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St. John Kronstadt's desire for celibacy


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#1 Guest_Augustine Martin

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 03:46 AM

St. John Kronstadt desired life-long virginity for the sake of virginity. To my understanding, this is because when you have sex, you and the other person become one and leave an intangible part of your person behind. Therefore, the virgin remains whole within himself and so is able to offer all of his soul up to God.

How accurate would this statement be, and what other reasons would one desire life-long virginity? If there are any other insights upon virginity, especially from some monks, that would greatly be appreciated.

#2 IoanC

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 04:46 PM

All I can answer is that monasticism (celibacy) and married life are seen as equal paths to Salvation by The Church. You can't say it's better either way, as long as they are each done correctly according to the rules prescribed for each. I don't know about celibacy outside of monasticism. I believe that's possible, too, but it's probably up to the person and his/her Spiritual Father in view of certain circumstances -- again not sure about this, but maybe someone else can offer a definite answer.

#3 Niko T.

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 11:08 PM

There are a number of issues that you raised (and on which I'm sure there are many other posts here and information elsewhere.) One is virginity / purity as one of the greatest of virtues. On this subject, St. John of the Ladder writes: "Purity means that we put on the angelic nature. Purity is the longed-for house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart. Purity is a supernatural denial of nature, which means that a mortal and corruptible body is rivalling the celestial spirits in a truly marvellous way...Purity is the fellowship with and likeness to God, so far as is possible for men." (The Ladder of Divine Ascent)

Now the virginity / purity of monastics is one issue, which is related to that of some married couples who choose among themselves to live in purity (like St. John of Kronstadt). However, it is important to remember that purity is a virtue that God requires of all of us (to greater or lesser degrees), which is why even in the Orthodox marriage service, we pray that the couple might have "chastity" (in addition to long lives, children, material blessings, etc.) Married couples of course are blessed by God to engage in relations without sin. However, the goal of their union should not be pleasure ultimately, but the procreation of children to the glory of God. An example of the perfect, dispassionate married couple is that of Ss. Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Theotokos.

As Elder Paisius writes: "From a young age I had great reverence towards the Holy Ancestors of God. Indeed, I had told someone that, when they make me a monk, I would want them to give me the name Joachim. How much I have benefited from them! Sts. Joachim and Anna are the most dispassionate couple which ever existed. They did not have any carnal mindset.

This is how God made man and this is how he wanted men to be born - dispassionately. But after the fall passion entered the relationship between man and woman. As soon as a dispassionate couple was found, which is how God created man and as he wished men to be born, the Panagia was born, this pure creation, and then Christ became incarnate. My thoughts tell me that Christ would have descended earlier to earth, if there was a pure couple, such as were Sts. Joachim and Anna.

The Roman Catholics fall into delusion and believe, supposedly from piety, that the Panagia was born without the ancestral sin. While the Panagia was not free from the ancestral sin, she was born as God wished men to be born after their creation. She was all-pure, because Her conception occurred without pleasure. The Holy Ancestors of God, after fervent prayer to God to grant them a child, conceived not by sexual lust, but by obedience to God. This fact I had experienced on Sinai."
(http://www.johnsanid...m-and-anna.html)

#4 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 12:51 AM

To my understanding, this is because when you have sex, you and the other person become one and leave an intangible part of your person behind. Therefore, the virgin remains whole within himself and so is able to offer all of his soul up to God.


There are several problems with the statement above. First, the two become "one flesh," not one person. (Gen. 2:24, Matt. 19:5-6, Mark 10:8) They remain two persons and are in no way diminished as persons on account of their union. Whatever value there is to virginity, the loss of it does not make you less of a person. Second, there is more to becoming "one flesh" than merely "having sex." A husband and wife consummate their marital union by giving their bodies to each other in love. "Having sex" by itself does not accomplish this mystery of marital union.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 12 December 2011 - 01:09 AM.


#5 Guest_Augustine Martin

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 12:51 PM

Okay, I'm not sure anyone's answered my question. Why would St. John Kronstadt desire life-long virginity even within his marriage?

#6 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 03:13 AM

virginity is a characteristic of life in the Garden and life in the age to come - perhaps he desired to step into that life to some degree

#7 IoanC

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 07:43 AM

Okay, I'm not sure anyone's answered my question. Why would St. John Kronstadt desire life-long virginity even within his marriage?


"Total abstinence. In very pious families this is not at all as uncommon, either today or yesterday, as one might think. It often happens that after an Orthodox husband and wife have brought a number of children into this world, they agree to abstain from one another, both for spiritual and worldly reasons, living the rest of their lives in peace and harmony as brother and sister. This has happened in the lives of saints—most notably in the life of Saint John of Kronstadt. As a Church which very much cherishes and protects monastic life, we Orthodox have no fear of celibacy, and no silly ideas about how we will not be fulfilled or happy if we cease to have sexual activity with our spouse."

