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Author Topic: Women: "Uncleanness" and Baptism and Deaconesses  (Read 9914 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #45 on: April 09, 2009, 04:29:21 PM »

I always understood that the priest was actually a witness to our confession and that it is God who forgives. But there is a verse about "binding and loosing sins" which is applicable. In general, I view the priest as a witness when I go to confession.

Anyhow, I would be interested in hearing if your wife would have been granted a more modest option for her baptism, had she requested it.



I will ask when I get home tonight.

-Nick
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« Reply #46 on: April 09, 2009, 04:38:24 PM »

Why is it that at my parish, even adult MEN wear long, full, loose white gowns? We're not a bunch of weird, puritanical americans, either. We're so Russian you hardly know you're on this side of the ocean...

How many Icons of the Nativity have you seen where Christ is wearing a "long, full, loose white gown"? Is there shame in being baptized the same way as Christ?

-Nick
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« Reply #47 on: April 09, 2009, 04:39:01 PM »

With respect to the icon of St. Olypiadia I asked over on Monachos about her epitrachelion looking thing and Fr. Deacon Matthew said it was just part of her garment.  

It occuredto me while considering his opinion on the icon that it could that what we are looking at is actually her full liturgical vesture, not just a sign of office like an orarion or omiphor. That would make the epitrachelion looking thing a large vertical swath of brocade than ran from the yoke of the sticherion to the hem, perhaps recalling the cross with the part on the shoulders, the yoke, representing the horizontal bar. It's just a guess I know...but an icon of a deaconess in appropriate vestments is not so far fetched.
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« Reply #48 on: April 09, 2009, 04:47:25 PM »

Why is it that at my parish, even adult MEN wear long, full, loose white gowns? We're not a bunch of weird, puritanical americans, either. We're so Russian you hardly know you're on this side of the ocean...

How many Icons of the Nativity have you seen where Christ is wearing a "long, full, loose white gown"? Is there shame in being baptized the same way as Christ?

-Nick

You mean the icons of the Theophany/Baptism of Christ? No, there is no shame, but we live in different times, different cultures. I would like to know how the women were dressed for their baptisms in biblical times. With the prevailing modesty standards for Jewish women, I can't quite imagine them being baptised in a public place in a bikini. It seems deaconesses were utilized to assist in the baptism of women, which seems reasonable, if they indeed had to take off their clothes. A bit like the jewish mikvah attendants-who would be female, of course. All the same, I would not be happy to have to be baptized naked or even in a bikini even if it were performed by a woman(even a woman could be thinking perverted thoughts)! I really hope we can get more historical information on all of this, because it is interesting topic. When did white gowns make their appearance, etc...?
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« Reply #49 on: April 09, 2009, 05:18:13 PM »

With respect to the icon of St. Olypiadia I asked over on Monachos about her epitrachelion looking thing and Fr. Deacon Matthew said it was just part of her garment.  

It occuredto me while considering his opinion on the icon that it could that what we are looking at is actually her full liturgical vesture, not just a sign of office like an orarion or omiphor. That would make the epitrachelion looking thing a large vertical swath of brocade than ran from the yoke of the sticherion to the hem, perhaps recalling the cross with the part on the shoulders, the yoke, representing the horizontal bar. It's just a guess I know...but an icon of a deaconess in appropriate vestments is not so far fetched.

Yah I honestly thought it was just part of her garment, I didn't see it as an epitrahilion.  Plus, wouldn't the "straight" part go over her neck...hence the term "epi-trahili" being "on the neck".  If we are taking the image literally, it looks more like a bishops omophorion b/c it goes around her neck and then down.  So...

Plus, look at this icon of St. Catherine, she's wearing a long piece of cloth down the middle like St. Olympiada, but she definitely was not a priest or deacon:

http://www.holy-icons.com/graphics/s_catherine.jpg

Or the three women unmercinaries:  http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Valentin/Jpeg/full3women.jpg

or even this extremely interesting Icon of the Holy Wisdom which has an angel (or what looks like one) on a throne with an outfit very much looking like St. olympiada's...which might be a connection since the deaconate is connected to the angelic orders...anyway, it's interesting:  http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/images/icons12.jpg
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« Reply #50 on: April 09, 2009, 05:58:00 PM »

Quote

The vestment worn by the two saints on the right is not an epitracheilion, but the monastic schema.
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« Reply #51 on: April 09, 2009, 07:12:50 PM »

Quote

The vestment worn by the two saints on the right is not an epitracheilion, but the monastic schema.

Yah I was meaning more the third saint on the right than the other two.  But it's a good point in the sense that a "straight line" coming from the vestments could be anything, including the monastic schema, not being able to see the bottom (in the icon of St. Olympiada)
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« Reply #52 on: April 09, 2009, 08:48:16 PM »

Thanks, guys!  I love it when I learn something new!
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« Reply #53 on: April 09, 2009, 08:56:51 PM »

I always understood that the priest was actually a witness to our confession and that it is God who forgives. But there is a verse about "binding and loosing sins" which is applicable. In general, I view the priest as a witness when I go to confession.

Anyhow, I would be interested in hearing if your wife would have been granted a more modest option for her baptism, had she requested it.



somewhere on oc.net I typed the Hapgood form of confession out and put it up for a poster with the prayer of absolution that you are talking about.  This prayer of absolution was added by st. Peter Mogila hence why it appears in the Slavic usage (the form you hear at say the UOC-USA, OCA, ROCOR ( I believe) etc..
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« Reply #54 on: April 09, 2009, 09:00:45 PM »

Presbytera Mari, I'm so thankful for your imput on this topic of women communing at a "certain time". I was totally dumbfounded upon becoming Orthodox to learn that Orthodox women weren't allowed to receive communion, venerate icons, etc. during their periods! I am not a big fan of modernism, but this seemed to be from the dark ages!!! My parish sounds a lot like Liza's in this regard. My friends linger in the back of the church and whisper to me that they are currently "unclean" and may not venerate icons, etc. At first these seemed like the weirdest conversation to be having in church!! And, I am discovering, there are all sorts of other "interesting" ideas adrift amongst the good women of the church: I was once informed I may not take an expectant friend of mine to visit art galleries, because she might happen to see a picture of a naked human being, which would then cause the unborn child to become in future, a lustful, passion-driven person...sigh...sorry, such notions, belong to the dark ages, i'm afraid...

Yes, you never had to give up your cat when your mom was pregnant with your brother because of an old world superstition (this superstition didn't come from my mother).  I can't exactly remember why they wanted the cat gone but it was intertwined with a superstition.  It's funny, I don't remember all of the superstitions but occasionally something will pop up in my memory and make me smile. 
On some level those superstitions I heard for most of the first half of my life have actually kept me from posting who exactly wanted the cat gone.  I reckon some here understand exactly what I'm talking about, while many who weren't from that culture may be scratching their heads.
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« Reply #55 on: April 10, 2009, 08:24:56 AM »

Why is it that at my parish, even adult MEN wear long, full, loose white gowns? We're not a bunch of weird, puritanical americans, either. We're so Russian you hardly know you're on this side of the ocean...

How many Icons of the Nativity have you seen where Christ is wearing a "long, full, loose white gown"? Is there shame in being baptized the same way as Christ?

-Nick

You mean the icons of the Theophany/Baptism of Christ? No, there is no shame, but we live in different times, different cultures. I would like to know how the women were dressed for their baptisms in biblical times. With the prevailing modesty standards for Jewish women, I can't quite imagine them being baptised in a public place in a bikini. It seems deaconesses were utilized to assist in the baptism of women, which seems reasonable, if they indeed had to take off their clothes. A bit like the jewish mikvah attendants-who would be female, of course. All the same, I would not be happy to have to be baptized naked or even in a bikini even if it were performed by a woman(even a woman could be thinking perverted thoughts)! I really hope we can get more historical information on all of this, because it is interesting topic. When did white gowns make their appearance, etc...?

According to my wife, she was told by the priest when she was preparing to be baptised the proper procedures, the necessary documentation and the appropriate form of clothing, which was a bikini. My wife had no problem with that rationalizing that its just the way it is, like a woman going to a male doctor for her health, etc. etc. Even though the deaconesses would assist in the early church with the baptism of women, the priest ultimately had to do the baptism at the end of the day.

