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Orthodoxy and sexuality


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#41 Guest_DR. R. E. POUND

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Posted 24 March 2005 - 12:16 AM

[Rev.Fr.George Morelli Dear Brother, another excellent reply. Among = my Baptist brothers, we call those who take a cement like approach = legalists, much as you describe as a black and white approach in the = Papal Church, I seem to agree with your summation if I understand your = conclusions correctly. Not your lack of ability to communicate, just my = own weakness to comprehend. Thank you for your posts and your points, I = find them to very helpful and they do give hope to sinners, may the Lord =


#42 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 24 March 2005 - 08:51 AM

Dear Fr Morelli,

Bless, Father! Thank you for your responses, and particularly the lengthy response regarding being gay and Orthodox. I admire the way you effortlessly weave psychological science and theology together in these responses to make sound clinical sense. I feel this is a blessed direction for our discipline of psychology to take, which is otherwise unfortunately so liable to spiritual error, sometimes being at risk of becoming a science without a soul, and sometimes all soul and no spirit.

I feel you are correct in pointing out that all people are called to struggle against the demon of lust, whatever their sexual orientation; also, it is simplistic to talk of "homosexuality" as if human sexuality could be neatly divided into specific categories, as it is naive to speak of "sexual attraction" as if all people experienced this to the same degree and intensity, and therefore as if all face the same struggle. There are people whose sexuality falls in between the common categories, and people who have to struggle with both a stronger libido and / or more deeply-rooted passions (due to their predisposition, spiritually and ethically deprived upbringing, other intrapersonal factors etc) than others. Surely the Lord, Who knows us better than we know ourselves, does not use simple checklists by which to judge us!

Nevertheless, I am still left wondering what I would reply to Mr Zymaris. For his own reasons and - I agree with your evaluation of his essay -in his own idiosyncratic way, he seems to have convinced himself that an active homosexual lifestyle is not only compatible with Orthodox Christianity, but also blessed by the Church in an otherwise misunderstood ritual. Reasonably enough (in worldly terms), extrapolating out from what he is saying, one could argue that as long as the relationship between two men is characterised by love and mutual commitment, then sex between them would be the hallowed bodily expression of their spiritual bond. This is clearly not Orthodox teaching, but an intelligent man like Mr Zymaris probably is would not be satisfied with just being told that. So I'm left wondering how I would in fact respond intelligently and base what I say on sound theological teaching. Your response comes close to that by adding some important major points to the debate, but it seems to me that the crux of the issue remains, so I wonder if you could elaborate a bit more on the issue.

Regarding Onan: in Greek the word "avnanismos" relates to masturbation, as does the English scientific term "onanism". Etymology here suggests that historically Onan is considered to have masturbated. But I do agree with Rev Pound that the nature of the sin seems to be more linked to the non-cooperation with God, rather in the way Eve sinned not because she ate the fruit but because she wanted to become God without God, and acted on her sinful impulse.

Finally Fr Morelli, a question: you mention that the Church is infallible. Is this actual Orthodox teaching regarding the Church? If it is, then how, for example does one account for the mistreatment of someone like St Nectarios by the Church in his own lifetime?

ICXC
Byron


#43 Fr. George Morelli

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Posted 24 March 2005 - 08:36 PM