Taken from the article: http://orthodoxinfo....anmarriage.aspx

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 09:22 AM

"Total abstinence. In very pious families this is not at all as uncommon, either today or yesterday, as one might think.


I'm sure this is so, even among those who would not regard themselves as especially pious.

#9 Alice

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 02:57 PM

In answer to the question, in the biography I read on St. John Kronstadt (quite a few years ago), I remember that he did not really want to get married (thus, he had chosen to live a celibate life), and I vaguely remember that it he did so only because he had to keep a commitment or something like that to the local (?) priest he had made to marry his daughter.

#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 04:02 PM

In answer to the question, in the biography I read on St. John Kronstadt (quite a few years ago), I remember that he did not really want to get married (thus, he had chosen to live a celibate life), and I vaguely remember that it he did so only because he had to keep a commitment or something like that to the local (?) priest he had made to marry his daughter.


St John did indeed desire to be a monastic prior to his marriage. He also had a very incompatible desire and that was to be pastor. At that time in Russia (and this is still the preference in the Russian Church) is that monastics remain in the monastery and parish priests are always from among the married clergy. Thus in order for St John to be a parish priest (a pastor) he would have to be married (in fact in order to be certain of ordination he would have to marry - as a monastic he might not ever have been ordained). There was also a custom that if a priest had a daughter, her husband (assuming he had been to seminary) would "inherit" the parish upon the retirement of her father as rector. Not a formal thing, but certainly a long standing custom. These cultural practices can explain 1. why St John married, but chose to remain celibate in marriage (a not unknown choice, but not common either) and 2. why he chose to marry the daughter of the rector of Kronstadt cathedral (so that he would then "inherit" the cathedral parish).

There are those who would judge St John and even condemn his treatment of his wife, however, it would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone who was not brought up and surrounded by the culture of 19th century Russia to begin to grasp his motivations and behavior, let alone his wife's reaction. Let us simply accept that this was what happened and thank God that through these unique situations, two great luminaries (St John and his matushka) arose.

Fr David

#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 04:58 PM

We may add that, after a while, St John's wife accepted the situation and referred to her husband as 'Brother John'. Further, it is hard to see how a priest could celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily and also have marital relations. We may further note that in nineteenth century Russia, it was not uncommon (as I have been told) for married couples, especially of the peasant class, to reserve marital relations for having children.

#12 Alice

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 05:55 PM

Dear Father David,

Bless. Indeed all that you wrote jogged my memory of what I read in the book. He did need to marry in order to inherit a parish.

I also agree that he should not be judged.

Many women in the past, who had to marry men they did not want to because of 'arranged marriages' by their parents and were not at all attracted to these men, might have preferred to have had a husband that wanted to remain celibate...whether this was the case with his wife or not, is, I think, none of our business. I agree with you that we should thank God for having St. John as such a beautiful inspiration of a holy life lived on earth as one of us (not an ascete or monastic), and that we now have his holy intercessions in Heaven--fully understanding the needs and struggles of every day men and women.

Humbly in Christ,
Alice

#13 Niko Barounis

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 05:03 AM

Hello all,
So what about nowa days...can one become a Priest and never marry?

Or does being singal make it very unlikely/difficult in being ordained by a Biship?

What about the Monks who perfome the Divine Liturgy, arent they Priests?

Or are they Priests in a diffrent sense/order. Ie: MonkPriests?

Im very qurious,
I want to be Priest but Have a huge obstical, the required school (a B.A.) and then 3-4 yrs at Seminary. Plus i might be too old.
But now it sounds like i have another obstical...im not married?

What about a MonkPriest: what are the requirements to becoming a MonkPriest?
Thank you

#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 03:42 PM

NIko,

Ordination is at the discretion of the bishop. Just because you want to be a priest and have overcome all the obstacles does not automatically make you a candidate for ordination. The priesthood is not a career that you choose because it seems like the thing to do - it is a calling by God that comes to you through the Church and through the ruling bishop.

As for being single and celibate - some bishop's will in certain circumstances agree to ordain a man who is not married and not a monastic, but that is quite rare. The first and most important "requirement" for being a monastic priest is to be a monastic (think of becoming a monk as the equivalent of getting married). When you enter the monastery, there is no thought of being ordained, but simply of being a monk. Some monks will be given the obedience to take on the obedience of the priesthood - but again, its not because a monk "wants" to be a priest (how silly of even talking about what a monk "wants") but rather because his spritual father, the abbot and the bishop agree that he should be the priest.

