Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Women in the altar area

[I don't mind other people having long comments, but it bothers me if I do it, and it's my blog, so I'll just add another post.]

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to go into the altar area. However, in case of emergency, now I don't feel like I will be vaporized* by my unworthiness. (All four attendees [inclusive] at this "tour" were rather aghast at the idea of stepping into the altar area themselves.) I had never come across this idea before which is why I mentioned it as new information, but I have seen a priest take a girl-baby through the altar area for the churching, and now I can understand that that wasn't just the whim of the priest. (People were rather scandalized, as I recall.)

*Not a technical term.

In a way, I think it is easier for women to think of the altar as "off-limits" as this is a defense against pride, and an aid to gaining a proper reverence. Those who are allowed into the altar area (I'm thinking of the people who usually serve there) should call to mind its sanctity every time they set foot there. I imagine it must be difficult, or at least challenging, for those men to fight against slipping into the idea that they have a "right" to be there, or against forgetting how precious the altar is through their familiarity and propinquity**. [Or I'm completely wrong and we should all be like Lucas (of a year ago), screaming in frustration if prevented from kissing the icons.]

**I've been reading Louisa May Alcott quite a bit recently. [p. 221]

I've been wondering why they don't have to take off their shoes when approaching the altar, like Moses and the Burning Bush. Yes, it might be cold or uncomfortable, but ... it's God. I'm always terrified when I go up to receive the Holy Gifts, taking the "tremble in awe" injunction quite literally: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling."* [from the Cherubic hymn of Holy Saturday]

"Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentance, contrition of heart and penance for your sins." — St. Paisius Velichkovsky*

The phrase "consulate to Heaven" comes to mind for some reason, like stepping out of our earthly "country" into one belonging to a foreign power (where we really belong). Only through God's grace dare we accept the citizenship.

Nonnanaz, feel free to come visit up here at Holy Cross. We can put you (and your family) up for a weekend (or whenever) with a little advance notice. Our future presvytera meetings Ladies' Nights Out take place on Thursday evenings from 8-9. If we're too far from home for you, tackle a priest and start asking questions. (En masse if necessary.) The HC/HC community is getting better at coping with families because the needs were vocalized. Just this week, we received a memo saying that seminarian spice (okay, "spouses") were invited to attend one class as a free audit. Unfortunately, I'm not terribly interested in the evening courses they are currently offering, but maybe they'll offer something to do with iconography another semester. I'll end this post now and choke off the flow of adjectives and parenthetical comments.

Related links of unknown canonicity***:
  • Altar Girl discussion from St. Nina's Quarterly
  • Question and Answer on
  • "Prologue: In the Passenger Seat" from Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy by Frederica Mathewes-Green which touches on one of the reasons for an all-male priesthood.

    ***You should already be suspicious of anything on this imperfect blog. Go talk to your priest or bishop. They pray for you, remember?

    Blogger NonnaNaz said...


    What a generous offer! Thank you! I have no idea if we will be in your area before we move back home, but if we do I will definitely let you know. If you're coming to the Northeast PA area, let me know, too. We'd be glad to reciprocate your offer (as long as we're here). And when we move back to the South, you're welcome there too. ;)


    Thu Sep 29, 11:43:00 AM CDT  

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