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Ordination of Women to the Diaconate in the Eastern Churches: Essays by Cipriano Vagaggini.

Ordination of Women to the Diaconate in the Eastern Churches: Essays by Cipriano Vagaggini. Edited by Phyllis Zagano. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2013. Pp. xiv + 64. $9.95.

This slim volume presents translations of two seminal essays by Vagaggini on the history and theology of female deacons in the East. The first essay is brief, consisting of the text of Vagaggini's intervention at the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the Laity. It is a detailed and erudite historical analysis of the ordination of women to the diaconate in the East. (This essay establishes the rationale for the publication of the text of the intervention.) Vagaggini's scholarship is sound: he marshals evidence on the role of deaconesses from church orders (Didascalia and Apostolic Constitutions), the late fourth-century writings of Epiphanius of Salamis, and the Byzantine rite of ordination from the earliest extant euchological evidence of Constantinopolitan provenance. Vagaggini's arguments are weighty, although passing reference is mistakenly made to a third-century date of Apostolic Tradition. An editorial footnote explaining the historical provenance of Epiphanius's writings would have been helpful.

Vagaggini's essay argues that deaconesses were ordained in the sanctuary with a ritual of laying on of hands and exercised both liturgical and pastoral ministries. The deaconess's role was also distinct from the deacon's and that of the other orders. His presentation yields diverse perspectives on the classification of the deaconess with one consistent element: an older woman can receive diaconal ordination.

The publication of Vagaggini's work appears to be designed to reinvigorate discussion on the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church. Several authors have updated the scholarship on this topic since the 1987 intervention, so the contribution here is not original. Yet the book is quite useful for Catholic readers who want to continue the tradition of ressourcement in ascertaining the possibility of including women in the evolution of the diaconate. Scholars and pastors devoted to serious ecclesiological projects will find this small book valuable both historically and theologically.

DOI: 10.1177/0040563915605267

Nicholas Denysenko

Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

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Author:Denysenko, Nicholas
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 20, 2015
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