There is no canonical requirement for any kind of schooling as a prerequisite for the priesthood (other than being able to read and understand what you read). There are, however, certain conventions about how priests should be prepared (which include a certain level of schooling). If God wants you to be a priest, then in the end schooling doesn't matter - otoh, if you want to be a priest without the calling of God, then no amount of schooling will be sufficient.

Fr David

#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 07:35 PM

As I was taught by Bishop Irenaeos (God rest his soul), no one should want to be a priest. A man has to have two callings - one from God and one from the people. He reluctantly accedes to these.

#16 Niko Barounis

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 12:09 AM

Father David Moser;
Thank you for responding.
You said "if you want to be a priest without the calling of God,then no amount of schooling will be sufficient."

Re: calling of God...How do i know if its me or God pulling me to be a Priest/MonkPriest?
All i know something is pulling me (strongly) in that direction.

Its almost as if (difficlt to put it in words) a mistake was made and im not where is should be...I should be in the Iero.
As a Priest or as a MonkPriest, it just doesent mater which.

Rdr Andreas Moran,
I also thank you for posting.
"no one should want to be a priest"---i dont understand this statement?

Thank you,
Niko

#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 02:12 AM

"The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts." ~ St. John Chrysostom

One may WANT to be a priest for the wrong reasons. The shepherd will answer to God directly for the sheep entrusted to his care. Woe be he for any of the flock that stray and are lost. There will be an accounting.

There are special temptations for priests as well. The evil one has his eye on the shepherd, since by his falling, the flock too may fall. It is not an easy task to be the servant of all. It is very easy become proud if treated well and resentful if treated poorly.

WHY do you want to be a priest? So that you can wear the fancy clothes? So that people will kiss your hand and treat you with respect? You do not have to be a priest to serve God. There are MANY ministries, and the vast majority do not require ordination. The parish trustee also serves God, as does the groundskeeper and the cantor and the choir director and Church School Teacher. All can pray for others, give charity, visit the sick, feed the hungry, teach the ignorant, comfort the despondent, without being a priest. You can sing to God's glory in the Divine Liturgy. If one wants to be a priest, it may be better NOT to seek it out, because by denying one's own desires, God's desires can be made manifest.

I have experienced several "priests" who became such for the wrong reasons. Some of them are no longer priests and I pray for their souls because they have much to answer for and I would not wish that on anybody.

#18 Niko Barounis

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 02:59 AM

Herman Blaydoe;
AM i reading into your post or are you angry that someone is considering becoming a Priest?
What makes you think thats why i want to be a Priest>>"WHY do you want to be a priest? So that you can wear the fancy clothes? So that people will kiss your hand and treat you with respect?"

I plainly stated above...
"All i know something is pulling me (strongly) in that direction.Its almost as if (difficlt to put it in words) a mistake was made and im not where i should be...I should be in the Iero.
As a Priest or as a MonkPriest, it just doesent mater which."

I like this "
If one wants to be a priest, it may be better NOT to seek it out, because by denying one's own desires, God's desires can be made manifest."

SO, How does one know then???

Thank you,
Niko


#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 09:28 AM

It is as Herman says. No one should want to take on that responsibility but some have to, reluctantly, knowing that that is their calling. (Such reluctance has a long history - remember the reluctance of Moses.) It is why during ordination, the man is symbolically dragged around the altar. As a boy, Bishop Irenaeos served at the local church in Kyrenia, Cyprus. When the priest started the anaphora, he would turn to little Andreas (the Bishop's name in the world) and say, 'Andrea - pray very hard for me now'; the Bishop said he came to understand why when he became a priest. The Bishop said that a priest is higher than an emperor because the priest has authority over men's souls whereas an emperor has authority only over their bodies. It is a fearful thing. By contrast, one can wish to become a monastic.

#20 Anna Stickles

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 11:32 AM

I would say that the right reason to become a priest is obedience to the first commandment - love for God and love for man. If this is present then God may put the desire in someone's heart to become a priest as a way to fulfill this command. But being a priest, living this love, takes a very high degree of selflessness.

Both family life and monasticism provide a training ground for the type of selflessness it takes to be a good priest. Both of these require a level of selflessness that is not asked of a single person living in the world. In a family you are a slave. You work all day as a "slave" to your boss to support your family, and you come home and now instead of being able to relax and do your own thing you are a slave to the needs of your wife and children. (Hopefully a willing and cheerful slave. :-) At least this is where God through His Spirit is trying to get us)

In both a family and a monastic brotherhood you don't have personal possessions. You have little time or personal space to call your own. Your energy is spent on others not yourself. And this is training for the type of sacrificial and loving disposition and a day to day dependence on God in the midst of this kind of pull against our fallen tendency to want to serve ourselves that needs to be developed to be a good priest.




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