Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy


Eva Catafygiotu Topping


Eva Catafygiotu Topping was much more than she credited herself. Like many of the strong Christian women of the early Church about whom she wrote passionately, Mrs. Topping unabashedly knew and lived her faith and unyieldingly stood her ground when verbally accosted for her unrelenting pursuit and revelation of Christian truth, especially regarding the ignorance of and under-valued roles of women in Christian history.In that endeavor through books, lectures and many articles in respected journals, she has awakened the consciousness of both men and women alike who seek the fullness of truth. For those of us who knew her well, she freed our minds and hearts from the shackles of millennia of untruth, the hiding of truth, and the strangle-hold of misogyny both within Christianity and in society as a whole. Because of her inspiring guidance through the years, we considered her our spiritual mother. In her humility she once said, “You make me out to be bigger than I am.” With the utmost love and respect, dear Eva, we disagree.

The editors of the online edition

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!

May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion

May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.

May he grant you your heart's desire,
and fulfill all your plans.

May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners,
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.

Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.

They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and upright.

Psalm 20 from New Revised Standard Version

Eva was an exceptionally bright, energetic and courageous person of the highest character who, in her 91 years, affected the lives of more people than will ever be known. As my loving "big sister," she was always a special person and inspiration in my life. Her passing is a tragic loss for me and for all who knew, loved and admired her. She will always live in my heart.

Steve Catafygiotu

Warm, intensely interested in the world around her, verbally brilliant, Eva Catafygiotou Topping, my mother's dear friend from Harvard, was a strong presence in my life from my early childhood. She was a model for another way of being a Greek woman: through reading, thinking, learning, writing, talking, and digging in the archives to find holy mothers.

Dr. Artemis S. Leontis
Associate Professor of Modern Greek
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

My Tribute to Eva – “I hate silence when it is time to speak” – St. Kassiane

Few would understand the isolation of a young activist woman in the early 1970’s, not only now married into a different cultural community but also seeking to find her place in the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1986 I read a letter to the Orthodox Observer from Eva and Peter Topping and no longer felt alone. An initial contact letter explaining my doubts and indeed angst from “down under” led to 25 years of a correspondence, occasional phone calls, friendship and mentoring and three special personal meetings in Washington DC. Eva introduced and guided my journey into understanding what being Orthodox could mean, along with the histories of the imperial, the powerful, the courageous and spiritual mothers of the Church.

Eva was an intellectual, passionate and committed Greek Orthodox woman. She never veered away from her faith, even in her darkest times of questioning both the patriarchy and the misogyny practiced even into the twenty-first century. For Eva, these practices were definitely not Orthodox, and she sought to discover the “light by the candle” to show the underlining beauty, truth and wisdom of Christian faith to be found in the historical documents, the prayers and hymns of the saints and martyrs. Through her academic work, her parish work and partnership with Peter, her contribution has been as diamonds.

Eva shared her scholarship widely, not only for Orthodox women and men, for she was a committed ecumenist and keen to know other traditions and experiences of women in their churches and shared generously with the stories and experiences of her own faith. She was a woman of social conscience, she dared to challenge, she decried the apathy and conservatism so prevalent amongst Orthodox women, especially those who had achieved so much in the secular world and yet were willing to remain subservient and unquestioning in their Orthodox faith. Her favoured quotation from St Kassiane “I hate silence when it is time to speak” I am sure guided much of her thinking and writing.

I am delighted that Eva’s selection of articles in Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy, a book that offers challenges to opening our eyes and minds to her insights and the possibilities in the practice of our faith, will be widely available to all laity, women and men, who should continue to seek equal participation through their life in the Church universal.

Dr Leonie Liveris
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow
Curtin University
West Australia

Saints and Sisterhood was the first of Eva Topping’s works that I came across. It gave me the part of Christian history that I had not been able to find, that of Christian women without censure. Then after reading a copy of her lengthy article on angels, I contacted her to ask her the difference between the Church’s view of angels vs. the world’s view of angels. In a letter with a brief comment she sent me my own copy of the article.

I continued reading her other works, including about Byzantine hymnography and this work. Importantly her writings, as evident on this website, often include extensive bibliographical information. Although they are scholarly, including her fluent reading of biblical and modern Greek, her style is readable to the general public.

We spoke by phone over the years. Then, shortly before I was planning to visit her, sadly she passed away. I see you have posted Psalm 20 (19 in biblical Greek). This was her favorite Psalm, she told me. Thank you for this in your tribute. Her memory will be eternal, as will this work.

Diane Eugenia M. Lozier

Mrs. Topping was person of rare courage and honesty. She diligently uncovered and valiantly shone light on truth long and deeply hidden, but invaluable to more fully understand women's Christian history and the stark contrast between the teachings of Christ and the historical and current praxis of the Christian Church that relegates women to an unjustified second-class status. She will be a voice greatly missed, but thanks to this important website, never silenced.

Martha Gingles
Retired educator

Though I was not privileged to have met Mrs. Topping in person, I was, however, blessed to have “met” her by phone. Having become familiar with her books, especially Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy, I was compelled to speak with her and express my admiration. I said to her, “You are a pioneer.” May her pioneer spirit live on in this online edition of such a groundbreaking work.

Costa E.
Retired Professor

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