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Sex and Orthodox anthropology


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#1 Mina Mounir

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 04:50 PM

peace,
I was wondering , how does the Orthodox Anthropology see sex ? is it a " sin " ( or a consequence of the ancestral sin ... )? is it against the formation process of the new creature?is Sexual relationship part of the biological human being as if it is part of the " fallen nature " ? is the biological relationship against the " eucharistic man " ? I read in the book " being as communion" what means that the biological relationship between the husband and his wife builds a kind of relationship that can be described as " individualistic " since it cannot be shared with the eucharistic community . that is , it is not in harmony with the ontological catholicity of church.
another question , could we understand sex in the light of the " image and likeness " of God in man by any means ?
is there any provided orthodox materials about that topic , hopefully online :)

thank you.

Edited by Mina Mounir, 24 January 2009 - 05:11 PM.


#2 Robert Hegwood

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 05:53 PM

I am probably not the best one to reply to this question but it seems to me a difficult one to answer satisfactorily without a clear understanding of the anthropology of man in his prefallen state and how procreation was intended to take place. And I don't know anyone who has such clear and thorough understanding. I've encountered bit and glimpses, and speculations, but not much that seems authoritative.

But that said, given St. Paul wrote that the marriage bed was undefiled I don't see how it can be called sin in and of itself. Yet, given our fallen estate it is also hard to see how anyone can engage in that activity and not stimulate at least a little in the way of concupiscence. There is a point to the reference you made to Being as Communion (a theologically rich book that requires slow careful reading in my view) with regard to the exclusivity of the marriage relationship. And it may be true, but if so, given that within its sphere the relationship between man and wife is kenotic, I would have to say the eucharistic aspect is resolved in terms of fullness not of sin.

If I am not mistaken, certain of the saints and fathers...those who know better feel free to correct my errors...regarded sexual relations between man and wife as we know them now as something of a concession to the needs/weakness of our fallen estate and the world in which we live. So it is not a sin so far as I can tell. And through the raising of holy families the initial limited eucharist aspect (if such is the case) finds its fullness, or certainly more of it, for the new lives it brings forth can/should be united to and nurtured within the eucharistic community.

In the ranks of the saints I believe virgins are listed before even martyrs, so there is a great holiness that attends such an estate. But the married have another calling. But that said, I think even St. Basil remarked that though he was a virgin in body he was not in mind and did not count himself among that august number.


peace,
I was wondering , how does the Orthodox Anthropology see sex ? is it a " sin " ( or a consequence of the ancestral sin ... )? is it against the formation process of the new creature?is Sexual relationship part of the biological human being as if it is part of the " fallen nature " ? is the biological relationship against the " eucharistic man " ? I read in the book " being as communion" what means that the biological relationship between the husband and his wife builds a kind of relationship that can be described as " individualistic " since it cannot be shared with the eucharistic community . that is , it is not in harmony with the ontological catholicity of church.
another question , could we understand sex in the light of the " image and likeness " of God in man by any means ?
is there any provided orthodox materials about that topic , hopefully online :)

thank you.



#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 10:06 PM

Dear Mina,

Have you made use of the forum's search feature? I am sure we have covered this topic on several related threads. :)

#4 Mina Mounir

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 10:19 PM

Dear Mina,

Have you made use of the forum's search feature? I am sure we have covered this topic on several related threads. :)

well, I did - as far as I could - and I think I didn't find ... maybe I'm mistaken and I'd be grateful for some help! :)

#5 Michael Stickles

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 08:33 PM

Mina,

Your best bet for seeing what has already been posted on this topic is probably the thread Orthodoxy and sexuality (it has over 120 posts, so be prepared to take some time with it). It starts out specifically dealing with autoeroticism and homosexuality, but branches out into some more general discussion after a little while.

In Christ,
Michael

#6 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 08:15 PM

the Fathers teach that Adam and Eve were virginal before the Fall. They even teach that God created humans as male and female because He knew we would fall and would thus need a way to continue the race, and so He provided for this reality before it happened. That is why virginity is regarded with higher honor in the Orthodox Church, and Christ even tells us that in Heaven we will live like the angels. That being said, sex within marriage is not a sin, its just not the absolute ideal, but not all people are called to the ideal.

