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Author Topic: Women Serving the Orthodox Church  (Read 1529 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: March 01, 2013, 02:55:33 PM »

I've been going to an Orthodox Church for several months now and really enjoy it.  I'll probably be starting the catechumen process here in the coming months.  But something was said in passing last weekend that bothered me.  I'll probably bring it up with my priest whenever I get a chance to speak with him again.  I just know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people.

After the service, the children were playing (our sanctuary and dining hall are all one room) and one little three or four year old girl pushed on the doors of the iconostasis.  She didn't get through the doors, a subdeacon stopped her.  But he was joking with her parents that if she'd gotten past the doors and near the altar they would have to burn the church down.  He stated the Russians literally will do that if a woman enters the nave (I think that's what it's called).

So, my question is why?  Even my Orthodox Study Bible states that women can hold any position in the church except the presbyter.  Deacons and subdeacons are allowed in the nave; even the reader enters it when he retrieves the Epistles.  I don't believe that the apostles taught that women are particularly tainted with sin, anymore than we men anyway.  The largest icon back there is that of the Virgin Mary, and I don't think any priest would attempt to stop her if she actually visited us.
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 03:05:10 PM »

Women are not allowed to enter the altar.  Priest can also limit which men can enter the altar. Long time ago, in the time of Jesus Christ only the archpriest could enter the altar (the holy of the holies) and nobody else.

I don't know about the burning...
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 03:12:24 PM »

Laypeople are not permitted in the altar. If you're not ordained to one of the major or minor orders of the clergy, you shouldn't be in the altar unless there's a need and you have a blessing. In convents, such a blessing is often given to nuns - i.e. women.
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 03:12:34 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 03:14:05 PM »

Women are not allowed to enter the altar.  Priest can also limit which men can enter the altar. Long time ago, in the time of Jesus Christ only the archpriest could enter the altar (the holy of the holies) and nobody else.

My understanding is even stronger than this. No one is allowed to enter the altar - except for necessary liturgical duties. It is true that women are generally not admitted to the ranks of those who serve at the altar (a women's monastery would be an exception), but neither are most men.
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 03:15:17 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Lol.  Yeah, I thought that sounded a little extreme.
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 03:17:28 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Lol.  Yeah, I thought that sounded a little extreme.
Agreed - and, possibly a feeble attempt at humour through hyperbole.
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 03:17:53 PM »

Women are not allowed to enter the altar.  Priest can also limit which men can enter the altar. Long time ago, in the time of Jesus Christ only the archpriest could enter the altar (the holy of the holies) and nobody else.

My understanding is even stronger than this. No one is allowed to enter the altar - except for necessary liturgical duties. It is true that women are generally not admitted to the ranks of those who serve at the altar (a women's monastery would be an exception), but neither are most men.

That is my understanding as well.  Nobody enters unless they have liturgical duties.  It just seemed odd to me that it was considered detrimental if a little girl entered.
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 03:18:00 PM »

From what I was taught

The bishop is the only person that is unquestionablly allowed to enter the altar area, and he blesses the priest to do so as well. THe priest can also give blessings for people to enter, but entrance is limited to these people, and only for specific duties.
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 03:21:38 PM »

Women are not allowed to enter the altar.  Priest can also limit which men can enter the altar. Long time ago, in the time of Jesus Christ only the archpriest could enter the altar (the holy of the holies) and nobody else.

My understanding is even stronger than this. No one is allowed to enter the altar - except for necessary liturgical duties. It is true that women are generally not admitted to the ranks of those who serve at the altar (a women's monastery would be an exception), but neither are most men.

^This.

NOBODY is allowed in the altar, neither male nor female, who doesn't have the bishops/priest's blessing to enter and serve.  A man who just wants to come in and take a look around, is banned, as well.

I had an issue a many years back, when a media crew was taping our "January" Christmas (versus December), and the news crew walked in and out of the altar, at will....because they were men.

