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Menstruation and receiving communion


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#1 Guest_Parascheva1014

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 06:00 PM

On another forum I've been participating in a discussion about how some jurisdiction prohibit menstrating women from comunion, veneration of icons, lighting candles, etc. There seems to be quite a bit of diversity in how different Churches practice this and I was wondering if anyone had any verifiable historical knowledge of how all this came into being?

#2 Mourad Mankarios

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 10:14 PM

On another forum I've been participating in a discussion about how some jurisdiction prohibit menstrating women from comunion, veneration of icons, lighting candles, etc. There seems to be quite a bit of diversity in how different Churches practice this and I was wondering if anyone had any verifiable historical knowledge of how all this came into being?


Hi, below are some links that you might find helpful. I've also copied the contents of an entire article as well.

http://orthopraxis.o...y-of-women.html
http://www.orthodoxi...xis/menses.aspx
http://www.orthodox....pic,5317.0.html

1
THE CANONS OF RITUAL UNCLEANNESS AND WOMEN IN THE
ORTHODOX CHURCH
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).
2
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
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.
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 Ibid.
6 Ibid., p. 935.
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
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.
8The Rudder, p. 941.
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.
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.
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.
11 My Italics.
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.
10
*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.

#3 Karena Hryniuk

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Posted 18 December 2007 - 12:17 AM

As far as I can remember there were previous posts on this topic. For some reason its not coming up on my Search attempt. Anyone else want to give it a try? Thanks for the links Mourad, however that last one gave me a little more than I bargained for.

In Christ
Karena

#4 Joanna Eleftheriou

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Posted 18 December 2007 - 01:14 AM

Because I was raised in New York, where no one ever refrained from venerating the Icons because of menstruation, when I lived in Cyprus I never once remembered until after I had already kissed the cross/ icon. My spiritual father said an "oh well" to this, as if he'd rather I followed tradtion but didn't call it an actual sin. As for the blood, I was given to udnerstand that Christ's blood fills our veins when we receive, and therefore receiveing during the period is like spilling the blood of Christ. This has always confused me, gotten me into odd biological reasonings... so I would be glad of more explanation. I suppose this is why we are supposed to confess to only one preist and go by his rules?

#5 Mary James

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 07:23 PM

From the Canon 17 of St. John the Faster, it is said:

"Cannon 2 of St. Dionysios, but also Canon 7 of Timothy, orderes women during their menses not to touch the holy things for up to seven days. The Old Law also commands this, but neither did it permit them to mingle with men, for because of this it happens that the seeds sown become weak and prone to die. Hence the divine Moses also ordered the Father to be stones to death, because on account of his lack of self-control he did not wait for the purification of his wife. It is ordered that a woman who is disrespectful and touches the divine Mysteries during the time of her impurity is not to commune for forty days.

I've asked my spiritual Father about this, and he told me not to commune during menses. However, I still yet to ask about if I'm allowed to venerate icons or come before other holy things and to touch them. I've heard that women on her menses is not to venerate icons or light candles, but that person didn't provided me with anything to back it up. I'm going to ask my spiritual Father about that.

-Maria

#6 Nina

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 11:26 PM

I've asked my spiritual Father about this, and he told me not to commune during menses.
-Maria


I have been told the same.

#7 Mary

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 01:37 AM

I have been told the same.


My priest never told me any such thing.

About 'uncleanness' - if my 'feelings' have anything to do with it - the times that I feel I can't touch or kiss anyone/anything - esp. my children, my Bible, my icons, my prayer rope - is when I've been busy sinning, Not when my body is just functioning like it's supposed to.

That's at home. In Church, I've never felt that way, because when I'm there, I'm either getting ready to confess, or have already confessed, and I've never been told to confess that I've had my periods... so I'm assuming that's not a sin... =)

Mary.

#8 Nina

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 01:48 AM

That's at home. In Church, I've never felt that way, because when I'm there, I'm either getting ready to confess, or have already confessed, and I've never been told to confess that I've had my periods... so I'm assuming that's not a sin... =)

Mary.


