“The key to understanding and coming to terms with these attitudes lies in the fact that Jewish tradition made little distinction between things that were unclean because there were dirty or soiled and things that were unclean because they were too holy to touch. Texts of Holy Scripture and dead bodies were both capable of imparting this sense of impurity, but the most significant substance in this regard is almost certainly blood. Even a quick perusal of some of the sections of the Old Testament regarding ritual purity reveals that blood not only has a very interesting symbolism of its own (which for Orthodox Christians finds its highest expression in the words of Jesus at the Mystical Supper), but also connects some major themes that run through Jewish and Christian tradition: life and death, marriage and birth, sacrifice and redemption, sin and forgiveness.
“The notion of impurity in the Jewish sense, which means that something or someone is barred from participation in temple worship, carries no automatic sense of being morally or physically impure. It has context and meaning in terms of temple worship which has been lost in the modern world.
“The state of a woman after childbirth is that she is impure in a ritual sense, not through being dirty or unclean, but becasue she is too holy. She has participated in the co-creation of a human life and has thus worked closely with God during the process of childbirth, from early pregnancy until well after the child is born. This places her in a unique and significant spiritual condition.”
Archimandrite Meletios Webber
Bread & Water, Wine & Oil