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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 03:28:51 PM »

I've been Orthodox for (on and off) over 11 years, and even as a guy I've only entered the altar once, and that was because the priest asked me to follow him as I was helping set up for services that weekend. I went in, was instructed to venerate the altar, did so, grabbed what he asked me to grab, and then left. I don't know if this was proper or not, but you know how loosey goosey those Antiochians are  Tongue
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 03:32:22 PM »


Venerate the Altar?  I assume it was bow, not kiss.
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 03:35:13 PM »

I've been Orthodox for (on and off) over 11 years, and even as a guy I've only entered the altar once, and that was because the priest asked me to follow him as I was helping set up for services that weekend. I went in, was instructed to venerate the altar, did so, grabbed what he asked me to grab, and then left. I don't know if this was proper or not, but you know how loosey goosey those Antiochians are  Tongue
This simply proves Liza's (and others') point that you need a bishop/priest's blessing to enter - and that it be for a necessary liturgical purpose. You were needed, available, and willing -- seems OK to me.
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2013, 03:44:08 PM »

I've been Orthodox for (on and off) over 11 years, and even as a guy I've only entered the altar once, and that was because the priest asked me to follow him as I was helping set up for services that weekend. I went in, was instructed to venerate the altar, did so, grabbed what he asked me to grab, and then left. I don't know if this was proper or not, but you know how loosey goosey those Antiochians are  Tongue
This simply proves Liza's (and others') point that you need a bishop/priest's blessing to enter - and that it be for a necessary liturgical purpose. You were needed, available, and willing -- seems OK to me.

My husband is still formally Anglican (hasn't been chrismated yet), and still was invited to go in and get one of the banners for the Epitaphios procession last Good Friday. Loosey goosey Antiochians, indeed. Tongue
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« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2013, 03:46:45 PM »

My understanding is even stronger than this. No one is allowed to enter the altar - except for necessary liturgical duties. It is true that women are generally not admitted to the ranks of those who serve at the altar (a women's monastery would be an exception), but neither are most men.

Exactly.
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« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2013, 03:53:48 PM »

Yes, I did not make contact with the altar.
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« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2013, 04:04:20 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Especially since there's holy water available.

Anyway, in many Orthodox countries, people would just say she's going to be a priest's wife one day. Just as if a little boy runs into the altar, they say he's going to be a priest.
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« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2013, 04:17:11 PM »

Yes, I did not make contact with the altar.
I was corrected recently that the area behind the iconostasis is the altar (apparently synonymous with "sanctuary" in this context), and that in the altar is the Holy Table. YMMV

You must rank subdeacon or higher to touch anything on the Table.
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2013, 04:19:48 PM »

I've been going to an Orthodox Church for several months now and really enjoy it.  I'll probably be starting the catechumen process here in the coming months.  But something was said in passing last weekend that bothered me.  I'll probably bring it up with my priest whenever I get a chance to speak with him again.  I just know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people.

After the service, the children were playing (our sanctuary and dining hall are all one room) and one little three or four year old girl pushed on the doors of the iconostasis.  She didn't get through the doors, a subdeacon stopped her.  But he was joking with her parents that if she'd gotten past the doors and near the altar they would have to burn the church down.  He stated the Russians literally will do that if a woman enters the nave (I think that's what it's called).

So, my question is why?  Even my Orthodox Study Bible states that women can hold any position in the church except the presbyter.  Deacons and subdeacons are allowed in the nave; even the reader enters it when he retrieves the Epistles.  I don't believe that the apostles taught that women are particularly tainted with sin, anymore than we men anyway.  The largest icon back there is that of the Virgin Mary, and I don't think any priest would attempt to stop her if she actually visited us.

First, welcome to the Forum! Second, congratulations for your approaching catechumenate. May the Lord bless your spiritual journey.

Since other forum members have given you the right feedback, I will just remark that the church has three main parts: the narthex (or porch), the nave (where the worshippers are) and the altar (where only those who are supposed to be there may enter). Since most catechumens do not quite know what the narthex is, allow me please to include this brief explanation from Orthodox Wiki:

"The narthex is an entrance area to a church, located at the western end of the nave. At the opposite (eastern) end of the nave is the altar.

