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Marital/sexual relations on feast and on fast days


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#81 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 11:27 PM

In an earlier post, you say: "how periodic abstinence actually improves our relationship with our spouses, etc -- none of which is found in the Fathers, whose attitude toward sex could be summed up as 'insert part A into slot B to produce C'. Certainly they said very little about how to grow in your marriage or to get closer to your spouse."  This is simply not true - a few Fathers do have the more rigorous attitude to sex but the Fathers and the Church itself do say that periodic abstinence is beneficial and the Fathers do not say that sex is merely to produce C.  Read, for example, St John Chrysostom whom I have already mentioned in this regard.

You missed my point, again. The Fathers do say that periodic abstinence is beneficial. Unlike modern-day Orthodox apologists, however, they do not say that it is beneficial in terms of the married relationship, or that it promotes greater spiritual intimacy between spouses. They saw the benefit as having very little to do with people or relationships at all, but rather with salvation. I say this not to bash on those who do promote a more 'therapeutic' view, only to point out that the Fathers have a harsher view of sex than even most traditionalist Orthodox, and that simply proof-texting and quoting the Fathers is not enough to support one's position. Chrysostom, by the way, appears to be an anomaly, which can be explained by the pastoral character of his theology. Compare him to a Jerome or Gregory of Nyssa and the difference in their views on sex is quite obvious.

Edited by Kevin T. Wall, 28 May 2013 - 11:30 PM.


#82 Kevin T. Wall

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 11:38 PM

if assertions are not based on Holy Tradition then they are merely personal opinions which, as everyone engaged in any discussion knows, are of no value.

First of all, of course personal opinions have value. Just because one's opinion is not stamped with some patristic imprimatur does not mean it is utterly worthless. Opinions are valued because they appear more reasonable, or because they come from someone we trust, or simply because we wish to have a discussion in good faith. You are a lawyer, if your profile is accurate, so you know the power of opinions by personal experience.

Secondly, there is a difference between acquiring the mindset of the Fathers, and merely proof-texting them to win an argument. We are not, or should not be, the equivalent of fundamentalist Protestants here. I find the habit of prooftexting the Fathers quite annoying, in fact.

Thirdly, you leave us with a paradox -- how did the Fathers do their theology if they had no prior patristic witness to draw from? They used their reason, spiritual experience, and the words of holy scripture. That is the method of the Fathers. Should we not imitate it? Are we only limited to quoting what they have said, and not thinking how they thought? Surely not.

Edited by Kevin T. Wall, 28 May 2013 - 11:39 PM.


#83 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 04:31 AM

The reason our spiritual fathers should be consulted is because they know us, they are aware of our concerns and they are in a position (or should be) to enlighten us concerning the thoughts and conclusions holy men steeped in prayer and meditation have come to concerning issues that have always been important to those seeking God.

Trying to understand what is meant by "The Nous" I found this helpful.

The Nous :

" A variety of opinions is found among the fathers as to the manner in which the soul is linked to the body. Gregory, in spite of his repeated reference to the Macarian opinion that it seats in the heart, seems to prefer the opinion of ,Gregory of Nyssa, according to which the soul is dispersed throughout the whole body as a dynamic element which holds the body together, contains its providential powers and vivifies it [vi].

The main powers of the soul: nous, logos. and pneuma (intellect, reason, and spirit) are simple functions, expressing it as a unique whole.[vii]"


http://www.myriobibl...ou_palamas.html

Edited by Effie Ganatsios, 29 May 2013 - 04:32 AM.


#84 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 04:59 AM

First of all, of course personal opinions have value. Just because one's opinion is not stamped with some patristic imprimatur does not mean it is utterly worthless. Opinions are valued because they appear more reasonable, or because they come from someone we trust, or simply because we wish to have a discussion in good faith. You are a lawyer, if your profile is accurate, so you know the power of opinions by personal experience.

Secondly, there is a difference between acquiring the mindset of the Fathers, and merely proof-texting them to win an argument. We are not, or should not be, the equivalent of fundamentalist Protestants here. I find the habit of prooftexting the Fathers quite annoying, in fact.