-Nick
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« Reply #56 on: April 10, 2009, 11:47:26 AM »

^^Wow, that's simply amazing. I would have asked quite frantically for a more modest solution, or I would have done some research to see what other options were available. I realize now how extremely blessed I was without even realizing it. I simply assumed I would be wearing something modest and without even mentioning anything, my godmother, who is as Russian as can be (from Siberia), presented me with the two simple white robes she had made for me. I've been to several baptisms at my church, and have never seen anyone wearing a bikini!
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« Reply #57 on: April 10, 2009, 11:53:50 AM »

Presbytera Mari, I'm so thankful for your imput on this topic of women communing at a "certain time". I was totally dumbfounded upon becoming Orthodox to learn that Orthodox women weren't allowed to receive communion, venerate icons, etc. during their periods! I am not a big fan of modernism, but this seemed to be from the dark ages!!! My parish sounds a lot like Liza's in this regard. My friends linger in the back of the church and whisper to me that they are currently "unclean" and may not venerate icons, etc. At first these seemed like the weirdest conversation to be having in church!! And, I am discovering, there are all sorts of other "interesting" ideas adrift amongst the good women of the church: I was once informed I may not take an expectant friend of mine to visit art galleries, because she might happen to see a picture of a naked human being, which would then cause the unborn child to become in future, a lustful, passion-driven person...sigh...sorry, such notions, belong to the dark ages, i'm afraid...

Yes, you never had to give up your cat when your mom was pregnant with your brother because of an old world superstition (this superstition didn't come from my mother).  I can't exactly remember why they wanted the cat gone but it was intertwined with a superstition.  It's funny, I don't remember all of the superstitions but occasionally something will pop up in my memory and make me smile. 
On some level those superstitions I heard for most of the first half of my life have actually kept me from posting who exactly wanted the cat gone.  I reckon some here understand exactly what I'm talking about, while many who weren't from that culture may be scratching their heads.

As far as pregnant women avoiding cats is concerned, I think there is scientific reasoning behind it. I can remember hearing from a fairly young age that cats' feces can contain a dangerous parasite which can cause toxoplasmosis-something that can be transferred from mother to fetus.
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« Reply #58 on: April 10, 2009, 12:41:23 PM »

^^Wow, that's simply amazing. I would have asked quite frantically for a more modest solution, or I would have done some research to see what other options were available. I realize now how extremely blessed I was without even realizing it. I simply assumed I would be wearing something modest and without even mentioning anything, my godmother, who is as Russian as can be (from Siberia), presented me with the two simple white robes she had made for me. I've been to several baptisms at my church, and have never seen anyone wearing a bikini!

If you read the following link: http://books.google.com/books?id=5GxFMIEv0C4C&pg=PA271&lpg=PA271&dq=were+women+baptised+naked+in+the+early+christian+church&source=bl&ots=GmStVTCIKG&sig=cflAtlRTO5qWjpgNJWn1P_y1-Oo&hl=en&ei=7XTfSf2zEuninQfoq42zCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#PPA270,M1

On page 270, quotes St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and St. Cyril of Jerusalem who all concur that baptism occurs with the candidate fully divested (read: naked).

The book is actually called Origines Ecclesiasticæ by Joseph Bingham originally published in 1834.

-Nick
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« Reply #59 on: April 10, 2009, 12:59:07 PM »

I've already read it! Thanks for the link, though! I still think some "modern" improvements were for the best!
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« Reply #60 on: April 10, 2009, 02:15:30 PM »

I really don't want to get into the middle of this, so please ascribe to me no pro or con stance.  However. There was a married clergy discussion on one Lat Trad blog I read, and most annoyingly, the pro people pulled me in with, "You have married clergy! You tell em!" So a couple of things.

First, we may not know the reason the female diaconate was allowed to fall into disuse, but it was, and presumably, for a reason. When debating whether to revivie it, we should keep this in mind.

Second, well, it's kind of two related things. As for whether Judaic cleanliness restrictions should or should not apply in Orthodoxy, they do here, no matter what St John Chrysostom (or anyone else) said. Orthodoxy is in many ways very Judaic, much more so than Western Christianity. So like it or not, it's there. We're Orthodox. We hate change. You know as well as I do that no matter how much we love St John Chrysostom, you can quote him on this incessantly for the rest of your life and it's not going to change anyone's mind. (I would add a smiley, but it's not necessarily funny.)

The other thing is that ritual cleanliness does not necessarily imply evil or misogyny, and the naturalness of menstruation really has nothing to do with ritual cleanliness. Now, one more time: I am not coming down on either side of this issue. All I would counsel is that we tread lightly, and with much prayer.




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« Reply #61 on: April 10, 2009, 02:35:58 PM »

Even though the deaconesses would assist in the early church with the baptism of women, the priest ultimately had to do the baptism at the end of the day.

IIRC, when reading about the use of the Deacon and Deaconess, they would indeed perform the dunking of the Baptism: the priests would be in the Liturgy, taking place in the main part of the Church, and thus wouldn't be present for the Baptism proper (taking place in a Baptistry or out in the courtyard).  The Deacon is still permitted to do this part of the service without the Priest, although this practice has fallen into disuse (largely).
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« Reply #62 on: April 11, 2009, 10:39:59 AM »

"Second, well, it's kind of two related things. As for whether Judaic cleanliness restrictions should or should not apply in Orthodoxy, they do here, no matter what St John Chrysostom (or anyone else) said. Orthodoxy is in many ways very Judaic, much more so than Western Christianity. So like it or not, it's there. We're Orthodox. We hate change. You know as well as I do that no matter how much we love St John Chrysostom, you can quote him on this incessantly for the rest of your life and it's not going to change anyone's mind. (I would add a smiley, but it's not necessarily funny.)

The other thing is that ritual cleanliness does not necessarily imply evil or misogyny, and the naturalness of menstruation really has nothing to do with ritual cleanliness. Now, one more time: I am not coming down on either side of this issue. All I would counsel is that we tread lightly, and with much prayer."

It would seem you are in fact coming down in support of banning menstruating women from communing.  And St. John Chrysostom isn't just any old saint; we use his liturgy most Sundays.  I just fail to see, in all of these well crafted arguments FOR the continuation of Judaizing and ritual purity, the mercy of God embodied in Jesus Christ.  Biologically speaking, menstruation is more like elimination than bleeding from the main circulatory system.  And it seems clear to me, although the canon lawyers on this forum may find ways of getting around it, that Christ allowed many sinful, impure, dirty people, sick in body and soul and in many states of being, to come to Him in faith.  There is only so much we can do with our fallen bodies before it becomes Pharisaism and artifice; we are always ritually unclean before God. 

And to those who intimate that because a woman communes while menstruating she doesn't "respect" Christ; I would ask if they know what's in her heart and whether they carry her cross for her.  She is there for healing, and out of love.
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« Reply #63 on: April 11, 2009, 11:15:25 AM »



It would seem you are in fact coming down in support of banning menstruating women from communing.

No, I am not. I would, in fact (to use a great coinage I saw here) term that a "Babushkism." I am, however, coming firmly down against that post-modernist whininess that labels absolutely anything that does not follow party line as "X-ist" (insert your favorite officially oppressed group for the X). As soon as somebody descends to that level of misinformation, we might as well just hang it up.

Ritual cleanliness has no necessary relationship to any "X-ism," and naturalness is not relevant to the concept.


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« Reply #64 on: April 11, 2009, 12:56:47 PM »

I am not whining, I am trying to understand where the mercy is in the argument barring menstruating women from communing.  I am traditional when it comes to the roles of male and female, I call God "Father", and I do not in general complain about my lot in life as a woman.  I understand the special role I was created for, but not why God would say "stay away from Me during that time of the month that I gave you."
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« Reply #65 on: April 11, 2009, 01:06:37 PM »

I am not suggesting that this article is absolutely the last word on the subject, but it seems to me to have an air of authenticity about it.  The best explanation I have yet read, anyway.

The Canons of Ritual Uncleanness and Women in the Orthodox Church

by Maria-Fotini Polidoulis Kapsalis*

For the majority of girls born and raised in the Orthodox tradition, puberty marks the time when our mothers not only set us down to discuss with us the facts of life, the changes that God intended our bodies to experience, and the hope of someday becoming mothers, but also marks the time when our mothers expose us to the tradition of "Ritual Impurity" and the teachings of "Uncleanness". Pious Orthodox mothers all explain to their young impressionable daughters that while they are experiencing the blood of life, they are in a period of uncleanness, and therefore, must never touch anything at all related to the worship of God. This, mothers inform their daughters, includes reading the Sacred Scriptures, venerating icons, lighting candles or lanterns, baking the bread of offering, kissing the hand of a priest, and especially not participating in any Sacrament, most importantly that of Holy Communion. For some girls, this is calmly accepted as a fact of womanhood. For most, it becomes an obstacle to spiritual growth, causing disdain for church practices which to the present day educated woman do not make sense. If God created women to experience the flow of blood at puberty in order to make their bodies capable of bringing forth life, and thus working with God in synergy in His creative energy, why would God then banish women from all forms of worship and piety while experiencing their "blood of life"?