> Byron Glory to Jesus Christ! Thank you for your kind words. Please > attribute any good you may see in integration of body-mind- and spirit > to the action of the Holy Spirit who is behind every good work. I > have mentioned the OCAMPR [Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, > Psychology and Religion, www.ocampr.org] in other postings. This is > a SCOBA organization that has the "interweaving" as you mention as > fundamental to it's goal purpose and spirituality. From your > postings I believe you are a mental health clinician yourself. > Membership is not restricted to the USA. Any Orthodox (health > practicioner or clergy) can apply. "Every good and perfect gift comes > from above, from thee the Father of lights ...." As to your question > regarding my responding to Mr Zymaris. It is quite difficult to > answer. I think you know from my past posts my view is that clinical > interventions be scientifically based. There is a clinical "art" > however to the application of any technique. Being a "hard scientific > clinician" I find myself paradoxically falling back to the great > unknown world of "intuition" in explaining how this art is expressed. > I recall from the time I was a child I had a sense of where a "person > is at". Very hard to put into words. An example would be I had a > sense of what my teachers in school wanted us as students to know, > what they thought was important, what they wanted to hear, how they > would formulate their questions and what they wanted to read as > answers. Each teacher was different. I remember telling my > schoolmates ... something like "it is easy to study, just figure out > 'where' a particular teacher is coming from and give back what they > want to know. It "came natural" to me to apply this clinically and > pastorally as well. In my years of clinically supervising doctoral > psychology students I found some had such a gift in relating to > patients. They could "intuitively" sense a patient's problems, how to > approach them etc. Others, although outstanding "book knowledge" [A+ > scholastically] didn't have a clue as to how to apply it or have a > 'sense' of the person. Possibly the popular idea of a physician's > "bedside manner" is similar to this. Possibly the studies on > effectiveness of psychotherapy indicating the factor of "therapeutic > relationship" across different treatment modalities is related to > this. In the world of Spiritual Direction, the spiritual father or > mother also has this when they have a sense of the "heart" of the > person they are directing. Of course grace building on nature. If > one has such "intuitive" gifts from God, naturally, then by God's > grace .... He may build on this to illumine the spiritual father or > mother to see sense the heart of the other, by the addition of divine > illumination. This is so clear to me as I read the lives and teaching > of our Spiritual Fathers. They truly had a Divine Gift, possibly > building on their 'natural gift' also given by God. A double grace so > to speak. I do not know Mr Zymaris and thus the best way of reaching > him, thus I do not have even a single grace. I believe Elder Paisios > of Mt. Athos said something like: 'attribute any failure to me and any > success to God' ---With this long caveat: even if 'I' reached him and > it were a success it would be God's success. This being said, anyone > heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, strong or weakly sexually > attracted individual at some point has to confront the reality, the > bottom line of God's will. Any intelligent person can justify their > viewpoints so it makes sense in their own minds. I find the world > always makes sense through the eyes of the person who is viewing it. > (As a clinician I attempt to see the world the way my patient does > ---to initiate the healing process). It takes the grace of God to > acquire humility ---to give up justifying themselves and their actions > and to say ... 'Father I will accept what you want for me "not my > will, but thy will be done"'. Justification of actions, in this case > sexual activity is not limited to homosexual behavior .... I have > heard brilliant, human, intelligent justifications for practically > any sexual act that can be imagined .... but the bottom line: does > this pass the God-test. A typical answer may be " ....well in "my" > case God will understand" ... My answer to this is "fine ... you > realize you are placing the view of one person, you, against what Our > Lord has told us and His teaching handed down through the Church for > 2000 years". ----is it worth the gamble? ...What did our Lord tell the > adulterous woman? ::: Sin no more ----- her answer could have been > [perfectly plausible from a human viewpoint] "Well God will > understand, I have to earn a living somehow!" ......Generically I > would try to have Mr Zymaris be open to humility and see that > dependence on his own view is pride. ... then I would try to use > another example different from his problem, initially using his > justifications, but would know this 'other problem' actually viewed > by him in 'God's way'. The Socratic Method is helpful in working > though this. For example if I "knew" he was "not" a pedophile, then I > may (using your words for his) say: "extrapolating out from what he is > saying, one could argue that as long as the relationship between [a > man and a boy (as argued by Man-Boy Love Association MAMBLA)] is > characterized by love and mutual commitment, then sex between them > would be the hallowed bodily expression of their spiritual bond". > ....... follow up on this ..and apply to his own problem ...and > eventually with prayer, cooperation with God's grace, and great > humility, he may accept God's will regarding what is "holy and > blessed sexual behavior". Regarding the Infallibility of the Church. > Once again I invite Fr. Raphael and Dr. Steenberg who are surely more > theologically gifted than I am to answer. My limited view is Christ > founded on Church on sinners and called to be saints. Judas betrayed > Him. Peter denied Him. Except for John all ran away from the cross. > Thomas doubted Him. In the 4th century Arianism was prevailing ...one > bishop St. Athanasius stood steadfast for Orthodoxy and for most of > his life was persecuted. Yet through all this by the protection of > the Holy Spirit as promised by Our Lord, Orthodoxy prevailed. "Is > any servant greater than his master"? If Our Lord would be tortured > and crucified to death ... can we expect anything different .. yet as > He rose from the dead, hidden by time during the three days before the > Resurrection, He conquered death and sin. So to, the Church through > the protection of the Holy Spirit, despite sinfulness and temporary > appearances is safeguarded in Orthodoxy. Our Lord told his Apostles > (as we read on Holy Thursday Evening Passion Gospels): "And I will > pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with > you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot > receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for > he dwells with you, and will be in you. "I will not leave you > desolate"; (Jn 14:16-18) His gift to us came at Pentecost and will > exist until he 'comes again'. A theologian: Fr. George > Mastrantonis:on Infallibility: > > The Orthodox Christian is blessed to be part of the One, Holy, > Catholic, and Apostolic Church which has been preserved intact, by > mercy, the fullness of the Christian Faith. In Holy Orthodoxy, the > interpretation of Scripture and the teachings of the Church have the > unanimous ratification of the Church, with its infallible authority. > It is this interpretation of the teachings of Christ by the infallible > Church that must be first known and understood by the Orthodox > Christian who is admonished by Apostle Peter: > > "/Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to > account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and > reverence."/ (1 Peter 3:15) This Church of Christ has in its nature. > the tendency to become and to grow; it has the nature to engulf and > develop the truths of Revelation; it is to be delved into from time to > time in finding and pronouncing the truths of which the Church is the > Pillar. The Church, as a whole, is infallible, but not God-inspired to > the extent that it has understood the entire depth of the truths and > formulated and proclaimed them to the world. The Church by nature and > duty from time to time - to settle controversies - formulates, defines > and pronounces some of these Revealed truths. In such instances, the > Fathers of the Church assembled in synods to discuss the disputed > points and to decree and interpret the correct meaning of those > truths. In doing so, the synods of the Fathers, as a whole and as > individuals, believe that their decisions are infallible. Their > decisions, however, remain pending for acceptance by the "Conscience > of the Church", which is the consent of all the faithful, clergy and > laity. > > The infallibility of the Church does not mean that the Church, in the > assembly of the Fathers or in the expression of the Conscience of the > Church, has already formally expressed all the truths of faith and > norms. The infallibility of the Church is confined to the formulation > of truths in question. This infallibility is not wholly a God-inspired > energy which would affect the participants of the synod to such an > extent that they would be inspired to pronounce all the truths at one > time as a whole system of a Christian catechism. The Synod does not > formulate a system of beliefs encompassing all Christian teachings and > truths, but only endeavors to define the particular disputed truth > which was misunderstood and misinterpreted. > > The Church of Christ and its divine nature, as set forth above, is the > foundation upon which the Eastern Orthodox Church continues to > administer and nourish its faithful, thereby protecting its > fundamental essentials. > I hope this is helpful in some way ..... in Christ ...FrGeorge


#44 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 25 March 2005 - 08:19 AM

Dear Fr Morelli,

Thank you for your response. I also feel that the clinician's "art" involves intuition, a sense of where someone is 'at', and I would add perhaps a sense of where they may be heading. How much more so must this be true of spiritual direction! Yet even if one is not gifted with profound insight into others, there is much that can be achieved with a little respectful listening and trust in the healing process.

