Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Syriac Church ordains Mzamronyotho (deaconess/chantress)

(Syrian-EUS) - From July 19th to July 22nd 2019, His Eminence Archbishop Mor Dionysius John Kawak, paid a pastoral visit to Sts Peter and Paul Parish in Southfield, Michigan. During his visit he met with Parish Council and on Sunday July 21st, 2019 he celebrated the Holy Liturgy (Qurobo) and during the Holy Qurobo, His Eminence ordained the following deaconess (Mzamronyotho): Rana Tallo Al-Sheikh, Ahlam Ajaj Abdul Nour, Mariam Farhood, Nawar Abbawy Alsheikh, Nadine Kassab, Watheka Mumtaz Dawood, Rand Zaem, Nada Hasso, Dina Salloomi Al-Banna,Sally Askar,Evon Fawzi Samaan.His Eminence was assisted by Rev. Imad Al-Banna (pastor of the church) in the presence of Very Rev. Father Edward Hanna. In his sermon, His Eminence spoke about service hood and about the role of the Deaconess in the Church historically and he explained their role in our today’s church. He also thanked Father Imad and Fr. Edward for their commitment and good service at the church, then he offered congratulations to the deaconess and to their families.

For those curious what a deaconess did in the Syriac Orthodox Church...

From "The Role of Women in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch" (PDF) by Moran mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas. He begins with the historical role and moves to the modern deaconess role, which is a female choir member.
The Historical Ministry of the Deaconess

After being consecrated, the ministry of the deaconess is limited to helping the priest and deacon outside the sanctuary in the service of baptizing women and mature girls and anointing them with holey chrism. This ministry also includes visiting sick female faithful specially in homes inhabited soley by women. In this case the bishop does not send a deacon to visit them lest any doubts might arise among the unbelievers, but rather a deaconess to take care of the female faithful.

In the event a widow consecrated as a deaconess remarries, she shall be excommunicated together with the one who marries her. Certain canon laws limit the age of the widow candidate to be consecrated as a deaconess to forty years; whereas other canons do not recommend the consecration of a deaconess before the age of sixty.

St. Severios the Great (+538) states that in the sixth century the ordination of abbesses as deaconesses was in practice in the Orient (under the jurisdiction of the Antiochean See). In the event of the unavailability of a priest or a deacon, each one of those consecrated was entitled to distribute Holy Communion to the sisters who were under their authority. They do not, however, do this service in the case of the presence of either one. The deaconess wears a stole (uroro) hanging down from the shoulder in the manner of an archdeacon. In the event of the unavailability of a priest or a deacon in the convent, a deaconess is entitled to enter the sanctuary (Beth Qudsheh), provided that she is not having her menstrual period and that she is only with her sisters where she may give them the Communion. She may not do so for males, even to little boys who are five years of age or older.

When a consecrated deaconess burns incense, she may not recite the special prayer usually recited by the priest, but inwardly recites the prayer of repentance.
She may, after obtaining permission from the bishop, mix wine and water in the chalice; and in the event of her illness, she may allow one of the sisters to enter the sanctuary in order to clean it and light the sanctuary candles.

A deaconess shall never be blamed if she reads the Holy Scriptures, even the Holy Gospel, in a public gathering of sisters on holy days.

According to the teachings of Jacob of Edessa (+708), "The deaconess may never enter the sanctuary except to clean it or light candles. In the event of unavailability of a priest or a deacon in the convent, she may take the Communion, which is usually placed in the Beth Qurbono, a recess usually made in the eastern wall behind the altar. She may not, however, come close to the altar. She may also give Communion to the sisters and only to little boys below the age of five. She may help the priest in the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism of mature women by anointing them with holy chrism and may visit sick women."

Consecration of the Deaconess

During the rite of consecration, prayers, and petitions are said for both the repentance of the one called upon for this ministry, as well as for endowment with wisdom.

Prayers center upon the parable of the virgins (Mt 25:1-13), as well as the parable of the invitation to the banquet, obliging people to enter the house of the host and share in the meal (Mt 22: 1-14). The bishop then commands that the curtain be drawn to hide the one to be consecrated. Meanwhile, she takes off her bracelets and her outer garments and wears a wide blue skirt, hanging down from the waist to the toes, and puts on a black girdle. She is also dressed in a black or blue coat hanging over her shoulders. Afterwards, the bishop holds a black scarf upon which he makes a triple sign of the cross, tightly on her head like a cap while reciting the following prayer: "May the Lord protect you and shield you with His divine right hand, saving you from the temptations of the soul and body so you may obtain His bliss for ever. Amen."

Later someone reads a chapter from the Book of Acts about Peter restoring life to Tabitha (Act 9:36- 42), and a selection from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-17) commencing with: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, and beloved, bowls of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another as Christ forgave you."

Then the bishop reads Chapter ten of the Gospel of Luke, starting from verse 38 up to 42 about Martha and Mary where the Lord says to Martha: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful; and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:41-42).

At this point, the bishop makes the sign of the cross on her forehead three times, saying: "(Name of consecrated) shall be sealed, stamped and perfected, that is consecrated as an actual presbytera for the service of the children of the Holy Church. Afterwards, the archdeacon says in a loud voice: (Barekhmor) which means "Bless, O Lord" to which the bishop adds, saying: "In the Name of the Father +", and the deacon responds, saying: "Amen." The bishop continues, saying: "and of the Son +" to which the deacon responds, saying: "Amen." Then the bishop says: "and of the Holy Spirit forever." The deacon then responds, saying: "Amen."

