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What is the Orthodox interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28 ?


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#1 hailton

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:14 AM

If a sinful thought pops up in my mind, am I sinning ???
Do I have to confess my thoughts ???
One of the reasons I am asking this questions is because I suffer from OCD. OCD is a mental illness which produces unwanted and intrusive bad thoughts.
I'm afraid of my own thoughts. It is like I have no control over my thoughts. And I fear the possibility of sinning in thoughts.
Many thanks to all of you !!


#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 07:09 PM

Thoughts can be from a number of sources: memories, fantasies, provocations from the evil one.  If a bad thought comes to you, it is like a trespasser and you have not yet sinned.  But do not give it hospitality – kick it out!  If you invite it as a guest into your heart, then you will have sinned.

 

- Bishop Irenaeos (Vasiliou) of Patara (+2009)



#3 Lakis Papas

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 10:20 PM

Reader Andreas provided a complete answer.

 

If I may add that whatever makes us lose peace in our hearts should be confessed so that peace might be restored.

 

Even when somebody else does or say something that has as an effect for us to lose peace in our hearts, we must confess this.

 

Of course the main reason to lose peace in our hearts is to sin - to act sinfully. But this not the only reason.

 

A vision, a thought, a hearing, a memory, a success, a failure, something that we did not do, something that someone else did, reasonable sorrow, lost opportunity, when a loved one suffers, unfair accusation, injustice prevalence and many other things can result in losing peace in our hearts. Even when we are not responsible, the path for peace restoration is confession.

 

In all cases, our consciousness is a sure guide, to inform us that peace is lost from our heart. 

 

hailton, I am puzzled by your profile saying that you are "Guest from Another Religious Tradition" - then you have to follow your "Religious Tradition" guidelines.

 .



#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 10:56 PM

What is sin?  It is whatever puts distance or separation between a man and God, what the Holy Fathers call a 'brasen wall'.  We must pray for our conscience to be well formed by the Holy Spirit so we recognise what we are doing.  Then we shall be able to know when we have sinned. 

 

In one form or another, all sins are but aspects of pride.

 

The same.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 29 May 2015 - 10:57 PM.


#5 hailton

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 12:15 AM

hailton, I am puzzled by your profile saying that you are "Guest from Another Religious Tradition" - then you have to follow your "Religious Tradition" guidelines.

 .

 

I have updated my profile.

I am being catechized to join the Eastern Orthodox Church.



#6 hailton

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 12:17 AM

Many thanks Reader Andreas and Lakis Papas for the answers.
I have found the answers very helpful.


#7 John S.

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Posted 01 June 2015 - 02:48 PM

hailton -

I am not a priest, but I have read my fair share of Orthodox writings. If you are looking for patristic quotes, I will leave that to Reader Andreas. But if you are interested in a practical answer to your question, maybe I can be of help:

As someone who has struggled with intrusive thoughts in the past and has read a great deal on the subject, I think the answer to your question is NO, you are NOT sinning when a sinful thought pops into your head.

Orthodoxy has a word for such thoughts. They’re called “Logismoi.” In Orthodox theology, this word has come to mean such “assaultive or tempting thoughts.”

Reader Andreas is right. Thoughts can come from many places. We can call them up, we can actively fantasize, we can reminisce… but sometimes thoughts also come from OUTSIDE of us, either from the world (something we read, or saw on TV), or from the demons themselves.

There are many many writings of the saints and of theologians on this. The key to remember is that such thoughts are NOT YOUR OWN. They are from OUTSIDE of you. As such, when they pop into your head, you are NOT responsible for them, and you are NOT sinning. You are free to just ignore them and push them aside, and you can do so free of guilt. The demons try to use such thoughts to upset you and to draw you into sin and despondency. Thus, the key is to not dwell on them. Laugh at the demons for trying to provoke you, and they will go away.

Now, someone will point out (as Reader Andreas did by quoting Bishop Irenaeos) that if a tempting thought comes to you (e.g., a lustful thought) and you engage with it--turn it over inside your head, dwell on it, and so “give it hospitality”--then it becomes sinful. But if some sinful thought just pops into your head, no matter how bad or grotesque you think it is, if you just ignore it, it is not sinful in the least. Indeed, many many great saints suffered from just that sort of thing. It is  a TEMPTATION only, and a temptation that is not given into is not a sin.

I recall reading about an elder who described such thoughts as a fly who flies into a window and comes into your house, but there is nothing to land on (i.e., you don’t engage it). Eventually, it will just fly away back out of the window of its own accord. And you know what? Eventually, the flies stop coming in. And as you progress, you might even be able to shut the window a bit to further lessen the thoughts. But this takes time.

You mention “confessing” the thoughts. You may have read that monks often “confess” all their thoughts to spiritual fathers. They will confess thoughts that are not even sins. This is the way to perfection, but is mostly done only by monastics. That said, since you really struggle with this particular temptation, it is something that you should talk about with your priest. But be aware that the mere fact that the thoughts pop up is not sinful. You would be confessing the thoughts NOT because they are sins themselves, but so that your priest could continue to guide you in ignoring and overcoming them.

As I said, there are many good books that talk about this. A few are:
- Kyriakos Markides' book, Mountain of Silence (Fr. Maximos of Mount Athos talks about them)
- Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos’s books The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition, and Orthodox Psychotherapy
- Many more.

One more caveat: As you say, OCD is a mental illness. So although many many people struggle with logismoi, your situation may be a little different as there many also be physiological causes, so be sure to follow up on that side of it as well. Your priest and doctor can help you.

But, I would say the KEY thing to remember is that it is VERY COMMON for strange thoughts to assault us. Many saints have written that they have suffered from this, and that they have had the strangest (sexual, blasphemous, violent etc.) thoughts pop into their head, and often at the most inappropriate times (e.g., in church). DO NOT DESPAIR. The mere fact that such thoughts pop up is NOT a sin in and of itself! Recognizing that is the first step to overcoming them.
 


Edited by John S., 01 June 2015 - 02:51 PM.


#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 June 2015 - 04:06 PM

Just to clarify - Bishop Irenaeos was my spiritual father, and the quotes I gave were his practical advice to me. All his advice was, of course, based on what he had learned from his spiritual fathers and so on further back, as well as his own very considerable learning and experience, so everything he said does have a patristic basis.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 01 June 2015 - 04:07 PM.


#9 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 01 June 2015 - 10:51 PM

The glossary in the back of each volume of the 4-volume English Philokalia (translated by Mother Mary and others) is very helpful on this point. It breaks down the various stages of thoughts, explaining which are sinful and which are not. I'd go further and say that time spent studying that glossary would be time well spent. It helps to get one's terminology precise.






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