This is a commentary by Origen(1) on Romans 16,1-2: “Phoebe, our sister, who is a deacon [διακονος] of the Church at Cenchreae . . . She has often been a helper both to myself and to many others”. Though the text has been preserved only in Latin, it was originally written in Greek.
“This text teaches with the authority of the Apostle that even women are instituted deacons in the Church. This is the function which was exercised in the church of Cenchreae by Phoebe, who was the object of high praise and recommendation by Paul. He enumerated her outstanding works; she assisted everyone, he said — i.e., she helped them in their needs—she also helped me in my needs and my apostolic work with a perfect devotion. I readily compare her action with the hospitality of Lot, who never failed to welcome guests who presented themselves, and thereby deserved one day to grant his hospitality to angels. In the same manner, likewise, Abraham, who always came forward to greet his guests, deserved to have the Lord with his angels visit him and stay under his tent. Also this pious Phoebe, while giving assistance and rendering service to all, deserved to assist and to serve the Apostle himself. And thus this text teaches at the same time two things: that there are, as we have already said, women deacons in the Church, and that women, who have given assistance to so many people and who by their good works deserve to be praised by the Apostle, ought to be accepted in the diaconate. He also exhorted that the brethren should give consideration to those who are active in good works in the Church and treat them with honor, [and help them] in whatever they may need, even if it involves material help.”
1. Origen, Commentary on Romans 10:17; Migne, Patrologia Graeca,vol.14,col.1278 A-C. The text has been preserved in Latin, but Gryson (Ministry, pp.31,134) shows that the phrase ‘woman deacons must have been in Greek: ‘γυναικες διακονους’