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Two or Three Blessed Paths: Marriage, Monasticism, and A Third Option?

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#21 Olga

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 01:45 AM

The Church has also glorified murderers and prostitutes.  Not everything a saint does is blessed.

 

What a saint has done before becoming Christian is of no consequence. What is essential is their repentance from a sinful life. Last time I checked, living a single and chaste life is not considered sinful by the Church.

 

To which, I would reply that prostitutes are not virgins, so they obviously don't fit the bill.  And the Church doesn't go around blessing the life of prostitutes even if some of them will repent.

 

Irrelevant to the matter of this thread. You are contending that an unmarried, chaste person living in the world is not living a proper Orthodox way of life.
 

 

then explain saints who were polygamists their whole lives.

 

Please provide examples of such saints from the New Testament era.



#22 Deacon John Martin

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 02:04 AM

I think we both agree that Orthodox Christians need to be chaste, whether as married or single people. Where we differ is that you seem to believe that everyone who is not married or planning to get married needs to become a monastic. And based upon this principle, you deride “spinsters” and “lifelong bachelors.”

 

I know personally some older, pious unmarried women (“spinster” is a derogatory term) who for whatever reason did not become nuns. Is their way of life inherently perverse to you, because they don’t fit the Procrustean bed you have clobbered together and attributed to the Fathers? Nevertheless they are in good standing with the Church.

 

There is no canon against being unmarried. You have the burden of proof.


Edited by John Martin, 14 February 2015 - 02:05 AM.


#23 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 05:00 AM

Irrelevant to the matter of this thread. You are contending that an unmarried, chaste person living in the world is not living a proper Orthodox way of life.

I claimed no such thing. Your prejudice has ascribed this to me. I simply stated that it is not a path blessed by the Church and asked for evidence to the contrary.  I did not claim it was cursed.

 

Please provide examples of such saints from the New Testament era.

The lives of Saints user the Old Covenant are completely relevant, given that they were ascribed obedience under God's law, especially given that God has inscribed his law on the hearts of all. Why then the arbitrary requirement of New Testament Saints only?

 

Even if I provided just one example of a New Testament era saint who had multiple wives or husbands, I don't think you would concede the point.



#24 Olga

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 05:09 AM

I claimed no such thing. Your prejudice has ascribed this to me. I simply stated that it is not a path blessed by the Church and asked for evidence to the contrary.  I did not claim it was cursed.

 

If the glorification as saints of unmarried, chaste people is not a blessing by the Church, then what is it?

 

Even if I provided just one example of a New Testament era saint who had multiple wives or husbands, I don't think you would concede the point.

 

Though polygamy is beyond the scope of this thread, you asserted there were saints who lived in lifelong polygamy. Please provide examples of them, from the New Testament era.



#25 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 05:27 AM

If the glorification as saints of unmarried, chaste people is not a blessing by the Church, then what is it?

The same as when soldiers are glorified. Not all actions of a saint are blessed.

 

Though polygamy is beyond the scope of this thread, you asserted there were saints who lived in lifelong polygamy. Please provide examples of them, from the New Testament era.

If it is beyond the scope of the thread, then why are you asking? Of course, if we upset the moderators then threads get locked ;)

I did not claim that there were New Testament saints that were lifelong polygamists.  There are New Testament saints that are serial polygamists.



#26 Olga

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 05:49 AM

But even if that argument could successfully be made (and I am pretty sure it can't), then explain saints who were polygamists their whole lives.

 
These are your words, Seraphim. Lifelong means for one's whole life.

 

 

 


There are New Testament saints that are serial polygamists.

 

Please explain this terminology. If you're using it to refer to people who have remarried, the Church allows for second and occasionally third church weddings.



