Today, we were invited to bring our children to the church of God, presenting them much like Joachim and Anna presented the girl Mary. In her delight at being dedicated to God, Mary ran up the steps of the temple. Tradition says she danced on the steps before God. There she was welcomed by her relative, the levite Zacharias who took her into the holy of holies, that sacred space into which the high priest entered only once a year. A young girl stood in the place where God, according to Jewish practice, stood.
Today, I read yet again the announcment inviting young men, ages 10 thru college, to serve in the altar during liturgy. Girls are not mentioned.
Today, I watched as a woman, who during communion is unable to leave her duties, quietly stand before the altar after the service. She was waiting to receive the eucharist. Through no malicious intent, she went unnoticed. Perhaps the man who usually brought out to her the gifts forgot, was distracted, or absent. The iconstasis, which in the romanticized theology of Florovsky is the vision of the gathered church joining those within the altar to those without, today was a barrier. Today, a faithful woman stood unseen outside the closed doors of this sacred space. In the end, she quietly slipped away, unwilling to disturb the clergy within.
Any number of understandable explanations exist for what happened. The problem is not simply that it happened, whatever the reason. The problem is that such a thing is reasonable at all. That we can offer and accept reasonable explanations calls into question the very premises of our reasoning. Why would any dedicated servant of the church hesitate to knock on an altar door, or poke her head in so that she could get someone's attention? The little boy who apparently forgot his coat did not hesitate to enter the altar to retrieve it. What ethos have we created that makes these two disparate situations seem so normal? That allows them to even be permissible? Why do we normalize the abnormal?
Today, Mary is welcome to dance up the altar steps, but her sisters are not. Tell me my loving Fathers, bishops, priests, servants of the Church. When will you have the eyes and arms of Zacharias? When will you see your daughters, sisters, wives and mothers? When will you allow them to dance the liturgy next to you?