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Marital/sexual relations on feast and on fast days


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#21 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 10:13 PM

its purpose is within marriage for procreation and the uniting of a married couple in intimacy.

Those are two purposes, so which is it? Can you not think of times when a married couple could be united in intimacy without leading to procreation?

#22 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 11:09 PM

You misunderstand - there are two purposes.  As the Holy Fathers make clear, a couple may 'be united in intimacy' without planning procreation.   As Archimandrite Symeon once said, 'you are not mice'.



#23 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 02:36 AM

So why can't a pregnant mother be united in intimacy with her husband? Why can't a husband be united in intimacy with his wife in any fashion he wishes? Why the restrictions? It seems that not many of you are aware of how fragile marriage, and married sexuality, are in this day and age. Burdening married couples with these restrictions will do more harm than good.

#24 Olga

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 09:53 AM

So why can't a pregnant mother be united in intimacy with her husband?

 

Have you considered the possibility, which is by no means remote, that the physical and hormonal changes in a pregnant woman mean that she is unlikely to seek or want such intimacy, especially in the latter stages of gestation?

 

Why can't a husband be united in intimacy with his wife in any fashion he wishes?

 

Does the wife have no say in the matter?

 

It seems that not many of you are aware of how fragile marriage, and married sexuality, are in this day and age.

 

History clearly shows that this concern of yours is nothing new or unusual. The golden age never was the present age.



#25 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:18 PM

Have you considered the possibility, which is by no means remote, that the physical and hormonal changes in a pregnant woman mean that she is unlikely to seek or want such intimacy, especially in the latter stages of gestation?
 
 
Does the wife have no say in the matter?

Neither of these questions are relevant. I am speaking of permissibility, not practicality. If it's true that women 'go off sex' during pregnancy -- I've heard conflicting reports -- that has no bearing on whether sex during pregnancy is allowed by the church. Whatever reasons the church has, if it has them, for forbidding sex during pregnancy, that is certainly not it.
 

History clearly shows that this concern of yours is nothing new or unusual. The golden age never was the present age.

Indeed, there has never been a golden age. But I've never said there was -- you might try reminding the other members of this forum, however, who seem to reserve a special hatred for modernity especially vis-a-vis the 'golden age' of the Byzantine Empire. All I've pointed out is that modern marriage, due to a combination of social and legal factors (like no-fault divorce), is not exactly robust, and as such isn't really equipped to handle what I consider excessive intrusions into the bedroom (supposedly undefiled as they say) by church authorities.

Edited by Kevin T. Wall, 26 May 2013 - 12:19 PM.


#26 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:21 PM

By the way, I find it rather un-traditional, and un-Pauline, to be obsessed with whether or not the wife 'has her say'. Marriage is not about asserting rights and boundaries, Christian marriage much less so. So I found your response rather surprising.

#27 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:25 PM

Why can't a husband be united in intimacy with his wife in any fashion he wishes?

Because as a Christian, it is not really about our wishes. We are learning to control our passions rather than letting them control us. We do not and should not get what ever we want in whatever fashion we wish. Time and experience down the millennia has shown us that this is simply not spiritually healthy. Discipline and asceticism make us stronger, not satiety. There is a balance that pastoral guidance and the teachings if the Church help us establish and maintain if we allow it. Or we can ignore it and do whatever we want, to our own spiritual peril. There are always two paths we can follow. One leads to life and the other leads to death. Choose life my friend. Choose life.

#28 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:30 PM

Because as a Christian, it is not really about our wishes. We are learning to control our passions rather than letting them control us. We do not and should not get what ever we want in whatever fashion we wish. Time and experience down the millennia has shown us that this is simply not spiritually healthy. Discipline and asceticism make us stronger, not satiety. There is a balance that pastoral guidance and the teachings if the Church help us establish and maintain if we allow it. Or we can ignore it and do whatever we want, to our own spiritual peril. There are always two paths we can follow. One leads to life and the other leads to death. Choose life my friend. Choose life.