Afterwards, the bishop reads a silent prayer of thanksgiving and then recites a prayer for the consecrated presbytera publicly, followed by the prayer of "Oh Lord, have mercy on us" and the Lord's Prayer.

We gather from the procedures of the rite of consecration, canon laws and the powers granted to the one to be consecrated as a presbytera that the consecration of a presbytera is neither an ordination nor an office but a mere consecration appointment and dedication.

We do not know for certain the date of the discontinuance of this rite of consecration. Although we now call the wife of every priest (Bath Qyomo), meaning a daughter of the covenant, the same name is given solely to the consecrated individual.

It is noteworthy to mention here that nowadays the wife of the priest, though not consecrated, can help her husband with the baptism of adult females if any.

The consecration of deaconesses has been recently restored and we have started consecrating some of them as choirgirls, calling them deaconesses.

The Deaconesses Today

The name of deaconess given to a choirgirl is a nominal one. During the rite of consecration, the bishop says that (name of person) is being consecrated as a deaconess in the choir. This deaconess shall not be subject to the laws that used to bind the deaconesses in the past. Neither shall she be entitled to the same rights, privileges or duties the deaconess used to previously enjoy. She is just a singer in the church. Most often she serves in religious education centers. Just like other women, she may get married, yet remain consecrated as a deaconess, serving as a singer in the choir, a teacher or a Sunday school advisor. This might be a step forward towards resumption of consecrating widows as deaconesses in the church as previously practised.

There is a possibility of having a second thought about church tradition in relation to the rights and duties of those called deaconesses or presbyteraes in terms of the services they offer to women and little children, and in relation to cleaning the sanctuary and lighting candles. In this age, those activities that might take place in the church when needed and may add to the enrichment of souls and to the progress and prosperity of the Church.

Definitely, ordination of presbyteraes, having the power of a clergy to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, as practised by some traditional non-apostolic churches, would never be permitted in our apostolic Syrian Orthodox Church. This is due to the fact that such an act is not based on the Scriptures. For when the Lord Jesus chose twelve apostles and seventy missionaries, He never selected any of those women who were serving Him. Likewise, a presbytera in our Church has never been ordained in the office of clergy with the power to absolve from sin and celebrate the Bloodless Holy Eucharist and other sacraments of the Church.

Syriac women today occupy high positions in all domains, social, cultural and religious.

Women have become physicians, lawyers, judges, engineers, teachers and members of Parliament, and in the Church Council of Trustees as well as being members in charitable societies. They are choir singers and Sunday school teachers. In all these endeavors, women are equal to men in rights, duties and dignity.


  1. Based on the historical duties of this office, I am not seeing any reason for its revival... unless it is a stepping stone towards something bigger. Color me suspicious.

  2. "She is just a singer in the church. Most often she serves in religious education centers. Just like other women, she may get married, yet remain consecrated as a deaconess"

    I am very confused by this. Shes a glorified singer, but she's called a deaconess? Shes consecrated but she can get married after the fact? Why even call this a deaconess?

    This makes less sense to me than restoring the actual deaconess role which, again, is unnecessary and full of potential problems and scandals.

  3. "...This makes less sense to me than restoring the actual deaconess role which, again, is unnecessary and full of potential problems and scandals..."

    One of the lessons from the Anglican (and others) experience is that 'making sense in any sort of way (i.e. from a historical, or theological/anthropological, or even from an immediate communal "good of the household" sense) is never achieved or even in the cards. Reform (really a moral anthropological revolution) is the only goal, and all service the end - means are just means.

    Have no idea if this particular situation is motivated by a real reform goal or simply a (probably misguided) way to recognize/honor an individual (or something similar)...

  4. This is not the first time that non-Chalcedonians have consecrated deaconesses. The Armenians have done so for quite some time and the Coptic Churches have deaconesses that serve more as Sisters in the RC Church. Also the term deacon is not as precise in these same churches compared to our Churches. The emphasis is on the word to serve rather than the Rite of Ordination as evidenced by the boy deacons, who are not ordained to serve as the Deacon per se. Unfortunately concern is warranted in light of a faction with a very different agenda that we hear from quite frequently.

  5. In the Syriac Orthodox tradition, they use "deacon" as a catch-all term for all minor orders, which are more elaborate than in the Chalcedonian churches. From what I've seen, any relatively pious layman who can read Syiac gets made a 'deacon' of some sort. In this particular case, it's basically consecrated choir-members.

  6. Regarding the comments suspicious of this as a stepping stone to clerical ordination - it is not.. In the Syriac and Malankara Church, there are 3 (sub) orders of Deacon:

    Singers (mzamrono) wear the kutino without the uroro.

    Readers (qoruyo) wear the uroro in the form of a Cross.

    Subdeacons (apodyaqno) wear the uroro folded around the neck.


    Deacons (shamosho) wear the uroro over the left shoulder, on either side like wings.


    Archdeacons (archedyaqno) wear the uroro round the neck. They also wear a zenoro and zende similar to PRIESTS.

    You can see the vestments use for each rank of Deacon here, bottom of the page:


  7. As with other excited articles about laymen being "given a job" and something to wear, I guess it will be forgotten soon. If women in the Orthodox Church were made deaconesses in the old sense they once were it would be the same. There would be a period of high-fives, then reality would set in. You mean that's it? That's ALL we do?? Pretty much the same for men who are deacons. Great clothes. Skip it.