What Happens to the “Extra” Soul? Split Embryos & Chimeras

One of the fundamental dogmas of Eastern Orthodoxy is the existence of the human soul.

In Orthodox spiritual circles, one finds the usual paradox of circular reasoning and confirmation bias when it comes to science. They love to boast when an early Church Father, or even Holy Scripture, mentions something that has only been verified by one of the sciences many centuries later. This gives an Orthodox Christian a warm feeling that this somehow proves the “Divine inspiration” of the texts. Of course, every religion has such instances of ancient texts containing truths that science has only recently confirmed—Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, most of the pagan religions—and modern-day adherents of these religions make similar boasts. One would assume that the Orthodox Christians who make such boasts believe in the validity of the science they claim validate the ancient writers’ divine illumination. However, this is only a case of confirmation bias.

creationofadamicon

However, when one of the sciences contradicts an orthodox teaching or dogma, then the Orthodox Christian resorts to a circular reasoning tactic: “True science validates Orthodoxy and the Scriptures because they are the only truth. If one of the sciences contradicts or seemingly disproves Orthodoxy then it is wrong because Orthodoxy is the only truth.” In some cases, the science will be dismissed abruptly as “an unproven theory” or “Western atheist propaganda.”

Thus, when a branch of science confirms some aspect of Orthodoxy or the Scriptures, the Orthodox Christian will say with a big smile, “Even science confirms this!” When it contradicts any aspect of the Orthodox faith then it is dismissed as secular and vain knowledge; not useful for the salvation of one’s soul.

Let’s return to the “eternal soul” in Eastern Orthodoxy. One of the central teachings of Orthodoxy is that a human embryo is a complete human being from the moment of conception; i.e., it is both body and soul. This dogma is used in bioethical arguments against abortion; i.e., a human being is murdered before the chance of baptism and enters the next life un-baptized. Furthermore, according to Elder Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY, the Church Fathers teach that it is better for a woman to have the baby, baptize it, and then murder it over having an abortion. He also states the canonical penances for murdering a baptized baby are less severe for the mother than having an abortion.

Human_blastocyst_day_1-6
Human Development Week 1: Morula to Blastocyst Stage

Split Embryos and Chimeras

A 3 day old embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. Embryos at this stage occasionally split, becoming separate people (identical twins). Is this a case of one soul splitting into two? But Orthodox dogma teaches that it is at the moment of conception that the embryo is body and soul. If the embryo splits, does one of them have no soul? Or is a new soul created after the moment of conception? Of course, the early Church Fathers were unaware of this fact; they were not illumined about this when they were writing their treatises about the human soul, their canons or their dogmas.

The early God-illumined Fathers were also unaware of the fact that sometimes two embryos fuse into a single individual, called a chimera. Neither the Orthodox Church nor her ancient dogmatic and scientific Patristic texts have an explanation of what becomes of the extra human soul in such a case. As a matter of fact, they are totally silent about these two physiological phenomenon.

Of course, now that science has revealed these happenings to the world, modern day theologians have been writing books and articles on Orthodox Christian bioethics. However, there is no general consensus and many of the authors have conflicting viewpoints.

Identical vs. Fraternal Twins

Embryo splitting may refer to:

  1. When spontaneous, the natural way in which identical twins are formed.
  2. When artificially induced, a method of cloning.

Monozygotic (MZ) or identical twins occur when a single egg is fertilized to form one zygote (hence, “monozygotic”) which then divides into two separate embryos.

Mechanism

Regarding spontaneous or natural monozygotic twinning, a recent theory proposes that monozygotic twins are formed after a blastocyst essentially collapses, splitting the progenitor cells (those that contain the body’s fundamental genetic material) in half, leaving the same genetic material divided in two on opposite sides of the embryo. Eventually, two separate fetuses develop. Spontaneous division of the zygote into two embryos is not considered to be a hereditary trait, but rather a spontaneous and random event.

Monozygotic twins may also be created artificially by embryo splitting. It can be used as an expansion of IVF to increase the number of available embryos for embryo transfer.

twinning
Here we have one fertilisation event, but two individuals result. Do those twins have to share the ‘human soul’ they had from conception?

