Brenda Meehan-Waters’ superb essay “Catherine the Great and the Problem of Female Rule” reveals remarkable evidence that, prior to Emperor Paul changing the Russian imperial succession laws in 1797, three of Russia’s four empresses regnant communed of the Body and Blood exactly as reigning emperors did. Meehan-Waters confirms Robert Massie’s unsourced and uncited claim in his Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman(2011) that Catherine II would have received communion in the clerical manner in the altar of the Kremlin’s Uspenskiy Sobor, as well as gone into the altar area to be anointed immediately before receiving the sacrament. What neither Meehan-Waters or Massie observe is whether or not empresses regnant were anointed simply on the forehead, as later empresses consort were due to their sex, or, more likely, as reigning sovereigns, they were likely anointed as male monarchs were, on the eight holy spots consecrated with the holy myrrh during chrismation.
Meehan-Waters writes that, beginning with Anna Ivanovna in 1730, all Russian empresses regnant took communion in the priestly manner, performing a fundamentally male sacerdotal role — or, rather, showing that the Orthodox Church did not understand the sacerdotal role performed by the monarch at his or her coronation as an intrinsically or necessarily male one. This is extraordinary. Considering that Catherine I’s coronation as consort in 1724 marked the first time in history the Russian Orthodox Church had officially blessed and sanctified any coronation of a woman — we have no evidence that Orthodox Muscovite tsaritsas were ever crowned along with their husbands or in separate ceremonies — it is all the more remarkable that, only six years later, the Church was not only blessing a second woman as Empress regnant of Russia, but was allowing her to take communion as if she were part of the clergy, and to receive the holy anointing in the altar itself.
The political and theological implications for this are huge. By taking the Body of Christ in their own hands and putting it into their own mouth, and then drinking directly from the chalice containing the Blood, the three Russian empresses regnant who did this — Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II — did something that no male emperors before them had done, and no empress consorts after them would ever do. By communing as if they were priests or bishops, these empresses regnant assumed unto themselves a fundamentally male role that, strictly speaking, was utterly without solid Christian theological justification. For all intents and purposes, at Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II’s coronations, the Church treated these sovereign women as if they were mixed persons, part God-ordained and God-consecrated lay woman, and, astonishingly, somehow, as part priest.
This practice of empresses regnant communing as if they were male clergymen is without firm Christian theological foundation, yet Meehan-Waters provides no evidence that any layman or member of the clergy present in the Uspenskiy Sobor objected to, or attempted to correct or stop Empress Anna or her two female successors from doing this. Instead, we have only silence, and thus, we can assume, either quiet approval or at least benign tolerance of this one woman, the female sovereign, communing as if she were a priest. The metropolitans who communed these women did not, strictly speaking, have to do so, but they did, and left no objection to history. (Read more.)
Via Once I Was a Clever Boy. Share