One of the big dangers for intellectuals is definitely pride, and delusion (such as convincing oneself that one has arrived at the right answer) seems to me to be the path leading up to this hubris. Mr Zymaris is definitely not alone in this, and his reasons are more than understandable. I particularly appreciated the way you point out that a reasonable enough argument ('sex is the physical expression of a spiritual bond') can be used to justify any sin, however abhorrent, in the deluded mind.

Regarding the infallibility of the Church, I take it to be a dynamic one, not a static "once for all" formulation of the whole Truth. I must admit that I am, as a psychologist, rather suspicious of groups and mass behaviour in general. Carl Rogers spoke of "the wisdom of the group", but I have personally witnessed its folly more frequently. Groups seem to me to arrive at consensus and work to establish the status quo, but as most wars and election campaigns show, human beings are not very sensitive to the subtler nuances of the truth when operating on a collective level. Of course, the individual is also at risk, perhaps even greater risk, of delusion when operating as an isolated entity out of communion with God and his fellow human beings.

The reason I'm saying all this is because if the Roman Church considers its Pope to be infallible in the way we consider our Church to be infallible, that way lies danger, in my humble opinion. I put my trust in the Holy Spirit, as you remind me to do, in enlightening the minds of our fathers and synods when formulating any truths. And I do believe, that even if the Church as a human and visible presence in the world may at times appear to err, it is nevertheless perfect as the invisible Body of Christ.

Pray for me Fr Morelli to not be deluded into pride.

On the day of the Annunciation to the Holy Mother of God,

ICXC
Byron

P.S. I may look into joining OCAMPR, though I will probably not be able to afford travel to the States for conferences etc.


#45 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 March 2005 - 12:40 AM

I have been away for the past week so I only had the opportunity of reading through the past week's posts today. I think that Fr George has already addressed this topic wonderfully and also most importantly theologically- that is: what does the Church teach and how is this a reflection of the Life-bearing grace of Christ as it recreates the human being from the Old Adam of sin & death? Isn't this after all what theology really is by an Orthodox definition? This is abundantly witnessed to by the Holy Fathers and thus we read them for guidance. But also essentially what we are getting at is what leads to life & what to death. And as the other Orthodox teaching on theology goes "only the man of prayer theologises". That is: only through a life in Christ, of as deeply as possible dying to our own sense of what wisdom is do we gradually recognise the varying deceits of selfishness and know how through Christ we attain a personal resurrection from this. Thus it is not a reading of the Holy Fathers only that leads to theology but rather a selfless death to oneself. Perhaps this is why the Elder Paisios said words to the effect that we must speak from what comes from within our own hearts when it comes to conveying what the Holy Fathers teach. In any case we have nothing too much to offer from them if we have rejected the very way of life they try to lead us to.

Fr George wrote:

"this pass the God-test. A typical answer may be " ....well in "my" > case God will understand" ... My answer to this is "fine ... you > realize you are placing the view of one person, you, against what Our > Lord has told us and His teaching handed down through the Church for > 2000 years". ----is it worth the gamble? ...What did our Lord tell the > adulterous woman? ::: Sin no more ----- her answer could have been > [perfectly plausible from a human viewpoint] "Well God will > understand, I have to earn a living somehow!"


I think this is a wonderful illustration of the problem we encounter in 'justified lifestyles'. Often our first impulse is to justify our sinfulness by trying to cover it with the cloak of life when really it is covered with the cloak of death. How we know distinguish between the two is what is essential and this relates back to the basic question of whether what we are doing leads to Life or death. If what we are doing is selfish then it will lead to an inner death even if we cannot see the exact threads that lead to this.

Fr. George also wrote:

" Reasonably enough (in worldly terms), extrapolating out from what he is saying, one could argue that as long as the relationship between two men is characterised by love and mutual commitment, then sex between them would be the hallowed bodily expression of their spiritual bond."