#27 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 08:17 AM

Yesterday evening, I went to the monastery here for the trisagion at the tomb of Elder Sophrony, and I took the opportunity to look in the bookshop at a few books on marriage. One was by John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perpsective in which it was abundantly clear that life was not restricted by the Church to marriage or monasticism. Meyendorff has written further (Christian Marriage in Byzantium: The Canonical and Liturgical Tradition) on this subject and quotes the canons of the Council of Gangra which say: "anyone who shall condemn marriage" (canon 1), any "virgin abstaining from marriage because he/she abhors it, and not on account of the beauty and holiness of virginity itself" (canon 9), "anyone who, while living a virgin life, shall treat married people arrogantly" (canon 10). There is no mention of monasticism.

 

There is nothing in the Church's canons that says a person must be married or a monastic. We have saints who lived a chaste single life and were not monastics. As has been said, saints have commended and blessed the single life because virginity and shunning of worldly pursuits is preferable. When virginity is praised as angelic, it is because that state has both ascetical and eschatological aspects; hierarchy is not mentioned in this connection.

 

Seraphim asserts that the single chaste life lived is not blessed by the Church. He who asserts must prove. There is evidence (provided in the writings of John Meyendorff and others, as well as St Theophan the Recluse) that the single chaste life has, since apostolic times to our own times, been blessed as considered a laudable ascetical path, and we see the actual blessing of particular individuals to this way by St Theophan and St Barsanuphius.



#28 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 08:37 AM

The Orthodox Mission of St Luke in Toronto, a Serbian foundation with a hierarchical blessing, has this article which confirms the 'third way':

 

http://www.sv-luka.o.../singlif_n1.htm



#29 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 05:34 PM

It is axiomatic that there are monks who are not really "monastic". Can there be people who have not taken on the vows and formality of monasticism and yet live an ascetic life? I say yes. We are not born married. There exists a time in our lives where we are neither married nor monastic, so there is, obviously, a "third" way, that is neither married nor monastic (in the formal sense). Otherwise, do we establish some sort of requirement that if you are not married by such and such an age, you MUST take monastic vows? This has NEVER, EVER been in the tradition of the Church.



#30 Hen

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 08:50 PM

Either / or said Kierkegaard .. Please don't look at the hologram it don't matter married / single or monk / lay.  We should rather as ask why? why is he / she married ? why is she / he single? Ask yourself are you fasting for healthy diet or to control your passion? 



#31 Anton S.

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 12:26 PM

I think the important thing is not whether you tonsured as a monk or not. Many people who are tonsured and are formally monks and nuns, in reality are no better than old bachelors and spinsters, for they do not live, feel and think like monks. On the contrary, a person living chastely in the world and serving God under the guidance of a good spiritual father may be a monk or a nun at heart.

 

God judges not the formal status of a person, but his or her inner life.

 

Orthodox Christianity is not formalistic. Formalism in religious life is for Pharisees.

 

As for the number of 'ways', there is only one way to reach God - the way of love. Loving God and your neighbor with all your heart is all that matters, all the rest are just the external circumstances in which this love is realized.



#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:34 PM

As I was reading some of this thread I remembered the recently departed monk John (who was, before his tonsure, Father Lawrence (Campbell) the translator of many of the liturgical materials that we all have used regularly - most popularly the Unabridged Horologion.)  He lived pretty much his entire adult life as neither married nor monastic (although he did live in a monastery - but was never tonsured).  Many times the abbot of the monastery offered to tonsure him but every time Fr John refused saying that he wasn't ready to be a monk - that there were too many unknowns in the future.  Finally, in the last year of his life, the abbot again offered to tonsure Fr John and suggested that there were few unknowns left in his life.  He also told Fr John that he would be named in tonsure for St John of San Francisco for whom Fr John had a great love (a person is usually not told what name he will be given and does not find out until he is tonsured - this was a departure from the norm.)  Fr John lived out his entire life neither married nor monastic, but his life was blessed by God regardless.

 

There are many others that I have known who were neither married nor monastic throughout their entire lives and yet lived holy and pious lives blessed by God.  Both marriage and monastic life are "callings" - woe to the person who enters into either one without a true vocation.  It is better to remain as we are (single) and live according to the life God puts in front of us than to jump into something for which we are not suited simply because of some idea that you must be either fish or fowl (when in fact you are a mammal)..