Sorry, Mary, but I am not your spiritual daughter. :P

Seriously, now. My spiritual father and also there is also a spiritual mother (I do not confess but consult with her and she is a nun) did not tell me that my cycle is a sin.

As you can see what I quoted from Maria (Mary James) is this:

I've asked my spiritual Father about this, and he told me not to commune during menses.
-Maria

There is nothing speaking about sin in that sentence that I supported.

Also the nun (my spiritual mother), when I emailed to her and told her how some priest in this country told us during a spiritual talk , that we can commune while in cycle, replied to me: "My child, you have learned the faith of the Fathers. Keep it. Do not loose it. Do not change it. It is the Faith of our Fathers and their legacy."

But this remains a matter of pastoral discernment, therefore I did not say anything other than I was taught not to commune while in my cycle. And I am a-confident-enough female (actually sometime too much confident) to feel good about me being a female and obey, even when Fathers that wrote canons, told us not to commune. They knew better and something more than I do.

#9 Mary

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 01:57 AM

But this remains a matter of pastoral discernment, therefore I did not say anything other than I was taught not to commune while in my cycle. And I am a-confident-enough female (actually sometime too much confident) to feel good about me being a female and obey, even when Fathers that wrote canons, told us not to commune. They knew better and something more than I do.


Good for you, confident female!! ;)

And just because I quote you, doesn't mean, I'm talking 'just' to you, I was contributing (or at least, trying) to the entire topic...!

As for me, I'd like to know what that 'something more' is that the Fathers knew... Anyone have a clue?

Sorry. My understanding is that only Sin separates us from God and makes us unworthy to draw near to Him. IF that doesn't apply in this case, then I need to know why...

In Christ,
Mary.

#10 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 02:30 AM

The Theotokos was taken out of the Temple when she was 13 because she became of age. If the Theotokos left the Temple because of Jewish Law regarding "unclean blood" reasons, then the same should be practiced today. Even St. John the Faster from the 7th Century penanced females who did not obey such a rule to be barred from communion for 40 days. Let us look at another example. The woman with the issue of blood.

Luke 8:43-44

According to an old believer sermon given on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost:

Bleeding in that day made a person unclean. A person could not go into the temple if they were bleeding. So this woman was outside of the community of faith. She couldn't go into the temple. She couldn't worship. She had not been in the temple for twelve long years, and she had been considered unclean for that entire period of time. She had spent all of her money on physicians, and still was incurable. She had a hopeless disease. She must have had great despondency over this disease. And this disease, this bleeding, is also indicative of our sins. Don't we hemorrhage sins? Aren't there things that we continually do over and over again, maybe even that we don't even know yet, or that we won't even admit within ourselves, even when we are alone in our closet, that we do and that are wrong with us? But we are hemorrhaging. The blood is flowing on the floor. This woman had an issue of blood. And in the same way that this woman was healed, we must be healed. She touched Christ. Not incidentally, not a shoulder of a hip touching him in the way of the crowd. But she touched his garment with faith and with belief and with hope. And she was made whole, because bleeding is a sign of lack of wholeness, right? A sign of sickness. But our Lord is the great Physician. The mystery of our life is how we are made whole, how we're made complete. And God makes us complete. And we can see that in this woman.

Well, this woman was discovered. She really shouldn't have done what she did in terms of the law, because she was unclean. She was supposed to stay away from those people that were clean, just like lepers would stay away from those that were clean, and cry out, "unclean, unclean" as people went by, so that they wouldn't touch them accidentally and be sullied, because then they'd have to go and wash themselves according to Jewish law. And she was discovered by the Lord, because the Lord knows everything. And He made a ruckus about this because he wanted to show something, to us and to Jairus.

Taken from http://www.orthodox....ay-24_1997.html


Clearly this woman was not allowed in the Holy Temple and now when by the Grace of God we approach the Dread Mysteries, of the Holy Body and Most Pure Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, shouldn't we be more fearful and abstain when unclean. This by the way also goes from men who have emissions. Not only if they have such an emission during sleep or awake, should they not partake of Holy Communion but also according to St. Nikodemos, they should not venerate the Holy Icons nor eat the antidoron.

