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Homosexuality, ascesis and human nature


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#1 Emmanuel

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 01:11 AM

I am what you may call a revert to Holy Orthodoxy. I was born into a Greek family, but was sent to Protestant and Catholic schools for instruction. I essentially adopted the faith of wherever I went to school as the Faith was really not taught at home. Thanks to the grace of God, however, I have realized the beauty of Orthodoxy. I would like to learn about the Greek Orthodox tradition more as I am considered a vocation to the Holy Diaconate for when I am older. I am currently a college student.

What I would like to do is spend some time in an Orthodox Monastery, hopefully one of Fr. Ephraim's. I would like to learn the Greek tradition well enough to teach others.

However, I have a few questions that I would like to be answered. First of all, due to my education at a Catholic school, there seemed to be a homosexual undercurrent among some of the clergy. For example, Matthew shephard was considered a "martyr." Saints were often depicted as homosexuals (if they existed at all) or had eating disorders if they fasted. I would not like to be in an environment like that ever again. I am aware of some of the abuses in some Orthodox monasteries and I do not want to be scandalized any more.

Nevertheless, I know some wonderful amazing Orthodox celibates who do great things for the faith. Has it been your experience that Orthodox monasteries take "homo-suspect" candidates? Wouldn't this be forbidden by our Church law? If so, which ones should I avoid? I am currently struggling with chastity (with girls of course) and I need a spiritual director who can relate. I hate to be rude, but having to endure a pro-homosexual environment for years- I don't want to ever do it again. I am looking forward to your responses.

God Bless the Orthodox Faith

Emmanuel


#2 Guest_matt

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 11:57 AM

Emmanuel,

Since you are only about 30 miles form Holy Dormition monastery in Rives Junction, I would strongly suggest that you speak with Fr. Roman Braga, the spiritual father of that community. He is an experienced monastic and a confessor for the faith under Romanian communists (solitary confinement,torture, etc). It is about 25 minutes south of Lansing by jackson.

Matt

#3 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 02:58 PM

Dear Emmanuel,

As a monastic myself I would urge you to follow Matthew's advice. A monastic spiritual father would be best able to deal with the questions you have raised and Fr Roman Braga is certainly someone special & trustworthy in this regard.
May God guide you.

In Christ- Fr Raphael Vereshack

#4 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 03:29 PM

Dear Emmanuel

Firstly, I hope and pray that you find the path that Christ has chosen for you. I can only agree with the advice given already, speaking to a Spiritual Father face-to-face is far better than people who have never met you saying what you should do.

Secondly, I am troubled by some of the comments made regarding homosexuals. There is evidence that it is not a social choice but is something which one is born with: it is evident that it has existed for as long as mankind has, otherwise there would not be rules forbidding the act in both the Bible and Canons.

I am not trying to justify homosexuality, but I am trying to separate being a homosexual from practising homosexual activities. It is clear that monks (and nuns) struggle against the passions, whether they manifest themselves as heterosexual or homosexual: to exclude any on these grounds seams to me to be wrong and go against Christ’s command to love one another.

With love in Christ

Alex


#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 04:13 PM

Dear Alex,

If as you say,

"regarding homosexuals. There is evidence that it is not a social choice but is something which one is born with."


If so then this would mean that God has created some to be homosexual and probably others lesbian. This could not be.

The relationship between male & female is something that corresponds fundamentally to the nature that God created us with and it is particularly sanctified within the sacrament of marriage. It surely is of great significance that the Church could not ever have remotely contemplated a similar sanctification for a homosexual relationship.

As a sin homosexuality has possibly been around for as long as mankind but it is fundamental to our theological and anthropological understanding to realise that this was so after the Fall. It is as such that the Scriptures & Canons strictly forbid it and refer to it quite explicitly as sin.

However it is important to deal with this in a compassionate way since these are values which are socially promoted as positive nowadays. It also seems that this is one of those topics which we are called to develop in a deeper way a theological & pastoral response to.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#6 Guest_Charalambos Andrew Geo

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 04:31 PM

Just to say maybe something obvious, say your prayers and ask God, His mother, your Guardian Angel, all the Saints, all the ranks of Angels and every Saint who pleased God from the 1st to the last Adam, to bless your meeting,

by the way, maybe you could ask him to pray for us also, that we may abound more in the Love of God.

