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Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« on: November 12, 2007, 04:56:52 PM »
Hi, I'm new here. I'm also a Catholic, and I think I may be on my way East. However, i do have some questions on Orthodoxy's views on sex. I could describe my views on sex as "puritanical". I don't believe that sex is evil when conception is likely between a married couple, but in any other case I see it as sinful I have been told by some Catholics that I'm far too conservative. What does the East have to say?
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Offline Salpy

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2007, 05:00:35 PM »
If you click on the "marriage" tag below, I believe you will find at least a few threads dealing with this issue. 

Welcome to the forum, by the way.    :)

Offline Fr. David

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2007, 05:18:35 PM »
In Orthodoxy the possibility for using contraception is available, but needs to be discussed between the spiritual father and the couple (and should, even then, be pretty rare, imo).

I don't think you're puritanical about wanting sex to be open to procreation; isn't that what the fathers (the ones I've read on the subject, anyway) had to say about it?
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2007, 05:20:21 PM »
Is this the same as Pope Noah I of CAF fame?

My, we DO have everyone coming here!

I would emphasize, bases on things that I saw there, that any presumption that marriage means sex 24/7 has no idea of marriage.

Sex, or rather making love, is an important part however.  It is compared to the link of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, the unity of the Persons in One nature.

You have to see things in that context.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2007, 05:24:34 PM by ialmisry »
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Offline Didymus

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2007, 08:40:44 AM »
Patriarch Noah I, peace be with you. Your views would probably be considered a 'pious belief'. In other words there is nothing wrong with holding such views so long as you don't try to force them on others whose spiritual strength isn't up to such a standard. Also, if your beliefs cause you to think that you are superior to other people then you have just fallen into the sin of pride. However if you hold these views without thinking any less of other people but rather humbly reflect upon your own sins and weaknesses then your potential Orthodox priest may be willing to baptise you while suffering you to retain your current belief. Pray for me please.
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2007, 09:01:58 AM »
Hi Patriarch Noah I,

I am not a clergyman or theologian, so I might be way off-base, but from what I read, I do not believe that there exists one single Orthodox view on sex and sexuality. Of course, all forms of sexual lust - when one person savors sexual pleasure and uses other persons merely to satisfy his/her bodily needs - is condemned. Intimate relationships between a man and a woman are possible only in marriage, which the Church sees not as a venue to satisfy one's bodily needs but as a lifelong commitment and, morever, a form of martyrdom (self-sacrificial witnessing of the Christian Truth, complete giving of one's self to aid the other partner's theosis).

As for whether sex in marriage, per se, is a holy thing or a "bestial" thing, opinions differ. St. Gregory of Nyssa used to theorize a lot about pre-lapsarian humans having a "thin," etherial flesh and not having any sexual desires as we now know them. He believed that the commandment to Adam and Eve to be "fruitful and multiply" did not actually mean the commandment to beget children the way we do it now. He viewed sex as something always bestial, even in marriage, something that we acquired against God's will as a result of our lapse into sin. On the other hand, St. John Chrysostom ridiculed and criticized some older women from his congregation for their fancied notion that if they abstain from any sex with their husbands, they thus become holier. In present-day Orthodox catechisms, particularly in Clark Carlton's (the one I personally used when I was a catechumen), marital sex is viewed very positively, and there is a very strong emphasis that it is not merely a means of procreation.

I hope other people who are more knowledgeable will give you a more thorough response and references.

George
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Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2007, 08:14:56 PM »
Patriarch Noah I, peace be with you. