Nocturnal Emissions (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, when a monastic has a wet dream, they are not permitted to venerate the icons, enter the iero, nor partake of Antidoron and Holy Communion. If the monk is an ekklesiastiko, he is not permitted to clean the church and the duty is given to another monk until after Vespers. If a monk or nun falls into the sin of masturbation then they are penance with no Holy Communion for 40 days. That day they cannot touch anything holy. Many times, the monk or nun will also have to go to the Lity daily and beg forgiveness on their hands and knees at the end of the Service: “Forgive me brothers and Fathers, I am filthy (or disgusting) in both body and soul.” This is a common thing said in the Lity when a monastic falls into carnal sin. About 10 years ago, a monk in Arizona was given 80 days in the Lity, and ordered to say the above statement . This news traveled amongst the other monasteries and it was noted that Geronda Ephraim has never given that many days in the Lity. Also, if a monk or nun accepts lustful thoughts until they reach ejaculation, it is also classified as masturbation and they are penanced as a masturbator. Sometimes, the monk or nun is ordered to go on their knees in front of all the other monks or nuns of their monastery and confess the carnal sin they fell into, i.e., “Forgive me brothers/sisters, last night I fell into the sin of masturbation.” This is usually followed by the abbot or abbess rebuking the fallen monastic and giving a cautionary homily to the other monastics. The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:

St nikodemos 1


As for those men who involuntarily become victims of nocturnal emission, let them too be guided by their own conscience as to whether to indulge or not, and decide for themselves, whether they have any doubt about this matter or not, as also in the case of foods, “he that hath any doubt is damned if he eat” (Romans 14:23). And let everyone be conscientious in these matters, and out spoken, in accordance with his own inclination, when he approaches God. In honoring us (for you know you are, dear) by asking these questions, you have taken us to be like-minded, as indeed we are, and you are making us partners in your decision. As for me, it is not as a teacher, but as one who deems it fitting for us to talk with each other with all simplicity, that I have set forth my own conception of the matter for our common benefit. After finding that this conception of the matter meets with your approbation, my most sensible son, when you come to see whether it is so, you may write in turn about these matters whatever appears to you right and better. Farewell, my dear son, and I pray that this finds you in peace ministering to the Lord.


In the present Canon the Saint is speaking about involuntary emission, or what is more commonly called a wet dream, which occurs during our sleep; and he says that all men who suffer this should make their own conscience the judge. For if the wet dream resulted without any obscene imagination and erotic thought, and furthermore without overeating and over-drinking, and instead nature alone did this of herself, as if it were a natural superfluity in the way of excrement, they are not prevented from coming to communion. But if it resulted from the causes above mentioned – that is to say, from imagination and erotic thought, or from excessive eating and excessive drinking, they ought to be forbidden communion, on the ground that they are not pure, not because of the emission itself of the semen (since this is not unclean, seeing that it is a natural product, precisely as neither the flesh is unclean in itself, of which the semen is an excretion), but because of the wicked contemplation and imagination which polluted the mind. Such men as these, then, are not conscientious, and accordingly they are not outspoken, owing to the wicked contemplation and imagination they give rein to. Hence, both as doubters and as being convicted or reproved by their conscience, how can they approach God and the Mysteries? For if they approach while thus doubting, they are rather condemned, and not sanctified, just like one who is condemned for eating the common and unclean animals forbidden to Jews, if he doubts and hesitates about these, as the Apostle says.



Canon XII of Timothy is in effect a more detailed explanation of the present Canon. For it interprets this reproof of the conscience of one who has had a wet dream. Accordingly, if he is reproved and convicted of having had this happen to him as the result of a desire for a woman-or, in other words, an erotic thought and imagination-he must not partake; but if it was the result of the influence of demons that this happened to him, he may commune. Since, however, it is difficult for one to discern when the cause of his wet dream is traceable to the enviousness and influence of demons, without his providing any occasion for it himself, the safest way is not to commune. For a wet dream may result from either overeating or over-drinking or oversleeping, and from negligence and repose, and from languor of the body, and from pride, and condemnation, and aspersion, and from some illness of the body, and from a wicked habituation to fornication, and from toil and the drinking of cold beverages. Oftentimes it is due to fear of having a wet dream, according to Symeon the modern Theologian (and see the reply No.S of Anastasios the Sinaite, and Philokalia on page 908). For this reason too the Faster in his c. VI forbids one who has polluted himself in sleep from communing for one day. John of Citrus and Balsamon in Reply No. 1 likewise excludes priests and laymen for a day if they have had a wet dream, with the sole exception that in case of danger a layman may partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord, or a priest may celebrate Divine Liturgy, even though he has had a wet dream. So say also Symeon of Thessalonica in his replies No. 14 and 15, and the Lausaicum in the discourse concerning Dioscoros, and Barsanuphios the great one among Fathers.