Yes that is the essential question for us as Orthodox Christians. I think the whole answer stands or falls on the issue of whether the things we have referred to are really love or are actually a form of false love. As Fr George has already clearly written it is the Holy Trinity which defines what love is. We must also bear in mind that an essential mark of this love will always be selflessness. And on the contrary an essential mark of selfish "love" will always be self-gratification. In other words if the things we have been referring to are sinful and not accepted by the Church then it must be that they are not really loving no matter what the claims. And this is an essential aspect of how they are sinful. I think it is here that as Orthodox Christians we often get the most confused for we often accept the claim of love at face value rather than examining what the Church means by love.
Of course when it comes to the life in Christ we need first of all to trust that what the Church offers is true & life re-creating. But this trust is based on some level of experience of new life in Him. It is in this way precisely that we learn to distinguish between what Christ offers and what the world offers for the first is truly not of this world while the latter is always carnal-minded no matter what sparks of goodness there may be in it. In other words since it does not begin with an attempt at the fullness of life in Christ it always ends in finality and thus ends at death rather than Life. And isn't this where the real problem lies?- that so much is being defined by sexuality rather than a life in Christ.
I think it crucial for us as Orthodox Christians to understand what our true purpose is so that we do not mistake other things for this. Now especially during Great Lent is a wonderful time to read the Conversation of St. Seraphim of Sarov where the saint explains how the purpose of our Christian life is the aquisition of the Holy Spirit. If we get any sense of what this means then it becomes most certain that the Holy Spirit could never abide among the two things talked about here unless we were repenting of them.
One of the main purposes of Great Lent is so that we would increase in love of God & man. But in order to do this we are first led to the self-knowledge that we are not loving and that what love we have is often carnal minded rather than Christ like. So we learn to repent of what we had accepted at face value as love. And in God's time He fills us with His love and He changes us gradually. Only in this way do we finally begin to learn what love is. But this can only come after much struggle. If we are wondering whether something is really love as God intends it for us then we should read about one of the saints or Elders; for example the life of one of the great Elders of Optina. Would such things be acceptable to such saints? It makes one shudder to even think such a thing. But certainly these same saints in their love for us intercede for us so that we may understand why these things are destructive to us. And they also intercede so that we may find our life in Christ.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#46 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 01:00 PM

Dear All,

I haven't posted to this thread in a while, but I'm wondering again about sexuality and faith, and would like to hear people's thoughts; more specifically, I'm wondering about sex in marriage. It is clear to me from what we've been saying so far that a genuinely loving and unselfish erotic relationship between husband and wife, punctuated by periods of abstinence by mutual consent for the sake of increased spiritual effort (like in Lent), is for us Orthodox as blessed a path to holiness as the angelic celibate life of the monastics. Unless I'm much mistaken, sexuality in marriage is sacred, and it is not only a means of bringing children into the world (though it should be open to the possibility), but it is also a means of union between spouses.

However, I'm wondering about specifics - I have the impression that a lot of married saints chose to give up sexuality and lead essentially chaste lives as brother and sister, sometimes never having "consummated" their marriage in the first place. Is eventual chastity what a Christian couple ought to be aiming towards?

Also, although naturally the Fathers never become unnecessarily graphic, can anyone direct me to a patristic source which nevertheless describes what Christian lovemaking involves? Is the aim of pleasing the other the whole point? Or are there specific acts which are considered impure or unclean, even in "ordinary" heterosexual monogamous lovemaking, acts which a Christian concerned with spiritual life ought to avoid?

ICXC
Byron


#47 Guest_Juliana Lerman

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 02:26 PM

Hello, I am new to this forum and am presently a catechumin to Orthodoxy. As a wife of a non-Orthodox (he grew up Jewish but is non-practicing) there are great differences in our spirituality and religion. Therefore I feel that the area of the marriage bed is one of compromise. My husband gives me the respect and love to not partake in activities (such as oral sex) that we have previously engaged in before...however he is not happy over my change of mind. I only want to do what is God-pleasing but I also want to show my husband that he is still loved and desired. However, God comes first and this is hard for my husband to accept...he is dismayed at my change of ways. I also think that there is difficulty in some marriages (in regards to sexuality) because many times the husband and wife do not share the same desire for frequency of physical union. Please forgive me if I have been too graphic. But I am very interested in knowing (as Byron Jack Gaist) is, if there are guidelines given by any of the Holy Fathers regarding sexuality in marriage. Thank you for any help.
Lord have mercy me, Juliana Lerman


#48 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 09:11 AM

It seems there are others who are puzzled and troubled over the "specifics". There is a general discussion of the Eastern Orthodox view of sin at this website which I feel is misrepresenting some issues (particularly wrt homosexuality). For example, do we really believe that Adam and Eve did not engage in sexual intercourse before the fall? Is that the belief of the whole Church and all the Fathers? I have heard some Fathers say yes, others no to this question. But surely it is crucial to know what the accepted doctrine on this is . It seems to me to be the "make or break" of sex in this life. Should even married Christians aspire to eventually give it up?

If sex is OK in marriage, and not sinful, and not in any way "less" spiritual than abstinence, then what kinds of sex (unless, of course, the article is correct in saying that we do not standardise sin, and what is sin for one Orthodox may not be sin for another - OK, but how far does this extend? Can I engage in any activity whatever, as long as my heart is pure?)? My own spiritual father has advised me against engaging in acts which are "contrary to nature". But which "nature" are we referring to? What is "natural" in this fallen world is surely not the same as what will be natural in the world to come? So this business of before and after the fall, of what the spiritual body will or will not engage in, seems to me crucial. Are human beings from the Orthodox perspective "not sexual creatures in terms of their essential identity", as the above article suggests? Or is eros an essential part of God's "very good" creation?

Any help from those further along this path and those with theological knowledge would be most welcome here!

ICXC
Byron


#49 Fr Aaron Warwick

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 12:35 PM

Christ is risen!

Dear Byron:

You mentioned '[your] own spiritual father.' Why not just do what he advises in this situation and let your conscience and heart be at peace?

Aaron


#50 Guest_Elias Young

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 05:02 PM

I may have referred to this text previously but JND Kelly has a book entitled Early Christian Doctrines which outlines various Fathers as they give an opinion on various matters. It is a great help when seeking to identify who says what about what - which can then perhaps open avenues for further reading. As another member has said, all this seems best done with a priest/spiritual advisor.

"....do we really believe that Adam and Eve did not engage in sexual intercourse before the fall?"

Yes...

"Is that the belief of the whole Church and all the Fathers?"

