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Orthodox and Catholic women: Help!

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Is it to be accepted that a woman cannot receive communion when she is menstruating? There is a long thread at orthodoxchristianity.net about this and it seems that very many men and a few women support this practice using 2 arguments. 1) we are still under the Law and these women are "ritually impure" and 2) a woman on her period is "losing" the Holy Gifts.

1) I thought we were no longer under the Law as Christians
2) A woman's menstruation is more elimination than bleeding, and anyone with a cursory knowledge of biology/anatomy knows that it is not connected to her general circulatory system, and it's not even all blood.

I am very troubled by the theological implications of a woman being banned from Christ's presence if she is having her monthlies. It just seems unmerciful to ban a woman in her already vulnerable time from approaching the Lord in Communion! If it is a sound and approved practice/opinion/dogma, I am very dismayed and sad. I know I shouldn't let one issue shake my faith, but it's too late for that.


Is it a Catholic practice as well?
post #2 of 34
That is not the case with Catholicism at all...I'm not sure about Orthodox churches, but I would highly doubt that, either.
post #3 of 34
I know it used to be the case in Orthodox churches, but I am pretty sure not all practice it now. I don't know if there are some that do.

I don't think it was a matter of ritual purity, it was the idea of what would happen to the Eucharist. For example, f you think you are about to throw up, you are not supposed to take communion. Also, people thought that being special and spiritual, the Eucharist was immediately absorbed into the blood once it reached the stomach. So a person with a huge open bleeding wound also wouldn't take it. And by extension, also menstruating women or I suppose even people with a bleeding ulcer...

I think this is taking things in an improper context, and over-thinking, and can only lead to confusion. Even if it is true that the Eucharist is not digested in the normal way, and passes instantly through the stomach, would that not also be true in how it is distributed through the body by the blood? Wouldn't that be instantaneous? How could we know in either case, by some bizarre spiritual experiment? Once it gets to our cells, would we then have to stop them performing their metabolic functions and producing waste out of the Eucharist?

And if the Eucharist is immediately absorbed, why worry about vomiting it up?

I think it is probably a good idea to avoid it if you are going to vomit. Even if there is no spiritual issue, seeing the body and blood of Christ half-digested seems somehow undignified, and might upset some people. But I think that is as far as that thinking should go.
post #4 of 34
I'm a member of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and women are as a general rule not forbidden from receiving Communion while bleeding (either from menstruation or after giving birth). The Antiochians I know don't make a big deal of this, either.

Seems to be that the ones who are more concerned about this are what might be called "traditionalists" - as well as ones who are closer to an ethnic heritage, in an ethnic parish. So, the various Russian parishes (ROCOR, MP) would likely discourage taking Communion while bleeding, but they also do this for men who've cut themselves while shaving that morning. I'd put the Greek Old Calendarists in this category, too. Not sure about the Serbs, Romanians, Greeks.
post #5 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by zuzunel09 View Post

I am very troubled by the theological implications of a woman being banned from Christ's presence if she is having her monthlies. It just seems unmerciful to ban a woman in her already vulnerable time from approaching the Lord in Communion!
That was my thinking (your last sentence). I remember asking about this because I have endometriosis and a really wacked out cycle. I could be bleeding two Sundays out of the month, and no Communion? That's when I really need to go, for healing!
post #6 of 34
I can speak for Greek Orthodox--no taking communion while bleeding, be it the monthly, a cut, or other wound.

If something happens after communion that would make one bleed, like a small accident, the blood must be picked up with cloth & ritually cleaned (similar to how we clean the baptismal clothes & sheets).

Ami
post #7 of 34
This actually varies and is an Ask Your Spiritual Father sirt of situation. Some will say it is ok and some will say to abstain from the Eucharist.
post #8 of 34
Never heard of such a thing at my Greek church.
post #9 of 34
This does not apply to Roman Catholicism. Catholics, including men and women and boys and girls who have made communion for the first time, are encourage to participate in Communion frequently, even daily if possible.

Being in a state of grace is required. Menstruation does not effect the state of grace.
post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by chfriend View Post
This does not apply to Roman Catholicism. Catholics, including men and women and boys and girls who have made communion for the first time, are encourage to participate in Communion frequently, even daily if possible.

Being in a state of grace is required. Menstruation does not effect the state of grace.
exactly.
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by JTA Mom View Post
I can speak for Greek Orthodox--no taking communion while bleeding, be it the monthly, a cut, or other wound.
This is how I was instructed also, by both Russian and Greek Orthodox. Only if a person is dying can he receive Communion while bleeding in any way. We believe Holy Communion enters the body and the bloodstream differently than ordinary food, and we acknowledge that difference by avoiding Communion while flowing blood.

There is no implication that a menstruating woman is somehow spiritually impure or that there is anything bad or "unclean" about her period. It is a matter of losing blood, no matter in what way. In fact, someone who is bleeding is not permitted to enter the altar. Altar boys, for example, who cut or scrape themselves and begin to bleed must leave the area immediately.
post #12 of 34

gosh

I have been Orthodox for 10 years and never knew about this. I think it is interesting.
post #13 of 34
So it strikes me from the answers here that this is not a matter of the doctrine of the Orthodox church, but rather of practice? That being the case, how much weight does it have? Is there some kind of official line on it from the Orthodox as a whole? Can a priest actually stop a "bleeding" person from communicating in his church on these grounds?
post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
So it strikes me from the answers here that this is not a matter of the doctrine of the Orthodox church, but rather of practice? That being the case, how much weight does it have? Is there some kind of official line on it from the Orthodox as a whole? Can a priest actually stop a "bleeding" person from communicating in his church on these grounds?
1. A priest would have to ask women parishioners if they were bleeding. If priests in parishes question women parishioners about it, I've never heard of it. I suspect this mostly works on the "honor system." I've also heard a priest who was the spiritual father at a woman's monastery (in the US) speak about this - he said he NEVER questioned the nuns about this. If they chose to abstain during that time of the month, that was their choice, but he never talked to them about it.