But above all and on all scores the great and accurate nomograph of the Spirit St. Basil insists that one ought not to commune when he has his usual trouble (see his Epitomized Definition No. 309), and is not free from every pollution of flesh and spirit (Question 3 concerning Baptism). But a wet dream due to desire and imagination is a pollution both of the soul and of the body; that, on the other hand, which occurs without imagination or insensibly, is a pollution of only the body; and there is scarcely anyone to be found who when he has a wet dream thus or otherwise is not reproved by his conscience as having polluted himself, owing to the prejudice which men have firmly rooted about this matter in their imagination. But some critical individuals have attributed pollution of the flesh even to that little pleasurable moistness of semen felt by one in his generative member and caused either by erotic contemplation or by seeing and hearing erotically some passionately loved person; from which sort of pollution as this too those going to Communion ought to be free. I cannot conceal here by silence the great cunning and craftiness employed by the Devil in regard to this affliction of a wet dream, which cunning and craftiness that sage Nilus brings out in one of his letters. The heinous wretch, says he, goes to such great lengths to pollute miserable man with an erotic wet dream that he is not satisfied to have a man suffer this misfortune while asleep, but after the accursed one excites the malignant development in a man with the imagination of certain persons, and especially of those whom we have had time to make an effort, and after nature has already prepared herself for action, he awaken the man at that moment in order that he may feel more vividly, while awake, that impure pleasure and be enabled to remember it the better. Hence by taking a cue from this fact let everyone understand how precious a treasure virginity is, and how much the Devil envies and plots to steal him away from us, and let us be on our guard.

Archangel Michael Chapel @ St. Nektarios Monastery, NY
Archangel Michael Chapel @ St. Nektarios Monastery, NY


If a layman who has had a wet dream ask a Clergyman to let him partake of communion, ought the Clergyman to administer communion to him, or not?


If it is a case of desiring a woman he ought not. But if it was Satan tempting him in order to provide an excuse for excluding him from communion of the divine Mysteries, the Clergyman ought to administer communion to him, since the tempter will not cease attacking during the time when he ought to partake of communion.


Having been asked whether a layman who has had a wet dream ought to partake of communion on the day after he had the wet dream, this Father replies in the present Canon that if the man suffered this predicament as a result of a desire or conation to enjoy a woman, the man ought not to partake of communion, because this impassioned conation, or impulse, to which the emission was due, has polluted his intellect.

But if no such desire and conation took place, but, instead, Satan merely tempted him out of envy in order to prevent him from receiving the sanctification conferred by the divine Mysteries, he ought to partake of communion, because if he fail to partake of them, Satan will not cease to tempt him and to keep on thus preventing him from doing so whenever he is preparing to come to communion.14 Read also Canon IV of Dionysius.

Vigil at Holy Protection Monastery, PA.
Vigil at Holy Protection Monastery, PA.


Consent is the cause and origin of penances.


The present Canon decrees that whoever becomes polluted during the night by having a seminal emission in his sleep, must not commune on the succeeding day. But after reciting the 50th Psalm of David and doing forty-nine metanies, he is purified from this pollution. But in view of the fact that women suffer a wet dream in their sleep too, they ought likewise to be penalized along with men. St. Barsanuphius the Great also canonizes with this same penance persons who had had a wet dream. According to Balsamon, however, women ought to receive antidoron when they do not commune, in order to avoid incurring any suspicion from their husbands. See also Canon IV of Dionysios.

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, FL
Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, FL


But one who has been polluted in body while awake is excluded from Communion for seven days, having also to chant the fiftieth Psalm and to make forty-nine metanies.


But anyone who suffers a seminal emission while he is awake is forbidden the divine communion for seven days, according to this Canon, and on every one of these days he has to say the 50th Psalm, and do daily forty-nine metanies.

Holy Trinity Monastery, MI.
Holy Trinity Monastery, MI.


Consent is defined by Bryennius (ibid.) as follows: “Consent is the giving in and assent of reason to passion.” Coressius asserts that consent may be complete or incomplete; and that complete consent implies complete a complete understanding on the part of the mind and a complete assent on the part of the will; hence it renders sin persistent. Note, however, that assault, presumption, wrestling, and consent, these.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery, IL.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery, IL.


The emission of semen while one is awake is due either to a vivid imagination and image of the subject with whom he is in love, when that subject is not present, or to a pleasurable contemplation of the person, or to hearing the latter’s voice, or to touching or being touched by the subject loved erotically, when the latter is present. This predicament besets for the most part persons who are of a warm constitution and warm-blooded, and also those who have become accustomed to fornication for a long time; for the seminal passages of these latter persons, being wide open, easily ejaculate on the slightest provocation, according to physicians. Note, however, that there is extant a treatise purporting to have been written by Anastasios of Antioch which says of the seminal emission suffered by a man while awake the following: As for emission while awake, the person either does it to himself or to another. That which he causes himself to suffer is due either to handling with the hand, and that is canonized to forty days (because it is outright masturbation, or it is caused without handling with the hand.) This other variety results from an assault alone, and is canonized one day. Another variety results from presumption. That which is due to presumption either occurs without consent and without titillation, and it is canonized seven days. That, again, which is produced on another person, or caused to another person, is effected either by wallowing or without wallowing. That which is effected without wallowing on the one hand, either is due to manipulations and kisses, but without deliberate titillation, and is canonized twenty days, or, on the other hand, with deliberate titillation, and is canonized with thirty days. As for that which is due to wallowing, either it is a result of an engagement with one of the same species, in which case it is canonized seventy (or eighty) days; or else it is a result of an engagement with one of a different species, with lower animals, that is to say, in which case it is canonized seven years.

Holy Archangels Monastery, TX.
Holy Archangels Monastery, TX.

Also see:


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