The problem with limiting married sex to reproduction is that it treats one's spouse as a means to an end, a third person. This is what I wish to avoid -- I am no libertine. But it seems to me that restrictions on married sex all seem to serve the purpose of making the husband or wife into means, rather than ends. If they mutually consent, that is one thing; if the church tells couples they cannot do x or y, I can't help but think the procreation-only mindset is to blame, which I reject.

#29 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:54 PM

By the way, I find it rather un-traditional, and un-Pauline, to be obsessed with whether or not the wife 'has her say'. Marriage is not about asserting rights and boundaries, Christian marriage much less so. So I found your response rather surprising.


What is "Pauline" is the spirit of deferring to others, the wife deferring to the husband and the husband deferring to the wife. Obviously there is the possibility of the comic routine of two people refusing to go through a door: "you first", "no, YOU first!" Sometimes you defer to the other by letting them do the deferring. Obviously there is some trial and error and different solutions for different people in differing situations. It then comes down to "Thy will (not my will) be done" if we are serious and sincere about our faith.

I think it curious that nobody else is taking a "procreation only" position despite being forced into one. But sex is only an imperfect model of true intimacy in God and some sort of guidance to shape things in a spiritually healthy manner ought not be left out of the discussion.

#30 Olga

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:57 PM

By the way, I find it rather un-traditional, and un-Pauline, to be obsessed with whether or not the wife 'has her say'. Marriage is not about asserting rights and boundaries, Christian marriage much less so. So I found your response rather surprising.

 

The appointed Epistle reading for the Orthodox marriage service is Ephesians 5:20-33. While many are fond of selectively quoting "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord", and leaving it at that, this distorts what St Paul is saying. Here is a fuller excerpt which clearly expresses the cooperation expected between the spouses:

 

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ, too, is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself her Saviour. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her, having purified her by the washing of water with the word, that the Church might be presented before Him in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Thus, husbands must love their wives like their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body. “For because of this, a man leaves his father and his mother and joins his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

 

In other words, the wife lives for her husband, and the husband lives for the wife, each doing what is best and right for the other. This selflessness is also reflected in another theme of the wedding service, that of martyrdom. The self-sacrifice of the spouses to each other is potently expressed by their crowning during the ceremony: crowns which denote them to be master and mistress of their household, and which echo the heavenly crowns of glory bestowed on the martyr-saints.

 

Selections from the service:

 

Bless this marriage and grant to these Your servants, N. and M., a peaceful life, length of days, chastity, love for each other in the bond of peace, long-lived offspring, grace in their children and an unfading crown of glory.(from the first prayer before the Crowning)

Remember them, Lord our God, as You remembered the holy Forty Martyrs, sending down on them crowns from heaven. (from the second prayer before the Crowning)

Holy Martyrs, who fought the good fight and were crowned, intercede with the Lord to have mercy on our souls. (after the Dance of Isaiah, and before the removal of the crowns from the couple's heads)

O God, our God, who were present in Cana of Galilee, and blessed the marriage there, bless these Your servants also, who by Your providence have been joined in the communion of marriage. Bless their goings out and their comings in. Fill their life with good things. Take up their crowns in your Kingdom, unspotted and  unblemished, and keep them without offence to the ages of ages. (prayer at the removal of the crowns)

May He who by His presence at Cana declared marriage honorable, Christ our true God, through the prayers of His all-pure Mother, of the holy, glorious and all-praised Apostles, of the holy Sovereigns crowned by God and Equals of the Apostles, Constantine and Helen, of the holy great Martyr Prokopios and all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and loves mankind. (dismissal prayer)



#31 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:02 PM

In other words, the wife lives for her husband, and the husband lives for the wife, each doing what is best and right for the other.

You are ignoring the distinction Paul makes between the wife being subject to the husband, and the husband loving the wife. Christ loved the church, but He is not subject to the church. Your feminism doesn't fly with Scripture.

