In this video recording, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom talks about men and women starting with the first parents (Adam and Eve) and their fall. He also discusses the problem of ordination of women to ministerial or priestly office. At the end, he remembers a deep experience from one of first days as a priest.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom [partial transcript]:

The team for the men and women in the Old and New Testament begins at the very beginning of Genesis and we all know what it says. It says to us that God created the Garden of Eden, planted there two trees: one – the knowledge of God and the other one – the knowledge of good and evil.

And here is the first problem that arises before us: does the fact that God planted these two trees making responsible for the fall? Because there is a tree that inevitably… leads to the fall of Adam and Eve and with them of all the human race and consequently all the tragedy of the world…

There is a passage in the works and St Irenaeus of Lyon of your which I think is worse remembering: it says that God planted these two trees and he offered to humans two ways of achieving their vocation. Not one which was a catastrophic fall from grace and the destruction of all that God had intended, but one which was one possibility different from the other…

The tree of the knowledge of God is a simple problem. Obviously is not the question of trees, of apples and food to be eaten, but of different ways of approaching things. The one speaks of the possibility which we have of forgetting all things, except God, striving to know Him with all our being, with all the means that are at our disposal and in knowing God to discover the meaning of all things. This is a way of saintliness, of holiness, the saints of God discovered Him and in the light of God began to understand the world which God had created. But the other one is not tree of temptation in the sense in which we understand, it is a tree which says to us: “you can discover the world, you can discover the created in your own created way and that will separate you from God because it’s not a direct relatedness to Him, but may lead you to the knowledge of what God has created and God Himself. Because when we consider the works of an artist, we do not discover only the substance, the subject, we discover also the artist himself…

When we think of the relationship between Adam and Eve, we usually are told that Eve… shared death with her husband… What we do not mention habitually is something which I believe is of great importance because it is not Eve alone who took responsibility for the consequences of her having chosen the way of knowledge

God says: “from now on, man will have power over woman and woman will have longing for man.” This is a tragic moment, when a relationship is completely falsified, because instead of being in harmony and oneness it becomes a hierarchy…

We are told that Adam looks at Eve and says something which in the English translation, in the Russian translation is practically incomprehensible, but which in the Hebrew text it makes sense. He looks at her and says: “I am ISH.” She is “ISHA”, the same being… in the masculine and the feminine… it is not to oppose different creatures, it is a femininity on the one hand, the masculinity on the other hand, that are one person… they are one personality in two persons…

At the moment when Adam and Eve taste of the tree, something decisive occurs.  They discovered that they are separated by sin and that they are no longer one person…

Death comes as you can see from, I think, the sixth chapter of Genesis. Gradually, you can see the list of people how gradually the lives of people become shorter and shorter and shorter, except for two men who live longer than anyone else because they were so united with God.

The relationship between man and women in the New Testament becomes different from what it was in the beginning of Genesis, but it is not yet perfect because it is only after the final victory that  it will become such…

Man presented as an icon of Christ makes very often men proud arrogant and more stupid than is necessary. Because, very often, men, when they think of marriage and of all relationships, think in terms of being in the icon of Christ. The accent being put on Christ and not on an icon…

I have described it once, perhaps untheologically, by saying to a young woman who was to marry…  saying to me: “but he is Christ in our marriage!” I said: “he is an icon of Christ, alright… but he is a very badly painted icon and you must learn to see beyond this painting the reality and help this person to become what he is allegedly according to Scriptures, but also allegedly according to everyday experience.

One speaks very much in the West about the ordination of women to the priesthood. A thing that strikes me is that this is not something that is being spoken of naturally in the Orthodox world among women. Why? I think it is partly from the fact that the priesthood, the role of priesthood of which St Paul speaks is not a male function. It consists in bringing oneself as a total offering to God and bringing all the things around us to God for them to be sanctified and become holy. Not with the primeval holiness that was destroyed by the fall, but by holiness which arrives with the incarnation of Christ.

On the other hand, in the West, the priesthood has acquired a dimension which is not found in the Orthodox Church. In the West, a priest is endowed with a supernatural power: the power to consecrate bread and wine, to make them into the Body and Blood of Christ.

In orthodoxy we have never had this attitude… A priest, for us, is one who… who is not endowed with power. When in the liturgy, the consecration of the Holy Gifts takes place, we pray the Holy Spirit to come down upon the Holy Gifts, to make this bread into the Body of Christ, this wine into the Blood of Christ… and the priest is only one who praise Christ to come and achieve what is humanly impossible.

I will give you an example which I will never forget in my life. A few months after my ordination I was about to celebrate the liturgy and suddenly terror came upon me that I cannot do it, I cannot possibly stand before the Holy Table, I cannot possibly pronounce the words of consecration and I was just about to take off my vestments… When suddenly I felt that I was pushed away from the table, to the Holy Doors… and I became aware that someone was standing there… And I celebrated, I said all the words of the Liturgy and I knew with all my being that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was the celebrant. He was standing before the Holy Table.  He was the one who is being the celebrant. I have never forgotten that and every priest should be able to become aware of this: it is Christ alone who is the High Priest of creation…




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