Malankara World

Women and Church Affairs

by Zacharia Mathews Chalakuzhy

Can women be allowed to enter the Madbaha (the holiest place of our Church)? I have seen an active discussion about this topic in IOC Website. IOC actively encouraging this dangerous trend without considering the biblical teachings.

When this hot topic comes to my mind, the following Scripture comes to my mind:

1 Corinthians 11:7-9 (A man has no need to cover his head because he reflects the image and glory of God. But woman reflects the glory of man; for man was not created from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for woman's sake, but woman was created for man's sake).

a) Woman are either not destined to take up the Church affairs or allowed ("allow" is a weak term – it should be "not permitted") to take part in religious prayers from the time of dedication of scared Temple at Jerusalem. By the way, why we are facing east when we pray? If not sure, read 1 Kings 8 (Solomon's Prayer). God has given priesthood to "man" and that also to a specific tribe of men, not to any Israeli woman in society though there were very many lady prophets at that time. And the priesthood is re-confirmed in Antioch by Apostle Paul.

What God's intention was that the priesthood should always stay with "man". Any act contrary to this is unholy and is classified as "defiled". Church administration is holy because it is where the decisions are made that help retain the holiness of the church. How can our Spiritual Leaders talking about giving rights to woman? If that is the case, why restrict to Altar help, give them priesthood and revere them as Bishops.

While talking about "woman and Church", let me draw your attention on the following:

New Testament vs. Old Testament

Orthodox Christianity is not something that is based on New Testament alone. We believe "New Testament is the continuity of "Old Testament", unlike Pentecostal movements – that is how our prayers are arranged by our holy fathers. I believe and uphold the view that there is no OLD TESTAMENT AND NEW TESTAMENT; it is two Parts of the Holy Bible, which is inseparable, cannot stand one without the other. (Read Matthew 5:17-20). Christ Jesus said (John 1:17): "God gave the law through Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ Jesus". Again it is clearly delineated in the Scripture Luke 16:16-17 (Verse 17 says, it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest detail of the Law to be done away with). Which law? The Law given by God, and revealed through Moses. Let me make something clear – Christ Jesus is the invisible form of God, became visible (came to earth) and hasn't given any new commands at all because the commands given by God through Moses will stay for ever. Jesus Christ came to us in visible form to teach these commandments in perspective of the misunderstandings arising out of its literal applications.

This all should augment our belief that all laws and commandments given by God through Moses are the laws of the past, present and the future. One may argue then about the Scripture "anything that goes inside will not make one unclean" (that does not mean that we can eat all that is on the earth as some sections of Christianity claims, practices and propounds). Such arguments are the arguments of convenience. Some food is classified as not fit to eat and scientifically it is proven also in several of the cases (for example, pork – another word is HAM which is HARMFUL. Christ Jesus through this particular Scripture intend to teach that our heart should be clean because what comes out of our heart (through words, actions or whatever) makes a person good or bad because it affects others. What goes inside will not affect others and it is "oneself" who is going to suffer.

Praying to God

Our prayers are built upon the solid foundation of the commandments of God. That is why our liturgy is most powerful. That is why our Qurbana is the most blessed of the blessed. That is why our holy communion is the most sacred. That is why our Churches have no Chairs to "sit with legs crossed" (prayer is seeking help from God through enduring sufferings by standing or kneeling or by bowing). One must understand that prayer is not a "pleasure" activity.

I always teach that "prayer is harder than "rocket science" that is why our prayers are not getting answers. The reason we are not getting answers is that we are not trying hard. Yearn with your heart and earn the rewards – i.e. the blessings. Also we place high importance to "dhoopa prarthana (prayer with incense). Our prayers are incomplete without a dhoopa prarathana. Holy Bible teaches "dhoopa prarthana as a "purification ceremony". I hope we Orthodox Christians know its significance. We all utter during 50 days of lent "kadal, koopa agnikalil, rekshichenna prarthanakal, nangalude prarthanakalkku kripa yude vathil thurakaname" - If we do not know what we are uttering, how can God open the doors of Kripa (grace)? I hope we Orthodox Christians know about it.

"Do not allow me to look at woman with lust."

This is the prayer that we can see all throughout Holy Bible. Church is the holy place to worship God. And it should be considered holy. It should not allow any conditions to invite ungodliness. The Ten Commandments given by God to mankind include also "Do not desire another man's wife". Why didn't God say, "do not desire another woman's husband", why didn't God say, do not allow me to look at a man with lust"? It needs no explanation.

As these matters require no explanation, we do not need to provide any explanation "why we prohibit woman from the church affairs, holy mass and so on. It reminds a famous adage: "a little science estranges man from God, but much science leads them back to him." (by Luis Pasteur).

I believe requests of this kind develop from lack of understanding of the liturgy. Now there is a hue and cry about simplifying our liturgy as forceful as giving rights for women at our holy Altar. Studying the "word of God" will only help understand our forceful liturgy and the knowledge and wisdom that we gain from studying "word of God" will make perfect sense of our liturgy. Otherwise, it is a futile exercise as seemingly like an attempt to convince an Atheist about God.

Zacharia Mathews Chalakuzhy, Canada, June 13, 2007

Comments from Zach George Arapura

Zacharia Mathews Chalakuzhy presents a view which I sincerely hope is not the prevalent one in our Church.

In the said message he has quoted 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 to establish that, in his own words," Woman are either not destined to take up the Church affairs..."

I humbly request Zacharia Mathews Chalakuzhy to go verse 11 of the same chapter and read on. For the benefit of others I quote,

11 Nevertheless, in our Lord there is no preference
between man and woman, neither between woman
and man

and further in verse 15

15 But if a women have long hair, it is a glory to her;
for her hair is given her for a covering.

And in the second part of his message he says "As these matters require no explanation, we do not need to provide any
explanation why we prohibit woman from the church affairs, holy mass and so on".

But Sir, I am compelled to ask for a reason for your reasoning doesn't satisfy my reason.

See Also:

The Role of Women in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
by Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas
The Role of Women is a topic of importance today in our Syriac Orthodox Church which is a deeply rooted traditional apostolic church.” In our presentation, we shall depend upon the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, namely the teachings of the Apostles which have not been recorded in the Scriptures.

Woman’s Role in the Church Affairs
We have a double standard system within the church, within our parishes and communities and within our families. Jesus gave more importance to Martha, Maria, his mother and even appeared to Mary Magdalene even before appearing to any other disciples of His, there by giving importance to WOMEN, in my opinion.

Rights of Women in Jacobite Church
The uniqueness of our church (comparing to any other Apostolic or Protestant) churches is that, the church practices are based on Bible Laws, Traditions and Teaching of church fathers. If you look at the history, social laws were always derived from religion.

Concept of Trinity and the Role of Women in Church
The revelation of the Holy Trinity, through the Bible and then through the reflections of our Church fathers has profound implications for our life today. While the understanding on the Holy Trinity has been one of the most complex themes that has been dealt with, the studies so far by early Church fathers and then of late by modern theologians helps us to understand certain aspects of the Godhead.

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