The Old Testament Laws

The Ritual Impurity Laws were first written in the Book of Leviticus, the third book of Moses, found in the Old Testament Canon. The first law dealing with the purification of women of childbirth is found in Leviticus 12. One immediately notices three things about this particular law composing a whole chapter in the book of Leviticus. First, there is a preference to male offspring as a mother is unclean with a male child for the first seven days, and then for thirty-three days following his circumcision, rendering her unclean for a total of forty days. For a female child, she will be unclean for fourteen days plus an additional sixty-six days, for a total of eighty days. Thus, those women bearing a female offspring are to be unclean for twice as long as those bearing a male. Second, women during their period of uncleanness are not allowed to enter the holy tent, the place of worship. They must bring their offering to the door, and meet the priest there. Lastly, being unclean is considered to be equivalent to sin, as she needs to bring in addition to the sacrificial offering, a sin offering. Thus, according to this Old Testament Law of Moses, women who bring forth children are considered sinful, until after they have been cleansed from their blood flow.

The second Old Testament law dealing with Ceremonial Uncleanness is found in Leviticus 15: 16-33. This Law deals with uncleanness in both men and women. There are a few interesting points here, which must be mentioned. First, and most importantly, men are not exempt for the laws of ritual impurity. Any man who has a discharge of semen whether from intercourse or a nocturnal emission is unclean until the following sunset (evening). Also if any man is in contact with a woman who is experiencing her monthlies, or anything that she has touched, whether it be her seat or bed, he is to be unclean again until evening. If a man lies with a woman during her monthlies, and comes into contact with her blood, he is to be unclean for seven days, like a menstruating woman, and every thing that he then comes into contact with will be unclean until evening. However, if he not only lies but also has intercourse with a woman during her monthlies, he is to be cut off from his people (Leviticus 20:18).

The next point to note is that a woman during her regular monthly period is unclean for seven days, and everything and everyone that comes into contact with her is unclean until evening (sunset). A woman, however, who is experiencing a flow of blood which exceeds the seven days allotted for her regular monthly period or who experiences a haemorrhage which is not a monthly period, or at a time when she does not expect her period (i.e. any anomaly to her cycle) is not considered clean until seven additional days have passed. On the eighth day after her affliction she is required to take two turtle doves or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest (like a woman after delivery) to the door of the tent of meeting. The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, as a woman having an issue of blood greater than her regular cycle is considered to be ill and thus sinful, in need of atonement. Thus, we note, in the Old Testament, there is a strong connection between physical uncleanness, sickness and sin.

The Canons of the Early Church Fathers

This Jewish practice later crept into the New Testament world, and can be found in the Canons of the early Church Fathers. It seems almost incredible that Old Testament Leviticus laws would infiltrate the Church of Christ, especially after the Lord's strong teaching against viewing the letter of the Law as a means to salvation rather than the spirit of the Law,1 and after St. Paul's strong exhortation against Judaizing Christians. 2 Yet, for reasons of practicality, the Church has in its wisdom comprised canons to help in its proclamation of the truth, and in its governing practices. The Canons of the Early Church Fathers can be found in various collections and text, however I have chosen to use the most recent collection of canons of the Orthodox Church known as The Rudder3, compiled and edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain in the late 17th Century, in order to examine these early Patristic writings. There are several canons dealing with the issue of ritual impurity in this collection, and we will examine them in order. The first canon dealing with our topic is the Second Canon of St. Dionysius, the thirteenth Archbishop of Alexandria, who lived, in the mid-third Century. He states: Concerning menstrous women, whether they ought to enter the temple of God while in such a state, I think it superfluous even to put the question. For I opine, not even they themselves, being faithful and pious, would dare when in this state either to approach the Holy Table or to touch the body and blood of Christ. For not even the woman with a twelve years' issue would come into actual contact with Him, but only with the edge of His garment, to be cured. There is no objection to one's praying no matter how he may be or to one's remembering the Lord at any time and in any state whatever, and petitioning to receive help; but if one is not wholly clean both in soul and in body, he shall be prevented from coming up to the Holies of Holies. (Letter, Canon #2)4

3 St. Dionysius declares that not even women, themselves would dare to approach the Chalice while experiencing their "monthlies". However, no explanation as to why is given. Two questions thus arise from this statement: first, did the women of this period hesitate to attend Services and approach the Chalice when experiencing their "monthlies" because of the poor hygiene of their times? Or were these women greatly influenced by the Judaizers of whom Paul had written, who desired to keep the Law? Though Paul argued strongly against this by addressing Circumcision of the male body, still, many women may have been told of these female impurity laws in private, (as my mother had told me,) and thus were passed in this manner into New Testament times. I propose that as poor hygiene practices made women uncomfortable in entering Church buildings and receiving the Sacraments, a canon was written not so much to ban women, but more so to excuse them from not receiving, as Christians in those days received at every Liturgy.

Women living in that historical period were bound to their bed or seat until their periods were over. Their hygiene practices were to stay in one place for seven days to avoid physically defiling areas with which they would come into contact. Had it not been for modern hygiene practices, I am sure women of today would also hesitate to attend Church services or exit their homes like the women in the third century. Lack of sanitary hygiene would seem to be the most probable reason for women in any society hesitating to approach the Chalice. Women today are most fortunate, being able to come and go as they please while their "monthlies" remain undetected.

If Dionysius' reasoning is due to hygiene practices, then his reasoning in today's society would no longer be valid, and the Church would need to re-examine its position dealing with ritual impurity. If, however, his reasoning is due to the Leviticus Law, then the Church has to seriously examine the theological implications this canon puts on the Orthodox teaching of Salvation by Grace. The Church must seriously examine to see if Dionysius' interpretations with regards to ritual impurity is in harmony with the Church's teaching on Creation, and Redemption, not to mention its Sacramental theology, especially dealing with Holy Communion. Dionysius' argument based on the haemorrhaging woman touching the garment of Christ, and not His actual person is unfounded, as women at the time of Christ were not even allowed to speak to men in public, let alone touch their flesh. It must be remembered that this woman was bound to the Old Law, and everything she touched became unclean. Even though she touched only Christ's garment, that in itself was more than enough to render the Rabbi, "ritually impure" until evening (Lev. 15:19-30).

St. Chrysostom's homily about the haemorrhaging woman mentions that in Luke 8:46, Jesus states that He knew He was touched as power went out from Him. His body was definitely affected, and according to the Law, he must have known that as a man he was "impure". Yet, Christ didn't hide this event. He brought it forward, and then proceeded to go to raise the ruler's daughter from the dead (Matt. 9:18-25). Could a ritually impure person do such a deed? No. But then Dionysius would probably say, that Christ was not simply a man, but also fully God, and nothing can defile God. True. Why then should women not approach the Chalice, if they cannot defile God? The Chalice holding within it the great mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ can only heal and purify.

Chrysostom's words are so beautiful here, and so loving. He says in his 31st Homily on the Gospel of St. Matthew, about the haemorrhaging woman: For though she was bound by her affliction, yet her faith had given her wings. And mark how He comforts her, saying, Thy faith hath saved thee. Now surely, had He drawn her forward for display, He would not have added this; but He said this, partly teaching the ruler of the synagogue to believe, partly proclaiming the woman's praise, and affording her by these words delight and advantage equal to her bodily health.... For this cause He brought her forward, and proclaimed her praise, and cast out her fear, (for she came, it is said, even trembling); and He caused her to be of good courage, and 4 together with health of body, He gave her also other provisions for her journey, in that He said, Go in peace. Christ was not defiled, nor did He send this woman away scolding her for not upholding the purification laws. She was accepted as "Daughter."

Also, of great interest is that Jesus made no mention of her condition being sinful? He made no comment to her to go and provide atonement for her sin to the priests, as the Leviticus law prescribes. When healing lepers He does send them to the priests. Why then the omission in the case of the woman? The other question, which is perplexing, is the state in which Dionysius believed one should approach the Chalice of Communion. He said that no one who is not wholly clean in both soul and body should approach and receive. Who then could receive? Is not the Body and Blood of Christ intended to cleanse those who are sinful? If only pious, virtuous and perfect people can approach the Holies of Holies, then why do they need to approach at all? They are already clean, are they not? Yet we know that no one save Christ was wholly clean, therefore, according to Dionysius, no one should dare approach the Chalice. I am sure this is not what St. Dionysius is proclaiming, and that he intends those who approach to be fighting the good fight, and approach the Chalice with the "fear (awe) of God", however, why should one's natural functions affect one's spiritual growth, and reverence for God?

