Tag Archives: Wijngaards Theological Institute

Women at the last supper: the witness of the church orders

 

The fresco of Cerula restored

I have just read the chapter “The Life of the Virgin and Its Antecedents” in Ally Kateusz, Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden leadership (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). If I have done the hyperlink correctly, this should take you to the e-book on google play.

The chapter is largely concerned with the question of whether a (late) Life of the virgin extant in Georgian held that female disciples were present at the last supper. I cannot comment on this part of the chapter; not for the first time I admit to being Georgian-challenged. However, the author, at the end of the chapter, seeks traces of this tradition in the church order literature.

First she points to DA 2.26.4-8:

…but the bishop is high-priest and Levite. He it is who ministers the word to you and is your mediator, yourteacher, and, after God, is your father who has regenerated you through the water. He is your chief, he is your master, he your powerful king. He is to be honoured by you in the place of God, since the bishop sits among you as a type of God. The deacon, however, is present as a type of Christ, and is therefore to be loved by you. And the deaconess is to be honoured by you as a type of the Holy Spirit. The presbyters are also to be reckoned by you as a type of the apostles, and the widows and orphans are to be considered among you as a type of the altar.

This the author describes as a “kernel that survived the final redactor (which) preserves a stunning example of its original gender parity—a liturgical pair, a male deacon and a female deacon.”

I would love for this to be true, but fear that the point of the passage is to exalt the bishop, to keep presbyters in their place, and to introduce the image, perhaps borrowed from Polycarp, of the widow as an altar. Insofar as liturgical arrangements are concerned, we may note that the deaconess has probably supplanted the place of the widows as found in Testamentum Domini, and is probably the work of the uniting redactor.

I do, however, agree broadly (as she agrees with me (!) and with Allie Ernst) that the passage in Apostolic church order 24-28 regarding the propriety of women celebrating the sacraments with reference to Mary’s presence at the last supper does relate to the possibility that a version of this account had broadened the numbers present beyond the twelve to incorporate the presence of female disciples. Kateusz writes:

“This scribe’s focus on repeatedly undermining Mary’s authority suggests that the scribe considered Mary herself a threat. The text itself belies a raging ideological conflict over the role of women officiants. One faction was using Mary to justify women officiants, and the other faction, represented by this scribe, was going to great lengths to try to undermine Mary’s authority. This scribe, thus, was not only aware of a preexisting tradition that said women had been present at the last supper, and that Jesus had authorized them as ministers there—he also knew that the communities who followed this tradition considered Mary herself the model for these women clergy.”

I am not sure that I could go quite this far in reconstructing the situation behind the passage with such detail, but do not retract my earlier (2006) statements that the situation is broadly along these lines and that “The whole point of the discussion is to subordinate women’s participation in the celebration of the eucharist.” My suspicion, moreover, is that the “other faction” is outwith the community of the redactor. I do accept the possibility, however, that there was some literary text to which the redactor of Apostolic church order is making reference. Possibly, an observation which is less than friendly to Kateusz’s case, this is the source of the agraphon found here that the weak will be saved through the strong.

Kateusz is part of the Wijngaards Theological Institute. I am aware that this is not the first time that I have criticized the use of church order material by members of this Institute. I must re-iterate that I have no axe to grind here, and consider it inappropriate as an Anglican to intervene in a discussion in another part of the catholic church. My concern is solely that enthusiasm for a change within the Roman church (or any other Christian community come to that) should not blunt our historical acumen.

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A gathering of some fragments… and the eschatological nature of the early Christian eucharist

Also from the Wiingaards site note http://www.womenpriests.org/theology/casey_02.asp. I would not like to comment at present on the author’s argument that the fourth century rediscovery of the eucharist as sacrifice “saw a subtle transformation in the Church’s eschatological imagination in which the expectation of the coming reign of God was assimilated into the present achievement of a Christian empire”, not least because I am very uncertain of the premiss that the fourth century radically altered the view of the eucharist as sacrificial. However, I do appreciate his comment regarding “the power of the eschatological symbolism that the Fractio Panis and other similar fresci present.”

I observe this contribution at this point to gather some fragments from recent posts, notably the issue of interpreting some of the material evidence for early Christian banquets (mentioned by Daniel Vaucher in his correspondence), the eschatological nature of the early Christian eucharist (as per my article on the fragment on the mountain) and indeed the ongoing work of the Wijngaards Institute in their attempt inwardly to reform the Roman church.

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An appeal, partly based on the Didascalia apostolorum, for the ordination (again?) of women as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church

I note with interest the letter of the Wijngaards Theological Institute to the Bishop of Rome appealing for the ordination of women as deacons in the Roman Church. http://www.wijngaardsinstitute.com/documented-appeal-reinstatement-ordained-women-deacons/

As an Anglican it would be entirely inappropriate publicly to comment on what is an internal matter for the Roman church, and as a schismatic presbyter I am hardly in a position to offer any advice to the most senior bishop in the west. However, as an historian, I may note that the Didascalia apostolorum is employed in the evidentiary base offered as a dossier in support of the appeal. Indeed, the translation employed is mine. In this light I may point out my belief that the reason for the institution in the circles of the Didascalia is less what the Didascalist says that it is (namely that “there are houses where you can not send a deacon to the women because of the pagans but you can send a deaconess”) but that this institution brought powerful women under episcopal control.

I don’t know whether Bishop Bergoglio is an enthusiast for the ancient church orders (I don’t recall seeing the Vatican appearing on the stats for the blog) but should he be one of my readers he may care to note DA 3.5.4-3.6.2, and point out to the Wiijngardians that the witness of the church orders is never so straightforward:

For neither a widow nor a layman should speak with regard to punishment, and the rest, and the Kingdom of the name of Christ, and the divine plan, for when they speak without knowledge of doctrine they blaspheme the word. For our Lord compared the word of his message to mustard; mustard is bitter and sharp for those who employ it if it is not prepared with skill. For this reason our Lord said in the Gospel to widows and to all the laity: ‘Do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample on them and turn against you and tear you up. When the gentiles hear the word of God, but not spoken with clarity, as it should be, to build up for everlasting life, and particularly when a woman speaks of the incarnation and suffering of Christ, they shall sneer and scoff, rather than glorifying the word of the old woman, and she shall be subject to a harsh judgement for her sin. For the Lord says: ‘When words are many, sin is not absent.’ Thus it is neither fitting nor necessary that a woman should teach, in particular about the name of the Lord and the redemption of his passion. For you women, and especially widows, are not appointed to teach but solely to pray and beseech the Lord God.

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