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Was Christ a normal heterosexual being?


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#101 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 03:13 PM

One thing I have in mind is that we use (wisely I think) plenty of economia on this issue. I'm personally very gentle in what happens in confession unless it's adultery (ie 'cheating' between married spouses). In other words none of what has been said on the Forum about Christ's freedom from sexual passion implies that we are against sex.


If Christ though was a 'normal healthy adolescent, etc' then we have no ideal to guide people towards simply because the truth is that 'normal healthy adolescents' never are able to overcome their chidlish attractions without Christ's divine grace. In this area the risk is real that we remain adolescents for the rest of life even into old age.

 

The answer to this could well be (as was mentioned or implied in some posts) that Christ is of benefit to us, and is authentic in His incarnate reality precisey because He underwent these passions and overcame them.

 

This postion seems to make sense and is appealing in a certain way. It is however a straight forward description of the Nestorian Christ and leaves out the central insights of the enhypostatic Christ as described by the Council of Chalcedon.

 

What does this mean? Antiochian Christology always emphasised the two natures of Christ. One reason for this was an attempt to avoid what they saw as any 'mixing' in God's nature of what is human. But along with this in this there was also an interesting moral point that if only Chirst God is involved in overcoming the passions, ie if He as human is not involved in a true and real way in this- then of what good is that to us who are human? Antiochian Christology could go so far as to say that Christ's overcoming of passion is heroic precisely because it was done through His humanity (as in communion with His divine nature of course).

 

I think that this lost Christology is worthy of consideration. In some ways it is similar to what we find at times in western Christology of the Patristic period that was never condemned.

 

But even then was must never forget St Cyril's criticisms of some tendencies in Anitochian Christology especially as Nesotrius put this forward in a very structured 'rationalised' form. (and which was condemend as heresy). Here what St Cyril explained is that the starting point of correct Christology is that Christ is not two personal realities- a human one along side a Divine One. This is incorrect because then as St Cyril explained we are not describing Chrst incarnate but rather a good man or perhaps a prophet.

 

Christ then is One Person- the preternal Word Who is perfect, sinless, immeasurable, good, pure, etc. This words adopts humanity (not a human person) and in so doing His humanity is infused with the divine qualities. Does this mean that He loses His human qualities? No.

 

But these human qualities are not as in a fallen man with passions. Rather His humanity is sinless and is in perfect accord through His human will with His divine will (St Maxmius and the 6th Ec Council).

 

What this means then is that Christ's human will does not act in the fashion that it does with us, where we search out God's will, have sinful impulses which we then correct and set in the right direction, etc (the 'gnostic will'). This too is a return to the original impulses of Nestorius concerning the dynamic between human and divine that he believed make sense in terms of authentic human salvation. What St Maximus said then (as confirmed by the 6th Ec Council) is that Christ's human will perfectly accords with His divine will. There is little human analogy to explain this reality because all of us use gnostic will- (ie we start from a point of not knowing what God's will is or not being clear about it or worse-of actively resisting it). With Christ the relationship of His human will to His Divine will is one of immediate accord without that intervening uncertainty or wavering that we experience. And as St Maximus explained the radical difference bwteen how Christ's huamn will operates and how our human will operates is the hwole basis of what allows our salvation.

 

A last point though in order to be charitable to Anthiochian Christolgy which I think before it's pre Nestorian phase did have something good to offer. (there's a strong argument to be made that St Cyril's reconciliation with Bp John of Antioch involved an acceptance of some of the major insights of Antochian Christology).  No Antiochian nor even Nestorius ever maintained that Christ's humanity was passionate, capable of sexual passions, etc.

 

This leads me to the thought, that the question here then, is a very modern one with all of the focus on Christ as someone Who is really one of us. We suffer, we feel isolated alone and we wonder what God has to do with any of what we suffer through.

 

Such questions are authentic and important for our time.

 

But their answers are found in the vision of Christ as explained especially by St Cyril where Christ is described in the warmest terms as having adopted what is ours.

