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Author Topic: Nuns may be acolytes or cantors in monastery but not parishes? - confused  (Read 1454 times) Average Rating: 0
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Christopher McAvoy
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« on: March 11, 2012, 10:51:46 PM »

I am confused about the role of nuns in monasteries and where and when they may be allowed to be cantors or acolytes.

It's been obvious to me that the ordination of women in anything beyond certain minor orders is forbidden and anti-thetical to way God created earth. As ridiculous as the concept that men could bear children.

However, I've never had as strong a certainty when it came to the more minor orders - specifically the cantors or acolytes - as to which gender they must be.

Some of my knowledge, as is obvious, may be moreso of the older latin tradition.

I have witnessed benedictine western rite nuns, following exclusively the traditional latin mass rite, who sang in the "choir area" which is inbetween the altar and congregation of visitors, instead of in the very far back above the so-called "organ loft" area, which is where women are usually confined to sing in the western traditional parishes.

However I was told that nuns in monasteries of both the traditional byzantine and latin rites may be able to serve as acolytes and cantors, whereas in parishes these positions are either forbidden or discouraged.


Generally, when I have seen altar girls in the past, one of the main reasons I objected to them is because they did not cover there hair and dressed identically to the men and felt it was scandalous to have no gender differences whatsoever.

I find the concept of a nun with her head covered to not be nearly as offensive to me however.
Though I do not have strong feelings for or against it.

But that being said, I am now in a position where I am in the early stages of forming a singing school for gregorian chant and would like to know how to instruct the females who are interested in this, as to where or when they should or should not sing. So far the idea is to sing antiphonally, men and women with voices separate most of the time, but mixing occasionally. But the location in the church is not yet settled.

So all of this is interconnected and I realize I must form a more firm foundation as to how I ought to understand this matter in light of traditional practices.

What can anyone say about this?

Is there a difference between a nun who is a cantor and any other woman being a cantor?

Is the matter of acolyte any different?
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 11:08:35 PM »

In monasteries, from what I understand, it is only permissible for women to serve behind the altar because of the lack of men that is supposed to exist (if it doesn't...that monastery may be in need of a visit from the bishop...) in a women's monastery.
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 11:05:34 PM »

One of the chanters at my parish is a woman. Has never been a problem not with our priest, our parishioners and never with the bishop when he has visited.  She is NOT a tonsured reader as that is reserved for males.  I chant and I'm not tonsured; it's not required whether in a parish setting or monastic setting.
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 11:20:50 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 09:57:39 AM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 10:03:17 AM »

What is a 'woeful' state? An economically depressed one like Ohio or Pennsylvania perhaps? Or maybe Utah - home of the Mormons?  Wink
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2012, 11:36:33 AM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 01:02:59 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.

Perhaps from the opinions of self-professed Orthodox.
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 01:19:36 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.
Are you or Fr. Josiah Orthodox Christians of an canonical Orthodox Church?  Have you heard of the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and Consultations on the Role of Women in the Orthodox Church?
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 01:28:56 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.

this is ridiculous...
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2012, 01:44:28 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.
Are you or Fr. Josiah Orthodox Christians of an canonical Orthodox Church?  Have you heard of the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and Consultations on the Role of Women in the Orthodox Church?

Have you ever read anything Augustin has written before?

Now Augustin, stop teasing... I need to see this profitable noetic discourse for myself. Is there a link?
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2012, 02:32:36 PM »

Quote
ote from: Iconodule link=topic=43543.msg721177#msg721177 Women should be on the left side as an [i
ikonic[/i] representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.


From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.
Are you or Fr. Josiah Orthodox Christians of an canonical Orthodox Church?  Have you heard of the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and Consultations on the Role of Women in the Orthodox Church?
[/quote]

Have you ever read anything Augustin has written before?

Now Augustin, stop teasing... I need to see this profitable noetic discourse for myself. Is there a link?
[/quote]

[/quote]
No I  don't remember ever reading Augustin's posts before.  Am I missing something known to all but me?  Please fill me in.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 02:33:57 PM by Orest » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2012, 02:37:20 PM »

Please fill me in.

He is a cradle Romanian trickster.
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2012, 02:43:12 PM »

Please fill me in.