#11 Irene

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 02:47 AM

I save a number of articles etc as web pages to my computer because I find them easier to search for when I need them.

This post, I am copy and pasting, by Fr Joseph is on Monachos and I found very interesting, you maybe able to use this information to find the original thread.

30-10-2006, 02:13 AM
Fr. Joseph
Junior Poster
Religion: Greek Orthodox
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 3
Should anybody take Holy Communion when they are bleeding?
It is the tradition of the Church that noone (unless they are dying) should partake of Holy Communion when they are bleeding. This goes for men and women. We believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, thus we carefully wipe our mouths after receiving so as not to have any part of the Blessed Sacrament lost; (this is also why we do not kiss icons or anybody after Communion, let alone spit or smoke cigarettes right after the Sacrament). We believe the Sacrament enters our bodies and our blood stream (read the prayers of thanksgiving after Communion) and this is why we are not to take Communion when we are bleeding. It is sacred.

Think about it. Many do not know that Orthodox Churches have special drains systems built under our Churches. The drain from the sink in the Holy Altar does not empty out into the city sewer system, but rather into a special septic system underneath the Church. Why, so that every drop of water used in the Altar (washing of hands, holy utensils, etc)--which might contain even a small particle of a Sacrament (Holy Communion, Unction, etc) and every drop of water from the used Baptismal font which is blessed will not be spilled into some place not sacred. We should have the same preparation for the ultimate temple, the human body, and make sure that no amount of Holy Communion, or any Holy Sacrament for that matter, ends up in a place that is not sacred.

We can always make innovations and change what our Holy Fathers and Mothers, Sisters and Brothers have kept for us intact for 2000 years--the Church canons, fasts, rules--etc. None of these later served as an obstacle to them to obtain sanctity and salvation. In fact, they believe that these were the means the Apostolic Church handed down to us from Christ. Strange that we would think so much differently than them, that we would we are somehow wiser now than they, more understanding and compassionate, more liberated! We can change the rules and whatever we like, but let us not expect the same results!

Pastors and fellow Clergy, when are we going to start bringing the people up to the Church so that they can be sanctified, rather than drag the Church down to the people where both are lost? The more we water down the faith, the more it becomes less desirable. We will wake up one morning only to find ourselves in the spiritual bankrupcy of the rest of Christianity, and the people either fallen away, or far far above us holding on to what we foolishly let go of. The Faith works, sanctifies and produces Saints, let us not play with it, but humbly follow it.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Joseph


Really in the end it is all about the Communion, that is what is most important, not the touching of the icons etc., I was taught that on the day you commune, if you cut yourself you save the bloodied bandages and burn or bury them. If someone were sick after communion you burn the cleaned up mess - you don't just put it in the normal rubbish. After communion you also try very hard to live a good spiritual day, you don't immediately return to sinning if you can help it....

#12 Nina

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 02:48 AM

Good for you, confident female!! ;)


I just read some days ago a funny thing about the reasons why people use the expression 'good for you', however I am not going to share it with you. :P

Yes, confidence and peace in obedience.

Also who said that women are so saintly (at least I) and can commune non-stop? Aren't they sinners like men are too? Do they ever get penances? It is not that women can commune continually anyway because that would mean that they do not sin. Who sins then? Is God a liar?

And just because I quote you, doesn't mean, I'm talking 'just' to you, I was contributing (or at least, trying) to the entire topic...!

No I did not think that way. But since my contribution was just a tiny sentence and yours was more than that, I needed to explain where I come from.

As for me, I'd like to know what that 'something more' is that the Fathers knew... Anyone have a clue? Sorry. My understanding is that only Sin separates us from God and makes us unworthy to draw near to Him. IF that doesn't apply in this case, then I need to know why...

In Christ,
Mary.

I am sure many here will contribute to give more information. I just wanted to contribute my zero cents.

