Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy


Eva Catafygiotu Topping

To the Reader

The book in your hands consists of articles, papers and lectures. Each is an organic whole, independent of the others. Thus each can be read separately and understood.

Nevertheless, all are concerned with the history and the present status of women in the Orthodox Church in particular. The original entries were written over a period of seven years, from 1980 to 1987.

All the essays are based on my research in the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, in the writings of the Church Fathers, in Byzantine hymnography and hagiography. I read the relevant sources and texts in the original Greek. (Hence the appearance of some key words in Greek.) In this way I tried to come as close as possible to the Orthodox Church's tradition relating to women, its origins and development. The Orthodox story, however, is truly the story of us all.

Before being assembled, these articles and lectures were addressed to a variety of audiences. Sometimes the audience was exclusively Orthodox, at other times completely non-orthodox. The lectures were delivered either at my parish church, or at Hellenic College, or at a diocesan assembly banquet, or at an ecumenical convocation of 3000 church women from all parts of the world. Some of the articles were published in scholarly journals, others in magazines and newspapers.

As a result, there is a variety of style. It may be scholarly, journalistic, and even personal. Also, some repetition inevitably occurs. Unintended though they may be, these repetitions serve a useful function. A life-long student, I have long since come to appreciate the importance and necessity of repetition in learning and understanding a subject, no matter what it is. From this perspective this collection of essays can be viewed as a work which, like a symphony, includes major and minor themes, repeated in variations. What is major in one essay may appear as a minor theme in another.

Whether major or minor, variations or not, all contribute to the book's subject, the history, roles and status of Orthodox women in our Church. Today no one can doubt the significance and complexity of this subject. It concerns not only Christian women, but men as well, laity, clergy, and hierarchy.

Therefore, serious discussion of women's place and participation in the life and ministries of our churches is needed in order to understand and meet the changes and challenges of the times in which we find ourselves. More importantly, prejudice-free study of this issue is crucial if we are to achieve the new creation inaugurated by Christ, in which the divine image present in women is at last recognized and accepted as reality.