Thirdly, you leave us with a paradox -- how did the Fathers do their theology if they had no prior patristic witness to draw from? They used their reason, spiritual experience, and the words of holy scripture. That is the method of the Fathers. Should we not imitate it? Are we only limited to quoting what they have said, and not thinking how they thought? Surely not.

I agree with the last paragraph of your post especially. But, we are lucky in that we have access to the thoughts and conclusions of the men who travelled this road many years before we did. We can read and meditate on what we have read. Humility is essential.

#85 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 12:49 PM

Obviously, I am not going to attempt to set forth here the teaching of the Orthodox Church on man in paradise, the Fall, and sex and marriage.  Suffice to say that the Church’s teaching, from the Holy Fathers (e.g. St Gregory of Nyssa, St John Chrysostom, and St John Damascene), is that there was no marriage and sexual union before the Fall just as there will not be in Paradise in the life of the age to come.  God, however, in His mercy blesses marriage and sexual union for the people of the present age (just as He blesses them to eat food which was not eaten before the Flood) but clearly there is physical passion involved. 

 

Abstention from sex and food in accordance with the teaching of the Church has everything to do with benefitting the spouses’ relationship and cannot be separated from the effort at salvation.  See the Introduction to The Lenten Triodion.

 

In the Church we do not deal in reasonable opinions but in revealed truth.  Since you mention the law, any lawyer will tell you that legal opinions must always be supported by authority.  As the great judge Lord Templeman once said at the end of a lecture, ‘I hope I have not said anything original’.

 

‘Prooftexting’ seems to refer to the Protestant way of using scriptural quotations in a decontextualised way to justify a view.  The Orthodox, of course, do not do that – they do it to support a view which is in harmony with the wider context.

 

It is the essence of Orthodoxy that the Church adheres to the faith revealed by Christ and imparted to the Apostles.  The Holy Fathers like Ignatius and Polycarp who followed the Apostles were taught by them and the faith has been transmitted through succeeding generations to our own times.  The Holy Fathers (and Mothers) of all times were God-bearers enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  Their teaching is the fruit of ascetic effort and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  There have been those of our own times who continued in that way, but for most, the danger of prelest is so obvious that we should humbly accept that we are not of that stature.

 


 


Edited by Andreas Moran, 29 May 2013 - 12:51 PM.


#86 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:14 PM

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. -1 Corinthians 7:28

Marriage is blessed. However it brings with it "trouble in the flesh". The Apostle Paul values virginity as a "better" way, but for those who are weak, let them marry. But we are called to become strong, so that even within marriage there are boundaries set to help us become stronger. To help us teach ourselves that we rule our bodies; as followers of Christ we should not allow our bodies to rule us. The ideal is something to strive for, not simply disregard because we are all called to be saints, to be perfect even as our Father is perfect. Learning to move beyond sex as a basis of our relationship with our spouse is a sign of maturity. We may not all be "there" yet but that is still where we ought to be headed. I hope in this forum that Holy Scripture is considered authoritative.

#87 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 02:27 PM

 Unlike modern-day Orthodox apologists, however, they do not say that it is beneficial in terms of the married relationship, or that it promotes greater spiritual intimacy between spouses. They saw the benefit as having very little to do with people or relationships at all, but rather with salvation. I say this not to bash on those who do promote a more 'therapeutic' view, only to point out that the Fathers have a harsher view of sex than even most traditionalist Orthodox, and that simply proof-texting and quoting the Fathers is not enough to support one's position. Chrysostom, by the way, appears to be an anomaly, which can be explained by the pastoral character of his theology. Compare him to a Jerome or Gregory of Nyssa and the difference in their views on sex is quite obvious.

Since as we are saved we are more full of the virtues - kindness, gentleness, love etc. then therefore our own salvation improves all our relationships, whether it be that of spouses or other family, Christian brother to Christian brother, or our relations to strangers.  I do not think that any of the Fathers missed this connection.  Certainly St Gregory of Nyssa whose ascetical works I am very familiar with did not.  

 

  When we are reading something that a Father has written on one topic, we must still keep this within the overall context of what the Church teaches andkeep in mind what assumptions are therefore being held by them, but not always explicitly stated. Without a thorough grounding in the mind of the Church this is very hard. It is like being inexperienced at juggling. We keep dropping some of the balls.
 

 

They used their reason, spiritual experience, and the words of holy scripture. That is the method of the Fathers. Should we not imitate it? Are we only limited to quoting what they have said, and not thinking how they thought? Surely not.

We should, but with the humility to recognize that we lack to a large degree their spiritual experience which leaves us overly dependent on human reason. Human reason is not entirely dependable without the spiritual experience to back it up, which is why I said what I did earlier about simplicity.  It takes time and maturity in the Christian life, a maturity brought about by our struggles against sin and God's grace,  to be able to think how they thought. It is not something that we can come to entirely through study or our own reason.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 29 May 2013 - 02:31 PM.


#88 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 03:17 PM

Anna wrote :




Quote - Kevin
 

They used their reason, spiritual experience, and the words of holy scripture. That is the method of the Fathers. Should we not imitate it? Are we only limited to quoting what they have said, and not thinking how they thought? Surely not.


Anna's answer
 

"We should, but with the humility to recognize that we lack to a large degree their spiritual experience which leaves us overly dependent on human reason. Human reason is not entirely dependable without the spiritual experience to back it up, which is why I said what I did earlier about simplicity. It takes time and maturity in the Christian life, a maturity brought about by our struggles against sin and God's grace, to be able to think how they thought. It is not something that we can come to entirely through study or our own reason."





Very well said.


Edited by Father David Moser, 31 May 2013 - 11:13 PM.
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#89 Lakis Papas

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 11:04 PM

First of all, of course personal opinions have value. Just because one's opinion is not stamped with some patristic imprimatur does not mean it is utterly worthless. Opinions are valued because they appear more reasonable, or because they come from someone we trust, or simply because we wish to have a discussion in good faith. You are a lawyer, if your profile is accurate, so you know the power of opinions by personal experience.

Secondly, there is a difference between acquiring the mindset of the Fathers, and merely proof-texting them to win an argument. We are not, or should not be, the equivalent of fundamentalist Protestants here. I find the habit of prooftexting the Fathers quite annoying, in fact.

Thirdly, you leave us with a paradox -- how did the Fathers do their theology if they had no prior patristic witness to draw from? They used their reason, spiritual experience, and the words of holy scripture. That is the method of the Fathers. Should we not imitate it? Are we only limited to quoting what they have said, and not thinking how they thought? Surely not.

 

Dear friend,

 

1) I agree that "personal opinions have value", sure they do. The question is, do they stand their status beyond death?

 

2) Orthodox Church is a living Body. What Saints taught, are about life experiences and not intellectual viewpoints. For this, their teachings have the power to pass the test of death.

 

3) I also agree, that we must imitate Church Fathers, that is to imitate their lives and practice what they did. As st Paul said (1 Corinthians 4:16-20) :

 

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
 
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 29 May 2013 - 11:08 PM.


#90 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 05:23 AM

From what I was taught and from what I have read, the Church's teaching on sex is clear.  As to what it is 'for', its purpose is within marriage for procreation and the uniting of a married couple in intimacy.  It should be practised with modesty and some restraint - certain things are not allowed.  It should have a spiritual dimension and not merely be the indulgence of carnal passion.  Spouses are to abstain from sex at those times the Church determines, notably the prescribed fasting periods.  A married couple should be guided by their spiritual father.  Not very complicated.  As in anything else, to the extent that people fall short of what the Church teaches, they confess their shortcomings.

 

After reading this thread, I see that the response of Reader Andreas mirrors what people like Father Josiah Trenham say, that there needs to be modesty and restraint.

 

What they almost always fail to address is how often "restraint" applies.  The desire for a husband to have sexual union with his wife, in a pure and straightforward way (no deviance like toys, pornography, per anum, or anything of the sort) has the counterpart of the wife desiring intimate conversation.