Incidence

Monozygotic twinning occurs in birthing at a rate of about 3 in every 1000 deliveries worldwide.

The likelihood of a single fertilization resulting in monozygotic twins is uniformly distributed in all populations around the world. This is in marked contrast to dizygotic twinning, which ranges from about six per thousand births in Japan (almost similar to the rate of identical twins, which is around 4–5) to 15 and more per thousand in some parts of India and up to over 20 in some Central African countries. The exact cause for the splitting of a zygote or embryo is unknown.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques are more likely to create dizygotic twins. For IVF deliveries, there are nearly 21 pairs of twins for every 1,000.

Artificial embryo splitting or embryo twinning, a technique that creates monozygotic twins from a single embryo, is not considered in the same fashion as other methods of cloning. During that procedure, an donor embryo is split in two distinct embryos, that can then be transferred via embryo transfer. It is optimally performed at the 6- to 8-cell stage, where it can be used as an expansion of IVF to increase the number of available embryos. If both embryos are successful, it gives rise to monozygotic (identical) twins.

chimera
Such an individual results when fraternal twins, derived from separate conceptions, merge very early in development to form a single individual with some cells with one genome and some cells with another

Chimerism

A chimera is an ordinary person or animal except that some of their parts actually came from their twin or from the mother. A chimera may arise either from monozygotic twin fetuses (where it would be impossible to detect), or from dizygotic fetuses, which can be identified by chromosomal comparisons from various parts of the body. The number of cells derived from each fetus can vary from one part of the body to another, and often leads to characteristic mosaicism skin coloration in human chimeras. A chimera may be intersex, composed of cells from a male twin and a female twin. In one case DNA tests determined that a woman, mystifyingly, was not the mother of two of her three children; she was found to be a chimera, and the two children were conceived from eggs derived from cells of their mother’s twin.

Mosaicism-and-chimerism
Mosaicism and chimerism

 

References

“The epidemiology of multiple births”. Human Reproduction Update (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) 5 (2): 179–187. http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/1/37.full

“Study: Twins form after embryo collapses”. USA Today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-07-03-52152171_x.htm

“How eggs split to form identical twins” WonderQuest. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/science/wonderquest/2001-05-09-why-twins-form.htm

“Human embryo twinning with applications in reproductive medicine” http://apps.elsevier.es/watermark/ctl_servlet?_f=10&pident_articulo=90018480&pident_usuario=0&pcontactid=&pident_revista=605&ty=147&accion=L&origen=zonadelectura&web=www.elsevier.es&lan=en&fichero=605v93n02a90018480pdf001.pdf

“Projections of population-based twinning rates through the year 2100” http://www.reproductivemedicine.com/toc/auto_abstract.php?id=13594

“Time-lapse recordings reveal why IVF embryos are more likely to develop into twins. Researchers believe the laboratory culture could be the cause” https://web.archive.org/web/20070921094734/http://www.eshre.com/emc.asp?pageId=939

New scientist magazine: The stranger within. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18024215-100-the-stranger-within/

Strangers within: Meet the other humans who live in your body https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22930550-400-strangers-within-meet-the-other-humans-who-live-in-your-body/

‘Semi-identical’ twins discovered: Hermaphrodite reveals previously unknown type of twinning. http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070326/full/news070326-1.html

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Abortion: The Finishing Blow (Geronda Ephraim of Arizona)

NOTE: This is the 9th Homily of The Art of Salvation. Though many times the Trapeza reading is continued until a book or chapter is finished, there are times that specific content is picked by the superior either targeting certain faults of the monastics in the monastery, or certain largely perpetrated sins in a visiting group. Many times, if this specific chapter on Abortion is picked for the Trapeza reading, it is a good indicator that the group visiting contains many women who have committed one or more abortions. Ironically, Geronda Ephraim’s homily contains a vision of women who have committed abortions, in hell, eating the blood of their own aborted fetuses. Not exactly appropriate dinner conversation but nevertheless this chapter is read.

Geronda Joseph, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, has spoken about abortion on many occasions to pilgrims. In an attempt to convey the “wisdom of the fathers” as well as the “grave seriousness of abortion,” he has taught, “The Fathers teach that it is better to have your baby, baptize it, and then kill it rather than aborting the child. This is because when you have an abortion, the baby dies unbaptized. The canona is less for murdering your baby than it is for abortion.” [The canona for abortion is usually 3 years minimum no Holy Communion, whereas murder is only 1 year].

