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Female altar servers


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#41 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 01:17 PM

Believe me Father Deacon Patrick, if I as a young teen took an interest in architecture, went on to study architecture in college, and became an architect before becoming a priest and during those years developed a keen appreciation for architectural beauty, before becoming a priest I would no longer have a keen appreciation for architectural beauty.


Father Stephanos, I am only arguing Christian charity for real men who remain sinners inside the altar; you are arguing a comically impossible ideal, which you apparently think you meet. I give up. Believe what you will. Sorry for having disturbed you.

With prayers for both of us in Christ,

Deacon and Sinner Patrick

#42 Olga

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 02:32 PM

A "comically impossible ideal", Fr Patrick? How is it comical or impossible for a priest or deacon to conduct himself with dispassion while serving?

And, please, spare me any condescending and presumptuous remarks about my being unable to understand male psychology because I'm a woman. Throughout my life, in all aspects of it, I have been surrounded by males. I have grown up with them, worked with them and for them, taught them and been taught by them, and number many men as dear and beloved friends. In only one instance was there any hint of impropriety shown towards me by a man. I sent him packing (to put it mildly) before he could blink. With every last one of the rest, all have behaved properly and honourably towards me, as I have done so with them.

Oh, and I am also married. To a man who has served his parish in every way it is possible for a layman to serve, including altar service from a young age, and, later, instructor and mentor to younger servers. His reaction to the hypothetical idea of a server using his phone to show pictures during a service was blunt: He'd be out on his ear pronto!

You see, Fr Patrick, your hypothetical example is not only clumsy, but misses the point entirely, which is what Fr Stephanos was trying to say. Nobody here is supporting the use of altargirls, but your repeated assertions that their prohibition is based on their "innate" ability to distract the males simply cannot stand. There are any number of other causes for distraction during liturgical service inside and outside the altar (such as during hearing a woman's confession, a pertinent example Andreas Moran brought up), be they temporal or supernatural. Some can be controlled by proper discipline, others on prayer and the grace of God.

Clergy have had to deal with these distractions for more than 2000 years. As Paul Cowan wisely wrote: It is something that can be overcome.

#43 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 03:48 PM

No one has ever used that word in regards to me Olga. I shy away from it here also. I would like to offer the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego for us to review when it comes to how we relate to ourselves and others.

#44 Mary Lanser

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:53 PM

Dear Father Stephanos,

In my tradition we encourage recollection for the spiritually maturing. That recollection, over time, becomes what we call custody of the senses, the intellect and the heart. In the process of developing increasing custody of the senses one can expect to be tempted. There are far worse things than temptation. And with the mastery of each temptation we gain in custody of the senses, the intellect and the heart. So it is not good to place one's self in the way of temptation but it can be equally spiritually deadly to roll up in a rug, or lock up in a room...et cetera.

All this to say that I think you are offering a very good and necessary spiritual counsel here. I hope it does not deteriorate to something banal. It would be better to just keep repeating yourself in as many different ways as you might deem to be useful or accurate or true, and let the rest go.

In Christ,

Mary

#45 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:53 PM

Olga, my initial response to you was somewhat condescending, and I'm sorry for that. In my subsequent responses to you, I have tried to simply explain things as best I could. I'll try that again.

When dealing with hypotheticals, the "ifs" are not the issue. The issue is the question posed by the hypothetical. So it is quite beside the point to say that it's wrong for someone to show photos on his smart phone during the Liturgy. I agree it's wrong, but that's not the issue. The issue is, if someone were to do this, does it cause simple distraction or "impure thoughts." Fr. Stephanos wrote that every distraction is an impure thought. I only wanted to nail him down on that point with a hypothetical distraction of a nonsexual nature and then a similar hypothetical distraction of a sexual nature, demonstrating that simple appreciation of feminine beauty is not what most people call "impure thought."

If you prefer not to deal in hypotheticals, let me use an actual experience: I was standing in the altar during the Divine Liturgy when the priest's smart phone buzzed. He pulled it out and saw that a former parishioner had sent him a photo from the South Pole, and he showed it to me. The issue is, in marveling briefly at the photo from the South Pole, did I have an "impure thought"? I contend that I didn't, as the words "impure thought" are commonly understood. Fr. Stephanos seems to think I did.