Fr. Sergius, the abbot of St. Tikhon's Monastery, said the same thing to me - that marital love is exclusive, and it is meant as a training ground to open our hearts to love all people, and that is why many older couples retire to their respective monasteries.

#7 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 09:40 PM

They [the Fathers] even teach that God created humans as male and female because He knew we would fall and would thus need a way to continue the race, and so He provided for this reality before it happened.


Dear Jesse

I would be grateful for specific references to this, and how it integrates with the command to 'be fruitful and multiply' (Gen 1:28) was given in Eden before the Fall. Also, how does this affect our understanding of the feasts of the conception of the Forerunner (23rd September) and of the Mother of God (9th December)?

In Xp

Alex

#8 Ryan

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 10:19 PM

From St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man

Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature is (unspeakable and inconceivable by human conjectures, except that it assuredly exists), it would have operated also in the case of men, who were "made a little lower than the angels ," to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker.


From St. John Chrysostom, On Virginity

When he was created, Adam remained in paradise, and there was no question of marriage. He needed a helper and a helper was provided for him. But even then marriage did not seem to be necessary... Desire for sexual intercourse and conception and the pangs and childbirth and every form of corruption were alien to their soul.


From St. John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

Carnal men abuse virginity , and the pleasure-loving bring forward the following verse in proof, Cursed be every one that raises not up seed in Israel. But we, made confident by God the Word that was made flesh of the Virgin, answer that virginity was implanted in man's nature from above and in the beginning. For man was formed of virgin soil. From Adam alone was Eve created. In Paradise virginity held sway. Indeed, Divine Scripture tells that both Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. But after their transgression they knew that they were naked, and in their shame they sewed aprons for themselves. And when, after the transgression, Adam heard, dust you are and unto dust shall you return , when death entered into the world by reason of the transgression, then Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare seed. So that to prevent the wearing out and destruction of the race by death, marriage was devised that the race of men may be preserved through the procreation of children.

But they will perhaps ask, what then is the meaning of “male and female,” and “Be fruitful and multiply?” In answer we shall say that “Be fruitful and multiply ”does not altogether refer to the multiplying by the marriage connection. For God had power to multiply the race also in different ways, if they kept the precept unbroken to the end. But God, Who knows all things before they have existence, knowing in His foreknowledge that they would fall into transgression in the future and be condemned to death, anticipated this and made “male and female,” and bade them “be fruitful and multiply.” Let us, then, proceed on our way and see the glories of virginity: and this also includes chastity.


From St. Maximus the Confessor, Difficulty 41

In order to bring about the union of everything with God as its cause, the human person begins first of all with its own division, and then, ascending through the intermediate steps by order and rank, it reaches the end of its high ascent, which passes through all things in search of unity, to God, in whom there is no division. It accomplishes this by shaking off every natural property of sexual differentiation into male and female by the most dispassionate relationship to divine virtue. This sexual differentiation clearly depends in no way on the primordial reason behind the divine purpose concerning human generation. Thus it is shown to be and becomes simply a human person in accordance with the divine purpose, no longer divided by being called male or female. It is no longer separated as it is now into parts, and it achieves this through the perfect knowledge, as I said, of its own logos, in accordance with what it is. Then, by a way of life proper and fitting to the Saints, the human person unites paradise and the inhabited world to make one earth, no longer is it experienced as divided according to the difference of its parts, but rather is gathered together, since no introduction at all of partition is allowed. Then, through a life identical in every way through virtue with that of the angels, so far as is possible to human beings, the human person unites heaven and earth, making the whole of creation perceived through the senses one with itself and undivided.