One of Geronda Ephraim’s long time spiritual children, Fr. Demetrios Carellas, has been very active in the pro-life movement for years and has many additional things to say about this topic: http://orthodoxheritage.org/MOM%2003%202013.htm

The Art of Salvation

My beloved children,

Today, our earth is constantly being saturated with torrents of blood from wars and various other events. It is also saturated, however, with blood that is more innocent than that of Abel’s: the blood of executed infants. It is the blood of innocent babies—these defenceless children—, which is spilt by their very own mothers.

Clinics and obstetricians’ offices have become the “new” slaughterhouses of Herod. Millions upon millions of babies throughout the entire world have been thrown into garbage cans and septic tanks. People don’t even dispose of cats in this way! As we have seen in a startling video documentary, the doctor, obstetrician, and murderer initially kills the child within the mother’s womb using a scalpel. Then with a special instrument, he proceeds to crush the infant’s delicate head, and, finally, removes it. The mother, of course, witnesses none of this and very peacefully departs for her home.

http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/abortion3.html
http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/abortion3.html

A few days ago, I came across an article written by a physician, and I would like to read it to you, as I think it will help you to understand what abortion is from a practical and scientific point of view. The title of the article is: “The Finishing Blow.” I will read you the original text.

“As the daily media informs us, there will be a vote. In particular, a vote on what will be the most villainous bill ever to pass through the Greek Parliament. At a time when the Greek nation is on the verge of extinction, this decision will serve as the ultimate finishing blow. Unfortunately, this crime is becoming legal. Before, however, members of the parliament approve the aforementioned legislation, we wish to make the following two recommendations:

1) Members of the Parliament should see the film entitled “The Silent Scream.” This video features ultrasound images of the inside of the uterus recorded during an abortion. It is a tragic sight!”

The article continues: “When the instruments of assassination enter the womb, the fetus senses that something foreign has invaded his environment, and he reacts by withdrawing violently from his natural position. Simultaneously, his heart rate increases from the normal 140 beats per minute to 200 beats per minute. The moment the fetus is struck by the medical instruments of execution, something hair-raising occurs! The fetus stretches his mouth wide open and lets out a silent scream as his life comes to a barbaric end! The producer of the video recording, who is a medical doctor and gynecologist, who performed over 10,000 abortions between 1949 and the present, was shocked when he witnessed this heartrending scene and until then unknown spectacle. He not only decided never to perform another abortion, but also became a leading pro-life activist.

If members of the Parliament view this videotaped recording, we are certain that they will prefer to have their right hand cut off rather than to vote in favor of such a deplorable law.

An Athonite Geronda had said abortion clinics were part of a Jewish conspiracy to kill Christian babies and lower the Christian population; he stated it was a form of ritual human sacrifice.
An Athonite Geronda had said abortion clinics were part of a Jewish conspiracy to kill Christian babies and lower the Christian population; he stated it was a form of ritual human sacrifice.

2) Our second recommendation is the following: Members of the Parliament should see to it that this video is aired on national television, so that the Greek people can be informed that the 300,000 abortions take place in Greece each year are not merely surgical procedures, but in fact 300,000 felonies. If, however, this proposed bill is not rejected, then the blood of these defenceless individuals will become a pool in which Greece will drown. And then, our nation’s various enemies will raise a sorrowful sign that reads, ‘Greece has vanished.’ For the enemies, this title will be the cause of villainous joy; for true Greeks and Christians, however, the cause of deep sorrow and great shame.”

Now let us examine what the “democratic” women of Greece are planning to do in relation to this matter. Several such democratic women’s associations exist here. “Through a series of programmed events—the first function already took place with the theme ‘Why YES to Legalizing Abortion’—they seek to remove criminal penalties for abortion and to allocate state funding for the costs of such surgical procedures. This will mean another new burden for the government and the budget, which means new burdens on the backs of the taxpayers. They want information concerning contraceptive methods to be widely circulated. In other words, they want to disseminate shameless and injudicious propaganda in favor of nefarious homicides, as if we have a mission to eradicate our historic nation. They seek to introduce sex education into the educational curriculum, in order to

  1. prompt the interest of children during their elementary school years in such matters;
  2. “open their eyes” early—i.e., before their time; and
  3. avoid, supposedly, undesirable mishaps. In reality, however, this system itself will push children in the direction of misfortune.