Edited by Kevin T. Wall, 26 May 2013 - 01:11 PM.


#32 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:06 PM

What is "Pauline" is the spirit of deferring to others, the wife deferring to the husband and the husband deferring to the wife. Obviously there is the possibility of the comic routine of two people refusing to go through a door: "you first", "no, YOU first!" Sometimes you defer to the other by letting them do the deferring. Obviously there is some trial and error and different solutions for different people in differing situations. It then comes down to "Thy will (not my will) be done" if we are serious and sincere about our faith.

I think it curious that nobody else is taking a "procreation only" position despite being forced into one. But sex is only an imperfect model of true intimacy in God and some sort of guidance to shape things in a spiritually healthy manner ought not be left out of the discussion.

Fsir enough, but I would like to get a clear answer on the whole sex during pregnancy issue. Fr. Josiah Trenham of a nearby parish in Riverside has been telling parishioners that sex during pregnancy is a sin according to the Fathers, and that it may even cause miscarriage. Is this the official teaching of the church, or not? I'd like to know.

#33 Olga

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:19 PM

You are ignoring the distinction Paul makes between the wife being subject to the husband, and the husband loving the wife. Christ loved the church, but He is not  subject to the church. Your feminism doesn't fly with Scripture.

 

On the contrary. I have reproduced a good chunk of the matrimonial epistle, and supplied further corroborating material which clearly teaches that the spouses are to live in a spirit of co-operation and self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. It is expected of both spouses, as expressed so clearly in the first line of the scripture passage I provided, which you have mysteriously omitted. Here it is again:

 

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

What I have posted has nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with upholding Orthodox tradition.



#34 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:21 PM

Olga, I'm looking forward to how you will next deconstruct 1 Timothy 2:12. That will be fun to watch. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:33 PM

'Why can't a husband be united in intimacy with his wife in any fashion he wishes? Why the restrictions?'  Why can't I have bacon and eggs on Holy Friday morning?  Why have any restrictions?

 

First, what Olga said about the wife’s say is entirely Pauline -


‘The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does’: 1 Cor. 7:3-4.  Here we see the mutuality of desire and respect.


Modern marriage, an Orthodox Christian one at any rate, ought to be strengthened by what the Church prescribes, not weakened thereby.  Orthodox marriage exists to transfigure sex and elevate it to the spiritual plane. To use marriage to license sexual behaviour as the world knows it is an abuse of the sacrament of marriage and of the spouse.


You ask, ‘why the restrictions?’  It is a mistake to see what the Church prescribes for our well-being and salvation in this way.  A certain man has an illness.  The doctor prescribes some medication, and adds that the patient is to avoid certain foods otherwise the medication will not be effective.  Should the patient then ask, ‘why the restrictions?’


In another thread, you speak of ‘playing the spiritual authority card’ and object to the idea that you ‘must hand over my reason, and my will, to someone who will think for me on behalf of the church’.  The Church has spiritual authority and exercises that authority through its clergy and spiritual guides.  But all this must not be seen as authoritarian in the negative sense of that word.  It is more like the authority of medical science and the doctor who was trained in that science and applies his training to healing illnesses.  Will the man in the previous paragraph also question why he hands over his reason and will to the doctor?  To question what the Church provides is to question Orthodoxy itself.


The Church exists for the curing of our sicknesses caused by the Fall. We are subject to the effects of sin and suffer the consequences of our own sins.  We are a unity of body and soul but both were corrupted by the Fall.  Our bodies became fleshly and we became disordered.  The Church exists to heal us.  It does this by prescribing those things which it knows will benefit us and enable us to transcend our fallen nature and restore us to our true nature.  Our correct relationship with God is restored by the Church’s prayer and worship.  Our correct relationship with other people is restored by continence and restraint so that we no longer see others, even spouses, as means of satisfying our bodily passions but we see others as being the image and likeness of God.  Our correct relationship with creation is restored by fasting and more generally by again restraint so that we no longer see the material world as something there to satisfy our appetites.