They seem to approach this topic from varying points of view. Which Fathers are you thinking of? Orthodox Fathers would not tend to consider Augustine as an authoritative voice re: Orthodox anthropology or sexuality.

"Should even married Christians aspire to eventually give it up?"

It seems that even fallen human nature has built into it certain mechanisms which point in this direction.

"...not in any way "less" spiritual than abstinence"

A sexual life between a and a woman IS "less spiritual" than abstinence because the passions of the fallen human body are being generated and nurtured. A number of Fathers advocate this. The monastic life is a "higher" life spiritually.

"Are human beings from the Orthodox perspective 'not sexual creatures in terms of their essential identity', as the above article suggests?"

Human nature in it's pristine state was not sexual...else the Lord Who took on human nature would have had sexual relations. In the next life we shall (by God's Grace and our will) "be as the angels" without sexual distinctions.

"...is eros an essential part of God's 'very good' creation?"

It depends on who you read re: "eros". The meaning of the word as it applies to God, His love for the world, and a like-minded response to Him are different from what is meant in our fallen culture by "erotic". A sincere monk cannot live a lifetime of love and faithfulness to God with this "being in love with the Divine". This energy is known as "eros"...but without the overtly "sexual" content. Unless one is perhaps involved with some of the neo-revivals of the ancient mystery religions.

imo...


#51 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 May 2005 - 02:09 PM

At least part of our hesitation to discuss this issue points to a very important way in which we see this as Orthodox Christians and which indeed sets this apart from the attitude found in the world. First there is a question of modesty. There may be some here old enough to remember the attitudes of their grandparents (and indeed possibly even of their parents) to anything sexual. Briefly this attitude could be summed up in one word- modesty- for the mention of such things rarely occured unless one was referring (very discretely) to any indiscretions. Many things now regarded as hypocritical & repressive of the attitudes of that time were more often than not simply a desire to maintain a sense of modesty.

Such hesitancy to speak openly of such matters also came from a Christian understanding that speaking lightly about such things could have a bad affect on one's morals- indeed those speaking too openly about such things were themselves seen as having few morals. Again for us where open proclamation of every thought & feeling is supposed to be a sign of a healthy personality such reticence is seen as being repressed & 'out of touch with our feelings'. But we would do well to remember the Church's advice about the spiritual effect on us of what we think, say & do. In any case more than likely such Christian attitudes did deeply affect the intimate details of how marriage couples related to each other before the present time. More than likely a married realtionship was far less sexually expressed than what is the norm now.

What are the teachings of the Church about the physical expression of sexuality? The Holy Fathers are categorical that Adam & Eve did not have this type of relationship before the Fall. Also we should remember that Christ Himself referred to how after death we will not have a relationship such as is found in earthly marriage but rather shall be like the angels in heaven in regards to each other. Also recall the ascetic life as practiced by the Theotokos, the Holy Apostles and of course Christ Himself of living in virginity which precedes even monasticism. So the ideal of ascetic virginity is woven into the life of the Church from Apostolic times.

On the other hand the Church also blessed marriage from the time of Christ (the wedding of Cana) and in the earliest canon law there are injunctions against those who disparage marriage as inherently sinful.

The Church still keeps to this same balance blessing both marriage and the monastic life. And within marriage itself the Church blesses the relation between husband and wife mentioning this specifically in the prayers during the Marriage service. But at the same time the Church strongly encourages this same couple to fast from physical relations on fast days so that again we find this balance.

How then does the Church view the physical expression of sexuality? First of all it is important to understand that God created us male & female and that this aspect of each of us will be retained into eternity. Some think that because Christ said we become like angels that we become 'generic human souls after death returning to our primal purity'. But that this is not so can easily be seen just by looking at an icon of any saint where they remain male or female. Could anyone imagine the Mother of God not really being a woman? Or Christ not male? So this aspect of us remains and consequently how we would relate to each other also in that transfigured reality of the Kingdom. But of course we are not talking of any physical expression of sexuality or of any manner of relating to each other in which there was anything sinfully passionate. So in the Kingdom we will be in communion with each other also as male & female but this will be free of sinful passion.

Beyond what we can imply from the life of the Church as outlined above the Church seems to be reticent about positive comments concerning the physical expression of sexuality. There is really little to be found in Patristic or monastic writings before our own times. Overwhelmingly the emphasis is advice on the struggle against the passion of lust. The reason for this beyond a basic modesty & desire to be chaste even in what one writes is the danger of inadvertantly encouraging passion when we should be struggling against this. This is something we would do well to keep firmly in mind for the Holy Fathers understood much better than our present generation how tangled together is passion with any attempt at personal communion when it comes to sexuality. Indeed if we recognise that such relations are probably never free of passion then we come to the crucial question of how does this have any place in an Orthodox Christian life & in what sense does the Church bless it?

St Maximos the Confessor says the following about what he calls the natural appetites and pleasures.

Appetites and pleasures which are in accordance with nature are not reprehensible, since they are a necessary consequence of natural appetency. For our ordinary food, whether we wish it or not, naturally produces pleasure, since it satisfies the hunger which precedes a meal. Drink also produces pleasure, since it relieves the discomfort of thirst; so does sleep, since it renews the strength expended in our waking hours; and so, too, do all our other natural functions necessary for maintaining life and conducive to the aquisition of virtue.


