Orthodox Feminism


On March 8, International Women’s Day, I posted this on social media:

Today, on #InternationalWomensDay, I want to take a minute to honor the woman that changed the world. Her strength, grace, and compassion has saved us all. She’s the original feminist and the only role model we need. Here’s to strong women everywhere. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them… to be just like her. #ImWithHer #MostHolyTheotokos

Today, after The Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, I want to continue this conversation with an excerpt from Elder Ephraim Philotheus’ talk with Orthodox Canadians (despite the fact that I live in Canada, I did not go to this talk).

In his musings, Elder Ephraim claims that Christianity has solved the problem of feminism, by giving men and women equal honor due to the fact that equality is based on holiness. In fact, Christianity is foundationally equal, empowering women from its conception (literally), by giving a woman – the Most Holy Mother of God – an honor so holy, so sacred and so precious a man could never fulfill such a duty. This is, of course, giving birth to God AND remaining a pure and holy Virgin.

So, without further ado, here are Elder Ephraim’s insights.* Please read it right to the end and share your feedback in the comments section.

Theotokos, Softener of Evil Hearts

Today, there is much talk about gender equality, men and women, but the struggle for women’s equality and the so-called feminist movement are late. Christianity has already been solved for twenty centuries. How? It destroyed the difference! It paid the woman equal honor with the man, and moreover – one woman gave such honor to which she [women] did not have, and will not have any man. This woman is the Most Holy Mother of God.

In Christianity, in the Church, people are judged not on the basis of gender, social status, educational level, financial prosperity, giftedness, etc. People are distinguished and evaluated according to a single sign – a sign of holiness. For God, there are no men and no women, only sinners and penitents, wicked and pious, holy and holy.

On the day of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Most Holy Woman is honored, the Most Holy Woman is the Mother of God. The Mother of God stayed intact in life and remained imperishable in death. The birth of the Son did not damage Her virginity, sin did not damage Her soul, and death did not damage Her body. As the Body of Christ was not damaged by death on the Cross, so the body of the Virgin remained intact. He died, but remained incorruptible.

If in the Orthodox Church the imperishable bodies of the Saints are preserved, which we honor, the incorporeal body of the Mother of the Lord and our God should remain imperishable. But was it possible for this body to remain on the earth? No. It was transferred to Heaven. In Her youth, the Most Holy Theotokos was introduced to the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon, and in Her Dormition, She with Her immaculate, beautiful soul and glorious incorrupt body entered the Holy of Holies in Heaven…

Blessed Christians, I showed you who honors the Mother of God. But there are those who do not honor Her, but, on the contrary, dishonor Her Face…

And look: How women insult the Mother of God with their defiant appearance in the summer. On the one hand, they worship the icon of the humble Virgin, and on the other hand, they tempt and push others around for their sinful appearance. It is not even considered a sin to be professed!

The Mother of God, of course, is very much upset by such ungodliness of the people. Faithful, repent, honor the worthy image of the Mother of God; with pain and love for the neighbor and for ourselves we will ask: “Most Holy Theotokos, save us, your children!”

What are your thoughts on Orthodox feminism? Does this understanding of feminism inspire you, or does it leave more to be desired, such as the fight for equal rights, pay, etc.?

For me, personally, I find this definition of feminism to be truly inspiring, uplifting and precise. Tangibly speaking, yes, we have a long way to go in terms of women’s rights and equality in society because, unfortunately, there are still many atrocities that harm and violate women even today.

But to have the Mother of God as my feminist role model, my icon, and my inspiration is one of the greatest honors as an Orthodox woman. She takes the standard of feminism to a new level, the highest level, inspiring me to not only be a strong woman that offers a voice to the voiceless, the marginalized and forgotten outcasts, but to be a strong woman through compassion, patience, and understanding, and, most importantly, love of God. Ultimately, this is where true honor, integrity, and strength of character is found.

Who can be like Her? The Mother of God himself, softener of evil and corrupt hearts. The Mother of God, who receives the wounded, the forgotten, the aborted and the orphaned. Protector of Christians, vestment makers, and counselor to all.

Tell me where one can find a stronger, more compassionate, woman, than this?

I feel exceptionally blessed to have such an immaculate woman like Her in my life, and humbly ask that she pray and intercede for us.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, #ImWithHer.

*Text edited for clarity, length, and emphasis. To read the full quote please click here.

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Jessica is an employment specialist for marginalized youth in Toronto, Canada. She enjoys teaching, traveling and observing - especially the relationship between mind and heart. Jessica also has a passion for outdoor walks, dancing, and all things offbeat and authentic. You can contact her at hello@sofiasynergy.com.

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John Q
John Q

Excellent background on Orthodox Feminism as I felt the term was very much a juxtaposition as today’s Orthodox church is and always has been heavily male dominate. As it’s the males that are the only ones allowed in the alter and to be ordained. That’s not to say that women can’t and don’t serve the church today, because we all know that’s not true, all you need to do is look around. As for the most part it’s the women in the roles that keep the modern church alive. It’s the women Sunday school teachers, choir leaders and bakers of… Read more »