Prayer and worship, continence, and fasting are not ‘restrictions’ but the therapeutic means of recovering our authentic selves.  The Church provides us with all we need to achieve our transfiguration which will deify us and save us.  The aim of all that the Church prescribes is to gain life, eternal life.

 

The true way is a narrow way but leads to life.  The rejection of the Church and all (all – we do not cherry pick) it provides is to reject Christ and life in Him.  As Herman says so well and succinctly, one leads to life and the other leads to death.



 


Edited by Andreas Moran, 26 May 2013 - 01:37 PM.


#36 Olga

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:38 PM

Olga, I'm looking forward to how you will next deconstruct 1 Timothy 2:12. That will be fun to watch. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

 

Firstly, my answering this is not relevant to the matter being discussed on this thread. Posts are to be kept relevant to the OP, and be, if at all possible, within the patristic, scriptural, liturgical and monastic traditions of the Orthodox Church, as set out in the TOU.

 

Secondly, the matter of women's authority to teach has been extensively discussed over the years in various threads here. I suggest you search for them.



#37 Lakis Papas

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 04:21 PM

Elder Paisios said:  the main causes of divorce is the sensuality and selfishness.
 
The rules of the church are not offered as commands of abstinence but as measures of authentic love (rules are offered as opportunities to experience holiness).
 
"Sin" means failure to reach the target. According to Orthodox tradition, the proposed methodology to "achieve the goal" is to practice:
  • virginity
  • lack of property
  • charity.
These three virtues are implemented in absolute extent by monks in monasteries. But the same virtues also apply to laity, usually with lower intensity.
 
A milder way of virginity is the Christian marriage. As the Church is the bride of Christ, likewise the wife becomes the bride of the man. And as Christ is the bridegroom of the church, likewise the man is the woman's bridegroom. This relationship is passionless and yet "erotic". 
 
It is correct to say that "Marriage is not about asserting rights and boundaries" and that everything is permitted in marriage.  But this freedom is like the freedom of athletes as Church Fathers explain: being an athlete should not be undermined by athlete's freedom. An athlete follows a diet plan, sleep schedule, exercise program and a certain lifestyle. Otherwise ceases to be an athlete. Everything is allowed to an athlete that is compatible with being an athlete.
 
Similarly everything is allowed in a husband provided that it is compatible with his capacity of being a spouse. For example, in the context of this freedom, he is not allowed to commit adultery. This is not a limitation. This is the implementation of freedom to be a spouse as a measure of authentic love. 
 
To understand the proposed abstentions on fasts, and in other cases, we must comprehend them in the way we understand the suggested abstention from food (although all foods are pure). It is an exercise. It is both blessed to eat and on certain occasions not to eat. In this way, Christians partake in the true meaning of lack of property.
 
Sex in the Christian marriage is pure (and as I said above it is a kind of chastity). It is blessed both while it is practiced and while it is abstained. In this way, married Christians partake in the true meaning of virginity/chastity.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 26 May 2013 - 04:22 PM.


#38 Anna Stickles

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 01:22 AM

Because as a Christian, it is not really about our wishes. We are learning to control our passions rather than letting them control us. We do not and should not get what ever we want in whatever fashion we wish. Time and experience down the millennia has shown us that this is simply not spiritually healthy. Discipline and asceticism make us stronger, not satiety. There is a balance that pastoral guidance and the teachings if the Church help us establish and maintain if we allow it. Or we can ignore it and do whatever we want, to our own spiritual peril. There are always two paths we can follow. One leads to life and the other leads to death. Choose life my friend. Choose life.