He is a cradle Romanian trickster.

They say he was conceived on a fast day.
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 11:08:08 PM »

Please fill me in.

He is a cradle Romanian trickster.

They say he was conceived on a fast day.
That explains why he never posts during full moons.
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« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2012, 06:23:55 AM »

Even if there are plenty of male servers, a nun, only with the bishop's and abbess's blessing, may serve in the altar unless the presiding bishop at a particular service decrees otherwise. All clergy serve with the abbess's blessing, apart from the bishop. A nun, also with the bishop's and abbess's blessing, may read commemorations in the altar.
A large women's monastery may have two or three nuns blessed and rostered to serve in the altar.
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« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2012, 07:38:49 AM »

This is not really a male/female issue, it is a priestly/lay issue. When you don't have properly ordained/tonsured members of the lower orders to chant, read, serve the altar, etc. these roles are delegated to laypeople.

In parishes, these roles are normally assigned to men, presumably because they, unlike women, may be ordained/tonsured to those positions in the future. However, the commonly held belief that any man may stroll into the sanctuary, put on a robe and start messing around with the censer, simply because he has the right reproductive organs, is just wrong.

Of course, in the Slavic churches, where the traditional form of chant was replaced with Western-style polyphony, female choirs became the norm and the office of chanter became largely redundant. Even in more traditional churches, such as those of the Old Believers, other factors, such as the near absence of men in some communities due to war, also meant that women singing in the choir became the norm. There was no such need for female altar servers. That's why most Orthodox consider it quite normal and proper for women to sing in the choir, but would rend their garments and shout anathema were they to see one anywhere near the altar.

In convents, given that the visiting priest is usually the only man present at most services, also the role of altar server is naturally delegated to the women there.
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« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2012, 02:27:05 PM »

This is not really a male/female issue, it is a priestly/lay issue. When you don't have properly ordained/tonsured members of the lower orders to chant, read, serve the altar, etc. these roles are delegated to laypeople.

In parishes, these roles are normally assigned to men, presumably because they, unlike women, may be ordained/tonsured to those positions in the future. However, the commonly held belief that any man may stroll into the sanctuary, put on a robe and start messing around with the censer, simply because he has the right reproductive organs, is just wrong.

Of course, in the Slavic churches, where the traditional form of chant was replaced with Western-style polyphony, female choirs became the norm and the office of chanter became largely redundant. Even in more traditional churches, such as those of the Old Believers, other factors, such as the near absence of men in some communities due to war, also meant that women singing in the choir became the norm. There was no such need for female altar servers. That's why most Orthodox consider it quite normal and proper for women to sing in the choir, but would rend their garments and shout anathema were they to see one anywhere near the altar.

In convents, given that the visiting priest is usually the only man present at most services, also the role of altar server is naturally delegated to the women there.

There is a general misconception about Slavic practice going on here. While it is true that choirs were popularized among the Slavs (Orthodox as well as Greek Catholic) following Tsar Peter, the position of chanter/kantor/cantor was never eliminated or unneeded. On the local parish level many small parishes have no choir and follow the traditional chant practices - Znammeny, Galician, Rusyn - and Institutes for the training of the cantors needed for these tasks were common in the larger cities in connection with seminaries. Vesperal tones, Matins, Troparions all are typically chanted - even to this day in many Slavic traditions to this day and are not sung by 'polyphonic' choirs even in the largest of parishes or cathedral churches. (Frankly, what sounds 'harmonious' to the Greek ear, is often harmonized Slavic chant. To many Slavs, Byzantine chants sound discordant to their ears. It is simply a case of what form you are familiar with - not that one is 'better' or more 'authentic' than is another.)

Among the immigrant Slavic communities in America, the 'kantor' was often more important than the priest - particularly if he were trained at the 'Akademi' in the old country. The priest might visit every other week, but the kantor maintained liturgical order in his absense, taught the 'Russian School' or whatever as the case might be and be there as the 'right-hand' man (or chief nemesis in many cases) of the pastor.
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« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2012, 05:09:03 PM »

Thank you all for what has been said. I appreciate the thoughts and facts presented.