The narthex may sometime consists of two parts, an exonarthex (outer narthex) that forms the outer entrance to the building and parallel to it another part called the esonarthex (inner narthex) that opens into the nave.

Many early churches were built in the form of the old Roman basilica. Entrance to the western end of the church was through an outside area called the atrium into the narthex. The narthex was either an external structure similar to a porch or inside as a part of the nave but separated from it by a screen or rail. The narthex was used by catechumens and penitents who were not admitted into the nave. Often a baptismal font was also placed in the narthex.

Orthodox churches: Traditionally, this vestibule serves as a buffer between the world and the Kingdom as represented by the church building proper. There are also certain rites which are conducted in this part of the church, such as the exorcisms which precede the sacrament of Baptism, the betrothal at weddings, and in some Orthodox communities the prayers of churching after birth. On designated occasions certain Vesperal prayers and rites are also celebrated here.

Most often in this this area, the faithful offer a brief prayer, buy a candle and then enter the nave to venerate the icons prior to joining the congregation."
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Narthex
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« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2013, 04:32:45 PM »

Narthex would be an awesome name for a cat.  angel
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« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2013, 04:36:52 PM »

I've been going to an Orthodox Church for several months now and really enjoy it.  I'll probably be starting the catechumen process here in the coming months.  But something was said in passing last weekend that bothered me.  I'll probably bring it up with my priest whenever I get a chance to speak with him again.  I just know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people.

After the service, the children were playing (our sanctuary and dining hall are all one room) and one little three or four year old girl pushed on the doors of the iconostasis.  She didn't get through the doors, a subdeacon stopped her.  But he was joking with her parents that if she'd gotten past the doors and near the altar they would have to burn the church down.  He stated the Russians literally will do that if a woman enters the nave (I think that's what it's called).

So, my question is why?  Even my Orthodox Study Bible states that women can hold any position in the church except the presbyter.  Deacons and subdeacons are allowed in the nave; even the reader enters it when he retrieves the Epistles.  I don't believe that the apostles taught that women are particularly tainted with sin, anymore than we men anyway.  The largest icon back there is that of the Virgin Mary, and I don't think any priest would attempt to stop her if she actually visited us.

I assume he was trying to be funny.  It just didn't work out.
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« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2013, 04:38:49 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Especially since there's holy water available.

Anyway, in many Orthodox countries, people would just say she's going to be a priest's wife one day. Just as if a little boy runs into the altar, they say he's going to be a priest.

correct.  It is not viewed as catastrophic, except by American subdeacons.   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2013, 04:39:46 PM »

Yes, I did not make contact with the altar.
I was corrected recently that the area behind the iconostasis is the altar (apparently synonymous with "sanctuary" in this context), and that in the altar is the Holy Table. YMMV

You must rank subdeacon or higher to touch anything on the Table.

Correct, it is venerating within the altar facing the holy table. 
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« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2013, 04:41:43 PM »

From what I was taught

The bishop is the only person that is unquestionablly allowed to enter the altar area, and he blesses the priest to do so as well. THe priest can also give blessings for people to enter, but entrance is limited to these people, and only for specific duties.

He does not bless the priest to do so.  It is given by ordination, and enacted by appointment.  The ordination prayer for a priest states that the priest is ordained "to stand in innocence before Thine Altar, to proclaim the Gospel of thy Kingdom, to minister the word of thy truth, to offer unto thee spiritual gifts and sacrifices, to renew thy people through the laver of regeneration"
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« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2013, 05:21:12 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Especially since there's holy water available.

Anyway, in many Orthodox countries, people would just say she's going to be a priest's wife one day. Just as if a little boy runs into the altar, they say he's going to be a priest.

correct.  It is not viewed as catastrophic, except by American subdeacons.   Roll Eyes

 laugh I would like to think he was joking, but from the way he was acting I don't think he was.  He was either Roman Catholic or Anglican before coming to Orthodoxy.  He told me he left that church because a deaconess was assisting the priest with preparing the Eucharist one Sunday.  He seemed very serious to me when he said that no woman should ever enter the altar.
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« Reply #25 on: March 01, 2013, 05:33:47 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Especially since there's holy water available.