2. This is more a matter of practice, than doctrine.

3. How much weight? Really depends on your jurisdiction and/or individual parish. As Lilyka said, it's really an AYP (Ask Your Priest) question.
post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
So it strikes me from the answers here that this is not a matter of the doctrine of the Orthodox church, but rather of practice?
I am not sure there is a clear cut distinction between doctrine and practice in the Orthodox church.
post #16 of 34
It is totally on the honor system but any time we come up for communion we are on the honor system really. While the priest can deny us communion if we are in obvious sin there is a still all the little things to take into account as to if we are in a good place to recieve. in the end it is between us and God if today we are in a right state for communion.
post #17 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamabadger View Post
I am not sure there is a clear cut distinction between doctrine and practice in the Orthodox church.
All of my recent reading suggests that there is - churches are allowed to vary on practice, but not doctrine.

This is from the OCA website:
Quote:
In the Orthodox Church there are those things which belong to "Holy Tradition" and those things which are simply "traditions" (or, perhaps, better called "customs"). In essential matters -- doctrine, sacraments, worship, etc. -- there are no differences.

In minor things -- the style of vestments, the exact order of services, customs associated with various feast days -- there is a wide variety of customs which may be found, as developed in various times and various places based on a wide variety of circumstances. Furthermore, these customs are not, nor were they ever intended to be, that which brings about unity within the Church.

For example, in some places it is the custom to close the royal doors for much of the Liturgy; in other places this is not the case. What is important is that the Eucharist is being celebrated, that the faithful are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in a reverent manner -- and with proper preparation -- etc. Whether the doors are opened for the entire Liturgy, as in some practices, or closed for much of it is secondary. After all, Christ says, "Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood, you have no life in you." He does not say, "Unless you open the doors, you have no life in you."

The sin of the pharisees, which Christ continually combatted, was enslavement to externals with no regard to the spirit in which the externals were developed or employed.
My thought would have been since this practice regarding menstruation varies so much, it must be a matter of practice, or what he calls custom. If it were a matter of doctrine or Holy Tradition it would be the same everywhere.

Am I way off?
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
All of my recent reading suggests that there is - churches are allowed to vary on practice, but not doctrine.

My thought would have been since this practice regarding menstruation varies so much, it must be a matter of practice, or what he calls custom. If it were a matter of doctrine or Holy Tradition it would be the same everywhere.

Am I way off?
There are customs, or small-t traditions, which vary from place to place, and that is fine, as long as the practices are in keeping with doctrine and with capital-T Tradition.
Then there are practices that cannot really be changed or omitted without being irreverent or breaking with Church Tradition. These cannot be altered simply by arguing "local custom." Generally speaking, Orthodoxy is in agreement on these. The way in which the Eucharist is prepared and given would certainly fall into this category.
The exceptions occur when a more liberal branch of the Orthodox church changes its practice in order to update or be more acceptable to current thinking. Then, you have a serious in-house conflict, because what some Orthodox clergy and laymen consider an outdated custom, others may see as part of Church Tradition, and changing it as irreverent or even sacrilegious.
post #19 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamabadger View Post
There are customs, or small-t traditions, which vary from place to place, and that is fine, as long as the practices are in keeping with doctrine and with capital-T Tradition.
Then there are practices that cannot really be changed or omitted without being irreverent or breaking with Church Tradition. These cannot be altered simply by arguing "local custom." Generally speaking, Orthodoxy is in agreement on these. The way in which the Eucharist is prepared and given would certainly fall into this category.
The exceptions occur when a more liberal branch of the Orthodox church changes its practice in order to update or be more acceptable to current thinking. Then, you have a serious in-house conflict, because what some Orthodox clergy and laymen consider an outdated custom, others may see as part of Church Tradition, and changing it as irreverent or even sacrilegious.
Is this very common? One of the things I have noticed that many Orthodox apologists (if I can call them that) claim is that Orthodoxy is very united on what constitutes Tradition, and this is one of the ways people can know it is the True Church.

Is the prohibition on menstruating women receiving something that used to be universal and has recently changed in only some places?
post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
Is this very common? One of the things I have noticed that many Orthodox apologists (if I can call them that) claim is that Orthodoxy is very united on what constitutes Tradition, and this is one of the ways people can know it is the True Church.

Is the prohibition on menstruating women receiving something that used to be universal and has recently changed in only some places?
It is not very common, but from around 1920 there has been a conflict over two areas of practice:
  1. The church calendar. Some Orthodox jurisdictions have adopted the Western calendar most Catholics and Protestants use, while the majority stay with the traditional Orthodox calendar.
  2. Relations with other religions, especially non-Orthodox Christians, including matters like interfaith marriage, giving Communion to non-Orthodox, etc.
This division sometimes spreads out into other, minor practices. "Traditionalist" parishes tend to be fairly strict about things like order of services, fasting, etc. "Revisionist" parishes are more likely to set aside rules if they are, for example, distasteful to non-Orthodox Christians or to feminists. Rules like the one regarding Communion and blood would not be so much rejected as just ignored, in my experience - or else left to the conscience of the individual church member.

I suppose the "apologists" are right about the general agreement on doctrine and Tradition. To put things in perspective, these differences are significant within the Orthodox world, but I think by the standards of most Christian churches, we would be seen as having no serious disagreement in place at all.
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