NEW YORK: June 19, 2008
Metropolitan Hilarion sends a greeting to the Ministry of Women conference
Dear fathers, brethren and sisters, beloved in the Lord!
I wholeheartedly greet those assemble at Holy Protection Parish in Glen Cove, NY, for the conference dedicated to a theme that is most important, though rarely touched upon in our Church: Women in Orthodoxy.
For their zeal for the Savior, for their constant remembrance of Him, the myrrh-bearing women were richly rewarded: at His tomb they were the first to receive from the angel the most joyous tidings of the resurrection of Christ; they were the first to whom the resurrected Lord Himself appeared; and they were the first of all the people on earth to utter those most blessed words: "Christ is risen!"
Anyone who attentively studies the history of Christianity cannot fail to note a very significant and instructive circumstance: in almost all countries, women converted to Christianity before men and drew the men along with them by their example. This was the case in our own beloved homeland. Princess Olga was undeterred by her advanced years from traveling from Kiev to Constantinople to receive holy baptism. She did not have the consolation of seeing how the light of the Christian Faith illumined our land, but her example had a powerful and beneficial effect even after her death. Her grandson, the holy and right-believing Prince Vladimir the Great, Equal of the Apostles, was baptized and spread Christianity all throughout ancient Rus'. And we remember also the example of Saint Nina, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Enlightener of Georgia.
With all her soul the Samaritan woman believed in the Lord, later received baptism (at which we was given the name Photina, i.e. the radiant), and fully justified the meaning of her new name, becoming the enlightener of many in her homeland, in Africa and in Italy. During the reign of the Emperor Nero, she suffered as a martyr for Christ, together with her five daughters and two sons. After many tortures, her body was cast into a well. Thus, she who by a well forsook the path of sin and received new and grace-filled life from the Bestower of life, departed this transitory life in a well and passed over to another, better, blessed life that is without end.
In our parishes and convents it is the women who take part in the life of the Church. And here we should note that the Church activity of women is not confined to merely going to church or to practical tasks, such as preparing meals, cleaning and adorning the church, etc. The chanting of the divine services is often led by female conductors who have mastered the typicon of the Church; and catechesis in our parish schools is, as everyone knows, more often than not conducted by women. And frequently, in our Church press, women also write articles on the burning topics of the day. Women scholars deliver reports at our Church conferences, sharing their knowledge.
We cannot but greet, we cannot but value such vital, educated participation in the life of the Church. The activity of our women bears witness not only to the high level of theological knowledge attained among them, as compared with past eras in the history of the Church, but also to the necessity of developing and transmitting liturgical, theological, ecclesio-historical, and other knowledge among the female laborers of our parishes and convents.
For this reason, I send my heartfelt greetings to all participants in our Church's first conference dedicated to the place and ministry of women in Orthodoxy and invoke the blessing of God upon your goodly undertaking. May the Lord grant that all of you may be enriched both by the prayer you share and the learning of new things, unto the glory of His holy name and for your own good and that of the Holy Church of Christ.
Beloved, let us be penetrated through and through by the sincere desire to follow the example of the holy myrrh-bearers and the other holy women I have mentioned in this greeting. Let us strive to love the Lord as the glorious myrrh-bearers loved Him. Their example tells us that if on earth we will share in the Savior's sufferings, in heaven we will be accounted worthy to share eternal joy with Him in His celestial kingdom.
+Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
7/20 June 2008