Anyway, in many Orthodox countries, people would just say she's going to be a priest's wife one day. Just as if a little boy runs into the altar, they say he's going to be a priest.

correct.  It is not viewed as catastrophic, except by American subdeacons.   Roll Eyes

 laugh I would like to think he was joking, but from the way he was acting I don't think he was.  He was either Roman Catholic or Anglican before coming to Orthodoxy.  He told me he left that church because a deaconess was assisting the priest with preparing the Eucharist one Sunday.  He seemed very serious to me when he said that no woman should ever enter the altar.

Not to bug everybody, but there were once women deacons. A few became saints, I think.
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« Reply #26 on: March 01, 2013, 06:18:56 PM »

No one is permitted in the altar, save the priests and bishops, and all other receive a blessing, from deacons on down. All people who enter the altar should at the very least be Orthodox. I'm scandalized about the statements above for media crew and one non-Orthodox asked to come in for serving! That should not happen.

There were, as pointed out, female deacons, thought they did seem to have played a rather different role than male deacons. They did not serve in the altar, read litanies, etc. Though they were brought into the altar and ordained there, on the Holy Table. The serve is the same as for the male deacon, except the St. Phoebe is invoked for a female, whereas St. Stephen is invoked for a male. Some female deacons are saints. I mentioned St. Phoebe already. St. Olympia was also a deaconess, a close friend of St. John Chrysostom. There are several others I know of, but I can't recall them at the moment.

As already stated, nuns are often blessed to serve in the altar at their monastery. I've heard from a Greek priest that, in their tradition, if a priest or deacon is for some reason unable to consume the Chalice after Liturgy, a young, pre-pubescent girl is asked to enter the altar and consume the Chalice. A young girl is asked to do this because of her innocence and purity.
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« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2013, 06:48:38 PM »

As already stated, nuns are often blessed to serve in the altar at their monastery. I've heard from a Greek priest that, in their tradition, if a priest or deacon is for some reason unable to consume the Chalice after Liturgy, a young, pre-pubescent girl is asked to enter the altar and consume the Chalice. A young girl is asked to do this because of her innocence and purity.

Never heard of that. Is it because there's no altar boy available?
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« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2013, 06:55:45 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Especially since there's holy water available.

Anyway, in many Orthodox countries, people would just say she's going to be a priest's wife one day. Just as if a little boy runs into the altar, they say he's going to be a priest.

correct.  It is not viewed as catastrophic, except by American subdeacons.   Roll Eyes

 laugh I would like to think he was joking, but from the way he was acting I don't think he was.  He was either Roman Catholic or Anglican before coming to Orthodoxy.  He told me he left that church because a deaconess was assisting the priest with preparing the Eucharist one Sunday.  He seemed very serious to me when he said that no woman should ever enter the altar.

As someone who's been Orthodox for 50 years, I can vouch for the correctness of everybody's replies. To say the church needs to be destroyed because a little girl not yet old enough to go to school entered the altar area in all innocence is nothing more than babalogy/yiayialogy at best, extremist ignorance at worst.

The order for the destruction of a church is very rare, but has happened, in cases of gross and willful violations of propriety. One recent case which comes to mind is that of a priest in Russia, who conducted a church marriage of two homosexuals. It didn't take long for the locals, and the priest's bishop, to find out. The priest was swiftly defrocked, and the church destroyed.
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« Reply #29 on: March 02, 2013, 12:33:11 AM »

I'm a woman, not a monastic, and I've been at the altar with the blessing of the priest because they needed some work done back there, and there weren't any men in that parish who knew how to do it.  So far, all they'd manage to do was screw everything up.  He was with me the entire time.  I was asked to help them get their church whipped into shape for their feast day.   I had no reason to touch the altar table, just work in the side areas where various items are stored. 

I'm pretty sure they didn't burn anything down, and last I saw the Matushka of that parish, she said she always thinks of me when she sees how things are working there. 

There's a place for everyone in a parish. 