 

If the couple abstains for menstruation, fasting days, and prior to Liturgy, that leaves the male unsatisfied about 60% of the days right out of the gate.  Take into account that the wife "might not feel like it" or might be pregnant, basically the husband is completely at the whim of his wife and will reasonably have a success rate of somewhere in the range of 0-20% of the time.  That is definitely NOT in-line with the Apostle teaching that a man and wife come together again quickly after periods of fasting.

 

Implicit in the arguments is the underlying attitude that sex is a passion and therefore a quasi-sin at best, and often in practice, it is treated with disgust and contempt.  And if you have a wife that has been raised with that attitude, you are realistically in the 0-20% range for the act, but you might hit 1-2 per year that she actually is "in the mood" and finds it enjoyable.  If men were told at the altar that they could expect meaningful sexual relationship to consist of 1-2 encounters per year, I think you would find that more men would just not bother.

 

I would like to see an argument where the wife takes a vow of silence for she and her husband such that they have intimate conversation only 20% of the time.  And that is VERY in keeping with tradition, with monastics taking vows of silence and living as hermits.  The Apostle talks about women keeping silent in the Church and not being allowed to teach a man.

 

Why the double-standard?



#91 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 21 November 2014 - 04:54 PM

The facts are that St Paul was aware of the need of abstaining during menstruations and the Wednesday and Friday fasts, and its likely the rule regarding the Liturgy was also in place, and yet he makes an exception for a time for fasting meaning we need to thing a little more before saying things are not in-line with the Apostle's teaching. 

 

I think your idea that sexual relations for the husband and conversation for the wife are on par is a little askew, yes you could argue that men have more desire for sexual relations and that woman have more need for conversations then their husbands, but the two whilst both aspects of a relationship are completely different things.

 

Vows of silence for a wife not to talk to her husband are not at all very keeping with Tradition they are at odds with it. 

 

"The Apostle talks about women keeping silent in the Church and not being allowed to teach a man."

 

Indeed he did but that relates to teaching/preaching in Church, not to a wife having a conversation with her husband about (for example) her sisters cat!


Edited by Daniel R., 21 November 2014 - 04:56 PM.


#92 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 07:55 PM

Daniel, your post was somewhat incoherent.

 

Comparing the male undergoing extensive periods without sexual intimacy with a female undergoing extensive periods without conversational intimacy is not at all skewed.

 

What intimate conversation (combined with an affectionate attitude) provides for most females is precisely what sexual intimacy provides for most males.

 

The illustration is actually a good comparison for women to understand exactly what men desire and the level of importance it has for the average male, to counteract Puritanical/Victorian attitudes toward sex.  I think the more common problem is that women typically think that conversation is good while sex is tainted.  This is very common among those raised in Western cultures and goes back to Ancient (pagan) Greek society.  And for those who convert to Orthodox Christianity, they often bring these ingrained attitudes/notions with them.

 

Women keeping silent is very much in keeping with Tradition.  The wife is to be subject to her husband and traditionally this especially includes the sexual relationship.  Your assertion that females keeping silent is at odds with the Tradition is flat out wrong.



#93 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 08:06 PM

I do not see any difficulty in what 'restraint' means - it means not having marital relations at those times prescribed by the Church.



#94 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 08:26 PM

Do you refer to restraint in speech or restraint in sex?

 

If you assert that we, as men, should restrain ourselves from sexual relations during times proscribed by the Church, then fine.  

 

However, there is an underlying assumption/assertion that we should also restrain ourselves outside of those times.  This additional restraint is what I am addressing.


Edited by MidwestSeraphim, 24 November 2014 - 08:29 PM.


#95 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 08:44 PM

I referred to the restraint the Church prescribes: I know of no proscription by the Church of abstention from marital relations outside those times.



#96 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 09:19 PM

Additional restraint is usually expected of husbands.  An example is sexual intimacy during pregnancy, a topic that you discussed on this thread.  However, that is only a special case of the more broadly expected restraint due to "the wife doesn't feel like it" restriction.  Which is very common.