 

But this does not mean that a deep and continuing conversion of mind and thought will not still be needed by us. Almost all of us are profoundly affected in one way or another by the humanist treachings of the past few centuries that makes man the measure of all things. This tendency is even stronger now with all of its emphasis on 'be your real self'. To counter this then ie to convert our minds and hearts will take very deep metanoia (change of mind & heart) so that voluntarily and involuntarily we do not bring in the teachings of this world to replace what is of the Church.

 

Ultimately much of this comes down to a pastoral question. As said at the beginning of this post, healing for those who are deeply suffering from the various passions can only come from Christ's divine grace.

 

 

 

 



 



#102 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 05:07 PM

Thanks Father Raphael for your post.

 

There is also a great misuderstanding about the famous statement of St Gregory of Nyssa: 'That which is not taken is not healed, but whatever is united to God is saved'.

 

Modern times thinking takes the first part of the phrase and leaves out the second part of the phrase. This guides to all kinds of problematic logical arbitrariness.


Edited by Lakis Papas, 30 March 2015 - 05:07 PM.


#103 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 05:55 PM

John Martin, on 30 Mar 2015 - 10:28, said:
Here is a comment from another blog which I think both sides in this discussion would find interesting. In context the commenter is addressing the Monothelite assertions of another commenter (emphases mine):

The gnomic will is not natural except inasmuch as we have a natural will but are separated from God and therefore cannot always exercise our natural will as intended. The same with sex, and the same with all our other natural desires. They all can be perverted to have us desire the wrong things or the right things too much, but they need not be. In that, sexual desire is no different.

So the "lack of sexual desire could be easily rooted" in the lack of human sperm at Christ's conception? How? If the claim is true, the answer should be easy, but I doubt that you will find it so.

#104 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 08:45 PM

Christ was not ‘a mere man’ (St Cyril of Alexandria). His formation was different from that of any man: Christ’s incarnation involved His development in His All-Holy Mother’s womb ‘not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once’ (St John of Damascus; St Basil the Great). From the instant of the incarnation, human nature was united to the divine nature in the One Person Jesus Christ (St John of Damascus).


Human nature includes the ‘blameless passions’; these are ‘those which do not depend on us, that are not a matter of choice and preference, but those that came in after the transgression . . . These things are not sin but the results of sin ‘Christ did not also assume the seminal, as it functions in the masculine nature. This relates to the fact that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not seminally. Moreover, the seminal, which is related to the sexual instinct, is related to thoughts, desires, rebellions of the flesh, etc. Christ never had such problems’. (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, basing himself on St John of Damascus).


Christ did not experience attraction to the female sex because His human will was perfectly in accord with His divine will and was completely subordinate to it:

‘And we cannot, if we wish to be accurate, speak of Christ as having judgment (γνώμη) and preference. For judgment is a disposition with reference to the decision arrived at after investigation and deliberation concerning something unknown, that is to say, after counsel and decision. And after judgment comes preference, which chooses out and selects the one rather than the other.’
‘His human will was obedient and subordinate to His divine will, not being guided by its own inclination, but willing those things which the divine will willed.’ – St John of Damascus.


‘Following the holy fathers we teach with one voice that the Son of God and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same [Person], and He is perfect in Divinity and perfect in Humanity’ –Council of Chalcedon. Christ from the instant of His incarnation was all that Adam was meant to be:

 

‘first-created Adam was unable to fulfil the vocation laid before him: to attain deification and bring to God the visible world by means of spiritual and moral perfection. Having broken the commandment and having fallen away from the sweetness of Paradise, he had the way to deification closed to him. Yet everything that the first man left undone was accomplished for him by God Incarnate, the Word-become-flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ – Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)


As has been said, sexual attraction and activity are not essential and so not in need of being assumed. Christ, in His purity, was aware of difference (as between a fish and a snake) but for the reasons given by the Holy Fathers, did not exercise preference which sexual attraction entails.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 30 March 2015 - 08:46 PM.


#105 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 10:04 PM

Christ was not ‘a mere man’ (St Cyril of Alexandria). His formation was different from that of any man: Christ’s incarnation involved His development in His All-Holy Mother’s womb ‘not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once’ (St John of Damascus; St Basil the Great). From the instant of the incarnation, human nature was united to the divine nature in the One Person Jesus Christ (St John of Damascus).