Nuns at the monasteries perform duties at the altar during services.  They also know how to change out or fix pumps and plumbing, maintain vehicles, deal with random bears that wander in, run construction work like a general contractor, do construction work in full habit, milk goats, garden, make candles, soap, food, hospitality, teach, and chant prayer that makes your heart break.  That's the short list. 

St. Eirene of Chyrsovalandou was a Gerondissa and Deaconess and miracle worker.  She followed the rule of St. Arsenios and was in the tradition of the Cappadocians, St. Basil the Great, etc.   Back then, things were simpler, so she cleaned the toilets.

But women aren't priests or bishops.  They can be titled Apostle though, like St. Mary Magdalene, for one, is titled Apostle to the Apostles, and of course the Theotokos is the greatest of all Saints.   
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« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2013, 12:32:32 PM »

I'm a woman, not a monastic, and I've been at the altar with the blessing of the priest because they needed some work done back there, and there weren't any men in that parish who knew how to do it.  So far, all they'd manage to do was screw everything up.  He was with me the entire time.  I was asked to help them get their church whipped into shape for their feast day.   I had no reason to touch the altar table, just work in the side areas where various items are stored. 

I'm pretty sure they didn't burn anything down, and last I saw the Matushka of that parish, she said she always thinks of me when she sees how things are working there. 

There's a place for everyone in a parish. 


Nuns at the monasteries perform duties at the altar during services.  They also know how to change out or fix pumps and plumbing, maintain vehicles, deal with random bears that wander in, run construction work like a general contractor, do construction work in full habit, milk goats, garden, make candles, soap, food, hospitality, teach, and chant prayer that makes your heart break.  That's the short list. 

St. Eirene of Chyrsovalandou was a Gerondissa and Deaconess and miracle worker.  She followed the rule of St. Arsenios and was in the tradition of the Cappadocians, St. Basil the Great, etc.   Back then, things were simpler, so she cleaned the toilets.

But women aren't priests or bishops.  They can be titled Apostle though, like St. Mary Magdalene, for one, is titled Apostle to the Apostles, and of course the Theotokos is the greatest of all Saints.   


To add to Velsigne's worthy post:

One of the churches in the city where I live commissioned three iconographers, a priest-monk, one of his monks, and a woman (layman, not monastic) to paint mural icons in its interior about 20 years ago. The icons in the altar, including both levels of the apse, were painted by the female iconographer, as she had a particular talent for working on curved surfaces. Yes, she received a blessing from the bishop for this double privilege - to enter the altar, and to beautify it with the works of her hands.
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« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2013, 12:44:00 PM »


There's a place for everyone in a parish. 


To add to Velsigne's worthy post:

One of the churches in the city where I live commissioned three iconographers, a priest-monk, one of his monks, and a woman (layman, not monastic) to paint mural icons in its interior about 20 years ago. The icons in the altar, including both levels of the apse, were painted by the female iconographer, as she had a particular talent for working on curved surfaces. Yes, she received a blessing from the bishop for this double privilege - to enter the altar, and to beautify it with the works of her hands.

That was kinda my question behind the question, which is why I titled this "women serving the Orthodox Church."  I simply couldn't understand why a woman wouldn't be allowed to enter the altar area and help out, including the things that you all mentioned above.  Thank you for everyone's input!  I now know that my sub-deacon is a little less than normal in his views toward women  Cheesy
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« Reply #32 on: March 02, 2013, 12:51:24 PM »

I've been going to an Orthodox Church for several months now and really enjoy it.  I'll probably be starting the catechumen process here in the coming months.  But something was said in passing last weekend that bothered me.  I'll probably bring it up with my priest whenever I get a chance to speak with him again.  I just know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people.

After the service, the children were playing (our sanctuary and dining hall are all one room) and one little three or four year old girl pushed on the doors of the iconostasis.  She didn't get through the doors, a subdeacon stopped her.  But he was joking with her parents that if she'd gotten past the doors and near the altar they would have to burn the church down.  He stated the Russians literally will do that if a woman enters the nave (I think that's what it's called).

