Homosexuality, ascesis and human nature
Posted 06 November 2004 - 09:28 PM
Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when He has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust-- there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.
Posted 06 November 2004 - 11:08 PM
Wonderful to hear from you! I am sure that you will be more than welcome here whether to participate in the discussion or just read. I know I learn a lot from what others post.
You wrote, "St Benedict talks about Conversio Morum, the conversion of manners." Could you explain a little more about what this means? Excuse my ignorance about such a wonderful saint.
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 07 November 2004 - 04:58 AM
My former priest talked with me; and through his influence I read passages from the Philokalia which dealt with anger. One of these pearls said to the effect that, overcoming anger went a long way to victory over the passions, as anger was a root cause of many of them. Am I "there yet", NO. For I often wonder why it is that an inmate's words I can ignore, but my teenage daughter can say on thing and my "dander" is up in a flash. All those years I just thought that I just wanted to get where I was going, without interruptions, was just a mark of being judicious about time. Imagine my shame when it hit me that my impatience is actually sin.
A spiritual father is a tremendous help, someone to talk with, or even an understanding Christian forum; yet, as Owen and Sister Helen wrote, often none of this is possible, and we just have to persevere in our journey. There is no other way, for we each must decide how to "...work out our own salvation with fear and trembling."
We cherish more the victories, for which we have fought the hardest.
the sinful and unworthy servant
Guest_Sr Helen Stout
Posted 07 November 2004 - 12:17 PM
Thanks for your welcome, it's good to be included.
About St Benedict, I'm guessing but I assume that you know who he is; born near Naples in approx 480, encountered monasticism in Egypt and Palestine, became a hermit at Subiaco. He was joined by others and eventually moved to Monte Cassino. He was influenced by John Cassian and St Basil. Benedict developed a cenobitic form of monastic life based on the model that St Basil had developed in Cappadocia. He died in approx 550. His rule is based on something known as The Rule of the Master. Eventually Benedictine monasticism became the basis for monastic life in the West, it was the only form of monsticism in the West until the Cistercian reform of the 12C. He is generally regarded as the Father of Western monasticism, and I think regarded as a saint by the Orthodox church. Sorry if you already knew this!
About Conversio Morum, actually it should be conversatio morum I think, I was tired last night. Benedict talks about brethren making vows of stability (stabilitas) conversion of life/fidelity to the monastic life (conversatio morum suorum) and obedientia (obedience) I hope that I've got the Latin right. It's in chapter 58 of the Rule of St Benedict. There are lots of translations around. The one I've used is edited by Timothy Fry OSB and published by The Litugical Press in 1982. There's a large tome (RB and commentary) and a short pamphlet (RB only). There seems to be a lot of discussion of just how to translate conversatio morum in English. Most people seem to agree that it means fidelity to a monastic way of life. However the way I interpret it is that it is not merely the legalistic keeping of a rule, but an inner, daily conversion to the way of Christ; becoming more Christ-like, growing in holiness. I don't know how else to explain it. A conversion of our deepest desires, motives which find outer expression in our actions and the way in which we live out our lives. Benedict has a great thing about perseverence especially in novices. RB 58 the concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God. Trouble is of course, that it isn't just for novices in monastic life, these difficulties come to everyone who tries to follow Christ. Didn't Jesus talk about taking up the cross and following him.
What a lot!
Posted 07 November 2004 - 06:34 PM
I have a copy of the Philokalia edited in part by Bishop Ware. It says it's volume 4 so I don't know if it has the passages your priest directed you to. Could you share which passages they were?
I think we do take our kids' actions more personally than other people's. Today I wrote about this in my blog which I just added to my profile, if anyone wants to comment on a more specific level. Understanding the underlying nature of our passions is one thing, and actually fighting them is another. I gather that we need to do both. I think we need a community to help us understand, and to give us tools to fight. But ultimately we have to personally decide to do it.
Posted 07 November 2004 - 08:58 PM
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:37 AM
I do not personally own any volumes of the Philokalia. I only have passages which I copied longhand, and unfortunately, those are from volumes you do not possess.
