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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
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Let it not be permitted to anyone among all the laity to enter within the sacred altar, with the exception that the Imperial power and authority is in no way or manner excluded therefrom whenever it wishes to offer gifts to the Creator, in accordance with a certain most ancient tradition.
The holy Bema is consecrated to those in holy orders. For this reason the present Canon prohibits every layman from entering it, except only that person who is the Emperor or King; and he is excepted not as a layman, but as having power and authority and as one anointed of the Lord, who has been permitted to enter it, in accordance with a most ancient tradition, whenever he wishes to offer gifts to God his Creator, and to partake of the Holy Mysteries.
That explains why c. XLIV of Laodicea forbids women to enter the sanctuary of the sacrificial altar. Canon I, however, of Patriarch Nicholas allows those monks to enter the Holy Bema who are not guilty of any transgression reflecting upon the modesty of the monastic habit, in order to light the candles or wax tapers. But even St. Nicephorus, in his c. XV, says that nuns ought to enter the Holy Bema for the purpose of lighting the lights and setting things in order and sweeping it. If, however, a person is not a monk but only a novice, he cannot go into the Holy Bema, according to what Balsamon says in his interpretation of c. I of Nicholas, q.v.