Personally, I see it as obedience. You may read above the canons about this issue. We are Orthodox and being Orthodox means that we need to obey to those canons. Of course with the guidance of our spiritual father. But Fathers also warn about choosing a good one, since like we do not reveal our physical wounds to any physician, the same we can not reveal our sins to to any father says Saint Nikodemos of Holy Mountain.

I know some advise that the parish priest is by default your spiritual father, but a parish priest of mine was also that priest who told us that we need to commune during our cycle, since it is a misconception and it is a 'old wives tale'. I can not even tell you how I was able to return back home. Many things were shattered for me. I felt numb and intoxicated in a bad way. I heard that canons were just compared to old wives tales. I do not blame the priest, or whomever for that expression. I blame us females and the feminism that has sneaked in our minds and whispers.

I trust my spiritual father and mother with my life and I know that they say the right thing to me. I did not ask them for explanation about it because maybe it was normal for me since I grew up hearing such obedience rules. But I would not compare cycle to a sin. And the canon about not receiving Holy Communion, (I might be wrong but) compare it to a rule given previously in the history of our Church. Let's go to the very first rule God gave. Adam and Eve had to obey, but they did not ask why they should not eat it. God knew something more than them of course and there were mysteries they could not know and could not understand even if they heard them. But there are people who like to know and that is perfectly fine in this case and there are reasons for that.

Cycle is not a sin. A sin is careless, or non-respectful handling of the Holy Gifts.

#13 Mourad Mankarios

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 04:54 AM

I have to say, like others here, I really fall short of understanding the signifigance behind such a prohibition. It may be that in the future such a canon may be reviewed by the church and in the past canons have been practised differently by various churches and some have come and others disappeared. Often such issues are left to the discretion of the bishop.

However, admittedly there does seem to be a double standard here. As the prohibition against men is not emphasised as vocally as that against women. And I wonder how many men would have prohibited themselves from communion due to an emission or how many priests would have prevented themselves from serving at the altar due to the same. The concessions made to men, by many of the fathers, also in such cases seem to be much more compassionate than that made to women. It seems much of this is entrenched in certain cultural attitudes which were held towards women during those times.

Furthermore, how do we also regard other regulations with regards to cleanliness in scripture whether in relation to the matter discussed here or other issues?

#14 Mary

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 05:03 AM

I just read some days ago a funny thing about the reasons why people use the expression 'good for you', however I am not going to share it with you. :P


You should send it to me via PM. I'd like to see it =) I meant my 'good for you' in a positive sense. It amazes me whenever I see someone capable of trusting and obeying without question and without losing themselves. Perhaps something about being Orthodox from the time you were an infant has kept a part of you intact, that in me has been shattered.

I do not trust easily. So I can neither obey nor refrain from questioning. I have no confidence in myself, in who I am, or what I am.

I wouldn't blame feminism for my problems. I grew up in an environment that was opposite of feminism. Girls were very distinct from boys and every effort was made to preserve that distinction. There were no perks to being a girl, and the excuse I heard from my mother for why I couldn't do the things I wanted to do was: "You're a girl. You can't do that." And it got worse when I came of age. Then I was told: "Now you're a big girl, so you have to be very careful how you behave..." ...add more rules....

So I always wanted to be a boy. That reminds me, I was (and perhaps, still am) quite gullible - I overheard someone say that if you kiss your elbow, you could change your sex. I was so excited! I waited in bed till everyone was asleep, all the time wondering what Dad and Mom would think when we all woke up in the morning and I was no longer a girl, but a boy! I don't remember how long I tried to reach my elbow... but for the longest time, I still believed that if I'd only been able to reach it, I could've changed!! =)

Also who said that women are so saintly (at least I) and can commune non-stop? Aren't they sinners like men are too? Do they ever get penances? It is not that women can commune continually anyway because that would mean that they do not sin. Who sins then? Is God a liar?

If I wait till I am sinless before I commune, I will never commune. Do men not commune non-stop? Not quite sure what all your questions are about here. We sin, we confess, we repent, we commune, and we try to stop sinning. Or have I misunderstood? The fact that I commune doesn't mean I'm without sin... Sheesh... you're totally confusing me now.