With love in Christ
Charalambos

#7 Edward Henderson

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 05:44 PM

Dear Emmanuel,

I don't think one will find homosexuality as big a problem among Orthodox clergy and monastics as is found among the Latins. First and foremost, Orthodox Christianity has a much higher understanding of masculinity and femininity than found in contemporary culture. Second, we have married clergy. While there are celebate non-monastic priests, it is not encouraged. There is a saying at Saint Vladimir's Seminary, "no band on the hand, no hands on the head". Thirdly, Orthodoxy is ascetic and understands that we all have passions we would rather not have but that our task is to struggle against them for our salvation. I am certain there are probably men and women living in Orthodox monasteries who have struggled with homosexuality, but they are living the monastic life. It is interesting to note that before Vatican II, parish priests lived in a more communal setting and were expected to be dressed in their cassocks, when on the streets. So, it was more monastic. After the Council, everything changed and Catholic priests were more independent. I think the fact that communal life, whether it be in a family or a monastery, is still valued and preserved among the Orthodox has played a significant role in this issue. I know myself that I find it easier to fight against temptations when I am among other Orthodox Christians. This is another reason why the hermits were considered the greatest ascetics because they were spiritually strong enough to struggle alone.

I have heard great things about Fr. Roman Braga and the monasteries of Elder Ephraim are literally Athos in America. When I went to Mt Athos in 2001, my first thought when I arrived at the monastery was, "this reminds me Holy Archangels Monastery in Texas". You may want to consider Mount Athos.

#8 Owen Jones

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 06:09 PM

You people are looking at this issue in the abstract. But the facts on the ground are this: a very strong element in the Roman Church in America (even more so in the Episcopal Church) is homosexual and have grabbed control of a number of the seminaries going way back. They encourage homosexuals to become priests to add to their available sex partners. They recruit them. A large number have alcohol and drug problems. This gets back to a decision made after World War II, when there was an established precedent that homosexuals would be protected from misbehavior by the mass. Homosexuals used this argument, fomented this argument, to aggrandize their poistion within the Church. In the Episcopal Church, all of the large urban dioceses are controlled by homosexuals and the plum parishes are given to homosexuals and those are the people who become bishops.

It is a problem to be wary of in any Orthodox monastic setting, but not politically pervasive like it is in the RC Church and the Episcopal Church. One simply has to be discerning.


#9 Guest_matt

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 07:59 PM

on the issue of sexual orientation, I think that it is not unorthodox to say that the Fall has as one of its results the perversion of the sexual instinct, if not one of the main results!

Matt


#10 Guest_Charalambos Andrew Geo

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 11:12 PM

Love your neighbour as yourself, God with all your mind and all your heart, may everything we do be the fruits of this. Let God guide you to Fr.
with love in Christ


#11 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 11:36 PM

Dear Father Raphael, your blessing.

Above you said:

If as you say, "regarding homosexuals. There is evidence that it is not a social choice but is something which one is born with." If so then this would mean that God has created some to be homosexual and probably others lesbian. This could not be.


Why could this not be so? Surely people can be born with tendancies to sin (steal, murder, homosexuality &c) which have to be struggled with and the Church must support them in the same way that people are born cleverer or better at sport &c. It seams to me to deny these differences denies our individuality.

Is this view incorrect? If so, why? Does anyone know anything from the Fathers regarding this? Is it wrong to say that people can be born with a pre-disposition to sin (although not guilty of that sin until it is commited of course)?

With love in Christ

Alex

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 01:08 AM

I am especially reacting against the notion that there are those who are homosexual by nature. What I am getting at in particular is: are some created by God as homosexual to which the obvious answer should be-no. As St John of Damascus says, "all things which God makes He makes good, but each one becomes good or evil by his own choice." So sin is to be ascribed to us and not God or how we are created. And if sin is part of our nature then it surely would be impossible to struggle against it meaningfully or overcome it.

However I am not sure of the answer to the second part of your question. I am in the midst of corresponding with Fr George Morelli who posts here sometimes. We are discussing the significance of the inclinations or tendencies to sin. Are we born with these tendencies or do we aquire them? Is sexuality one of the blameless passions? Any insights here would be appreciated. I have sometimes wondered if the sinful passions are deformed versions of something good in us but I have no clear idea of how this applies to the theme we are discussing.

I would say that the talents we are born with are part of our God-given character: eg clever, better at sport, etc. Unless I have really fallen off the boat however, my understanding is that homosexuality on any level is sinful- whether we are talking of inner impulse or action. So a sinful inclination is not a talent or unique aspect of our character as God intended it.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 Gregory Erickson

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 01:53 AM

The way this conversation is framed is very Western. In the West the idea of an inherent predisposition to anything, homosexual or otherwise, is called anthropological monism; or in plain English, there is nothing more to the human person than what a few chemicals can produce in our brain, not unlike that of an animal. We are "disposed" to certain behaviors. We aren't to blame if we act out on our impulses if what the scientists say is true.

So if man is created in the image of God, and that image is found, as the Fathers say, in the non-physical parts of us, then either the Fathers are correct, or they were genetically programmed to think that way as there aren't any *real* non-physical attributes. God and the devil play with our genetic switches to get us to do whatever they bid, making us in effect, automatons.