These quotations do not speak to the issue. They merely say He became fully, perfectly man at the Incarnation. Nevertheless, He started as an embryo and grew from there, going through all the natural changes necessary to produce an adult male.

Human nature includes the ‘blameless passions’; these are ‘those which do not depend on us, that are not a matter of choice and preference, but those that came in after the transgression . . . These things are not sin but the results of sin ‘Christ did not also assume the seminal, as it functions in the masculine nature. This relates to the fact that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not seminally. Moreover, the seminal, which is related to the sexual instinct, is related to thoughts, desires, rebellions of the flesh, etc. Christ never had such problems’. (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, basing himself on St John of Damascus).

This asserts but does not explain a connection between presumably sinful insemination and presumably sinful sexual attraction. That may make obvious sense to those who assume sexual desire and sexual intercourse to be inherently sinful, but it doesn't prove that assumption.

Christ did not experience attraction to the female sex because His human will was perfectly in accord with His divine will and was completely subordinate to it:

His human will was indeed perfectly in accord with His divine will, but sexual attraction is not solely a matter of will. It has an involuntary component. As with many desires, the involuntary component can be mentally overridden. With effort, one can actually turn off the desire for food. Did Christ do that, too? Did He never actually feel hunger? (The quotation from St. John of Damascus does speak to the issue.)

‘Following the holy fathers we teach with one voice that the Son of God and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same [Person], and He is perfect in Divinity and perfect in Humanity’ –Council of Chalcedon. Christ from the instant of His incarnation was all that Adam was meant to be:

 
Christ's human body matured physically in accordance with human nature. (The quotations from Chalcedon and Met. Hilarion do not speak to the issue.)

As has been said, sexual attraction and activity are not essential and so not in need of being assumed. Christ, in His purity, was aware of difference (as between a fish and a snake) but for the reasons given by the Holy Fathers, did not exercise preference which sexual attraction entails.

The sense of taste is not essential. Did Christ therefore not assume it?

All desires entail a preference for the thing desired. How does sexual desire differ in that regard from other desires?

The ultimate issue is the mystery of sex. We don't fully know why men are attracted to women and vice versa. But one thing we can say is that it is neither all about physical pleasure or all a matter of will. It is complex behavior involving mind and body, having something to do with how we see ourselves in relation to others, and some similarity to how God relates to us. Do we see ourselves as the bride or the bridegroom, the head or the body? And is how we see ourselves consistent with the sex God has assigned to us?

Until we know more about the mystery, it is very dangerous, in this day and age, to insist that Christ did not assume this very important aspect of our nature and being.

In Christ,
Pdn Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 30 March 2015 - 10:08 PM.


#106 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 10:04 PM


Human nature includes the ‘blameless passions’; these are ‘those which do not depend on us, that are not a matter of choice and preference, but those that came in after the transgression . . . These things are not sin but the results of sin ‘Christ did not also assume the seminal, as it functions in the masculine nature. This relates to the fact that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not seminally. Moreover, the seminal, which is related to the sexual instinct, is related to thoughts, desires, rebellions of the flesh, etc. Christ never had such problems’. (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, basing himself on St John of Damascus).



 

 

This reminded me that St Maximus has a lengthy and very profound discussion about Christ overcoming the pleasure/pain principle through the Virgin birth.

 

What he says is that the result of the sinful/sensual pleasure that is involved in the present (ie post Fall) mode of human reproducation is pain. This pain is the inevitable result of our desires for sensual pleasure as arranged by God and its providential purpose is that it urges us back towards Him and a life that is not focused on fulfilling our pleasures. To the degree that sensual pleasure operates as the motivating principle in our relationship with other people & things then pain inevitably results.

 

Christ then reverses this mode by which we Fell and presently sin and He has done it through His Virginal birth which involved no sensual pleasure.



#107 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 10:08 PM

Protodeacon Patrick wrote:

 

"Until we know more about the mystery, it is very dangerous, in this day and age, to insist that Christ did not assume that very important aspect
of our nature and being."

 

But St Maximus says the opposite and in clear fashion also.



#108 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 10:22 PM

Folks- this thread doesn't seem to be going anywhere fruitful at this point. 

 

So we are going to close the thread until after Bright Week.

 

This should allow us to focus on this present Holy season that leads to our Lord's resurrection.






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