So, my question is why?  Even my Orthodox Study Bible states that women can hold any position in the church except the presbyter.  Deacons and subdeacons are allowed in the nave; even the reader enters it when he retrieves the Epistles.  I don't believe that the apostles taught that women are particularly tainted with sin, anymore than we men anyway.  The largest icon back there is that of the Virgin Mary, and I don't think any priest would attempt to stop her if she actually visited us.

You must have a blessing to enter the altar area, Men too. So most Men and Women cant enter. Most all of the duties carried out there are within a hierarchy that can lead to Priesthood. Acolytes are being trained to serve behind the alter for example. Women cant be Priests so there are scant few roles for them.. However, in Monasteries Nun's often have a blessing to enter and do serve there.
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« Reply #33 on: March 02, 2013, 03:53:40 PM »

As already stated, nuns are often blessed to serve in the altar at their monastery. I've heard from a Greek priest that, in their tradition, if a priest or deacon is for some reason unable to consume the Chalice after Liturgy, a young, pre-pubescent girl is asked to enter the altar and consume the Chalice. A young girl is asked to do this because of her innocence and purity.

Never heard of that. Is it because there's no altar boy available?

No such thing was implied in his statements.


Also, there is a woman at my home parish who regularly cleans the church area. This includes the altar area, with the blessing of our priest, who took her inside the altar and showed her around to make sure she knew what everything was, what she needed to clean and how.
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« Reply #34 on: March 02, 2013, 04:35:51 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Lol.  Yeah, I thought that sounded a little extreme.
Totally extreme.  Leave it to the Russians.
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« Reply #35 on: March 02, 2013, 04:38:34 PM »

As already stated, nuns are often blessed to serve in the altar at their monastery. I've heard from a Greek priest that, in their tradition, if a priest or deacon is for some reason unable to consume the Chalice after Liturgy, a young, pre-pubescent girl is asked to enter the altar and consume the Chalice. A young girl is asked to do this because of her innocence and purity.

Never heard of that. Is it because there's no altar boy available?

No such thing was implied in his statements.


Also, there is a woman at my home parish who regularly cleans the church area. This includes the altar area, with the blessing of our priest, who took her inside the altar and showed her around to make sure she knew what everything was, what she needed to clean and how.

i am about to retire from Church cleaning and will ask if the Woman who is taking over the task could have a blessing to clean the Altar area.
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« Reply #36 on: March 02, 2013, 04:40:31 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Lol.  Yeah, I thought that sounded a little extreme.
Totally extreme.  Leave it to the Russians.

It's an old saw that I have heard before. The version i got was that there was a Priest in Russia who performed a Gay Marriage. They defrocked him, burnt down the Church, buried the ashes and salted the earth..   Shocked
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« Reply #37 on: March 02, 2013, 05:27:38 PM »


It's an old saw that I have heard before. The version i got was that there was a Priest in Russia who performed a Gay Marriage. They defrocked him, burnt down the Church, buried the ashes and salted the earth..   Shocked

This did happen, in Nizhni-Novgorod, in 2003.
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« Reply #38 on: March 02, 2013, 08:22:37 PM »

Why would someone burn a Church down because a woman entered the altar? Because they're idiots. Only possible explanation.

Lol.  Yeah, I thought that sounded a little extreme.
Totally extreme.  Leave it to the Russians.

Burning in general has a deep religious reason...it's not done simply as a sign of extremism...we humans tend to oversimplify things and label people when we don't understand the reasons behind their actions...
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« Reply #39 on: March 02, 2013, 08:57:51 PM »

Laypeople are not permitted in the altar. If you're not ordained to one of the major or minor orders of the clergy, you shouldn't be in the altar unless there's a need and you have a blessing. In convents, such a blessing is often given to nuns - i.e. women.

Correct!
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« Reply #40 on: March 02, 2013, 09:13:51 PM »

When I was an altar boy at the Greek Orthodox Church it was ok to go behind the altar to get to yhe other side, but we were not supposed to go in front of it,and that nobody but the Priest or ordained clergy were supposed to .

