Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of St. Elisabeth Convent, answers various questions of the parishioners.
What should an ideal woman be like?
The Most Holy Mother of God must be the ideal for every Orthodox woman. Apostle Paul once uttered bold and daring words, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Cf.: Gal. 3: 28). That is, when a person is filled with the Spirit, he has all the beauty. God cannot be ugly, it’s a human being who can be imperfect—whose body, face, voice or something else can be imperfect. When he has God, everything changes, of course. That is why, in my opinion, an ideal woman or an ideal man is when you can see God in them and the light of the love of Christ in their eyes. The rest—the shapes, the curves, the eyes, and the hair—is temporary and ephemeral. When you see a person filled with love, you don’t just rejoice but also see how love acts, or to be precise, how Christ acts through that person and saves the world.
Can you name the best and the worst qualities of a woman’s nature?
Women and men are different by nature. Of course, none of us are Angels. The best women’s qualities are humility and modesty. The worst qualities are hypocrisy, insincerity, falsehood. A person may choose to imitate something in front of the others and in front of herself. As she keeps playing that role, she cannot tell whether it is fake or real any longer. Sure, I could name many other negative traits but falsehood is the worst. Other drawbacks may be overcome but when a person pretends to be not the person that she truly is, it causes aversion. I pity those who do so.
Why are there so few female saints in the Orthodox calendar?
There may be many more holy women who haven’t been canonised — women who carried out their obediences in families, hospitals, or convents but who did not demonstrate exceptional feats of faith due to lack of physical strength.
Each person has their own place, and their own level of ascetic effort and ministry. It just happened when males who were more physically robust and mentally adroit turned to God, they could do something that impressed other people and taught them a lesson. With that said, the majority of those who remained in the Church during persecutions were elderly women. The Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women were the first to come to the Lord’s Tomb, and they weren’t afraid.
Anyway, Adam, not Eve, was the first human. That is why women can’t be priests or deacons, and they cannot enter the sanctuary. Nevertheless, the Mother of God is titled more honourable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. A woman’s heart is more responsive and faithful.
However, all are one in Christ, women and men.