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