I am left with this view from what has been said:

 The fact that in female monasteries there is an ideal that man stay out to begin with, is what makes the situation that certain nuns, may with bishops blessing serve as untonsured acolyte. The importance of not "bringing too many men" into the monastery outweighs the normal qualification that men only take these positions. I think that is a reasonable statement, however, one must admit, it does in my view somewhat weaken the case against "altar girls", sadly, but I do agree that it makes sense. Exceptions are good, so long as they are not becoming normalized. That is largely why i was concerned with the issue. A few of the members of the OCA, and there aren't many, used this example as a reason or defense for their well known altar girl scandal several years ago. (A reason why they didnt do anything so bad - which I dont agree with)

Regardless , my main concern really is with the psaltiki/cantors

Would this video be an example of the proper position and role women should have in a Church?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJYFMw8dux4

A traditional catholic saw this video once and said that there position is not appropriate. I was not really able to provide any defense, but admitted he may have been correct and I would find out for certain later.

Thank
« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 05:10:06 PM by Christopher McAvoy » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2012, 05:23:55 PM »

I wouldn't oppose female alter servers, readers, subdeacons and deacons.
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« Reply #20 on: March 14, 2012, 05:25:14 PM »

Unless there exists a parish with no men besides the priest, the existence of female altar servers in a women's monastery should never be seen as weakening the case against altar girls in parishes.
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« Reply #21 on: March 14, 2012, 06:43:04 PM »

However, the commonly held belief that any man may stroll into the sanctuary, put on a robe and start messing around with the censer, simply because he has the right reproductive organs, is just wrong.

Seen way too much of this in my time.
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« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2012, 07:49:45 PM »

There is a general misconception about Slavic practice going on here. While it is true that choirs were popularized among the Slavs (Orthodox as well as Greek Catholic) following Tsar Peter, the position of chanter/kantor/cantor was never eliminated or unneeded. On the local parish level many small parishes have no choir and follow the traditional chant practices - Znammeny, Galician, Rusyn - and Institutes for the training of the cantors needed for these tasks were common in the larger cities in connection with seminaries. Vesperal tones, Matins, Troparions all are typically chanted - even to this day in many Slavic traditions to this day and are not sung by 'polyphonic' choirs even in the largest of parishes or cathedral churches.

I should perhaps have said, "in the Slavic churches, where the traditional form of chant was often replaced with Western-style polyphony, female choirs became the norm and the office of chanter became largely redundant in many parishes, a lay-choir led by a lay-choir master taking its place."

Quote
(Frankly, what sounds 'harmonious' to the Greek ear, is often harmonized Slavic chant. To many Slavs, Byzantine chants sound discordant to their ears. It is simply a case of what form you are familiar with - not that one is 'better' or more 'authentic' than is another.)

No one said anything about better or more authentic. I was simply trying to account for the widespread appearance of female choirs in the Slavic churches, which I think is quite clearly linked to the 17th century reforms of ecclesiastical music in Ukraine and Russia.

Seen way too much of this in my time.

A lot of people seem to think the altar is a gentleman's club, and the templon a way to keep women out. Drives me nuts. Yes, there shouldn't be any women in the altar without good reason, but I'd much rather have one pious female altar server quietly lighting candles and preparing the censer than 15 old guys talking about fishing and distracting the priest.
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« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2012, 10:34:33 PM »

Women should be on the left side as an ikonic representation of their woeful estate. Or under the men if that's feasible, which I doubt in a church.

Where do you get this crap from? Women may be in a woeful state but, not greater then men.
From my Spiritual Father Fr. Josiah Trentham may his prayers be upon us. He talks about the ikonic quality of the missionary position.

Sorry, I did not realize you were talking about sex acts in thread about serving the church. I think you are forgetting the part that man is even worst off then women because at least woman has the travail of child birth to raise her up.
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« Reply #24 on: March 14, 2012, 10:44:39 PM »

I think some of us should meditate of the words of St. Gregory.

Quote
St GREGORY the THEOLOGIAN's Oration 37, chs. 6-7.

