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Question 380

Good evening Father. All my life I have heard different explanations depending on who I asked. So here goes.. What is the churches position on menstruation/periods.?. Some people have said, go to church stand at the back, don't kiss the icons and definitely don't have communion. Others have said no don't go to church full stop.   



Answer to Question 380


Women on the monthly periods can go to church and can kiss the icons. The only thing they shouldn't do is have Holy Communion.


In past centuries Orthodox churches were divided into three parts, 1) The Holy Sanctuary which is found behind the Iconostasis (Icon screen) and is the place where the Priests serve the Divine Liturgy. 2) The Nave which is the main part of the church and where the congregation stand and 3) the Narthex which is found at the western entrance of the Church. In older times this was where adults who were not yet baptized would stand and also those who were not allowed to receive Holy Communion because of a penance and also women who were on their menses. With time adult baptisms disappeared and so did the narthex and penitents and women on their menses had no choice but to stand with the rest of the congregation.


But the reason for the original separation of women on their menses was not because they were not allowed into the church or for any theological reason, but because people in those days didnít bathe regularly and women on their menses did not smell like Chanel No.5. In the minds of people the separation of women with their menses meant that it was a sin to be in the main part of the church and this continued for many centuries especially during the centuries of the Ottoman occupation of the Greek lands. During this time education was prohibited and the Church suffered greatly because the priest themselves had but a basic education with no theological training. If a village needed a priest they would choose someone who was of good standing and not because he was educated. His religious understanding was that of the rest of the village because there was no one to teach him anything different. This actually continued into the 20th century and it is only in the past 50 years that the educated Priests are beginning to outnumber the uneducated Priests and the Church is finally returning to her true teachings, although it is difficult to wipe away the old teachings which people had been brought up to trust and hold as the truth.