Let's go to the very first rule God gave. Adam and Eve had to obey, but they did not ask why they should not eat it. God knew something more than them of course and there were mysteries they could not know and could not understand even if they heard them.

That's a good point. I wonder if they should've asked Him why they couldn't eat it. Would that have helped them think a bit harder before giving in so quickly to temptation? I dunno.

Mary.

PS: Actually, I just remembered - He did tell them why they shouldn't eat it. He said they'd die, if they ate it. Perhaps they didn't understand, because they hadn't seen death yet.

#15 Nina

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 06:09 AM

It amazes me whenever I see someone capable of trusting and obeying without question and without losing themselves. Perhaps something about being Orthodox from the time you were an infant has kept a part of you intact,

I was born of Orthodox people, who were born of Orthodox people, who were born of Orthodox people and so on uninterrupted for as far back as we can reach; kind of Orthodoxy in the veins instead of blood :) and when we bring prayer list at church that includes only family it will be like a long brochure. Imagine we have to add other friends etc. :) But this has nothing to do with questioning, so do not worry about it. Maybe you question about such easy things, and I am so proud that I question about things that you can not even imagine.

I do not trust easily. So I can neither obey nor refrain from questioning. I have no confidence in myself, in who I am, or what I am.

I wouldn't blame feminism for my problems. I grew up in an environment that was opposite of feminism. Girls were very distinct from boys and every effort was made to preserve that distinction. There were no perks to being a girl, and the excuse I heard from my mother for why I couldn't do the things I wanted to do was: "You're a girl. You can't do that." And it got worse when I came of age. Then I was told: "Now you're a big girl, so you have to be very careful how you behave..." ...add more rules....

This is not an excuse. My culture is the same. Everywhere in the world there was such attitude towards male and female. Confidence comes from within and you should have it because: first, you have Christ; second, you are His daughter. Remember what you said in the other thread about how we perceive others? It is the same how we perceive ourselves- it comes from within.

I blame feminism because of whatever I read daily. And this attitude which is really that of the world should not enter in our relationship with God. It already has entered many other relationships and we see the outcome.

So I always wanted to be a boy. That reminds me, I was (and perhaps, still am) quite gullible - I overheard someone say that if you kiss your elbow, you could change your sex. I was so excited! I waited in bed till everyone was asleep, all the time wondering what Dad and Mom would think when we all woke up in the morning and I was no longer a girl, but a boy! I don't remember how long I tried to reach my elbow... but for the longest time, I still believed that if I'd only been able to reach it, I could've changed!! =)

Now you have grown up and above all you are Orthodox. That is the best gift.

I never felt I wanted to be a boy so I can not understand you. But that does not mean we need to change the rules of receiving Holy Communion. If we all tried to adapt the canons for us then it will be a mess. For instance I have no temptation on this issue, but let say I want to come and receive with a bridal gown on every Sunday, or have a ball mask on, etc. Of course the spiritual father decides for each of us, but if we review the canon just because we feel wounded because of the past treatment of females... um... I do not know about that...

If I wait till I am sinless before I commune, I will never commune. Do men not commune non-stop? Not quite sure what all your questions are about here. We sin, we confess, we repent, we commune, and we try to stop sinning. Or have I misunderstood? The fact that I commune doesn't mean I'm without sin... Sheesh... you're totally confusing me now.

I meant why is it such a big problem to wait 5 days without communing? If there are no services and the cycle starts on Monday, one female can commune on Sunday. Let say one Sunday she can not because of the cycle. Then what? I am sure this female was forbidden from taking communion for 1 Sunday from her spiritual father anyway in the past when she gossiped maliciously about her best friend behind the back, or other sins people commit. So why not channel this energy against sin, but we hear so much protest about such issue? I am not talking to you solely dear Mary and not directing these words to you. Obviously I have heard it from several other sources. :)

That's a good point. I wonder if they should've asked Him why they couldn't eat it. Would that have helped them think a bit harder before giving in so quickly to temptation? I dunno.