6. ...n respect of [chastity], I see that the majority of men are ill-disposed, and that their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason why they restrained the woman, but indulged the man, and that a woman who practises evil against her husband's bed is an adulteress, and the penalties of the law for this are very severe; but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he has no account to give? I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. They who made the Law were men, and therefore their legislation is hard on women, since they have placed children also under the authority of their fathers, while leaving the weaker sex uncared for. God does not so; but says Honour your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you; and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. Similarly He gave honour to good and punishment to evil. And, "The blessing of a father strengthens the houses of children, but the curse of a mother uproots the foundations" (Sirach 3:11). See the equality of the legislation. There is one Maker of man and woman; one debt is owed by children to both their parents.

7. How then do you demand Chastity, while you do not yourself observe it? How do you demand that which you do not give? How, though you are equally a body, do you legislate unequally? If you enquire into the worse— The Woman Sinned, and so did Adam (Gen 3:6). The serpent deceived them both; and one was not found to be the stronger and the other the weaker. But do you consider the better? Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the Man? So He was also for the woman. Did He die for the Man? The Woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David (Rom 1:3), and so perhaps you think the Man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the Woman's side. They two, He says, shall be one Flesh; so let the one flesh have equal honour. And Paul legislates for chastity by His example. How, and in what way? This Sacrament is great, he says, But I speak concerning Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). It is well for the wife to reverence Christ through her husband: and it is well for the husband not to dishonor the Church through his wife. Let the wife, he says, see that she reverence her husband, for so she does Christ; but also he bids the husband cherish his wife, for so Christ does the Church.
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« Reply #25 on: March 14, 2012, 10:54:09 PM »

As far as singing is concerned....

In the old liturgy at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, it is believed that there was a women's choir and a mens choir on different sides of the cathedral who sang antiphonally at the liturgies.  Both choirs were quite large - 50+ people IIRC.   (I can dig up a citation for those who want - it was in Father Robert Taft's study on popular liturgical experience in Constantinople - PM me and I'll dig it up sometime over the next few days).

That being said, the current liturgy is very different from the old liturgy, one respect of which is that the whole cycle can easily be chanted with one person (which would have been difficult, perhaps impossible in the old liturgy), and that more than 3-4 people is not strictly "necessary".  

So one could say that, assuming you use Byzantine chant*, there is no need for women since a good parish should be able to find enough men.  I say that a person with the proper disposition is a treasure who the parish should "use", and that a parish would be blessed if it could use more than 4 of them.


Side issues brought out by this thread:

I'd imagine the same is true with the Slavic chant styles, but I don't know anything about them so I can't comment.

Iconodule's position seems to be parody, so I wouldn't take it too seriously. 

And thanks Orthodox11 for an excellent quote:

....the commonly held belief that any man may stroll into the sanctuary, put on a robe and start messing around with the censer, simply because he has the right reproductive organs, is just wrong.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 10:57:24 PM by MarkosC » Logged

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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2012, 02:31:15 PM »

Sorry to bring up an old thread, but someone asked for a reference to my last post and so I'll provide it for all:

Father Robert Taft, Through Their Eyes: Liturgy as the Byzantines Saw It, Interorthodox Press, 2006, 56-67.  

Also note that he mentions the "Myrrhbearers", a group of women who incensed and chanted the women's sections in the Church of the Resurrection, according to an old Typikon describing usage there prior to Caliph al-Hakim's destruction of it.  

Also note:

1. the liturgy in Hagia Sophia is not the current liturgy and my impression is that if today's Greek-speaking clergy were transported back in time they'd mostly be disoriented at first - although of course they'd understand what was being said and their experience with the currently liturgy would allow them to know what's going on.  Things would just be out of place and usages would be different.  Most of the books of today's liturgy are not part of the old liturgy, and the ones that do are substantially different.  

2.   Separation of men and women was done in late antiquity (e.g. after the reign of St. Constantine) because of often rampant misconduct between men and women and church.  St. John Chrysostom criticizes this often, my favorite example being when he claims in a homily (paraphrasing) that in apostolic times men and women were equal, but they had to be separated in contemporary Consantinopolitan churches a because the women acted like whore and the men acted like rowdy stallions.  [this also is in Taft's book above.  To add another layer to this, Taft's footnote references around 200 pages of scholarly studies in English, German, and Italian discussing whether or not St. John was simply employing rhetorical hyperbole by comparing him to contemporary Antiochean rhetoric.   Homilies were big back then - rhetoric was a form of entertainment back then, St. John attracted such acclaim because of his rhetoric and probably gave this from a high pulpit in Hagia Sophia to a full church of people gathered primarily to hear him talk]