Reading the Prolegomena of the Canons of St. Dionysius, one will discover that he was a pupil of Origen. This is quite interesting, as Origen was condemned due to his unorthodox views of the human body, and sexuality. Nevertheless, this Canon, inspired and written by one man was "indefinitely confirmed by c. I of the 4th, and definitely by c. II of the Sixth Ecum. C.; and by virtue of this confirmation it acquired what amounts in a way to ecumenical force."5 Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria, in the latter part of the forth century, wrote 18 Canons, also known as " The Questions and Answers". Question 7 asks: "If a woman finds herself in the plight peculiar to her sex, ought she to come to the Mysteries on that day, or not?" Timothy's answer was very short, "She ought not to do so, until she has been purified." The editor Nicodemus interprets and says that this Canon is in agreement with Dionysius. However, what do these Canon writers mean by "purified"? There is no purification practice for a woman undergoing a normal menstrual period in the Leviticus Law. Purification practices as we have read above, existed only for a woman with unusual flows (Lev. 15:30). Did Timothy view her purification to be that of having simply finished her "monthlies", or did he like the Old Testament prophets view her as needing a rite of purification from sin? Did the Fathers view this natural body experience as sinful? The last Canons which deal with the issue of ritual impurity in The Rudder are by St. John the Faster, who lived in the late sixth century. St. John also makes mention of ritual impurity for men experiencing nocturnal emissions. Canon 6 states:

Anyone, who has been polluted in sleep by reason of an emission of semen, shall be denied communion for one day; but after chanting the fiftieth Psalm and making forty-nine metanies, it is believed that he will thus be purified.6

5. Thus, according to the Canons of the Early Church Fathers, men also have periods of ritual impurity, and unlike women have a purification rite. Interestingly enough though, unlike most young girls who are told of the" uncleanness law" at puberty, most boys reaching puberty are not told anything7 Canon 17 of St. John dealing with women's ritual impurity is based on Dionysius' Canon, but with an interesting twist. It states: As for women occupying a separate seat, let them not touch holy things for as many as seven days, the second Canon of St. Dionysius, but in particular the seventh canon of Timothy bids. This is also what the old Law ordered but neither did it permit them to have any sexual intercourse with men; for it happens on this account that the seeds sown become weak and evanescent. Hence it was that divine Moses ordered the father of a defective to be stoned to death, on the ground that on account of his intemperance he failed to await the purification of his wife. But as for a woman, who has been so scornful of the same uncleanness during this period and has touched the divine Mysteries, they bid her to be excommunicated for forty days.8

6. Where men may purify themselves by chanting the fiftieth Psalm and make forty-nine metanies, and then possibly receive Communion, women who dare to receive while on their periods are to be given penance by being excommunicated for forty days. Interestingly enough this is the same penance given for masturbation, and other such sins of physical immorality. It is shocking and perplexing to read that partaking of the divine Mysteries, while experiencing this natural God given function could be equated with physical immorality, which according to Eph. 5:5 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10 deprives one of ever seeing the Kingdom of God. There is obvious misunderstanding on the part of the canon writers on the nature of women's menses, its God given purpose, and the way it affects the spiritual and psychological state of women. This is the time when women need God most of all, as this is the time when they experience pre-menstrual syndrome, physical pain, panic attacks, crying spells, and other hormonal anomalies. This is the time when the soul needs to be doctored by the healing powers of Christ. To punish a woman in need of spiritual healing and nourishment at the time when she needs it most for daring to approach or to touch Christ by banishing her from him for an additional forty days, is not only an act devoid of any Christian compassion, but goes contrary to the very teachings of Christ, Himself.9

Can the Canons of the Fathers then be refuted? The Church of Christ only follows the teaching of the Fathers when they are all found to be in agreement. Interestingly enough, there are Fathers of the Church, such as St. John Chrysostom, who championed strongly against superstition and impurity laws (see below).
The Rudder’s Footnote

The footnote in The Rudder, which seems to have been written by the collection's compiler and editor Nicodemus, attempts to explain why these canons dealing with ritual uncleanness exist. It begins by defining the term "menstruous,10 (Also see Lev. 15:19 Lev. 15:25) and then addresses the question, "Why did God call this natural function which he himself created for woman unclean? The Hand of God created woman, with all her bodily functions, good in the Garden of Eden and thus no part of a woman's physical composition can be considered either as sin or as uncleanness. St Chrysostom, (p. 1059 of vol. I of the series), and Theodore, or Diodorus, (ibid. 1032) both agree with the Apostolic Injunctions (Book VI, Ch. 26) which assert that only impiety and unlawful acts can separate one from the Holy Spirit (in Book VI, Ch. 26). Why then the attitude among the Fathers that Menses is unclean?

As mentioned above, Leviticus 15 describes male and female bodily impurities. Verses 1 to 15 describe how unnatural bodily discharges defile the male. According to numerous modern Commentaries, and St. Chrysostom, these unnatural male discharges were a result of Venereal Diseases or Gonorrhoea. In order to be cleansed, seven days had to pass, and an atonement of two pigeons had to be given. The same applied for the case of menstruous women. Thus, these unnatural bodily discharge caused by wilful promiscuity are equated with a natural involuntary bodily discharge whose function is to bring forth life. Further reading reveals that the Father's probably intended to prevent men from having intercourse with their wives during their monthlies. It was believed that children conceived during a woman's flow were thought to be sickly, or worse carriers of diseases, more specifically, of leprosy.

7. Accordingly, He made it a law that lepers should be chased out of cities and kept away from all association with human beings, as Isidore says, in order that He might prevent parents from having intercourse at such a time, on account of the uncleanness and the leprosy and the ostracism of their children to be born thereafter... Proceeding further forward, God even commands that men who sleep with their wives when the latter are having the menses shall be put to death and exterminated.... (Lev. 20:18).... (Ezek. 18:6). So for all these reasons, wishing to instill reverence and fear not only unto women, but much more into the impetuous vehemence of the natural instinct of men,11 both of old and now again through His saints, God has prohibited these women from coming into the temple proper and partaking of the divine Mysteries...

At this point, it must be stated that medically speaking leprosy is not a genetic illness that is acquired by one's parents engaging in intercourse during the woman's "monthlies." Even those who were conceived "properly" were still susceptible to catching the leprosy bacterium. Dionysius' argument has no medical foundation, as leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the organism "Mycobacterium leprae" and has no connection whatsoever with the method of conception.

Secondly, it is amazing to note how restrictions are put on one gender, to solve problems supposedly caused by the other. It is illogical to put the blame on women for this supposed male lack of control, by labelling women unclean during the time when they experience the blood of life. Thirdly, the phrase "impetuous vehemence of the natural instinct of men" is very harsh not to mention groundless when referring to the male sex. It excuses, condones and labels as normal violent sexual behaviour, which is sinful, rather than promoting virtuous behaviour as found in men who have accepted Christ and have control over themselves.

Theodoret may view this canon as honouring women, as protecting them from the approaches of their uncontrollable husbands, yet in truth, such men are more monsters than husbands are. By expecting all men to be "impetuously vehement" where is the call to love and respect one's spouse which St. Paul writes about in Eph. 5:25-28? Women are not honoured here, but rather, this explanation has made them the scapegoats for certain men, who are ruled by their passions. This explanation may satisfy Nicodemus; however, this cannot be the real reason behind the writing of this canon, for it contradicts basic biblical teachings. The comment made next in the Footnote by Nicodemus holds within it what I feel to be the real reason behind these canons: i.e. the issue of hygiene.

In agreement with these divine Canons, Novel 17 of Leo the Wise also makes a decree providing that women in childbirth as well as those in menstruation, if unbaptized, shall not be baptized; and if baptized, they shall not participate in communion unless they first be cleansed and purified, except only in case they should incur a deadly disease. What is meant here by "women in childbirth" are women who have just given birth and are discarding the blood, which nurtured their babies for the past nine months. This canon obviously is based on Leviticus 12 mentioned above. It is interesting how the Church is willing to make a concession to baptize and Commune a menstruous woman who has been labelled in different places as being "sinful", "dirty" and "unclean", when on her deathbed out of love and compassion. And rightfully so, however, if baptism and Communion is permitted on a woman's deathbed out of compassion, it should also be permitted during life out of compassion. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is needed for us in this life. It was meant to heal us spiritually in this life.