 

nicely summed up . I wonder if anyone has done a survey of the percentage of divorce among those who practice restraint and continence in their married life vs those who don't.  My experience would support a conclusion that the latter are far more likely to divorce then the former.  People whose marriage does not grow beyond the stage of physical attraction are not likely to stay together long.  The cure to fragile marriages is to help the couple gradually find a deeper more selfless way of relating through a balanced and gradual learning to follow the rules of the church gives for this.

 

Also rules in Orthodoxy are pastorally applied. If above Kevin is talking about Fr Josiah's comments in his book, I think we have to realize that general principles laid down in a book are not the same as spiritual advice geared toward particular people's spiritual maturity and general strengths and weaknesses. No pastor is going to ask of couples a level of restraint that is beyond their strength and in this way damage their marriage.  So what he is teaching as principles in his book, does not mean that he is not understanding the need for economia for various couples under his guidance.  ( I haven't read his book on the teachings of St John Chrysostom, I have only seen it advertized, but I assume that a priest with 9 children and that has been married for so long would know something about what makes a marriage work and what doesn't.   Think about the fact that if he has 9 children and he is teaching that one should not have sex during pregnancy then he knows something about the struggle for continence first hand. :) And I think he would have experienced whether this is ultimately helpful or harmful for his marriage. 

Here is the blurb from the back of the book. And Bishop Basil is well respected. Also if St Herman's press is advertizing this book, this means that it is probably pretty trustworthy and respectable. 

 


 

This book is a treasure trove of the distilled counsels of St. John
Chrysostom—distilled from his thorough knowledge of and love for the
Holy Scriptures and his profound respect for and obedience to the mind
of the Church—concerning matters of great interest and importance for
people of all ages and circumstances: virginity, chastity, celibacy,
marriage, contraception, parenting, family life, sexual practices,
divorce, remarriage, and widowhood. You will find that this great
fourth-century preacher and pastor of the Church still has an urgent
(and salvific!) message to proclaim to people of the twenty-first
century and beyond—the soul-profiting message of the beauty of
consecrated virginity and the blessedness of marriage. I trust that
after receiving his inspired counsel you will marvel at the beauty of
the Scripture-based teachings so as to be lifted to the clouds in
appreciation of and admiration for the God Who fashioned and sanctifies
both states for His glory. May it be so!

 

From the Foreword by His Grace Bishop BASIL of Wichita and Mid-America, 


 


 

Edited by Anna Stickles, 27 May 2013 - 01:31 AM.


#39 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 02:30 AM

So nobody knows why sex during pregnancy is forbidden? Seems like if sex is for procreation, and sex during pregnancy is forbidden, then you're only having sex maybe a few times a year. I would just like some straight answers on this, please. I understand that some things are a matter of economia, but I just want to know why this is a restriction in the first place. It's a scientific fact that sex during pregnancy does not cause miscarriages, so why is it still forbidden?

#40 Lakis Papas

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 01:06 PM

Dear Kevin T. Wall,
 
it seems that you are asking "scientific facts" in order to justify spiritual practices. I think this is an dead end path. Orthodox ascetic is not medical practice.
 
Abstaining from sex is part of the Orthodox ascetic for married Orthodox. 
 
Fasting involves many activities of abstinence and many other parallel activities of participation. It is not right to  isolate this issue only on abstinence. Participation in charity and church life during the period of abstinence gives the opportunity to participation in activities that operate according to spiritual laws: Sexual impulses must be controlled and curbed and get fit for the right place in our lives, if we are to have a healthy spiritual growth and not become sexually unrestrained.
 
It is a conclusion of the Fathers of the Church, in their anthropological study that: sexuality with no restrictions becomes hypertrophic. The result is an inflation of sex; and like the inflation of money, this is always connected with devaluation.
 
As with all matters of fasting, spiritual father regulates the extent of practical implementation of canons in each case. In some cases a spiritual father might permit marital intercourse during pregnancy (provided that there is no medical objection). This case of economy does not eliminate the general rule of abstinence.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 27 May 2013 - 01:08 PM.





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