Volume 1: pg.59, #24,26,27, a long passage on pg.82 which says Our fourth struggle is against the demon of anger. WE must, with God's help, eradicate his deadly poison from the depths of our souls. So long as he dwells in our hearts and blinds the eyes of the heart with his sombre disorders, we can neither discriminate what is for our good, nor acheive spiritual knowledge, nor fulfill our good intentions, nor participate in true life; and our intellect will remain impervious to the contemplation of the true, divine light; for it is written, "For my eye is troubled because of anger"(Ps.6:7.LXX)
If, therefore, you desire to attain perfection and rightly to persue the spiritual way, you should make yourself a stranger to all sinful anger and wrath. Listen to what St. Paul enjoins: "Rid yourself of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and all malice" (Eph.4:31). In saying "all" he leaves no excuse for regarding any anger as necessary or reasonable...Self reform and peace are not acheived through the patience which others show us, but through our own long-duffering towards our neighbor. When we try to escape the struggle for long-suffering by retreating into solitude, those unhealed passions we carry there with us are merely hidden, not erased, for unless our passions are first purged, solitude and withdrawal from the world not only foster them but also keep them concealed, no longer allowing us to perceive what passion it is that enslaves us...If then we wish to receive the Lord's blessing we should restrain not only the outward expression of anger, but also angry thoughts. More beneficial than controlling our tongues in a moment of anger and refraining from angry words is purifying our heart from rancor and not harbouring malicious thoughts against our brethren. The Gospel teaches us to cut off the roots of our sins and not merely their fruits....The final cure for this sickness is to realize that we must not become angry for any reason whatsoever, whether just or unjust. When the demon of anger has darkened our mind, we are left with neither the light of discrimination, nor the assurance of true judgement, nor the guidance of righteousness, and our soul cannot become the temple of the Holy spirit. Finally we should always bear in mind our ignorance of the time of our death, keeping ourselves from anger and recognizing that neither self-restraint nor the renunciation of all material things, nor fasting and vigils, are of any benefit if we are found guilty at the last judgement because we are slaves of anger and hatred.
I omitted ...several paragraphs from this rather long passage, (the collection of which I see that I myself must re-read) Besides what you may find in the four volumes of the Philokalia (check the indexes), it may be profitable to you to read St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters on Love.
Sorry for such a long post Matthew.
the sinful and unworthy servant
Posted 08 November 2004 - 06:55 AM
"So long as he (anger)dwells in our hearts and blinds the eyes of the heart with his sombre disorders, we can neither discriminate what is for our good, nor acheive spiritual knowledge, nor fulfill our good intentions, nor participate in true life; and our intellect will remain impervious to the contemplation of the true, divine light"
If that's not motivation to change, I don't know what is. Thank you so much for copying that passage for me. I hope others will also benefit, and that your efforts will not be just for me. Though, if I can conquer this thing, six kids and my husband will owe you generous people a debt of gratitude for your thoughtfulness.
I'm going to go look up anger in my Philokalia index right now. Discovering the vast resources in Orthodox literature is like finding an unexpected, yet unfathomable treasure. Any guiding references are most welcome.
Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:54 PM
"Sometimes I think that allowing ourselves to give in to despair/self-pity over our sinfulness is itself a sin"
This relates very much to a question I have pondered quite a bit as I reread "The Art of Prayer". How does one follow the advice of the desert fathers to use self-reproach, to always blame oneself and to consider oneself as worthless and good for nothing if one suffers with the disease of depression? If one struggles with depression already then to cultivate these sentiments could lead to despair as one is already prone to self-deprication, low self-esteem and darkness. As Chariton quotes Theophane the Recluse, "Progress in the spiritual life is shown by an ever increasing realization of our own worthlessness, in the full and literal sense of the word. The moment that we ascribe some value to ourselves, in any sense whatever, it will mean that things have gone wrong." How does one reach this point and yet not fall into despair when one sees the ugliness of the muck within? How does one live this in between.....facing, admitting and realizing one's worthlessness and yet having hope and joy in the power of God's transforming grace?
At the same time I have seen when this weakness and sickness of depression haunts the soul for then it is ever more obligated to depend on the love and mercy of God by unceasingly calling out to Him for if it did not it would simply give up and fall into despair. So it seems that this sickness is a means to lead one to continual prayer for he knows that every breath he takes, every action, every thought must be lived in dependence on Him for the sickness overpowers Him and then truly he can say, "Without you I can do nothing."
I do not know if any of this makes sense. I have had difficulty putting all of this into words but I hope it is clear enough so that someone is able to respond.
Posted 08 November 2004 - 05:20 PM
I look forward to wiser responses to your post from the others, but I have thought a lot about this. I come from a "Reformed/Calvinist" way of teaching, which I could not totally accept regarding "total depravity" where they do teach that we are disgusting heaps of dung, pardon my language. I actually haven't read of the Fathers saying we are worthless. We are created in God's image, but our likeness to Him fell when Eve and Adam sinned. Our struggle towards salvation is to regain His likeness. Our deeds apart from Him are unprofitable and without merit. And we are totally dependent on His mercy and grace. So I think you're "At the same time" paragraph is right on.
I think the Orthodox view is that we are sick, infected by sin. But not worthless. We come to Him for healing of our condition.
Posted 08 November 2004 - 05:24 PM
"How does one live this in between.....facing, admitting and realizing one's worthlessness and yet having hope and joy in the power of God's transforming grace?"
Narrow is the way... The path between self-esteem and despondence, with neither of either, is indeed impossible for men, yet all things are possible with God.
The conversion of anger to love is within the scope of Christian discipleship, however. For it is fairly straight forewardly attained if one perseveres in intercessory prayer for the person one is angry with, of such a kind that if you regard the salvation of that person's soul as the pre-requisite of your own salvation, and your fervency and tears and love for the offender are offered in this 'light'... Then in such forgiveness and in such prayer, one will come to humility and love...