So it is not just women who are not supposed to be there.
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« Reply #41 on: March 02, 2013, 09:27:28 PM »

When I was an altar boy at the Greek Orthodox Church it was ok to go behind the altar to get to yhe other side, but we were not supposed to go in front of it,and that nobody but the Priest or ordained clergy were supposed to .

So it is not just women who are not supposed to be there.

there is difference between an altar and the part of the altar between the altar table and the royal doors. Altar is considered everything behind the iconostasis, and there are people who can have a blessing to be in it. Nobody except clergy (those who are serving the Liturgy such as priests, bishops, etc) can stand between the altar table and the royal doors (the doors in the middle through which only clergy can enter), while others who assist such as altar boys (and even deacons I believe they are called) cannot do so. Those who have a blessing to "assist" during the Liturgy can be in the altar except in that specific area (between the royal doors and the altar table) where priest stands for the most of time during Liturgy.

I hope that wasn't confusing. Grin

those who are able, can read "The law of God" by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy...it discusses this topic along other basic concepts about Orthodox Christianity.
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« Reply #42 on: March 03, 2013, 12:04:28 AM »


As already stated, nuns are often blessed to serve in the altar at their monastery. I've heard from a Greek priest that, in their tradition, if a priest or deacon is for some reason unable to consume the Chalice after Liturgy, a young, pre-pubescent girl is asked to enter the altar and consume the Chalice. A young girl is asked to do this because of her innocence and purity.

I have never ever heard of this.

In fact, the correct protocol AFAIK is to call the local Hierarch/Chancellor.  They handle the situation usually by sending another local clergyman to consume the gifts. 
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« Reply #43 on: March 03, 2013, 07:08:15 AM »

In fact, the correct protocol AFAIK is to call the local Hierarch/Chancellor.  They handle the situation usually by sending another local clergyman to consume the gifts. 

I was once asked to do that when I was 5 or something.
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« Reply #44 on: March 03, 2013, 07:52:03 PM »

When I was an altar boy at the Greek Orthodox Church it was ok to go behind the altar to get to yhe other side, but we were not supposed to go in front of it,and that nobody but the Priest or ordained clergy were supposed to .

So it is not just women who are not supposed to be there.

there is difference between an altar and the part of the altar between the altar table and the royal doors. Altar is considered everything behind the iconostasis, and there are people who can have a blessing to be in it. Nobody except clergy (those who are serving the Liturgy such as priests, bishops, etc) can stand between the altar table and the royal doors (the doors in the middle through which only clergy can enter), while others who assist such as altar boys (and even deacons I believe they are called) cannot do so. Those who have a blessing to "assist" during the Liturgy can be in the altar except in that specific area (between the royal doors and the altar table) where priest stands for the most of time during Liturgy.

I hope that wasn't confusing. Grin

those who are able, can read "The law of God" by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy...it discusses this topic along other basic concepts about Orthodox Christianity.

Absolutely correct. Only priests and bishops are permitted to stand before the Holy Table during the ministration of the Liturgy, and only bishops are permitted to, at all times, enter through the Royal Doors. Priests do so at appropriate times, but sometimes also use the deacon's doors. Bishops never, liturgically, go through the deacon's doors (that I can remember).

Though, deacons do occasionally move through the Royal Doors. Such times I've observed is the entrances (whether with the Gospel Book or with the censor, such as at Great Vespers). Also when the go to read the Gospel at the Liturgy, at "O Lord, save the pious." and at the censing during the Cherubic Hymn. Also when they bring in/take out the Holy Gifts for the communion of the faithful.

During Bright Week, clergy always enter and leave the altar through the Royal Doors, symbolizing that the Kingdom is open to all (which is why the Royal Doors and Deacons Doors are kept open all the time for the entire week).

EDIT: There are also times during which the deacon stands in front of the Holy Table, such as each censing (when censing around the altar table) and also at "Thine Own of Thine Own..." at the Liturgy when they elevate the Gifts...actually stepping in front of the celebrant (being a priest or bishop) to do so, as the celebrant stands behind them with arms raised.
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