Finally, they seek to establish centers for family planning throughout Greece. One of the purposes of these centers will also be to institute the above-mentioned objectives; in other words, to rigorously and systematically impose the beliefs of these ladies upon the entire Greek nation.”

Christ the Author of Life.
Christ the Author of Life.

We will say no more. We will only exclaim the following to these women who, as it seems, have forgotten their purpose, and who are determined to uproot everything sacred that God has implanted within them: Is this “democratic” demand you are making humane? We are deeply saddened on account of this plummet and perversion. Do you see how deplorable and grievous the sin of abortion is? Unquestionably, it must come to an end. These innocent human beings must not be assassinated so lightheartedly, on the pretense that one cannot raise another child. Are we going to determine how God should deal with us? Are we going to decide whether or not we will be able to handle all the children that God grants to our family? Will we direct God and tell Him how to take care of us?

Day by day, this crime takes on increasingly dangerous dimensions. Women, at last, must comprehend how horrendous it is! They must attempt to stop it, and prevent other women who, under demonic influence, plan to have an abortion, because women usually end up committing this crime due to sheer ignorance, intense family pressure, or an internal personal conflict. The main contributing factor, however, is the devil, who supplies various unsupported reasons, excuses, pretenses, and weaknesses, such as: “there is not enough money … my husband is pressuring me … my health is compromised…” and so forth. The devil takes advantage of all these factors and craftily persuades mothers to commit this grave sin.

I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that these embryos, these infants, these beings do not cease to exist once they are aborted. On the contrary! Each embryo is a complete human being, especially with respect to the soul. These children live in the other world, and, as you can understand, many millions of children now comprise an entire army in Heaven. All of them protest. Their innocent blood cries out to God that they were killed unjustly, that they did not receive Holy Baptism, that they did not become Orthodox Christians. Who is responsible for this? It is self-explanatory and does not have to be spelled out. When this blood is spilled, God’s computer documents the crime. How will this blood be washed away? When someone becomes dirty, how is he cleansed? Only with clean water. Likewise, water is needed in this case as well. It must flow forth continuously from two faucets, which are the two eyes. Internal repentance should be externalized with a lifelong, never-ending stream of tears.

Geronda Ephraim doing confessions at a spiritual child's house

The sin, of course, is forgiven from the moment it is set forth before the sacred and all-powerful Mystery of Confession, where nothing remains unforgiven. God is love, and “he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). However, He is also righteous (vid. Ps. 10:7; 88:15). For this reason, women who have had abortions should not feel at ease by virtue of the fact they confessed this sin. They must pour forth tears of repentance throughout the remainder of their life. Many of these women do not feel at peace even though they have confessed. Why? Because they still have not repented internally, they have not shed the appropriate amount of tears required to wash away the blood of the abortion or abortions. Repentance is indeed vast and endless. Our very existence and the fact that man is permitted to continue living after committing such a crime is proof of God’s steadfast love and compassion. Man is still alive: this means that God is waiting for him. Since He is waiting, man must not remain indifferent but take advantage of the opportunity.

The penance given by the spiritual father, with respect to this extremely serious sin and specific crime, also requires special attention. The penance serves as an adjunct in the therapy of the soul; but as we have said, the faucets of tears must also be opened. These will wash away the blood of abortion, so that a person may subsequently feel communion with God. Confession alone, therefore, is not enough. What counts, what will change and alter God’s embittered and poisoned heart, what will restore it to its original condition prior to man’s sin, are the tears of repentance flowing from the two faucets of the eyes. Before departing from this life, we must alter God’s heart.

I will use a simple example. Let us suppose that a child was disobedient or disrespectful and saddened his mother. When the child approaches his mother and says, “Forgive me, dear mother, for what I did. I will not do it again,” she will reply, “You are forgiven. Don’t do it again.” At that moment, the child indeed receives forgiveness. If, however, he also falls into his mother’s embrace and begins to cry, sob, plead, and beg his mother to forgive him with all her heart, then not even a trace of sadness or bitterness will remain within her heart. This is precisely what occurs with the person who repents and returns to God after committing a particular sin.