 

I notice that still, nobody has addressed the topic of intimate conversation, which could easily be dismissed as "idle talk", that wives so often desire from their husbands (and often they seek it from outside sources, yet won't admit that it is a kind of adultery).  I have created a new thread to discuss the topic more in depth, so as to avoid limitation to the title Marital/sexual relations on feast and on fast days

 

http://www.monachos....and-activities/



#97 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 10:28 PM

"Comparing the male undergoing extensive periods without sexual intimacy with a female undergoing extensive periods without conversational intimacy is not at all skewed.

 

 

What intimate conversation (combined with an affectionate attitude) provides for most females is precisely what sexual intimacy provides for most males."

 

I would disagree, it is skewed, you have taken a valid observation regarding womens greater need for conversation and mens greater need for sexual relations within a marriage relationship and set them as absolutes.

 

In your first post you take the position that men need sex to feel intimate and woman likewise need deep conversation therefore if men are denied sex either through decency, the fasting rules of the Church or due to the woman not wishing to do so, women should be denied conversation.

 

Infact both conversation and sexual intimacy are part of a health marriage are both are needed by both partners. Men and woman need to talk, this is how most relationships, romantic or otherwise, are formed in the first place, by two people talking to each other. The need to continue this and the wider aspect of companionship within a marriage is vital. Now I would argue it is true that woman need this aspect more, in my view men normally feel a greater degree of intimacy through being with someone, whereas woman have a greater need for them to be actively communicating with each other. Likewise helping each other in common tasks for the home along with the division between manual labour and an outside vocation for men, and ruining of the household and caring for children for women, are part of the relationship, as are common decisions (moving house, finances, buying a pet ect...), mutual support, raising children ect.... Sexual relations are also part of the relationship, they provide a deeper level of intimacy one which is only rightly expressed between a married couple and which can lead to the producing of children the ultimate physical union between them "and the two shall become one flesh". Now it could be argued, I would be inclined to agree with such an argument, there greater need for this form of intimacy for men then for women, the way men and women view sexual relations may to an extent differ but the level of intimacy and the need therefor exists in both men and woman just as do the other parts of a relationship. It does not follow that these two things should then be picked out, juxtaposed, and then set as opposites (one needed by men, one by women) the lack of one meaning there should be a lack of both, this is taking them out of context and taking the observations and arguments too far for the shake of creating an argument for more sexual relations within a marrige.

 

"The illustration is actually a good comparison for women to understand exactly what men desire and the level of importance it has for the average male, to counteract Puritanical/Victorian attitudes toward sex."

Maybe to an extent but it is not  that useful within the context of the debate on this forum. 

 

"Women keeping silent is very much in keeping with Tradition.  The wife is to be subject to her husband and traditionally this especially includes the sexual relationship.  Your assertion that females keeping silent is at odds with the Tradition is flat out wrong." On the contrary your idea that a woman take a vow of silence in order to deny her intimacy to the level you believe men are denied sexual intimacy and connecting it to apostolic writings regarding women keeping silence in Church is what is what is "flat out wrong". Further your entire post come across as ranting that women aren't letting men have enough sex therefore they should not be allowed to talk because this would either act as some-kind of equalizer or make them realize that their husbands "need" sex and they should give it too them with little regard to how they feel in a "lie back and think of England" approach. Though further posts have made your argument a little clearer and dispassionate, and may have provided more that is suitable for a discussion, still your first post comes across highly personal, augmentative and an poor start to such a discussion.


Edited by Daniel R., 24 November 2014 - 10:35 PM.


#98 Seraphim of the Midwest

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 11:18 PM

I would disagree, it is skewed, you have taken a valid observation regarding womens greater need for conversation and mens greater need for sexual relations within a marriage relationship and set them as absolutes.

 

In your first post you take the position that men need sex to feel intimate and woman likewise need deep conversation therefore if men are denied sex either through decency, the fasting rules of the Church or due to the woman not wishing to do so, women should be denied conversation.

 

 

They are not absolutes.  I was speaking about groups, and therefore stereotypes need to be made in order to make meaningful points.  Furthermore, I was speaking about times outside of the fast.  I also clarified that I was creating a new topic precisely to avoid the mistaken assertion that you made.

 

If you want to contribute, then you can go to the other topic.  I will not address the rest of your text because, as you rightly point out, it is off topic.






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