#46 John Bundstein

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:09 PM

On the issue of why we generally don’t use female servers at the altar I always go back to Matushkia Frederica Mathewes-Green’s (may she please excuse my use of the Russian matushkia I don’t remember the right one in her tradition) talking about the lack of men attending services. And that maybe keeping the altar service to all men was God’s way to insure that at least one man showed up for services. Which isn’t exactly what she said but close enough.

Just a very irreverent thought.

#47 Father Stephanos

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 05:54 AM

As Orthodox Christians, it is important for us to know why we do or do not do things, not just what we do or do not do.

On this thread, there have been some issues with regard to why we do not have women or girls as servers at the altar within the sanctuary of Orthodox Christian parishes.

Priests having impure thoughts about women and girls is not one of the reasons we do not have women altar servers in Orthodox Christian parishes in spite of what at least one person on this thread has argued. Likewise, women and girls being the cause of priests having impure thoughts about them is also a false and baseless statement, as we are each responsible for our own sins. We need go no further than our First-Parents, the Holy Adam and the Holy Eva, to learn that we do not blame others for our sins.

There have been two very crude, irreverent narratives put forward about acolytes, deacons, and/or priests allegedly having their cell phones on and using their cell telephones during the Divine Liturgy — all in order to attempt to elicit a forced, predetermined, illogical, and incorrect response. Unfortunately, if we only discussed the thought aspect of these two incidents as they have been presented, we could be characterized by our Lord Jesus Christ as blind guides who are straining out gnats but swallowing down camels. Thus, it should be made clear that it is ungodly to use one’s cell telephone as described in either of these two instances. Therefore, let us not repeat this disdainful sin! Regarding the dispute about thoughts illustrated in these two narratives, it is extremely clear: For clergy with pure thoughts it is an impure thought, but for clergy with only impure thoughts it is a distraction!

We as Orthodox Christians are supposed to have a nobility of soul. Our Lord Jesus Christ said if your eye causes you to stumble cast it out! In other words, if a passion of ours is such a part of us that it is more important than our eye, we are to uproot entirely that passion and cast it out and not partake of that passion any more. Nowhere does He say that Orthodox priests are supposed to be concerned with appreciating feminine beauty! Orthodox priests are supposed to love God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength! 100%, not anything less! To say that this is not possible insults our Lord Jesus Christ and His guidance and His instructions for following Him and keeping His ways. It is those who do not truly know our Lord Jesus Christ, but are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who try and change the meaning of our Lord Jesus Christ’s words. While in reality, such people are disrespectful of our Lord Jesus Christ and they cannot be taken seriously, they consider themselves to be the standard for others to follow instead of our Lord Jesus Christ. In their deception, they state it is not possible to live as our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to live and to do what is expected by Him. This is exactly how Satan deceived our Holy First-Parents!

In addition, in one of these two narratives, the poster claims they were a participant in the irreverent actions and thoughts, and while this same person, due to their self-proclaimed boldness, sometimes incorrectly admonishes what posters submit on this forum, and in addition, occasionally twists what people state on this forum either through great ignorance or intentionally, yet this poster did not wave off looking at a cell phone in the Holy Sanctuary during the Divine Liturgy, and there is no indication from this person that they admonished the priest for his sin. This is not boldness! Something appears to be bogus.

The reason why Olga’s hypothetical is realistic in this thread and acceptable for discussion is that she focuses in on priests (This is my assumption, since “priestly duties” is mentioned in post #3 and “clergy” is mentioned in post #4 while referencing post #3.) being distracted by women and girls anywhere which would include when priests: cense them during services if there is no deacon; bless them or give them their blessing both inside and outside the Holy Temple; distribute Holy Communion to them; witness their confessions during the Mystery of Penance; visit them in hospitals; talk with them during fellowship hours and adult discussion groups; etc. I know of no Orthodox Christian Saint that says men must admire or be distracted by the alleged “innate beauty” of women. The qualifications of an Orthodox Christian priest is supposed to be somewhat if not exactly similar to that of a bishop of our Holy Church in apostolic times. The Holy Apostle Paul does not state candidates to become a bishop have to admire and be distracted by the beauty of women and girls. On the contrary, he states that a bishop, among other things, is to be blameless, vigilant, sober, and decent. The Holy Apostle Paul does not consider being blameless, vigilant, sober, and decent either comical or impossible ideals; he considers them expected, achievable ideals.