Some people ask, “Why do people who have repented cry continuously (especially they who have worn the raso,[32] who have gone to dwell in the desert, and who have drawn near to God and devoted themselves to Him), even though they have confessed, stopped sinning, received forgiveness, and changed their way of life?” The answer is simple: the more a person repents, and the more tears of repentance he sheds, the more God’s heart is altered. Profound reconciliation takes place between sinful man and God, especially in the case of this crime of abortion, where an unending stream of tears is required. Tears should not cease until one’s last breath.

The Theotokos and Elizabeth embracing.
The Theotokos and Elizabeth embracing.

I will recount an event that serves as an illustration:

In northern Greece, at a church visited by many pilgrims and dedicated to a miracle-working saint, people were preparing for a festival. At that particular church, there was a virtuous elderly lady who would light the vigil lamps. She had worked hard cleaning and preparing the church that day, so in the late afternoon she decided to lie down and take a nap before continuing with the remaining tasks.

She went to sleep, but she couldn’t wake up! She slept for days. A local doctor was called to see what was wrong with her. He instructed them, “Don’t wake her up. Something is definitely occurring that we cannot explain medically. However, at some point she will certainly wake up.”

After several days—I don’t remember how many—she came to her senses. As soon as she opened her eyes she asked, “Has the vigil started yet?” She was under the impression that she had slept for only a few hours. The people surrounding her responded, “No, it has not started. It will begin shortly.”

She believed them. When she was fully awake, she said to the members of the church’s parish council, “Please, call all the women from the village to come here.”

When all of the women had gathered at the church, the lady recounted the following:

“Listen to what I saw! A radiant guide appeared and led me downward. We descended into the depths, to the heart of the earth, where I saw dungeons, darkness, prisoners, and many other dreadful things. Amongst the many people who my guide was showing me, I saw the women who have had abortions eating the blood of their aborted fetuses! I was horrified at this sight, and I heard the angel say to me, ‘Now, when I take you back up to the earth, call all the women and give them an account of what you have seen down here. Urge them to avoid this crime because if they do not repent accordingly, they will also end up down here in this abysmal state.’”

help_birth

All of us should help prevent this crime. When we learn that someone is contemplating abortion, we should immediately take a firm stand and advise her against it. Usually women who have abortions do not see and are unaware of what takes place within them medically. With the slightest difficulty—it also has become fashionable—they proceed to the physician and have an abortion, as if they are disposing of a dog or a cat. We should dissuade them from proceeding to have the abortion, by telling them that this is the worst possible crime a person can commit.

As a spiritual father, I advise the following to anyone who has committed this sin, either once or repeatedly: try to heal yourselves spiritually with tears. To speak in human terms, try to efface the sorrow and bitterness from God’s heart. When a person repents, cries, struggles spiritually, and strives to make amends (all of which serve as a form of asceticism), he softens God’s heart. The great Fathers of our Church declare that repentance can accomplish wonders. It can actually reach the point of completely erasing the recollection of sin from God’s heart; that is, it can completely obliterate the existence of man’s sin.

Behold the magnificence of repentance! What then is required from all of us, and first of all me? Repentance! Every time a person says, “I have sinned,” God responds, “May you be forgiven.” Afterwards, we must also proceed to receive the seal of forgiveness from the epitrachelion, through the power invested by the Law in the Mystery of Holy Confession. With the courage we receive from the Mystery of Confession and from the realization of the limitless, unceasing, and continuous power of repentance, we will proceed to the throne of the grace of God (vid. Hb. 4:16).

We should not be apprehensive! We should not lend an ear to despair, but rather race toward the Mystery of Confession. Never despair! This is the key! No matter how sinful you feel, never accept despair. Tightly hold on to hope. Never permit yourself to perish by falling into the depth of despair. After having fallen from one cliff, do not jump off another because this will dishonor and insult God’s glory.

