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Glossa ordinaria

9th century collection of legal notes,
perhaps originating in the region of Laon near Reims

Translation by John Wijngaards

Source: F. Maassen, ‘Glossen des kanonischen Rechts’, Wiener Sitzungsbericht vol 84, p. 274

 Diaconissa, id est abbatissa, quae XX annis a Pauli iussu deminutis, per manus impositionem ab episcopo ordinatur, non ante XLmum annum ut instruat omnes christianas feminas, fide et lege Dei, sicut erat in veteri Lege. De qua et Apostolus: Vidue eligatur, non minus LX annorum. Et haec erant presbyterisse in evangelio, Anna octoagenaria; nunc vero Chalcedonicus canon quadragenarium indulget.
Gloss repeated in two places of the collection
 “A deaconess, that is to say an abbess who, possessing an age 20 years younger than ordered by Paul, has been ordained by a bishop with the laying on of hands, not before she is 40 years old in order to instruct all Christian women about faith and God’s law, as it used to be in the old Law [dispensation].
About whom the Apostle said [= 1 Timothy 5,9]: ‘As a widow should be chosen only someone not less than 60 years’. And these were the priestesses [mentioned] in the Gospel, Anna the octogenarian [= Luke 2,37]. But now this canon [= regulation] in [the Council of] Chalcedon allows 40 years old.”


These glosses reveal the total ignorance of the 9th-century scribe about the original status of the deaconess. He tells us that in his time deaconesses were mostly abbesses. He muddles up deaconesses, abbesses, widows and priestesses. Even Anna is a ‘priestess’!
But it is interesting to note that he knows that deaconesses were ordained by a bishop AND that their ministry was a ministry among women. So the abbess-deaconess of his time was ordained and was seen to have a special ministry.