Can sexuality be included in the above natural appetites and pleasures? Not as categorically as can be food & sleep for we need these to survive whereas we as individuals can survive without engaging in sexual relations. On the other hand sexuality is so worked into the fabric of human nature that the resultant pleasure he speaks of could then be seen as pertaining to this. In other words implied in what the saint says is consolation about the pleasure to be found in the married state. This addresses the suggestion one hears at times that seems to say that those who keep the Church's ascetic message in mind should find no consolation in the relations of their marriage.
The saint does not leave us with this however for he continues to explain:

But every intellect that is trying to escape from the confusion of sin transcends such passions, lest through them it remains a slave to passions which are subject to our control, contrary to nature and reprehensible; for these have no ground in us other than the activity of the passions which are in accordance with nature, although not on that account destined to accompany us into immortal and everlasting life.


So here again we find that balance in our lives that the Church constantly refers to between the present age and the state of the Kingdom to come. The passionate expression of sexuality results from the Fall but within sexuality itself there is the God created human desire for relationship & communion. In the present age we cannot completely seperate the two. But through the Church and a life that involves an ascetic love this aspect of human nature is blessed so that it foreshadows the transfigured communion of the age to come.

In the Risen Christ- Fr Raphael

#52 Guest_Elias Young

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Posted 07 May 2005 - 06:55 PM

Here is a link by Archimandrite Luke of Holy Trinty Monastery (Jordanville) which alludes to a more perhaps traditional view of sex and marriage within the context of Orthodoxy and the modern world.

elias

http://www.fatherale..._philosophy.htm


#53 Guest_leandros

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Posted 07 May 2005 - 10:41 PM

Brother Byron and Sister Juliana,

I advice you to read St. Chrysostom's Homily XIX:

http://biblestudy.ch...12/NPNF1133.HTM

Your question is showing that you are seeking an answer to a sexual behavior "problem". I am afraid Orthodox Church has no answer in such questions. There is not a list of permitted and not permitted behaviors. You have to see the whole picture of your marriage relationship in order to consider the overall Christian frame that sanctifies it.

What make a marriage to be sanctified are not the actions that the married persons perform. The sanctified persons themselves are the origins of a blessing marriage. Having said that, I point out that by being free to do everything, we are not actually doing everything in a loving relationship. We do not perform actions that transform others into faceless personas, inasmuch such actions would destroy our personal relationship with them.

Most people think that the restrictions that we impose to ourselves for not doing some "non-Christian actions"are related to our self-interest of not loosing paradise, by avoiding not being ourselves according to the "natural law of God". I think this is not the case. We impose restrictions to ourselves for the sake of the other person. We sacrifice our freedom to do everything for the benefit of the person we have the loving relation with. As St. Chrysostom interprets Apostle Paul:

"Now what is the meaning of "the due honor? The wife hath not power over her own body;" but is both the slave and the mistress of the husband. And if you decline the service which is due, you have offended God. But if thou wish to withdraw thyself, it must be with the husband's permission, though it be but for short time. For this is why he calls the matter a debt, to shew that no one is master of himself but that they are servants to each other.

When therefore thou seest an harlot tempting thee, say, "My body is not mine, but my wife's." The same also let the woman say to those who would undermine her chastity, "My body is not mine, but my husband's."

Now if neither husband nor wife hath power even over their own body, much less have they over their property. Hear ye, all that have husbands and all that have wives: that if you must not count your body your own, much less your money.

Elsewhere I grant He gives to the husband abundant precedence, both in the New Testament, and the Old saying, (h apostrofh sou, LXX. Genesis chapter 3, verse 16) "Thy turning shall be towards thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Paul doth so too by making a distinction thus, and writing, (Ephesians chapter 5, verse 25 and Ephesians chapter 5, verse 33) "Husbands, love your wives; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband." But in this place we hear no more of greater and less, but it is one and the same right. Now why is this? Because his speech was about chastity. "In all other things," says he, "let the husband have the prerogative; but not so where the question is about chastity." "The husband hath no power over his own body, neither the wife." There is great equality of honor, and no prerogative. "


The point is that married people, as sanctified persons in being Church members, we freely choose to live a "chastity" married life. Not by abstaining from sexual activities, but by living the bodily experience of "eros" (including sex) as being "bodiless" as long as we no longer own our bodies. This "hand over" of one’s body to another person is the absolute "chastity" practice that the married Christian can perform.

It is not the practice of impersonal relation of human passion that guides a woman to do according her beloved man asks her to perform, in order to share moments of passion and love. It is not the practice of self denial in order to achieve the other person's sexual satisfaction.

It is not the platonic love that denies bodily experiences because the body is inferior to soul.

Love between a christian husband and a christian wife is the most personal bodily experience that humans can experience. We are leaving in Christ such an authentic personal relation with each other that we actually live the kind of experience of St. Paul’s (in human analogy) who said: Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me". This self-identification with the other person is the chastity of the monks, that no longer live a bodily life, as they see their bodies to be the body of Christ. In this context also chastity is lived as a living reality from Christian husband and wife in their sanctified relation. It is an ascetic experience into matrimony.

So in this context husband and wife in Christ by having a body that belongs to the other beloved person, and by living this reality as mutual personal exercise of freedom, we become ONE FLESH. Ephesians 5:31-32 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church".

Finally I have to point out that we are not living to be sanctified, but we are being sanctified to be able to live. Paraphrasing this, I dare to say that we are not having sex to be sanctified, but we are sanctified to be able to have the experience of authentic bodily love.


#54 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 08 May 2005 - 10:10 AM

Dear All,

Thank you for your moving and considerate responses to my queries regarding sex. It is a blessing to be surrounded by so many thoughtful brethren in cyberspace!