At risk in accepting Western terms for understaning human behavior of any sort, good or bad, is the idea that God left us in the dark for all these millenia until He finally decided to grant revelation knowledge to new apostles and prophets; the scientists and the philosophers of science.

From what I've read in the Fathers, Orthodoxy has always had the fullness of the deposit of truth and revelation; that whatever God does through the Church, be it the creation of Holy Writ, the establishment of the canons and Councils, or anything else in our Tradition, is done without corruption or confusion, and is preserved by God inerrantly and infallably throughout time and space.


#14 Guest_Emmanuel M.

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 04:07 AM

First of all, I would like to thank you all for your posts. I think Converts are, and have been, the future of American Orthodoxy. I do believe in the moderate use of Liturgical language (such as Greek) in the Liturgy. Does anyone have any idea on a specific monastery around Michigan where I could learn more about the Greek tradition- such as chanting, serving, reading liturgical greek, etc? I would prefer a more traditional monastery. I know of the monastery in Rives Junction, and I would love to go there. However, a place where I can learn the Greek Tradition would really be amazing.

I welcome your posts

Emmanuel


#15 Gregory Erickson

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 04:19 AM

Here would be a good start.

http://omna.nettinker.com/

Look under state or jurisdiction. Posted Image


#16 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 07:06 AM

As a western-educated Orthodox, I am also used to thinking of human anthropology in terms of inherited and accquired psychobiological characteristics. Most behaviours in this model, including homosexuality, might have aetiological factors of both heredity and environment. But I am fascinated to read in Mr Erickson's post that the Fathers said that the image of God is found in the non-physical parts of us, and therefore genetic predisposition is unrelated to this image. Maybe so, but does not God then use the vehicle of the body, and our genetic predispositions, to aid us in our work of moving from image to likeness? If so, then the fact that some genetic predispositions seem to hinder this work, or incline us towards particular sins, must be a result of the corruption of our physical nature as a result of the fall. Which makes me think of the debate on Christ's humanity - again if I understand correctly, it is the teaching of our church that Christ assumed the human nature of prelapsarian Adam. My question is, if Christ did not assume our fallen human nature, with all its evil incinations and temptations to sin, and then defeat sin and death through His perfect submission to the Will of the Father, then how has the possibility of not sinning been offered to us? How have the effects of the Fall been reversed by the Incarnation? And, if we say that the image of God is found only in our non-physical aspect, are we not in danger of falling into a Gnostic disparagement of the human body and the good material world which the Lord in His infinite wisdom created? These are genuine questions, I do not mean them rhetorically.

A perplexed brother in Christ,

Byron


#17 Guest_matt

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 12:07 PM

Emmanuel,
If you are interested in the Greek tradition I would suggest that you speak with Fr mark Seitsema (sp?) at Holy Trinity in Lansing. Perhaps that is your parish while you are at MSU. Anyway, he is a linguistic and theological wonderboy and is the best local/regional resource and authority on the Greek tradition. He is fluent in many languages, including modern and liturgical Greek and, while he is not a monk, I believe he is also very familiar with the monastic office and can certainly point you in the right direction.


#18 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 03:35 PM

Dear Byron,

I would say that at those times when the Holy Frs refer the image of God to the soul they mean this in the sense that the image resides chiefly in the soul. On the other hand the soul informs the body and spirit should inform the soul. All of these are in sympathy with each other. So in this sense I would say that the image of God also resides in the body.

There are many examples from Church life that illustrate this respect which the Church shows the Body but one of course is the respect shown it at burial (ie the reposed are not to be cremated). In the funeral service, in Slavonic at least, the word for the body is actually 'relics'. And we kiss or venerate the body of the reposed at the funeral.

There seems good reason however why the Holy Frs would not start with the physical aspect when they refer to the image. This would be to avoid giving a materialistic interpretation to the image.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#19 Gregory Erickson

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 04:45 PM

For Mr. Gast,

I concur with Fr. Raphael's understanding of the role of the body with our non-physical attributes.

We have the witness of the Scriptures and the Liturgy that Jesus was tempted as we are tempted (The Gospels; Hebrews 2:18, 4:15).

Remember also that pre-lapsarian Adam was likewise tempted, yet he fell, genetic mutation/variation not a consideration.

This issue, ultimately, centers on one of the attributes of being made in the image of God, and that is free will. Either Adam (and therefore the rest of mankind) and the Lord Jesus excercised their free will, or mankind has deceived itself for thousands of years.


#20 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 08:15 PM

One of Fr. Ephraim's monasteries is located in Smith Creek, MI. What little information currently exists can be found at:

Holy Trinity Monastery

If you happen to visit, let me know anything you find out so I can update the OMNA directory.

Locations of all the Ephraimite monasteries can be seen here:

Monasteries founded by Fr. Ephraim





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