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Churching

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As noted above, there is variation on whether unbaptized children are churched as well as on whether both boys and girls are brought into the sanctuary behind the iconostasis. While scholarship on this point is scarce in English, it is the subject of Greek scholarship by the eminent liturgical scholar [[Ioannes Fountoules]], who taught liturgics at the University of Thessaloniki. Following are notes from the *Rites of Christian Initiation* published by the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America (p. 139):
:: St Symeon of Thessaloniki does not make any distinction regarding the sex of the baby—only whether it be baptized or not—as a condition of bringing it into the holy Altar. The saint wrote, “Now if the infant is already baptized, (the priest) brings it even into the Altar... but if the child be not yet baptized, he stands before the holy Doors” (Migne, ''Patrologia Graeca '' 155:212b).
::But it seems that the tradition does not admit any criteria—either sex or baptismal status—as conditions for bringing the infant into the Altar. While admitting that the criterion of baptism possesses a consistent and sound logic to it, Ioannes Fountoules has pointed out that none of the manuscripts which carry the churching service make any mention of any criteria for bringing a churched infant into the holy Altar. In fact, the whole churching service, as it has come down to us, presumes that the child is in fact not baptized, and the manuscripts which have this service mention the bearing the infant into the Altar, most times irrespective of sex (see ''Apantiseis '' A' #167 and D' #381, especially pp. 233-236). In short, the service is about the dedication of infants to God. The fact that the infants are brought by Christian parents should be considered as the most important qualification and that we not "split hairs over accuracy,” as Fountoules judged. This being the case, later changes in some traditions suggest an interpretation of the rite as pertaining in some way to ordination, such that it is considered inappropriate to bring either or both the unbaptized and/or female children into the sanctuary. The text of the rite does not mention ordination, however.
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