Mary.

PS: Actually, I just remembered - He did tell them why they shouldn't eat it. He said they'd die, if they ate it. Perhaps they didn't understand, because they hadn't seen death yet.

That would have been more than answer for me, but not for your type. :) You would have asked: "but why will we die? "what does death mean?" "where is death so I can see it?" "Is it bad or good to die?" "what will You do if we die?"

Dear Mary, Holy Communion is a fearsome thing! My grandmothers always warned us that it is not water. I shiver just thinking about the way my very loving grandmothers told us about the high reverence we should have about It. Also do not forget that when we commune we are becoming one with the rest of the Body. As a female, I do not think that a council should review this issue. The Fathers that decided it were not dummies. They had the Holy Spirit guiding them. Do not you think that the Holy Spirit is above prejudices and everything else we people suffer from? Do we think that because the attitude was such and such in the past towards the females, the Holy Spirit was influenced by that also? If we do not believe that the Holy Spirit guided the Fathers of the Councils, that then is another story. I just know that whatever is decided I will not receive Holy Communion during my cycle. At least this is something I can avoid, unlike other sins.

Did you know that if the Holy Communion is spilled on the floor of the church, the priest has to kneel and lick it off the ground? Not use a cloth to wipe it, but consume it with his own mouth. And after the priest has done that, if the area is carpet they have to burn it. If it is marble/tile/stone they have to pour alcohol and burn it.

#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 10:27 AM

I don't know anything about the reasons, but practice seems to vary quite a bit. In Russia, my wife would not go to church during menstruation. At most, a woman there will stand in the narthex and will not touch icons or light candles. When she asked Archimandrite Zacharias what was the practice at the monastery here, he said she could do anything, including having antidoron, except take Holy Communion. However, she prefers to sit in the porch and not touch anything and does not take the antidoron. So, practice varies from not going to church to doing everything except take Holy Communion.

#17 Mary

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 06:31 PM

Dear Nina,

Just got back from church and read your reply. Remember how I said in another thread, that when I ask questions, I know I'm questioning God, and I know I'm going to lose, but I do it anyway?? The way I 'wrestle' through something is because it doesn't leave my mind until it is settled. So, this morning, I was still thinking about this, and as I looked at my favorite Icon on St John, I was reminded of my request to him a year ago.

I'd asked him to show me/teach me what it means to be a woman. It seemed to me, that it was a strange request to place before a man, but I had always felt a connection with him that I haven't felt with anyone else. Anyways, it was soon after that, that I began to wear a scarf. So, this morning, I remembered about the scarf. My question had been:"How does wearing a scarf make me a woman?" But I wore it anyway, because it was a simple thing to do. I don't know if I'm more a woman now than I was before I wore a scarf. But I can't pray or go to church without one. I can't look at the icons without a scarf. I can't even sweep and clean the carpet in the church without a scarf. There's nothing logical about it. I just can't.

The thoughts that came to my mind were many... and I couldn't argue against any of them. I do not know why women were told to keep away from holy things during their cycles. In one other thread, I remember reading that it might've been simply related to hygiene, but things are a lot cleaner now... So if that was the case, you could argue that things are different now.

But regardless of how clean things are on the outside, the fact remains that there is blood somewhere. I wouldn't wear a dress to church that had blood stains on it, not even if it had been washed clean. I wouldn't even wear one with coffee stains on it! I wouldn't go to church without brushing my teeth and combing my hair and washing my face. If I work hard all day Saturday, I wouldn't go to Vespers in sweaty clothes. Good grief, I even make sure that I shower and have clean undergarments!!!

Besides all that, for a slight, brief moment, I understood that my cycle is a unique thing, that sets me apart as a woman. Sets me apart from men. And not in a negative way. While it separates me from the men, it unites me with other women. And even if the old canons had been written on a purely practical, hygienic sense, when I submit to them, I am joining with all other womankind who submitted to it through the ages.