8. If, however, the issue is that of hygiene, then logically as in the case for Communion, a woman experiencing her flow should wait until her flow stops, same as a person with bladder control problems, or one suffering from incontinence of stool, should wait until they are again in control of their body functions, before entering the baptismal font. Not found in The Rudder, is another second century Canon which is accepted as an authentic, authoritative document by our Orthodox Christian Church, the Canon of the Holy Apostles, which pre-dates any of the above mentioned Canons, and it states as follows:

    For if thou think, O woman, that in the seven days of thy flux thou art void of the Holy Spirit; if thou die in those days, thou wilt depart empty and without hope. But if the Holy Spirit is always in thee, without just impediment dost thou keep thyself from prayer and from the Scriptures and from the Eucharist? For if the Holy Spirit is in thee, why dost thou keep thyself from approaching the works of the Holy Spirit? Wherefore, beloved, flee and avoid such observances: for you have received release, that you should no more bind yourselves; and do not load yourselves again with that which our Lord and Saviour has lifted from you. And do not observe these things, nor think them uncleanness; and do not refrain yourselves on their account, nor seek after sprinklings, or baptisms, or purifications for these things.12

This Canon understands that the only way one can make women feel full of the Spirit is to allow them to participate fully in the New Life of Christ, including participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Naturally, women when continuously told that they are unclean during their monthlies, and are categorised among the unrighteous, would not want to pray, or read a divine book, or practice any aspect of their faith because they have been told that they are unclean and thus unworthy to approach God, and even if they dared to reach out to Him at that time, would not be accepted. Thus, women's behaviour through antiquity has become that of the spiritually wounded. The Church needs to reexamine the effects such canons have on the spiritual growth of women, and Spiritual Fathers/Father Confessors must use their God given gift of discernment when dealing with their female spiritual children. The author of the above Syrian Canon realized the spiritual damage being done, and made a conscious effort to heal these wounds. In this canon one also finds the answer to the question of a purification rite for women. As women are not made unclean from their monthlies, it tells them not to seek purification for these things, and thus does not provide a purification rite for this situation.

Interestingly enough, Nicodemus' Footnote to Dionysius Canon, addresses the second century Syrian Canon which was mentioned above, and agrees with it only in part, refuting its permission to women to receive Communion stating that it was a later addition. Notice that the divine Apostles permit such women only to pray and to remember God, just as this Canon of Dionysius also contains these two permissions verbatim. They do not, however, permit them also to participate in communion or to go to church. For what is written on the side in the margin (in other manuscripts it says, "partake of the Eucharist") has very little if any force, as not being found in the text proper of the Injunctions.

This position, however, raises numerous contradictions. First, all Fathers are in agreement that women who have their "monthlies" are not devoid of the Holy Spirit. All affirm that woman was created by God and must not cease to pray to her Maker. This is in agreement with what was mentioned above, that which God created cannot be unclean. Yet, the writer of this Footnote turns and contradicts himself by stating that even though women are still full of the Spirit during their monthlies, entrance into the Church proper and participation in the Mysteries are forbidden. In other words, the Spirit which dwells within these women is forbidden to enter its own house in which the Spirit moves and guides, and is forbidden to Grace 12 Didascalia Apostolorum ("The Teachings of the Apostles") in Deborah Belonick, Feminism in Christianity: An Orthodox Christian Response (Syosset, New York: Department of Religious Education Orthodox Church in America, 1983), pp. 45-46. 9 the woman within whom the Spirit dwells with its gift of Communion. Yet the Spirit we believe cannot be limited, the Spirit moves where it will, and is free to bring all to Salvation. If the Spirit is present within these women, then the Spirit will move them to a full life in Christ, and that includes participation in Holy Communion. As for that unfortunate insertion in the margin of the original second century Canon of the Holy Apostles, the writer is assuming it is a later insertion. I claim that the possibility exists that it was an original statement which was later removed for unfounded reasons, and again inserted in the margin by someone who realized that the Spirit wherever present moves one to a full life in Christ.

It is amazing how the next section of the Footnote attempts to eliminate any question or argument to this "banning" position, which Dionysius' Canon has taken. It states:

    2) We reply to them with this true and surer answer that we have but one obligation, to obey and follow the Canons with implicit obedience, and not to sit as judges and examiners of what has been commanded by the Holy Spirit, and to keep saying why this? And why that? Lest we incur the exceedingly horrible penalties imposed upon those transgressing the Canons.

It is obvious, that even in its time, there was controversy surrounding this Canon. Otherwise, the author of the footnote would not try to argue against those who were saying "why this? And why that?" His final appeal is to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Yet, if it were truly by the Holy Spirit that this Canon was written, then it would not have so many contradictions, which would prohibit the freedom of the same Spirit. Are not Christians told to test the Spirit to ensure that it is genuinely from God? (1 John 4:1) And how can any one who truly understands these things equate the emissions of men caused by what the Fathers believed to be lascivious dreams, from a spirit full of desire, with the God given blood of life of women.

It is also of interest to note, that he who judged the earlier second century Syrian canon and attempted to refute its validity, would then turn around and state that we must not "sit as judges and examiners...” What if the earlier Canon, written within a hundred years after Christ, expresses a more accurate teaching of our Lord and Saviour? We are not called to follow human opinion. We are called to seek the Truth, and to discern from among the teachings of the Fathers, that which is human and that which is by the Holy Spirit. We must revere the Fathers of our Church, and hold them in high regard. However, we must also remember that they were fallible men who were products of their times. Times in which I believe sanitary hygiene played an important role. As the only logical reason for not permitting women to enter a Church building and participate in the Sacraments was to prevent them from physically dirtying the house of the Lord, and for no other apparent theological reason, and as these issues of hygiene are no longer relevant in this particular day and age, these canons need to be re-examined by the Church. We must understand that these canons were practical for their time period, however, for our society, whose understanding of the body is more advanced, and whose hygiene practices allow women to come and go "clean", the usefulness of these Canons fall under question. It is time that we as a Church put the spiritual needs of women experiencing the blood of life in the forefront. It is time for our Clergy and Spiritual Fathers to use discernment in interpreting these as well as other Canons and to put the spiritual health of all their spiritual children in the fore. Forbidding Communion is a serious and grave thing, which causes not only spiritual, but also psychological and emotional harm. If their spiritual children have cleansed themselves on the inside, repenting and confessing their sins, and if they truly thirst for Christ, then Spiritual Fathers should show mercy and compassion by allowing them "with faith, love and the fear of God, to draw near" to our Saviour's divine mystery.

*Maria-Fotini Polidoulis Kapsalis obtained her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1988. She then attended Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. where she graduated in 1990 with a Master of Theological Studies degree. Returning to Toronto, she attended the University of Toronto's Faculty of Education and in 1991 graduated with a Bachelor of Education Degree, and obtained Ontario Teacher's Certification. Presently, she is working part-time for the Scarborough Board of Education as an Occasional Teacher and is also enrolled as a full time Doctoral student at the Toronto School of Theology, at St. Michael's College. Fotini Kapsalis lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, John, and their baby girl, Evangeline.

References

1 See Matthew 23:13,15,23,25,27; Mark 7:6; Luke 11:46,52; and John 5:8-10, 7:19.

2 See Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 2:14-21, 3:3-29, 5:4.

3 D. Cummings (trans.). The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Chicago, Illinois: the Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957.

4. Ibid., p. 718.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p. 935.

7 In 1989 while attending Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology I surveyed the male students living on Campus if they were told at puberty of this canon and if they followed it. To my surprise none of the men had been told such a thing by their fathers. Those who even knew of the canon, were told about it years later. Some had just heard of it when they started Seminary. I was shocked to discover that Canons dealing with male ritual impurity were not strictly followed, even by the most devoted of the Orthodox males, while those Canons dealing with female ritual impurity were kept alive through mothers quietly passing it down to their daughters.

8 The Rudder, p. 941.

9. See Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

10 The Rudder, pp. 718-720.

11 My Italics.
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« Last Edit: April 11, 2009, 01:19:00 PM by Pravoslavbob » Logged

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« Reply #66 on: April 11, 2009, 01:24:59 PM »

Thank you, Pravoslavbob.  I have seen this article in another thread.

The author says:

"Why then should women not approach the Chalice, if they cannot defile God? The Chalice holding within it the great mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ can only heal and purify."

This is my question to all upholding the practice of barring "unclean" women from Communion.
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« Reply #67 on: April 11, 2009, 01:40:02 PM »

I don't think it is a question of defiling the chalice but a consequence of what happens in a woman's body during her time. There is a cyclical discharge of blood. No one, man or woman, is allowed to receive communion if they are bleeding or have open weeping sores.  So if I as a guy cut my finger Saturday night and it is deep enough not to have closed passed easy bleeding Sunday morning, then I can't commune either. It is a matter of respect for the Body of Christ as it is received in our bodies.
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« Reply #68 on: April 11, 2009, 01:49:08 PM »

It is not regular bleeding.  It is elimination of tissue in preparation for pregnancy.  It is not connected to her general circulatory system.  How much do you know about human anatomy and physiology.