Fr Raphael writes:

The passionate expression of sexuality results from the Fall but within sexuality itself there is the God created human desire for relationship & communion. In the present age we cannot completely seperate the two. But through the Church and a life that involves an ascetic love this aspect of human nature is blessed so that it foreshadows the transfigured communion of the age to come.


And Leandros writes:

It is not the practice of impersonal relation of human passion that guides a woman to do according her beloved man asks her to perform, in order to share moments of passion and love. It is not the practice of self denial in order to achieve the other person's sexual satisfaction.

It is not the platonic love that denies bodily experiences because the body is inferior to soul.

Love between a christian husband and a christian wife is the most personal bodily experience that humans can experience. We are leaving in Christ such an authentic personal relation with each other [...] chastity is lived as a living reality from Christian husband and wife in their sanctified relation. It is an ascetic experience into matrimony.

So in this context husband and wife in Christ by having a body that belongs to the other beloved person, and by living this reality as mutual personal exercise of freedom, we become ONE FLESH. Ephesians 5:31-32 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church".

Finally I have to point out that we are not living to be sanctified, but we are being sanctified to be able to live. Paraphrasing this, I dare to say that we are not having sex to be sanctified, but we are sanctified to be able to have the experience of authentic bodily love.


The above paragraphs, so eloquently put, have been particularly helpful in addressing my current condition as a married Christian, though I do take into account everything else that has been said also. It seems, Fr Raphael, I had previously been misled into thinking that some Holy Fathers did believe Adam and Eve engaged in prelapsarian sexual relations; thank you for setting me right on this, as it now makes much more sense, especially wrt being "as angels" towards one another in the future life.

Speaking from my own humble experience, it is very difficult for me to be chaste and personal in sexual love, even towards my beloved wife. Although I agree with Aaron that my own spiritual father is best qualified to help me with this, and I also agree with Fr Raphael that the Holy Fathers and even our relatively recent Christian ancestors (grandparents and great-grandparents) would have been careful in their expression on sexual issues because of modesty and the awareness that even talking about these issues in a manner seeking clarification can inadvertently cause others to fall, it is my definite hope that this is not the result of my discussion of this issue here. It seems the demon of lust is both powerful and subtle; if anyone has seen the recent movie "Kinsey", on the famous researcher Dr Alfred Kinsey (not a film I would reccommend for Christians, it offers no spiritual edification - one scene in fact caused me much nausea, disgust and unrest - but if like myself you are still struggling at the foot of the spiritual mountain to understand some basics re the values and dangers of repression and the history of sexuality in our century, it may have some very small merit), it is obvious in this movie how lust can work its ugly way into human lives, destroying us and depriving us of freedom in the process.

Regarding the issue of "repression", since Freud introduced it, it seems to have become pretty much the central concern of debates on sexual matters in this exploitative society. In the words of the George Michael song: "Sex is natural / Sex is good / Not everybody does it / But everybody should". In a social climate that thinks like this, and is an exact mirror-image of the Victorian puritanism and prudery that preceded it, it is difficult to know what to do anymore. "When in doubt, do nowt", they say in Yorkshire, but that is neither realistic nor considerate for a married person...

If any fellow monachos posters have had the blessing of a chaste personal history and have pure hearts and minds from the Lord, I take this opportunity as a sinner to congratulate their efforts and encourage them to continue; I have gained nothing but impediments from my sins, but I hope that at least this humbling experience may encourage me be merciful to others who have also fallen. Perhaps brothers and sisters who have the prize of chastity can pray for us who are struggling in the world to also recover the pristine Image in ourselves through God's help, in Whom all things are possible.

Forgive my verbosity.

ICXC
Byron

#55 Guest_Juliana Lerman

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Posted 08 May 2005 - 11:31 PM

Dear All,

I also want to thank everyone for their words of wisdom on such a delicate issue. Please accept my apology if I offended anyone with my unchaste words. New to the one true Church, I feel that I have such a long hard road ahead of me. Especially having lived so long with many of my passions being unchecked. However, this narrow way to our Lord and Savior somehow seems less daunting when supported by fellow christians who also desire to love others truely. May God bless you all!
Juliana


#56 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 02:06 PM

Dear Byron, Juliana & all,
I doubt anyone here was offended by the question that was posted. At least I wasn't. I began my response in the way I did because I noticed the hesitancy of many including myself to respond to an issue which we often do respond to on the parish or person to person level. Considering this I felt that part of the answer to the question should also refer to this reticence- not in the sense that we shouldn't talk about such things. But rather pointing to how the underlying Christian motives for being discrete are part of the answer to the question of sexuality. And if this is proper then doesn't it point to the sacredness of the topic at hand? As even secular thinkers have pointed out in recent times- extreme licentiousness in sexuality has taken much of the sacredness out of this aspect of human relationship. If this is so then the answer to restoring its sacredness should then also involve a committed reticence in the dynamic of this relationship. But with modern standards saying that we are only 'real' to the extent that we lose our reticence this is difficult & indeed on coming to the Church takes a whole process of long-term conversion. But this last could be a whole subject of discussion quite seperate from sexuality- now we are talking about the underlying values of our society and how this affects us.
In the Risen Christ- Fr Raphael


#57 Guest_efthymios

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 03:49 PM

Dear Forum Folks,

Evlogeite!

I was wondering (for my laziness) if anyone could provide (paste?) the texts relevant to sexuality given to human "in light of the Fall"?

I was told I could find the texts in: Saint Gregory Of Nyssa Against Eunomios I 38; On the Making of Man 23; and On Virginity 12.