I fully agree that Orthodox Priests should not be distracted by women anywhere. By extension, it is obvious that priests even while they are in the Holy Place should not be distracted by women. If priests are distracted whenever they see women in the nave of the Church, what happens when an Orthodox priest, while he is in the Sanctuary, sees a woman in the nave of the Holy Temple during the week of Pascha when the doors to the iconostasis remain open? Does our Holy Church try to distract the priest at this time? Of course not, for it is not normal or expected for a priest to be distracted by women and girls. It is immature for Orthodox Christian priests, deacons, and subdeacons to be distracted by women and girls.

In some Holy Temples, there are large vesting and/or preparatory areas, where women and girls are allowed to be, that are not part of the Holy Place and where women and girls are at times visible from inside the Holy Place. Thus, in these situations priests are able to see women and girls while the priests are inside the Holy Sanctuary even though the women and girls are not inside the Holy Place. So although the women and girls mentioned in this paragraph are not altar servers, because of their similar circumstances and/or situations, the questions as to whether Orthodox Christian priests are expected to have impure thoughts about them, and/or whether women and girls, because of who they are, naturally cause priests to have impure thoughts about them are pertinent to the discussion of women altar servers.

This is why I also previously provided the following additional information to add to the defense of Olga’s correct statement: If an Orthodox priest was serving in the sanctuary of an Orthodox Monastery of female monastics and there were no other altar servers or clergy present, there are occasions when up to two nuns would be in the sanctuary. It is not for long periods of time, nor are the occurrences very frequent, but as needed. They would also hold the communion cloth for the distribution of Holy Communion. On one of these occasions, one of the nuns, usually the Hegumeness, would cense the Holy Gifts as they are brought from the Holy Table to the Prothesis Table after the distribution of Holy Communion. An Orthodox priest who would claim to be distracted by two Orthodox nuns serving at the Holy Altar in the Holy Place needs to grow spiritually and needs to conquer the vile demon(s) of fornication who is/are actually the one(s) distracting and deluding him, not the two Orthodox female monastics who have as much a right to be there as the priest does.

I hope this makes clearer some of the reasons, why and/or why not, we do not have women or girls as servers at the altar within the sanctuary of our Orthodox Christian parishes.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,

+ Father Stephanos


Edited by Olga, 16 July 2012 - 08:06 AM.
replaced underlined passages with italics for ease of reading


#48 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:00 PM

Originally, servers were men who were set aside by the bishop and were tonsured as first-order clerics (the extinct order of candlebearer). Therefore, these servers could potentially become priests. Because women cannot become clergy, they are not allowed to serve in the altar, because the altar is the domain of current and future clergy, or at least it was that way when the canons were codified. The 'distraction' argument is irrelevant.

#49 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 01:47 AM

A photo recently has been brought up in another forum from a Patriarchal Liturgy with Patriarch John X which showed a girl vested in a sticharion and her orarion in the typical fashion for Greek tradition altar servers holding a candle for the Gospel reading.

This isn't a common practice in parts of Orthodoxy is it? I've already seen several other photos of other Orthodox parishes with girls behind the altar (NOT as deacons).

I really don't think I can remain Orthodox if the church doesn't condemn this and seek to eliminate it.

#50 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 02:26 AM

The photo I mentioned:

https://scontent-a-c...381377616_n.jpg

#51 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 02:52 AM

I don't know anything. But, I am sure there are many wolves in sheep's clothing out there. I have never seen a deacons vestments in such an odd array of color. He looks most "rainbowish", nor have I ever seen a deacon stand in the bishops throne. that is not a Gospel book and why is he using a microphone for an obviously small chapel space? For the girl to wear purple suggests Lent, but then the deacon and male altar server would also be in purple.

 

So this is obviously not a canonical Orthodox church. So don't worry about what they are doing and just pay attention to what YOUR Bishop allows to happen in his diaspora.

 

Paul



#52 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 02:55 AM

I don't know anything. But, I am sure there are many wolves in sheep's clothing out there. I have never seen a deacons vestments in such an odd array of color. He looks most "rainbowish", nor have I ever seen a deacon stand in the bishops throne. that is not a Gospel book and why is he using a microphone for an obviously small chapel space? For the girl to wear purple suggests Lent, but then the deacon and male altar server would also be in purple.