Your argument reduces the Gifts to purely material things, with no mystical power.
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« Reply #69 on: April 11, 2009, 01:58:17 PM »

I don't think it is a question of defiling the chalice but a consequence of what happens in a woman's body during her time. There is a cyclical discharge of blood. No one, man or woman, is allowed to receive communion if they are bleeding or have open weeping sores.  So if I as a guy cut my finger Saturday night and it is deep enough not to have closed passed easy bleeding Sunday morning, then I can't commune either. It is a matter of respect for the Body of Christ as it is received in our bodies. 

The blood she is bleeding is from weeks before the time when it is discharged.  She is not bleeding fresh blood (i.e. blood that was circulating through the system that day or even that week), but instead that blood has been separated from the rest of the circulatory system during the month.
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« Reply #70 on: April 11, 2009, 02:20:29 PM »

I am not whining, I am trying to understand where the mercy is in the argument barring menstruating women from communing.  I am traditional when it comes to the roles of male and female, I call God "Father", and I do not in general complain about my lot in life as a woman.  I understand the special role I was created for, but not why God would say "stay away from Me during that time of the month that I gave you."

I took great pains to avoid taking a pro or con stance, but that was on a different issue than allowing menstruating women to commune. I believe the topic was re-establishing the female diaconate, and allowing women behind the iconostasis.



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« Reply #71 on: April 11, 2009, 02:24:04 PM »

That doesn't matter. It's not a question of hygiene, science, or biological mechanics. The blood was part of the body and then it flows out. While it is in, it is part of the body regardless of its degree of integration with the circulatory system. From the standpoint of the canons a bleeding body, except for the extremis of immanent death is not considered an appropriate receiver of the Holy Eucharist. We have no authority to set those canons aside because we want the canons regarding the proper physical state in which to receive the Eucharist to justify themselves with respect to the scientific minutia of human biology.
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« Reply #72 on: April 11, 2009, 02:35:29 PM »

I know it's beside the point, but do RCs have the same rules pertaining to menstruating women receiving Holy Communion as does the EO?
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« Reply #73 on: April 11, 2009, 02:36:54 PM »

I really don't want to get into the middle of this, so please ascribe to me no pro or con stance.  However. There was a married clergy discussion on one Lat Trad blog I read, and most annoyingly, the pro people pulled me in with, "You have married clergy! You tell em!" So a couple of things.

First, we may not know the reason the female diaconate was allowed to fall into disuse, but it was, and presumably, for a reason. When debating whether to revivie it, we should keep this in mind.

Second, well, it's kind of two related things. As for whether Judaic cleanliness restrictions should or should not apply in Orthodoxy, they do here, no matter what St John Chrysostom (or anyone else) said. Orthodoxy is in many ways very Judaic, much more so than Western Christianity. So like it or not, it's there. We're Orthodox. We hate change. You know as well as I do that no matter how much we love St John Chrysostom, you can quote him on this incessantly for the rest of your life and it's not going to change anyone's mind. (I would add a smiley, but it's not necessarily funny.)

The other thing is that ritual cleanliness does not necessarily imply evil or misogyny, and the naturalness of menstruation really has nothing to do with ritual cleanliness. Now, one more time: I am not coming down on either side of this issue. All I would counsel is that we tread lightly, and with much prayer.






Just a note: as the CoG has revived the deaconesses, then it is only a question of suppressing or expanding it (perferably the latter).

As for why it disappeared, how much in did the independent deaconate (i.e. not just the service of ordination before priest) survived?
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« Reply #74 on: April 11, 2009, 02:39:38 PM »

That doesn't matter. It's not a question of hygiene, science, or biological mechanics. The blood was part of the body and then it flows out. While it is in, it is part of the body regardless of its degree of integration with the circulatory system. From the standpoint of the canons a bleeding body, except for the extremis of immanent death is not considered an appropriate receiver of the Holy Eucharist. We have no authority to set those canons aside because we want the canons regarding the proper physical state in which to receive the Eucharist to justify themselves with respect to the scientific minutia of human biology.
Which Canons say that a bleeding body is not considered a worthy receiver of the Eucharist?
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« Reply #75 on: April 11, 2009, 03:45:55 PM »

That doesn't matter. It's not a question of hygiene, science, or biological mechanics.

No?

The blood was part of the body and then it flows out. While it is in, it is part of the body regardless of its degree of integration with the circulatory system.

Don't go there... You've got plenty of things that are in the body when you receive communion that you get rid of, and not in a way that is proper to the Body and Blood of Christ.

From the standpoint of the canons a bleeding body, except for the extremis of immanent death is not considered an appropriate receiver of the Holy Eucharist.

Uh-huh.  If you want, I'll find a few handfuls of canons you're not following.

We have no authority to set those canons aside

We don't, but Father confessors and bishops, while not expressly so disposed as to disregard canons, are the enforcers, and if they choose not to, then that's between them and the Lord, not you (or anyone so counseled) and the Lord or you and them.

because we want the canons regarding the proper physical state in which to receive the Eucharist to justify themselves with respect to the scientific minutia of human biology. 

There's not a single canon that didn't make sense according to the knowledge of the time.  When a canon ceases to make sense according to what we know (or, heck, how about according to the standard of mercy that Christ set down for us), then it's going to naturally be up for evaluation (like, say, married bishops).
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« Reply #76 on: April 11, 2009, 04:08:34 PM »

Which Canons say that a bleeding body is not considered a worthy receiver of the Eucharist?

Well, if he's going to answer directly, then he'll bring up canon 2 of St. Dionysios (his canons were ratified by IV.1. and VI.2.)
(All references are from here: http://holytrinitymission.org/books/english/canons_fathers_rudder.htm)

Quote
Concerning menstruous women, whether they ought to enter the temple of God while in such a state, I think it superfluous even to put the question. For, I opine, not even they themselves, being faithful and pious, would dare when in this state either to approach the Holy Table or to touch the body and blood of Christ. For not even the woman with a twelve years’ issue would come into actual contact with Him, but only with the edge of His garment, to be cured. There is no objection to one’s praying no matter how he may be or to one’s remembering the Lord at any time and in any state whatever, and petitioning to receive help; but if one is not wholly clean both in soul and in body, he shall be prevented from coming up to the Holies of Holies.

Interpretation.

When asked about this too, as to whether women in their menses ought to enter the temple of God, the saint replied that there is no need of asking the question, since if the women themselves have a proper reverence for things divine, they will be inhibited by it from daring ever to approach the Holy Table and to partake of the Lord’s body and blood when they are in such a state of their menstrual affairs. For they can recall that woman who had an issue of blood and who on account of the flux of her blood did not dare, because of her great reverence, to touch the body of Christ, but only the hem of His garment. None of them is forbidden to pray, whatever be her predicament (whether she be at home or in the pronaos of the church), by imploring God and asking Him for help and salvation. One is forbidden, however, to go near the Holies of Holies, which is the same as saying to partake of the sanctified portions (i.e., the Eucharistic species) when he is not clean in soul and body, like women who are taken with their menses.

He'll bring up the "Questions" of Timothy of Alexandria (#7, to be exact):

Quote
7. Question: If a woman finds herself in the plight peculiar to her sex, ought she to come to the Mysteries on that day, or not?

Answer: She ought not to do so, until she has been purified.

Interpretation.

Likewise as in the above Canon, the present Canon decrees that a woman must not partake of the divine Mysteries on the days on which she is troubled by the plight pertaining to her sex, but only to partake thereof when she has been purified from it. See also c. II of Dionysius. 

Canon 17 of St. John the Faster:

Quote
17. As for women occupying a separate seat, let them not touch holy things for as many as seven days, the second Canon of St. Dionysius, but in particular the seventh Canon of Timothy bids. This is also what the old Law ordered, but neither did it permit them to have any sexual intercourse with men; for it happens on this account that the seeds sown become weak and evanescent. Hence it was that divine Moses ordered the father of a defective to be stoned to death, on the ground that on account of his intemperance he failed to await the purification of his wife. But as for a woman who has been so scornful of the same uncleanness during this period and has touched the divine Mysteries, they bid her to remain communionless for forty days.

Interpretation.