Exalt God in your heart to the height that befits His grandeur, for He has the ability to erase every sin. If God erased all of humanity’s sins with His Crucifixion, what are your sins in comparison, O sinful man.

This is why we accept everyone who approaches the life-saving bath and harbor called confession. This is where every ship battered from the storms at sea sets anchor. Whether it has been beaten by winds, exposed to tempests, or invaded by pirates—no matter what the case may be—it comes and slowly docks next to the spiritual father. It may have lost its mast and sails; possibly all that remains intact is the vessel’s framework. But when it enters the shipyard, all these components are repaired, and the ship becomes new again.

lament-of-rachel

 One day such a wounded soul came to me. A woman approached the Mystery of Confession. I, of course, felt extreme sympathy for this poor lady who confessed that she had fifty abortions! Now consider that this is brought to be assessed before the judgment of the spiritual father. Fifty infant homicides! Indeed, since God kept her alive all these years, it was a guarantee from Him that He was patiently waiting for her. In which case, what spiritual father would treat her any differently? I spoke to her with much compassion and love, I tried to put things in order for her, and I gave her the spiritual medicine she needed. [NOTE: It is said that this Illinois lady was forbidden communion until her death bed].

Think of how many years had passed. This sin was torturing her, but she did not have the courage to confess it! Glory to God: She left with the hope of salvation. God’s love is awesome! But so is the joy of the angels! “There is joy in Heaven on account of one sinful person who repents” (cf. Lk. 15:7). When a person repents and cries for his lamentable condition, not only does God save him, but also immediately there is great joy in Heaven. All of Heaven rejoices as the angels hymn and praise God for the salvation of an immortal soul!

“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and they whose sins are covered” (Ps. 31:1). In other words, fortunate is the person who has been counted worthy of having his sins forgiven. What type of gratitude can one express to God? Consider this: I may have lived for a thousand years, I may have committed every type of sin imaginable, I may have been the world’s worst criminal; ultimately, however, God in His mercy may enlighten me. I can return to His loving embrace, and, within a couple of minutes, confess everything. In an instant, I can be justified, washed, cleansed, and find myself in Heaven! What happened to the thousand years of sin? They’re gone! Don’t even think about them! They no longer exist! They have vanished! You are no longer accountable! They were automatically deleted from the demonic memoirs. God has given an order! Every time you deposit a sin before the spiritual father, God presses the delete button on the keyboard, and “click,” the computer registers “forgiveness!” “Click”- “forgiveness and remission!” The grand total is zero. A clean record! How is it possible not to worship this merciful God? How is it possible not to fall down before Him and shed tears of divine love, adoration, and devotion?

For this reason, my children, we must pass from the darkness of sin that engulfs us into the light of repentance and hope. When we hope in God’s mercy, we glorify and honor the God of love and mercy. Let us pray with repentance, with confession, with love, and with hope in God in order to advance united, hand in hand, toward salvation. I pray that this small and insignificant offering you have received flourishes a hundred fold in your souls, that it remains deeply rooted within you, that you mark out a new spiritual road, and that repentance always accompanies you. Struggle as much as you possibly can to preserve the purity of your soul and body, because purity has enormous boldness before God.

I pray that the grace of the Holy Spirit overshadows and preserves all of us in Christ. Amen.

The Art of Salvation has been uploaded to Scribd. The typesetting and format used for the book is very jarring and makes it difficult to read:

Miscarriage = Involuntary Murder in Eastern Orthodox Canons and Prayers

It is true that many people who confess at the monasteries for the first time are unaware of the Canons and penances that the Church imposes on the penitents for various sins. In the case of miscarriages, not many women know that the Orthodox Canons view this as an involuntary murder and the mother is penanced as such. The father confessors mainly use the Exomologetarion by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite as a guide when giving out Canons and counsel for various sins.

St. John the Faster, 33rd  Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the  the title Ecumenical Patriarch.
St. John the Faster, 33rd Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the the title Ecumenical Patriarch.

The 22nd Canon of St. John the Faster states: “A woman who has involuntarily miscarried a baby, receives a penance for one year.”

St. Nikodemos’ interpretation of this Canon is: “The woman who miscarried the baby which she had in her womb, without wanting to, but on account of some involuntary circumstance, is penanced one year not to receive Communion.”