So this is obviously not a canonical Orthodox church. So don't worry about what they are doing and just pay attention to what YOUR Bishop allows to happen in his diaspora.

Paul

According to the person who posted it, It was at a Liturgy in Koln served by Patriarch John X of Antioch during a visit there. That's Patriarch John X's deacon apparently.

Edited by Devin B., 17 September 2013 - 02:57 AM.


#53 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:09 AM

Can we see the source of the post? I'm not saying a Patriarch is above canonical "law"; but we have read many times on this site, the church canons are guidelines and not so much to be strictly enforced. Mount Athos has allowed women on their shores more than once. so what does that say about tradition?



#54 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:18 AM

Can we see the source of the post? I'm not saying a Patriarch is above canonical "law"; but we have read many times on this site, the church canons are guidelines and not so much to be strictly enforced. Mount Athos has allowed women on their shores more than once. so what does that say about tradition?

Original forum post: http://www.orthodoxc....html#msg989467

Claim that it is Pat. John X's deacon:
http://www.orthodoxc....html#msg989973

Based on the URL of the image it may be from Facebook, and a Google Search with the photo turns up no results.

Edited by Devin B., 17 September 2013 - 03:19 AM.


#55 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:24 AM

Then there is also this photo from St Nina's Quarterly of an altar girl serving at the altar, in the foreground is Fr. John McGuckin (or a close lookalike).
http://www.stnina.or...tom-329x300.jpg

The source of the image, a pro-altar girl article from St Nina's Quarterly:
http://www.stnina.org/node/733

I honestly can't be a part of this church if it ever allows this abuse without punishing those involved or even worse, accepting it as okay.

I thank God that the OCA has already come out and openly condemned it and banned it. Every Orthodox Church needs to do that, and openly condemn it, even if they lose members because of it.

Edited by Devin B., 17 September 2013 - 03:28 AM.


#56 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:28 AM

Its not enough background to draw a definitive conclusion. Its all suppositions as to who these people are. Too much gossip and not enough facts on that site.



#57 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:32 AM

 

altar-girl_0.img_assist_custom-329x300.jAn Altar Girl

To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,

 

Recently, questions have arisen on numerous internet forums concerning the position of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] with regard to those who serve in the Holy Altar in parishes. The questions and ensuing controversy arose as a result of photographs appearing in two parish web sites depicting robed girls performing duties traditionally delegated to males. This has led to a great deal of confusion and discussion as to the policy of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] in this regard.

 

In their concern for maintaining the integrity of the Church and its traditions, the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA], meeting at Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, October 18-21, 2004, reaffirms the ancient practice of the Orthodox Church that only males are to be admitted to service within the holy altar. Any practice to the contrary in this regard is strictly forbidden.

While reaffirming the Orthodox Church's practice concerning sacred ministers and others called to serve within and care for the holy altar, the Holy Synod of Bishops also wishes to encourage all Orthodox Christians to offer their services to Christ's Holy Church, in keeping with their baptismal vocation.

 

Thanking you for your generous and devoted service to the Church,

 

I remain
In Christ,

Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, Chancellor
Orthodox Church in America [OCA]

 

Some children venture out on their own with good intentions and sometimes need to be reigned back in. Seems that is what happened above to the OCA. Perhaps what is happening to the rainbow deacon as well. Who knows. They are no concern of ours; only their Bishop.



#58 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:42 AM

Its not enough background to draw a definitive conclusion. Its all suppositions as to who these people are. Too much gossip and not enough facts on that site.

Found it...

St Dimitrios Antiochian Church in Koln, Germany. They have 3 altar girls as can be seen on their church's Facebook photo gallery:
https://www.facebook...s/photos_stream

A link to the main FB page:
https://www.facebook.com/StDimitrios

And there are photos of the girls serving behind at the altar, getting ready for processions etc...

Edited by Devin B., 17 September 2013 - 03:45 AM.


#59 Reader Luke

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:48 AM

More photos were found, Patriarch John X is just feet away from them, with them serving in the altar in two photos:
http://www.antiocheu...Cologne_Germany

Edited by Devin B., 17 September 2013 - 03:48 AM.


#60 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 07:40 AM

I honestly can't be a part of this church if . . .

 

And where would you go?  If you wanted a scandal-free Church, you should have joined one that has no people in it.






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