On “Ritual Impurity”: In Response to Sister Vassa (Larin)
I recently read an interesting paper by Doctor Sister Vassa (Larin) concerning the issue of ritual impurity in the Orthodox Church. This topic is extremely important both because the bodily functions that give rise to this issue have been around presumably since the fall of Adam and Eve and because they are not likely to go away any time soon, save for an imminent parousia. Namely, Sister Vassa explores the attitudes in the Church toward menstruation, although the issue of ritual impurity is broader than that, and I shall return to this point.
In a sort of deconstruction of the Orthodox tradition with respect to menstruating women’s participation in the liturgical life of the Church, Sister Vassa briefly examines the evidence of this tradition and conflicting opinions from various sources—the Old Testament, the Protoevangelium of James, writings of the Church Fathers—and notes some of the recent developments which point to the instability of the tradition. The conclusion to which Sister Vassa arrives is that ritual impurity “finds no justification in Christian anthropology and soteriology.” But is this really so? I believe that a few comments made by Sister Vassa deserve further examination.
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