Another passage from the same work:

Indeed being in himself the universal union of all, he [Christ] has started with our division and become the perfect human being, having from us, on our account, and in accordance with our nature, everything that we are and lacking nothing, apart from sin (Heb 4:15), and having no need of the natural intercourse of marriage. In this way he showed, I think, that there was perhaps another way, foreknown by God, for human beings to increase, if the first human being had kept the commandment and had not cast himself down to an animal state by abusing his natural powers. Thus God-made-man has done away with the difference and division of nature into male and female, which human nature in no way needed for generation, as some hold, and without which it would have perhaps been possible


From Saint Gregory Palamas, Homily 43 "On the Gospel Reading for the Seventeenth Sunday of Matthew About the Canaanite Woman"

What is the starting point of our coming into the world? Is it not almost the same as for irrational animals? Actually it is worse, because the procreation of animals did not originate from sin, whereas in our case it was disobedience that brought in marriage. That is why we receive regeneration through holy baptism, which cuts away the veil which covers us from our conception. For although marriage, as a concession from God, is blameless, yet our nature still bears the tokens of blameworthy events. For that reason one of our holy theologians calls human procreation, "nocturnal, servile, and subject to passion", and before him David said, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5)


And another passage from Homily 14, "On the Annunciation"

God sent the archangel to a virgin and made her, who continued a virgin, His mother by means of a salutation alone. If He had been conceived from seed, He would not have been a new man, nor sinless, nor the Saviour of sinners. The flesh's impulse to reproduce is not subject to our minds, which God has appointed to govern us, and is not entirely without sin. That is why David said, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). So if the conception of God had been from seed, He would not have been a new man, nor the author of new life which will never grow old. If He were from the old stock and inherited its sin, He would not have been able to bear within Himself the fullness of the incorruptible Godhead or to make His flesh an inexhaustible source of sanctification, able to wash away even the defilement of our First Parents by its abundant power, and sufficient to sanctify all who came after them.



#9 Isa Almisry

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 03:46 AM

"And how become they one flesh? As if you should take away the purest part of gold, and mingle it with other gold; so in truth here also the woman as it were receiving the richest part fused by pleasure, nourishes it and cherishes it, and withal contributing her own share, restores it back a Man." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians

"Let no one think however that herein we depreciate marriage as an institution. We are well aware that it is not a stranger to God's blessing. But since the common instincts of mankind can plead sufficiently on its behalf, instincts which prompt by a spontaneous bias to take the high road of marriage for the procreation of children" - St. Gregory Nyssa, On Virginity, 8

"For he who sins, in the degree in which he sins, becomes worse and is of less estimation than before; and he who has been overcome by base pleasures, has now licentiousness wholly attached to him. Wherefore he who commits fornication is wholly dead to God, and is abandoned by the Word as a dead body by the spirit. For what is holy, as is right, abhors to be polluted. But it is always lawful for the pure to touch the pure." - St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2, 10

"Tell me not that the body is a cause of sin. For if the body is a cause of sin, why does not a dead body sin? Put a sword in the right hand of one just dead, and no murder takes place. Let beauties of every kind pass before a youth just dead, and no impure desire arises. Why? Because the body sins not of itself, but the soul through the body. The body is an instrument, and, as it were, a garment and robe of the soul: and if by this latter it be given over to fornication, it becomes defiled: but if it dwell with a holy soul, it becomes a temple of the Holy Ghost." - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 4, 23

“Blame not natural desire. Natural desire was bestowed with a view to marriage; it was given with a view to the procreation of children, not with a view to adultery and corruption.” - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on Ephesians

“For truly, truly this love is stronger than any tyranny; other desires may be strong, but this one never fades. This love is deeply planted within our nature. Unnoticed by us, it attracts the bodies of men and women to each other, because in the beginning woman came forth from man, and now from man and woman both men and women proceed.” - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians

“And while thou, fresh from the company of your own wife, darest not pray, although this is no blame at all; do you lift up your hands, fresh from reviling and insult, which brings after it no less than hell, before you have well cleansed yourself? And how do you not shudder? Tell me. Have you not heard Paul, saying, ‘Marriage is honorable, and the bed undefiled?’ (Heb. 13:4) But if on rising from the undefiled bed, you dare not draw near in prayer, how do you coming from the bed of the devil call on that awful and terrible name? For it is truly the devil's bed, to wallow in insults and reviling. And like some wicked adulterer, wrath dallies with us in great delight, casting into us deadly seed, and making us give birth to diabolical enmity, and doing all things in a way opposite to marriage. For whereas marriage causes the two to become one flesh, wrath severs into many parts them that were united, and cleaves and cuts in pieces the very soul.” - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 51 on Matthew




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