The present Canon decrees that those women shall not participate in the divine Mysteries who are having their usual trouble of courses and menstruation, or what are commonly called "monthlies," for at least seven days, just as c. II of Dionysius also decrees, and c. VII of Timothy commands. This same prohibition is found in the old Law, which does not permit such women to have sexual intercourse with their husbands so long as they are having their monthlies, because even the children that are sown and conceived in women who are in such a condition become in consequence weak and defective for the most part. It was for this reason, too, that the Law commanded that the father of a defective child be stoned to death, since on account of his wanton lust he did not have the fortitude to wait for his wife to be purified from monthlies, but slept with her while she was having them, and thus the child sown in her became defective. But if a woman having her monthlies scornfully disregard this fact and partake of the divine Mysteries, they command that she shall not commune again for forty days. Read also c. II of Dionysius.


These are the only ones.
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« Reply #77 on: April 11, 2009, 04:40:32 PM »

These are the only ones.

So bleeding men are OK? (Peptic ulcers?)
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« Reply #78 on: April 11, 2009, 04:48:02 PM »

We have no authority to set those canons aside because we want the canons regarding the proper physical state in which to receive the Eucharist to justify themselves with respect to the scientific minutia of human biology.

This is wrong thinking on so many levels.

First of all, one's spiritual father does, in fact, have the authority to set aside canons (there is a specific canon that states this.  I can't put my hands on it at the moment.  Cleveland, do you know it offhand?).

Secondly, even if spiritual fathers in general didn't have the authority, personally, I would say that St. John Chrysostom DOES have the authority.  Why is it that (and this is also directed at rwprof), on pretty much any subject in Orthodoxy, St. John Chrysostom is revered, read, referenced, and considered the highest authority, yet, when it comes to matters concerning women, the response is, "nobody has the authority," and "you can quote St. John Chrysostom all you want, but...?"  Why is it that the same prolific and amazing saint that is quoted and considered authoritative in pretty much everything else, is simply cast aside on matters such as this?  Just curious...

Thirdly, canons are often set aside.  Here is a perfect example of a canon that has been set aside (and not even for a good reason such as being educated in a subject, like human biology, that we didn't know about before)...
From The Rudder, by St. Nikodemos (pg 177):
Quote
CANON XLVIII (48)
If any layman who has divorced his wife takes another, or one
divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated.68
(Canon LXXXVII of 6th Ecumenical Synod;
Canon XX of Ancyra; Canon XIII of Carthage;
Canons XXI, XXV and LXXVII of Basil)
Yeah, we really adhere strictly to the canons these days, don't we?  On this subject, we say it's "oikonomia" to allow divorce and remarriage.  For the sake of whom?  The people... so that they can remain in communion with the Church.  What would be the purpose of setting aside the canons (which are not, btw, from synods, but rather, from individual saints, whom our Church absolutely believes are individually fallible) regarding menstruation?  So that women can commune... are we seeing a pattern?  Further, in the case of divorce, why are we granting oikonomia to people who HAVE committed a terrible sin, versus menstruation, where women who HAVEN'T committed a terrible sin are granted NO oikonomia?  Is it because of the sheer number of people who are requesting divorce (in other words, if oikonomia weren't granted, the number of people effectively excommunicated would be astronomical)?  But, with the case of menstruation, we're talking about HALF the people of the church (virtually all women, with the exception of young girls, old women, and a few who are unable to menstruate)!  So, surely, it isn't the numbers...  So please, if we're going to adhere so strictly to the canons and ignore completely the role of the spiritual father and oikonomia, explain to me why it is that a serial monogamist (someone married and divorced several times) is allowed to commune, and myself and my sisters in Christ who have prepared ourselves through confession, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, are NOT.  Feel free... go ahead... explain... I'd really like to hear (*read*).  Wink


Fourthly, "justify themselves?"   Huh  [sarcasm] Wow!!!  I absolutely marvel and bow down to your gift of being able to see into my heart and the hearts of those others who think it's okay for a woman to commune while menstruating!!!!!!!  I'm in awe!!! [/sarcasm]  That statement is just dripping with judgment, my friend.  And that judgment, is exactly the misogyny I was talking about.  The judgment is not in the presence of these issues, the desire to discuss them, or even the disagreement over them.  No, friend.  The misogyny is in the judgment.
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« Reply #79 on: April 11, 2009, 07:08:49 PM »

First of all, one's spiritual father does, in fact, have the authority to set aside canons (there is a specific canon that states this.  I can't put my hands on it at the moment.  Cleveland, do you know it offhand?).

Usually the answer is VI.102.
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/councils_ecumenical_rudder.htm#_Toc34001973

(Question answered by GiC two posts down...)

Quote
102. Those who have received from God authority to bind and to loose must take into consideration the quality of the sin, and the willingness and readiness of the sinner to return, and thus offer a treatment suited to the sin in question, lest by employing an immoderate adjustment in one direction or the other, they fail in compassing the salvation of the one ailing. For, the diseases called sin are not simple affairs, but, on the contrary, various and complex, and they produce many offshoots of the injury, as a result whereof the evil becomes widely diffused, and it progresses until it is checked by the power of the one treating it. So that a person who is professing the science of treating ailments as a spiritual physician ought first to examine the disposition of the sinner, and ascertain whether he tends to health or on the contrary provokes the malady to attack him by his own actions; at the same time bearing in mind that he must provide against any reversion, and considering whether the patient is struggling against the physician, and whether the ulcer of the soul is being aggravated by the application of the remedy; and accordingly to mete out mercy in due proportion to the merits of the case. For all that matters to God and to the person undertaking pastoral leadership consists in the recovery of the straying sheep, and in healing the one wounded by the serpent. Accordingly, he ought not to drive the patient to the verge of despair, nor give him rein to dissoluteness and contempt of life, but, on the contrary, in at least one way at any rate, either by resorting to extremer and stringent remedies, or to gentler and milder ones, to curb the disease, and to put up a fight to heal the ulcer for the one tasting the fruits of repentance, and wisely helping him on the way to the splendid rehabilitation to which the man is being invited. We must therefore be versed in both, i.e., both the requirements of accuracy and the requirements of custom. In the case of those who are obstinately opposed to extremities, we must follow the formula handed down to us, just as sacred Basil teaches us outright.

Interpretation.

After this Council had decreed concerning many different penances, lastly in the present Canon it leaves everything to the judgment of the bishops and spirituals (i.e., confessors), the authority to bind and to loose, saying that they ought to conjecture, or surmise, both the quality of the sinfulness, whether it be pardonable or deadly, and the disposition of the sinner with respect to repentance, and thus to offer the right treatment for his illness; lest by giving persons who are magnanimous and willing to repent lenient penances, and persons who are more unconcerned and pusillanimous on the contrary extreme penances, they fail to correct either the former or the latter, but rather wind up by losing both. Because sin is so complex and various, and grows so fast, that it resists, that is, overcomes, the power and art of the spiritual physician (or, it may be, so complex and various is sin, and so fast does it grow, before it can be checked and overcome by the art of the spiritual physician). So, for this reason, the physician of souls must first and foremost conjecture the disposition and inclination of the sinner, and discern whether he loves the health of his soul with fervid repentance, or, on the contrary, whether he actually is coaxing sin to attack him, and how he behaves in regard to sin, whether he is not opposed to the salutary remedies which he is giving him (as is done by the demented who are opposed to the salutary remedies of physicians of bodies), and whether he is not actually aggravating, or increasing, the lesion of sin with such measures. The confessor, I say, must first of all make conjectures respecting all these things, and thus with due proportion mete out mercy, mitigating, or lightening, the penances in dealing with the man who is unconcerned and pusillanimous, but intensifying, or making them heavier, in the case of a man who is magnanimous; and doing both for mercy’s sake, in order, on the one hand, to cleanse the magnanimous man from sin, and, on the other hand, to avoid making the pusillanimous man’s case worse. And, generally speaking, the whole aim both to God and to the confessor is simply this, to bring about the return of the straying sheep, to cure the one who has been wounded or hurt by the figurative serpent commonly called the Devil, and neither to drive him to despair by heavy penalties, nor again to let him take the bit in his teeth, like a horse, by light penalties, and hence encourage him to contemptuousness and unconcern, but in every possible way, whether with austere or with mild remedies, to endeavor to restore the sinner to health and free him from the wounds of sin, so that he may taste the fruits of repentance, and with wisdom managing to help him to ascend to the splendor of the Holy Trinity above (which is the kingdom of heaven, according to St. Gregory the Theologian). So, then, the confessor must have knowledge of both requirements (just as is said verbatim in c. III of Basil), to wit, accuracy and custom. In case sinners do not care to observe this accuracy, on account of which they are compromisingly allowed a reduction of years and of penances for their sin, let him at least command them to observe the custom, the entire number of years, that is to say, and the penances prescribed by the Canons.
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« Reply #80 on: April 11, 2009, 07:11:08 PM »

For those reading my last two posts and wondering what the code is for (i.e. VI.103; IV.2.; etc.), standard Canonical references for Ecumenical Councils take the form Roman Numeral (Council #) followed by Arabic Number (canon #).  So I.10 is Ecumenical Council I (Nicea), Canon 10.  Using this system, VI is Penthekte/Quintisext/Trullo.  So VI.103 (in my last post) is Penthekte canon 103.
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« Reply #81 on: April 11, 2009, 07:13:36 PM »

For those reading my last two posts and wondering what the code is for (i.e. VI.103; IV.2.; etc.), standard Canonical references for Ecumenical Councils take the form Roman Numeral (Council #) followed by Arabic Number (canon #).  So I.10 is Ecumenical Council I (Nicea), Canon 10.  Using this system, VI is Penthekte/Quintisext/Trullo.  So VI.103 (in my last post) is Penthekte canon 103.