In a footnote to this Canon, St. Nikodemos also writes: “For this reason pregnant women must take great care not to lift anything heavy (especially when they are seven or eight months pregnant), and to keep themselves from what troubles them. while men, after their wives conceive, must not sleep in the same bed with them, nor have intercourse with them any longer, nor strike them, or cause them any other trouble or sorrow, for because of these things their wives miscarry the babies, and the poor husbands become murderers of their children. wherefore, if married priests, or those who plan to become priests do any of these things and their wives miscarry their babies, those who are priests are to be deposed, and those who were going to become priests in the future are barred from the priesthood, on account of the murder they committed.”

(See Exomologetarion: A Manual for Confession, pp. 245-246 and The Rudder, p. 945, 949.)

exomologetarion

PRAYER FOR A WOMAN AFTER A MISCARRIAGE (ABORTION)

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, even a miscarriage is considered an abortion and the fault of miscarrying is placed on the woman for not taking enough care of her body during the pregnancy or because she was punished by God for her sins.

In Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700, Eve Levin reports that at least certain Orthodox in the past have blamed miscarriages on the Mother. For example:

“Another possible result of the parents’ immorality was the loss of a child, whom the parents had shown themselves unworthy to have. A miscarriage had to have been the result of the woman’s sinfulness. She was required to confess her sins and do penance. Service books included an extensive set of prayers for purification: ‘Lord our God, who was born of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and who lay as a baby in a cradle: Today, out of your great clemency, have mercy on this your servant N., who has fallen into sin and willful murder, and aborted that which was conceived within her. Forgive her her willful and unwilling sins, and preserve her from all Satan’s deceptions. Purify her of obscenity and heal her sickness… for we are born in sin and lawlessness, and we are all defiled before you.'” (p. 67)

“Even a spontaneous miscarriage was sinful, and carried a penance of a year’s exclusion from communion.” (p. 176)

Miscarriage Icon.
Miscarriage Icon.

Some people think that because of the content of the prayer, today it would not be appropriate to be read for women who have involuntarily miscarried. However, whether a miscarriage or an abortion, in both cases the woman should, after the 40 days of purification, go to confession and receive absolution.

The monasteries still follow proper ecclesiastical tradition by reading this prayer over the woman in both cases.

The following prayer is found in the Euchologion (Μικρόν Εὐχολόγιον), and it is to be read over the woman who confesses her sin of having a miscarriage:

MikronEuchologion1

 

Trisagion

Then the Apolytikion of the day and the Kontakion and then the following prayer:

Let us pray unto the Lord.

O Master, Lord our God, who wast born of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and as an infant, wast laid in a manger: Do thou, upon this thy servant (…..),who in sins has today fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting and has aborted that which was conceived in her, have mercy according to thy great mercy: and forgive her transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary: and preserve her from every diabolical operation: and cleanse the impurity, heal the sufferings, and grant her, O Lover of Mankind,  health and strength of her body and soul: and with a bright Angel, do thou guard her from every assault of invisible demons. Yea, O Lord, from sickness and disease, and cleanse her from her bodily defilement and her various oncoming internal problems, and through thy abundant compassion, lead her to the recovery of her humble body, and raise her from the bed upon which she lies. For in sins were we conceived and in iniquities were we shapen and in defilement are we all before thee, and in fear we cry and say: Look down from heaven and behold the weakness of us who are condemned, and forgive this thy servant who has fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting, and has aborted that which was conceived in her, and according to thy great mercy, have mercy and forgive all that surround her and have touched her, for thou art a good God and lovest mankind, and thou alone hast the power to forgive sins, By the prayers of the holy Mother of God and of all the saints.

For unto Thee belong all glory, honour and worship, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever: world without end. Amen.

Glory be to Thee, O Christ our God and our hope, glory be to Thee.

May Christ our true God, by the prayers of His most holy Mother; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; by the protection of the heavenly bodiless hosts; through the supplications of the glorious Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist; of the holy and all-glorious Apostles; of the holy, glorious and triumphant martyrs; of our holy God-bearing fathers; of the holy and righteous progenitors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the saints, have mercy upon us, and save our souls: For He is good and loving-kind.

By the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

exomologesis