Or at least one has a chance!
And it has worked on more than one occassion for me... The doing of love helps create the reality of it within one's own soul... Just as the doing of hate creates the opposite...
Posted 08 November 2004 - 05:37 PM
I think your post contains the right answer to your question: "Without You I can do nothing." The only thing I can tell about depression from my experience - consider it simply as a desease - just like toothache or migrane, and treat it in the Orthodox way - don't let the desease to worry you or control you, but take it as a cross and bear it, denying yourself with your fears and worries. Don't listen to the desease and to the demons speaking through it, but put all your hope in Christ. Everyone of us has his/her own cross, and depression is not the easy one, but without the cross we can not be saved because we can not learn self-denying love of Christ without bearing the cross. One holy father said: "The joy of a Christian is a joy of bearing the cross"
I agree with what Andrea said.
Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:16 PM
Thank you so much for your quick responses and your encouragement in the battle.
"Narrow is the way... The path between self-esteem and despondence, with neither of either, is indeed impossible for men, yet all things are possible with God" This brings to mind a quote from Theophan the Recluse that hit the nail on the head, so to speak. "Self-importance is as wily as the devil and cleverly conceals itself behind humble words, settling itself firmly in the heart so that we swing between self-deprication and self-praise." To me it is all about having a "right" view of oneself in relation to God. Or rather receiving God's gaze upon myself so that I am put in my proper place...not too far up and not too far down....truly knowing and being convinced of who I am before God. Because in faith I know I am the creature in need of my Creator and dependent on Him yet I am not convinced of this because my pride steps in and my ego wants to be fed and thus I live independently of HIm and of a life in the Spirit. I don't know if my rambling makes sense.....
Thanks again for your attentive listening.
Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:23 PM
That's great advice suggesting that we pray for the one we're angry with. I think constructive methods like that help replace the negative attribute that one is trying to fight. It's like the negative (anger) is a liquid that can be displaced by a denser solid (loving prayer for their salvation above my desire for my own).
Posted 14 July 2006 - 11:47 AM
f so then this would mean that God has created some to be homosexual and probably others lesbian. This could not be.
If one was born gay (with an inborn predisposition to gay attraction) would it necessarily imply that God created them gay? I have no idea if their is any truth to the "I was born gay argument"... But i could see were certain predispositions could come from chemical imbalances, etc . Couldnt homosexuality just be like any other psychological disorder out there (some of them are genetic some of them are due to environment, upbringing, willfully following a life of sin and thereby "warping your brain" so to speak, demon possesion etc etc) ? If one was born gay I would be inclined to blame that on the inheritance of fallen nature and not God making someone gay. I can see your point though. When if comes to psychological disorders I think it can be really hard to pinpoint all of the causes.
Posted 18 July 2006 - 12:10 PM
Posted 20 July 2006 - 11:33 AM
Traditionally, Orthodoxy has no such terminology as "homosexual" or "gay." It only has a term for the act: sodomy. The action is condemned as a sin, with the presumption that whatever a person's prediliction, with prayer and ascetic discpline, one is not compelled to take a sinful action. This is true with any sinful act (or thought). Presumably someone raised in a very difficult environment with have a prediliction to violence. It does not excuse violent acts. Our faith presumes not only the possiblity but the necessity of a complete turning around of one's thoughts and actions, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
I agree, thats an important thing to remember..
Posted 16 August 2006 - 09:38 AM
(1) Sinful inclinations and thoughts are all under our direct control.
They are not, at least in their entirety. The fathers talked about unbidden logismoi arising in the mind. It is what we do them that matters. In themselves they do not make us sinful, (or else our Lord himself would have been condemned by some here on account of his desert temptations).
(2) Sinful inclinations have nothing to do with genetics.
I am not going along with Augustinian traducianism with respect to "original sin" because I am not imputing Adam's actual sin and guilt to anyone but rather am I saying that our psychosomatic identites are loaded with our genetic inheritance AND both "in utero" and subsequent environmental influences. These are the unseen raw materials of our ascetic struggles. God made us by inbreathing the dust of Eden. The dust of Eden is not, in this fallen world, pure gold.
(3) Certain persons cannot be Orthodox Christians (or more commonly) clergy and monastics if they consistently experience homosexual desires and thoughts.
Show me a canon that exercises this degree of control and exclusion and I will back down but this is just not Orthodox at all. Comparing sins and ranking them for penitential purposes is a Latin obsession. The problem now with the Roman Church is that after centuries of casuistry, asceticism has now largely been abandoned, so mandatory celibacy without even communal support is a disaster waiting to happen, (and indeed has happened).
Orthodoxy has a "safer" and more God pleasing approach to the multiplication of sin and the creation of sinful subcultures precisely because it holds lifelong repentance, ascetic continence, extreme humility and mutual accountability in such high regard. If some here (I hope none) are wanting to purge continent, chaste and celibate homosexuals from the body of Christ or from the ministry of Christ then they are not in the truth.
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