Has there recently been a 103rd canon added to the Council of Trullo that I didn't hear about? Last I checked there was only 102. Wink
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« Reply #82 on: April 11, 2009, 07:46:54 PM »

For those reading my last two posts and wondering what the code is for (i.e. VI.103; IV.2.; etc.), standard Canonical references for Ecumenical Councils take the form Roman Numeral (Council #) followed by Arabic Number (canon #).  So I.10 is Ecumenical Council I (Nicea), Canon 10.  Using this system, VI is Penthekte/Quintisext/Trullo.  So VI.103 (in my last post) is Penthekte canon 103.

Has there recently been a 103rd canon added to the Council of Trullo that I didn't hear about? Last I checked there was only 102. Wink

I suppose that answers the question I posed earlier:

Usually the answer is VI.103.
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/councils_ecumenical_rudder.htm#_Toc34001973

(Or, at least I thought it was 103, but it's numbered 102 in the online copy of the Pedalion)

I haven't gone over my notes or the text from class in awhile (of course, a certain loud New Yorker borrowed my canon law text and never returned it), which would explain the cobwebs.
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« Reply #83 on: April 11, 2009, 10:48:36 PM »

This "menstruation equals uncleanliness" business IMHO shows how Roman Catholic some of our thinking has become. I was under the impression that we had the Platonic approach of eschewing certainty when it came to certain matters. Of course, the Romans have that Aristotelian impulse to learn and know everything, and also have built arguments on top of arguments; that is, they took the conclusions of various primary arguments and turned them into the premises of subsequent arguments. After a while, they ended up with the heterodox dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and Papal Infallibility, and the original example of their logic--transubstantiation.

I have come across very few Orthodox theologians that call the Eucharist a sacrament; most of them consider the Eucharist to be a mystery. That is why is we do not believe in transubstantiation, that the wine and bread actually turn into blood and flesh. We know what our Savior said and yet when we eat and drink we also know we are not drinking blood and eating flesh. So, it is a mystery and we are seeing the shadow on the wall. All we know that in a mysterious way the Eucharist unites us with our Savior. And, all of the arguments about our blood being physically infused with the blood of the Savior depend on the doctrine of transubstantiation, must they not? Voila: scholasticism, bad logic, false theology, Western piety and tradition with a small "t."

On the other hand, even if one accepts transubstantiation, it does not follow that the Eucharistic wine, as the blood of the Savior, becomes our blood. We all know that blood is generated in our bone marrows from haematopoietic stem cells. This means that ingested blood cannot stay as blood for long (it is broken up rapidly in the digestive system), nor can it be added to the existing blood supply. So, whether you believe in transubstantiation or not, it is impossible for the Eucharist to become your blood. This is in accordance with God's ongoing miracle of life and processes ordained by Him. It is one thing to believe things as a child (that is ignorant of facts) and another as an adult.
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« Reply #84 on: April 11, 2009, 11:37:43 PM »

Quote
So please, if we're going to adhere so strictly to the canons and ignore completely the role of the spiritual father and oikonomia, explain to me why it is that a serial monogamist (someone married and divorced several times) is allowed to commune, and myself and my sisters in Christ who have prepared ourselves through confession, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, are NOT.  Feel free... go ahead... explain... I'd really like to hear (*read*).  Wink

And who is arguing that their rightful authorities and spiritual prerogatives be cast aside?  Consider if it wasn't this particular bodily impediment that wasn't being, not just relaxed, but ignored and it was confession, or repentance, or fasting that was being treated as optional and old fashioned, superstitious even....oh wait, that is happening in some parishes.  I hope you understand, by such lights as I have, I am only standing for the faith and the tradition that I have received, nothing more.

Quote
Fourthly, "justify themselves?"  Huh  [sarcasm] Wow!!!  I absolutely marvel and bow down to your gift of being able to see into my heart and the hearts of those others who think it's okay for a woman to commune while menstruating!!!!!!!
I have no knowledge of your heart or any other's, forgive me for leaving that impression.  If you reread the relevant passage you will see the subject of "justify themselves" was not people, but canons....about trying to force the canons to justify themselves relative to some perceived relevant modern criteria.  It referenced the arguments of those who feel contrary to this Tradition based on some concerns related to details of modern human biology, which are not relevant.

 
Quote
I'm in awe!!! That statement is just dripping with judgment, my friend. 

If so, I fail to see it. Whom have I judged in affirming the Tradition as it has come to us?

Quote
And that judgment, is exactly the misogyny I was talking about.  The judgment is not in the presence of these issues, the desire to discuss them, or even the disagreement over them.  No, friend.  The misogyny is in the judgment.
What misogyny? What have I said that advocates any hatred or disparagement of women? The standard the canon applies to me as well. If I have a cut or a bleeding/weeping sore I do not commune, no matter how much I might want to otherwise. And there have been times when this was so for me.  And if I cut myself or otherwise bleed after receiving communion within the past 24 hours, I try to remember to save all tissues and bandages so that they may be buried or burned. 

Forgive me any offense I've given or providing any temptation to anger in this holy time.
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« Reply #85 on: April 11, 2009, 11:42:05 PM »

If I have a cut or a bleeding/weeping sore I do not commune, no matter how much I might want to otherwise.
Perhaps this is a custom in your church's tradition which is not a universal custom of the Orthodox Church? It doesn't seem to be a requirement of the Canons.
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« Reply #86 on: April 12, 2009, 01:22:37 AM »

All I know is it is what I have received. I've read the canonical requirement before, don't remember where though, but I've never had reason to question it. It's what I've passed on to my godsons and their families in turn. 
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« Reply #87 on: April 12, 2009, 02:00:57 AM »

What misogyny? What have I said that advocates any hatred or disparagement of women?

It suggests that a natural biological process is somehow 'unclean', it's a judgement based on ignorance and superstition. If you want to make that a cornerstone of your beliefs, that's your issue...but it's misogynistic, plain and simple.

Quote
The standard the canon applies to me as well. If I have a cut or a bleeding/weeping sore I do not commune, no matter how much I might want to otherwise. And there have been times when this was so for me.  And if I cut myself or otherwise bleed after receiving communion within the past 24 hours, I try to remember to save all tissues and bandages so that they may be buried or burned. 

So what canon gave you this 24 hour number? I never imagined your god would be so weak and pathetic as to have its immortal blood diluted so completely in a mere 24 hours that it can be thrown out without any consideration. Sorry you serve such an insignificant deity.
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GiC
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« Reply #88 on: April 12, 2009, 02:05:04 AM »

All I know is it is what I have received. I've read the canonical requirement before, don't remember where though, but I've never had reason to question it. It's what I've passed on to my godsons and their families in turn. 

Why should anyone, no matter how devoted to your religion, care what you claim to have 'received' if you can't even give a reference for this 'canonical requirement'? Especially considering how absurd it is even from a theological perspective.
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"The liberties of people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." -- Patrick Henry
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« Reply #89 on: April 12, 2009, 02:14:45 AM »

Why should anyone, no matter how devoted to your religion, care what you claim to have 'received' if you can't even give a reference for this 'canonical requirement'? Especially considering how absurd it is even from a theological perspective.

Goodness! Thats a little acerbic GiC, isn't it?
Actually, I do care what Seraphim has received, and I can respect it.
For Heaven's sake, there's going to be a dead sheep hanging in my basement on Saturday night because of a custom I received.....I'm hardly in a position to judge anyone! Other strange customs I received include spitting towards the west at Baptisms, cracking eggs that have been dyed red on Pascha, spitting on Brides and infants to wish them well...the list goes on.
None of this makes sense outside of cultural context, but even cultural constructs have a reality.
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