My comment on all this for the purposes of this thread:

It seems to me that one cannot exclude women singing based on an appeal to late antique history.  At the same time, I don't necessarily see any reason to begin "re-allowing" women to cense - were the church to decide that this should be done, I would prefer that much strong historical research prior to doing so, that serious critical pastoral though be put into such a decision, and that the whole church adopt such a practice vice one parish here and one eparchy there.  I'm also unaware of men and women behaving badly as late antique men and women in modern American churches, so I would say that separation of sexes need not be strictly enforced (my impression is that physical barriers and burly ushers would keep the men and women separate in the old basilicas, and that the crowd was often unruly, thus some of the diaconal commands in our liturgy). 


Blessed Holy Week to all,

Markos
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 02:38:28 PM by MarkosC » Logged

O Lord although I desired to blot out
with my tears the handwriting of my many sins
And for the rest of my life to please Thee
through sincere repentance
Yet doth the enemy lead me astray as he wareth
against my sould with his cunning

O Lord before I utterly perish do Thou save me!
IreneOlinyk
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« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2012, 06:50:03 PM »

There is a general misconception about Slavic practice going on here. While it is true that choirs were popularized among the Slavs (Orthodox as well as Greek Catholic) following Tsar Peter, the position of chanter/kantor/cantor was never eliminated or unneeded. On the local parish level many small parishes have no choir and follow the traditional chant practices - Znammeny, Galician, Rusyn - and Institutes for the training of the cantors needed for these tasks were common in the larger cities in connection with seminaries. Vesperal tones, Matins, Troparions all are typically chanted - even to this day in many Slavic traditions to this day and are not sung by 'polyphonic' choirs even in the largest of parishes or cathedral churches.

I should perhaps have said, "in the Slavic churches, where the traditional form of chant was often replaced with Western-style polyphony, female choirs became the norm and the office of chanter became largely redundant in many parishes, a lay-choir led by a lay-choir master taking its place."

Quote
(Frankly, what sounds 'harmonious' to the Greek ear, is often harmonized Slavic chant. To many Slavs, Byzantine chants sound discordant to their ears. It is simply a case of what form you are familiar with - not that one is 'better' or more 'authentic' than is another.)

No one said anything about better or more authentic. I was simply trying to account for the widespread appearance of female choirs in the Slavic churches, which I think is quite clearly linked to the 17th century reforms of ecclesiastical music in Ukraine and Russia.

Seen way too much of this in my time.

A lot of people seem to think the altar is a gentleman's club, and the templon a way to keep women out. Drives me nuts. Yes, there shouldn't be any women in the altar without good reason, but I'd much rather have one pious female altar server quietly lighting candles and preparing the censer than 15 old guys talking about fishing and distracting the priest.

Can you please provide more information of specifically women's choirs "becoming the norm."  I have never heard this said before especially in regards to Ukraine.  I do know that in Orthodox Volyn, in Western Ukraine, every parish had a cantor (diak) who did study in a seminary, but a shorter course than for the priests.  Also in villages the cantor was often the village school teacher for the first 2 years, which was the average elementary school education.
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« Reply #28 on: April 09, 2012, 03:19:15 AM »

Can you please provide more information of specifically women's choirs "becoming the norm."

Orthodox11 is right.
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« Reply #29 on: April 09, 2012, 04:43:48 PM »

Can you please provide more information of specifically women's choirs "becoming the norm."

Orthodox11 is right.
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No one said anything about better or more authentic. I was simply trying to account for the widespread appearance of female choirs in the Slavic churches, which I think is quite clearly linked to the 17th century reforms of ecclesiastical music in Ukraine and Russia.


Where in the 17th century were female choirs the norm?Huh?


Paul of Aleppo in his travels in the 17th century mentions that in the city of Kyiv there were women who could read & write and who sang the church services.  But the question is did he mean in choirs or just congregational participation with both men & women singing?  Many people who could not read ot write did know parts of the liturgy by heart and did sing along in rural areas up the the end of the 19th century and even up to WW2.
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