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The Coislin gr. 213 Manuscript

also known as the Strategios Euchologion

The Ordination of Women Deacons in the Byzantine/Greek Tradition

This manuscript is found in the Coislin collection of the National Library in Paris. It dates from the 11th century. The rites contained in the text are very old, certainly not later than the 7th and 8th centuries AD. It is close to the Bessarion manuscript. (Compare the text also with the Barberini gr. 336 manuscript!)

A definitive edition of the Greek text has been published by J. Duncan, PIO 1983.

A sample of the text of the manuscript with translation follows here:

fragment of Coislin GR 213 fol. 32v

Translation: “Holy and Omnipotent Lord, through the birth of your Only Son our God from a Virgin according to the flesh, you have sanctified the female sex. You grant not only to men, but also to women the grace and coming (from above) of the Holy Spirit. Please, Lord, look on this your maid servant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit.”

To see the full pages of the whole ordination rite on the manuscript:

The Coislin gr 213 Manuscript - TRANSLATION

Text has been translated from the Greek, and made available on the Internet, by John Wijngaards.

In the original text, the ordination of the male deacon and the woman deacon are described separately. I publish them here side by side to show that the two ordinations are substantially the same.

‘The order for the ordination (cheirotonia) of a deacon who must at least be 25 years old’ ‘The order for the ordination (cheirotonia) of a deaconess
who must have lived as a chaste virgin and who is now single, of good bearing, without exaggerated hairdo and eminent in character to such an extent that she can truly stand up also to men and earn their respect.
  For such a woman candidate all [ritual] is performed that is also performed for male deacons, with only a few differences.
After the sacred offertory, the doors [of the sanctuary] are opened and, before the Deacon starts the litany ‘All Saints’, and after the prayer ‘his mercies’ has been said by the bishop, the man who is to ordained Deacon is led by the archdeacon or by one of the other deacons to the sacred altar towards the right side of the bishop. The secretary on his left side hands the bishop a written statement and the secretary or archdeacon calls aloud: “Pay attention!” The bishop then reads the written statement in the hearing of all who stand around as follows: “‘Divine Grace, which always heals what is infirm and makes up for what is lacking, promotes so-and-so, this most devout Subdeacon, to be a Deacon. Let us therefore pray that the grace of the Holy Spirit may descend on him.’ keeps his hand imposed on his head and prays: For she is led to the sacred altar, her head covered by the [woman’s] scarf, with the two tips of it in front [over her shoulders].
After the ‘Divine Grace’ [statement] has been said, the woman to be ordained does not bend the knee as a male ordinand does, but bows her head. The Bishop makes the sign of the cross on her head three times. Then keeping his hand on her head, he prays as follows:
“Lord our God, in your providence you send the working and abundance of your All-holy Spirit on those who through your inscrutable power are constituted liturgical ministers to serve your immaculate mysteries, please, preserve, Lord, this man whom you want me to promote to the Deacon's task [leitourgia of the diaconate], in all seriousness and strictness of good behaviour, that he may guard the mystery of faith with a pure conscience.
And give him the grace which you have given to Stephen your first martyr.
And after having called him to the work of your ministry, in your good pleasure make him worthy to perform the degree [of responsibility] you entrust to him.
For those who perform it well, will acquire for themselves a high degree.
Make your servant perfect, for yours are the kingdom and the power.”
“Holy and Omnipotent Lord, through the birth of your Only Son our God from a Virgin according to the flesh, you have sanctified the female sex. You grant not only to men, but also to women the grace and coming (from above) of the Holy Spirit. Please, Lord, look on this your maid servant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate, and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit.
Preserve her so that she may always perform her ministry (leitourgia) with orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct, according to what is pleasing to you.
For to you is due all glory, honour and worship, to the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for all ages.”
The Archdeacon says intercessions, in a low voice, but in such a way that the Deacons around him can hear him and respond. ‘Let us pray the Lord in peace. For heavenly peace. For her. For our father and Archbishop so-and-so, for his priesthood, help, perseverance, peace, health and the works of his hands, and for so-and-so who has now been promoted to be a Deacon, for his salvation we pray the Lord.’ ‘That the merciful and people-loving Lord may give him a sincere and incontaminated diaconate, let us pray the Lord.’ ‘For the faithful. For this city and the entire state. That we may be saved. And for all the people in need. Accept us. Save us. Have mercy on us. On the intercession of the all-holy immaculate one [Mary]. [Meanwhile the Archbishop keeping his hand on the head of the ordinand, prays as follows:] While the deacons’ intercessions are said, the bishop keeping his hand on the head of the woman to be ordained, prays as follows:
“God, our Saviour, with incorruptible voice you have foretold it, you announced that he would be first who would perform the ministry of the diaconate, as is written in your holy Gospel: ‘Who ever wants to be first among you, must be your servant [diakonos]’, please, Lord of all, fill this servant of yours whom you have made worthy to enter the ministry [leitourgia] of Deacon, through the lifegiving coming of your Holy life-giving Spirit with all faith, charity, power and holiness.
Now, Lord, look upon this man. For grace is given to those you deem worthy, not by the imposition of my hands, but by the visitation of your rich mercy, so that, purified from sin, he may on that fearful day of your judgment be presented t you without guilt, and receive the reward of your unfailing promise.
For you are our God, and to you we give glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ”
“Lord, Master, you do not reject women who dedicate themselves to you and who are willing, in a becoming way, to serve your Holy House, but admit them to the order of your ministers [leitourgôn].
Grant the gift of your Holy Spirit also to this your maid servant who wants to dedicate herself to you, and fulfil in her the work and the office of the ministry of the diaconate, as you have granted to Phoebe the grace of your diaconate, whom you had called to the work of this ministry [leitourgia].
Give her, Lord, that she may persevere without guilt in your Holy Temple, that she may carefully guard her behaviour, especially her prudence and chastity.
Moreover, make your maid servant perfect , so that, when she will stand before the judgement seat of your Christ, she may obtain the worthy reward of her good conduct, through the mercy and generosity of your Only Son, with whom you are blessed with your all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and always and for all ages.”
The Archbishop imposes the stole [to horarion] on the ordinand. He kisses him and hands him the holy fan and makes him fan the [altar] table from the side while the deacon in the ambo says: ‘Remembering all the saints’. After the ‘Amen’, the bishop puts the stole of the diaconate [to diakonikon horarion] round her neck, under her [woman's] scarf [maphorion], pulling the two extremities of the stole towards the front, while the deacon in the ambo says: ‘Remembering all the saints’..
With regard to the partaking of the divine mysteries, before the other deacons the ordained deacon receives of the sacred bread from the ordaining bishop and receives of the precious blood before others from the person who hands it to the bishop. With the priest or bishop who receives the holy chalice, he also partakes of it. If there are two chalices, he receives the second one from the bishop and going out [of the sanctuary] he hands the chalice to the people who are gathered. If there is only one chalice, he waits till all in the sanctuary received of the chalice from the priest or bishop who takes the chalice to the ordaining bishop. [The ordinand] then receives the chalice from him [the bishop] and going out distributes it to those who approach. At the time of the partaking of the sacred mysteries, she shares of the divine body and blood with the deacons.
She receives the chalice from the hands of the bishop, but does not distribute it to others. She immediately puts it back on the holy table [of the altar].

An analysis of this ordination rite shows that the ordination of the woman deacon is the same as that for the male deacon, and undoubtedly sacramental.

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