What Holy Father(s) speak specifically about gender (sexual anatomy) being given "in light of" the Fall of Adam and Zoe (Eve)?

Thank you


#58 Fr. George Morelli

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Posted 12 February 2006 - 11:48 PM

Evolgeite .... Christ is in our midst .. I have not found many texts on the human sexual organs among the church fathers. (possibly a helpful sidebar gender and sex are different .. gender is the sexual identity a person has, which could or could not be the same as their sex (their chromsomal makeup) and sex organs. The confusion is an example another example of political correctness gone amuck). I do have one quote from Tertullian which may be somewhat related to your inquiry:

Chapter 32.�Inconsistency of Giving the Soul All the Parts of Sex and Yet No Sex.
For that form of the soul, whether masculine or feminine, which has the distinction of members characteristic of man and woman, being no semblance merely of body, but actual body, is either a male or a female, whether you will or no, precisely as it appears to be a man or a woman. But if your opinion be correct, and the soul is a body, even a living body, then it both possesses swelling and pendent breasts, and lacks a beard, it has a womb, and all the generative organs of a woman, yet is not a woman after all. Will not mine, then, be a statement more consistent with truth: the soul, indeed, has an eye and has a tongue, has a finger, and all other members which resemble those of the body, and yet the whole is the semblance of a body, not a body really? My statement is open to a general test; everybody can prove it in himself, when he brings home to his mind the image of absent friends; he can prove it with certainty when he recalls the figures both of himself and other persons, which have occurred to him in his dreams. On your part, however, no example can throughout nature be produced of such a monstrosity as you have imagined, where there is a woman�s real and living body, but not a woman�s sex.

It can be found on www.ccel.org. In Christ ....FrGeorge


#59 Guest_Guest

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Posted 03 March 2006 - 04:09 PM

Dear Byron,

The Athonite Monastic Elder confessors consider unnatural (key word if you think about it is: 'unnatural') sexual acts within marriage to be GRAVE sin for which a period of medicinal ex-communication is given, according to ancient canons.

Thus, acts which have only become somewhat commonplace in the past decades lead to spiritual death... ( we become *desensitized* into thinking is okay by the demons working through the media and popular culture, just as everything else which we are confronted with and which we foolishly entertain in today's neo-pagan and post-christian world--).

Truly, when one eliminates these acts, one does learn the meaning of chastity within marriage, and one will find that one will no longer have that little lingering doub tin the back of their conscience any more--the doubt that we have all become quite adept at rationalizing away! It liberates one's marriage and conforms it to the beautiful and loving union which God created and intended for married Christian men and women. Posted Image

Humbly,
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#60 Guest_Efthymios

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Posted 04 March 2006 - 12:29 AM

"chastity within marriage" is staying WITHIN the confines of the union of that marriage.

I highly suggest reading:
------------------------
"YOU CALL MY WORDS IMMODEST" by Dr. George Gabriel

excerpts:

The on-going revelations of sexual perversions by some in the Roman Catholic priesthood requires that we, as Orthodox Christians who hold the truths of the Holy Faith, explain the proper teachings of Holy Scriptures, and the commentaries of our fathers in the Faith in the apostolic tradition. Dr. Gabriel gives profound and useful insights into their teachings:

[pages 16ff]: "[M]onastic life is called the angelic life because it imitates the bodiless nature of the angels. Nevertheless, God gave to all men the single path to salvation called Chastity, a path traveled by the married AND the unmarried, by virgins and monastics. Virginity and chastity in marriage does not mean marriage without marital relations, although such [may] exist. And it is not the virginity of periodic abstinence from marital sex..It is the virginity of fidelity in marriage, fidelity in the heart and mind, as well as in the body. It is chastity and purity of two who have become one and are chaste as one...

Anyone can commit adultery or fornication spiritually, even if not bodily, with similar but silent results of the sin inwardly. "Fornication is possible without intercourse with another.."(St. John Climicas: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 15). "The true..chastity is that which is kept first in the heart and mind (St.John Chrysostom's 19th Homily: 1st Corinthians).

Understandably, theological issues can seem theoretical and academic to most people and, therefore, irrelevant to the 'practical" Christian life. But the fact is that theological issues DO exert an enormous force on the lives of Christians. See, for example, the devastating effects of Latin (Roman Catholic) theology on marital relations and the entire relationship in marriage..

[With the Church's experiential knowledge of Christ as Savior,] She rejected efforts..to deny marriage to the clergy. She knew that those efforts proceeded from an extreme zeal for asceticism, a zeal without understanding, and from the influences of pagan philosophy...[As the Apostolic Canon #5 states- from the earliest Council of Apostles in Jerusalem]:

"If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or anyone in the clerical rank abstains from marriage, or meat, or wine out of ABHORRENCE thereof, forgetting that all things are exceedingly good and that God made man, Male and Female,...let him either mend his ways or be deposed from office and expelled from the Church.."(See "Pedalion" for "Apostolic Canons" from earliest church documents)

[The 6th Ecumenical Council warns]: "Since we have learned that in the Church of the Romans it is regarded as tantamount to a canon [not yet a formal teaching until 11th c.] that candidates for ordination to the..presbytery must solemnly promise to have no further intercourse with their wives, we, however continuing in conformity with the ancient canon of Apostolic..orderliness, desire henceforth that the lawful marriages of ordained men BE MADE STRONGER. And we are in no way dissolving their [marital relationships] with their wives, nor depriving them of their mutual relationship and companionship..If any [cleric] expel his wife on the pretext of reverence, let him be excommunicated."

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