Piecing together the ordination of women deacons as it must have been in the – now lost – sacramentary used by early bishops in Germany
German lands were evangelised with the coming of Christian Roman soldiers. On the map, notice the dioceses (marked yellow or blue) that date from before 690 AD.
Indeed, there have been bishops from the earliest times. For instance, we know the names of at least 40 bishops who presided over the diocese of Mainz from 80 and 745 AD.
These bishops used sacramentaries for their liturgy. Some of these may have been related to the ancient sacramentaries of the first centuries. Others no doubt derived from the Proto-Gregorianum of ca 600 AD.
When St. Boniface was confirmed as Archbishop of Mainz in 745, he became metropolitan over all German dioceses. Mainz gained supreme influence, we can be sure, also in the realm of the liturgy. And women played a role. One of Boniface’s close associates was the learned Lioba, abbess of Tauberbischofsheim (710-782).
The Church of the time was experiencing the period of the so-called Byzantine papacy (534-752). Many of the Popes hailed from Greece, Crete, Cyprus or Greek-speaking parts of Italy. A contemporary historian tells us that among the clergy at Rome there were seven Greek-speakers for every two Latin-speakers. The ordination of women deacons was a reality even in Rome at that time.
In 799 Pope Leo III had to flee Rome and sought refuge in Paderborn. When he returned later that year, he was welcomed back, we are told, “by the clergy, the senate, the army, and the whole population of Rome including nuns, deaconesses and noble ladies” (Vita Leonis III).
Reconstruction of prayers for women deacon’s ordination
1. In the light of the above considerations, we may presume that a full, sacramental, ordination of the woman deacon was still presupposed in the ‘German’ sacramentary. The text of the consecratio (second ordination prayer/ ordination preface) will have focused explicitly and fully on the woman deacon’s ministry.
2. At this time the general rubric about the stole must have been written down in the sacramentary. Since stoles are the vestment exclusively reserved to ordained deacons, this rubric confirms that the ordination was still treated as parallel to that of the male deacon.
3. The invitation prayer is now converted into a classic sequence of three blessings over the ordinand.
Ordination of a woman deacon as reconstructed from the 9 Pontificals listed above
see also the Proto Gregorian
To Make a Woman Deacon
The general rubric concerns the stole.The term ‘tunic’ sounds strange here. It may be a translation from the Greek word ‘maphorion’ [=veil] that is used in the Byzantine ordination rite for women deacons.
|When the bishop ordains a woman deacon, he imposes a diaconate stole on her neck. She however wears this stole on her neck whenever she enters church, but in such a way that the two extremities of the stole are visible from under her tunic on both sides.|
identical for men & women
preserved in the Sacramentaries and Pontificals
“Hear, O Lord, our petition and send down on this your maidservant the Spirit of your ordination so that, since you have conferred on her your heavenly office, she may obtain favour with your majesty and may present to others the example of a good life. Through.”
also known as second ordination prayer
|(i). The justification for ordaining women as deacons.
Just as for male deacons the main model is the Levites who served in the Temple, for female deacons the main model is Anna who also served in the Temple.
Women deacons are (a) to be prophetic [= instruct in the faith] and (b) anoint women with chrism. They fulfilled both functions at the baptism of women catechumens.
|(i) God who preserved Anna, Phanuel’s daughter, who escaped the yoke of marriage after just seven years, for eighty-four years in holy and unblemished widowhood, so that you, just remunerator, led her who day and night mixed prayer with fasting, to the grace of being a prophet at the circumcision of Christ,
God who has further ordered, through the intention [var. instruction] of the apostle(s), that the hands of these women which are sanctified by this ordination equip her gender – i.e. adolescent and young women – with the visitation of sacred chrism,
|ii. This must have been part of the original consecration prayer, here reconstructed from the male ordination – missing in the Pontificals.||[(ii) look down well disposed on this maidservant of yours whom we humbly dedicate to the ministry of the diaconate . . .]|
|iii. Calling on God to make up for deficiencies in the candidate
This part of the text is found in the Pontificals.
|(iii) because you, designer of all creatures, rightly understand that the attractions of the world cannot be avoided, but that, when refuge is taken in you, through you neither terrible sufferings nor the lure of pleasures can ever seduce souls once they have been brought to life; for to senses into which you deign to instil [your values], nothing is more desirable than your kingdom, nothing more horrific than your judgment.|
|iv. Also this crucial part of the consecration preface for women deacons is now missing in the Pontificals.
We reconstruct it here from the male parallel.
|[(iv) Send down on her, we ask you,
O Lord, your Holy Spirit through whom she may be strengthened to fulfil the work of her ministry faithfully . . .
|v. The concluding prayer for help in the Pontificals still contains references to her ministry among women.||(v) [Give] therefore, Lord, at our request to this your maidservant fruit [= reward] which is thirtyfold among married women, sixtyfold for widows.
May her mercy be tempered by a clear focus, her freedom by uprightness, her social graces by soberness. May she be intent on your work day and night.
Grant that she may merit to be such on the day of her calling as you wished her to be by the spirit of prophecy.
Through our Lord, [etc.]
|Ordination BlessingThe ordination mass for women deacons contained these blessings on the women deacons before they received communion.
These blessings run parallel in contents to the invitation prayer found in the ordination for male deacons.
“Bless, Lord, THIS MAIDSERVANT OF YOUR who has been bought with the blood of your Son!” – AMEN [= response by the people]
“May she OBTAIN THE GRACE OF YOUR BLESSING, and may she offer a worthy service to you without offending your majesty in any way!” – AMEN
“May she complete the course of her life without any stain of sin and may she overcome the enemy [= the devil] through good deeds!” – AMEN
“What he may grant who [etc.].”