by John Wijngaards
This codex is found in the library of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The library itself is very old (3rd cent.?), but it suffered enormous losses. After the Arab conquest there was a large gap (642 – 750) but some manuscripts, such as the famous Codex Alexandrinus (4th cent.) were saved. Between 997 and 1928, the library was housed in Cairo. Our codex was a ritual, possibly used by the Patriarch of Alexandria himself for some centuries after 1400.
The order for the ordination [ταξις γινομενη ’επι χειροτονιαι] of a deaconess who must have lived as a chaste virgin and who is, according to present legislation, 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 is performed that is also performed for male deacons, with only a few differences.
For she is brought forward to the holy table, her head covered in her veil of which the two edges have been removed from the front. And after the ‘Divine Grace’ has been said, she does not bend the knee as the deacon does, but only bows her head. The pontiff signs it three times, and keeping his hand on her head prays as follows: while the deacon says: ‘let us pray the Lord’.
“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 of the Holy Spirit. Please, Lord, look on this your maid servant and dedicate her to the task of your diaconate [της διακονιας], and pour out into her the rich and abundant giving of your Holy Spirit. Preserve her so that she may always perform her ministry [λειτουργια] with orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct, according to what is pleasing to you. For to you is due all glory and honour.”
While the deacons’ intercessions are said as for male deacons, the pontiff keeping his hand on the head of the woman who is being ordained, prays as follows:
“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 [λειτουργων]. 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 grace of the diaconate [διακονιας], as you have granted to Phoebe the grace of your diaconate [διακονιας], whom you had called to the work of the ministry [λειτουργιας]. Give her, Lord, that she may persevere without guilt in your Holy Temple, that she may carefully guard her behaviour, especially her modesty and temperance. Moreover, make your maid servant perfect, so that, when she will stand before the judgement seat of your Christ, she may obtain the worthy fruit of her excellent conduct, through the mercy and humanity of your Only Son.”
After the ‘Amen’, he puts the stole of the diaconate [το διακονικον ‘ωραριον] round her neck, under her veil, arranging the two extremities of the stole towards the front. Then the deacon who stands in the ambo says:
“Remembering all the saints”.
When the moment comes for the taking part in the sacred mysteries, she shares in the divine body and blood after the male deacons. But when she receives the chalice from the hands of the pontiff, she does not distribute it but instantly puts it on the holy table. With this the ordination of the deaconess is completed.
Reference1. Library of the Patriarch of Alexandria ms. 104; Dmitrievskij, Opisanie, vol. 2, pp. 346-47.