 

Fr David



#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 06:23 PM

We might also remember that many bishops, who are technically monastics, do not live in monasteries.



#34 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 08:42 PM

Patristic evidence was provided in another thread.  Thank you.
 
At the time of this posting, I have not received the The Spiritual Life by Theophan the Recluse that I ordered, so I have not yet been able to verify the previous claim.
 
John Meyendorff, and arguments like I have friends or there are monks and nuns who don't have the right heart didn't answer my question because they weren't patristic.
 
There is a third way.  That part of the question is answered.



#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 09:31 PM

When you get the book, please see chapters 72 and 73. I recall that something on the same lines is in Kindling the Divine Spark.



#36 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 09:59 PM

The quotation on the other thread from St Anthony of Optina was from pravoslavie.ru



#37 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 03:46 AM

The quotation on the other thread from St Anthony of Optina was from pravoslavie.ru

 

It appears that you were referring to The World or the Monastery?

 

It wasn't clear to me which Saint spoke the words you quoted: St. Anthony of Optina, St. Macarius of Optina, or St. Barsanuphius of Optina.  From my reading, it appears that it is the latter. 

 

It will take me some time to get through those books. I don't have the St. Anthony book yet, the St. Macarius book is 269 pages and St. Barsanuphius is 833 pages!  At my speed of reading, that plus the Theophan the Recluse book should keep me busy for Lent :)

 

I plan to report my findings for the edification of any who read the thread.



#38 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:52 AM

The article is a little mixed up with Optina saints' quotations but it seems you are right. As an aside, Optina Pustyn was one of the first if not the first monasteries to be returned to the ROC and was formative in my wife's involvement in the Church, she making a winter pilgrimage there in 1989, the experience making a deep and lasting impression on her.



#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 04:07 PM


So you made up your mind once and for all to dedicate your life to serving the Lord and not to have anything to do with worldly life. May God graciously accept this sacrifice and bless your good decision!

 

. . . adapt to that kind of life within yourself, not by a change of outward ways, but of the inward order.

 

Now you may completely refuse all amusements and stay more at home in solitude, engaged in some occupation . . .

Implant a little more deeply the conviction that the way of life you have chosen is blessed by God. It was sanctioned by the Savior in the saying about eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He gave it preference when he said of Mary . . . that she had chosen the better part . . . You see clear examples of it in the person of many Prophets and Apostles . . . Female and male virgins were a fixture in Christ’s Church even in apostolic times; they have been in the Church ever since and will continue to be in it . . . For this kind of life is not alien to our nature [as Fr David has said], and is favoured by the spirit of belief in Christ.

 

From St Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life.



#40 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 05:29 PM

Good quote.
 
It seems pertinent then to point out the other aspect of my original question.  How can living such a life be compatible with concerns over equal pay and career orientation?  It seems to me that those are quite "worldly" concerns that necessarily plague the married husband since he is the one who is charged with providing with a family.  This seems to fly in the face of what St Theophan is recommending.  Again, I haven't received the book, so I can only go on the quotes shared.
 
Some individuals took offense at the term "spinster" which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "Appended to names of women, originally in order to denote their occupation, but subsequently (from the 17th century) as the proper legal designation of one still unmarried."  Some consider the term derogatory, as it signifies a woman who has not formed a human pair bond by the time she is approaching or has reached menopause and the end of her reproductive lifespan.  Often, those women feel a sense of shame because they put their career before family, only to realize it was vanity.

 

I chose the term "lifelong bachelor" because I could not find an equivalent term for the male counterpart.  I am open to suggestion if there is a term that is better.

 

Contrary to the prejudices of others, I chose these terms very carefully to engage in the discussion.  I would like it clarified why some are so preoccupied about fairness and social justice relate to the Orthodox faith, especially for those who are single.  What does that matter if you are living your life for God, what does it matter if you earn equal wages or have the same career opportunities?






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