It's sort of like other things that we do together - the fasts, Great Lent and Pascha... they're so much more meaningful and powerful, when we all do it together, as one.

Do not you think that the Holy Spirit is above prejudices and everything else we people suffer from? Do we think that because the attitude was such and such in the past towards the females, the Holy Spirit was influenced by that also?


Excellent questions! =)

In Christ,
mary

#18 Father David Moser

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 09:15 PM

I don't know anything about the reasons, but practice seems to vary quite a bit. In Russia, my wife would not go to church during menstruation. At most, a woman there will stand in the narthex and will not touch icons or light candles. When she asked Archimandrite Zacharias what was the practice at the monastery here, he said she could do anything, including having antidoron, except take Holy Communion. However, she prefers to sit in the porch and not touch anything and does not take the antidoron. So, practice varies from not going to church to doing everything except take Holy Communion.


This is also what I instruct the women in my parish - however - there are many who grew up learning a stricter practice from mother or grandmother. In such a case, i do not try to convince her that her foremothers were wrong - but rather rejoice that she loves the Church and respects her parents to such a degree that she continues to undertake this struggle without complaining.

Fr David Moser

#19 Nina

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 09:43 PM

Dear Nina,

Just got back from church and read your reply. Remember how I said in another thread, that when I ask questions, I know I'm questioning God, and I know I'm going to lose, but I do it anyway??

No, dear Mary. You are not loosing. You are gaining like all of us because we are learning from God.

The way I 'wrestle' through something is because it doesn't leave my mind until it is settled. So, this morning, I was still thinking about this, and as I looked at my favorite Icon on St John, I was reminded of my request to him a year ago.

Ah I forgot my strongest ally! :) Knowing you, I should have known that you would just be guided by St. John. :)

I'd asked him to show me/teach me what it means to be a woman. It seemed to me, that it was a strange request to place before a man, but I had always felt a connection with him that I haven't felt with anyone else. Anyways, it was soon after that, that I began to wear a scarf. So, this morning, I remembered about the scarf. My question had been:"How does wearing a scarf make me a woman?" But I wore it anyway, because it was a simple thing to do. I don't know if I'm more a woman now than I was before I wore a scarf. But I can't pray or go to church without one. I can't look at the icons without a scarf. I can't even sweep and clean the carpet in the church without a scarf. There's nothing logical about it. I just can't.

It is so funny that you mention this because yesterday while compiling my reply I was thinking to tell you about the scarf you so happily and obediently wear!

The thoughts that came to my mind were many... and I couldn't argue against any of them. I do not know why women were told to keep away from holy things during their cycles. In one other thread, I remember reading that it might've been simply related to hygiene, but things are a lot cleaner now... So if that was the case, you could argue that things are different now.

I took a couple of courses in anthropology and one was about Native Americans. My professor was not only a PHD but also a guy (with a very British family name and ancestry) who had lived with the Native Americans. When we discussed and studied about the issue of menses and the traditions and the attitude of the Native Americans towards this issue and the women, I was amazed to discover the similarities between their tradition and the Jewish tradition as we know it from the Old Testament. I am speaking mainly about the isolation since this deals more with our thread.

We learned that isolation was not for hygienic purposes, but as a time off for women during their cycle (regardless of age). It was actually a caring, considerate, thoughtful tradition which gave time to women to not only recover (for those who had more difficulties), but also to take a break from their daily responsibilities and chores. They would spend the cycle in the huts designed for such purpose and have a time for themselves and a time for healing.

There are people who do not go during their cycle to church. I do not refrain from going to church during my cycle. However thinking about the bigger picture if an overworked mother of our times, takes a break that day by having her husband take the children to church and afterwards maybe to brunch and maybe to a museum, so she can spend the day praying in her room, resting, reading spiritual, or other books, taking a soothing shower, having a healing tea etc. does not sound bad.

Excellent questions! =)

I know! :P

#20 Ryan

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 04:42 PM

My apologies if this has already been answered somewhere (I couldn't find it) but why do we maintain this particular Old Testament standard of ritual purity but not others?




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