now look upon this thy handmaid, appointed to the office of a Deaconess; and grant her the Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her, unto thy glory, and the praise of thy Christ; with whom glory and adoration be to thee, and to the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.”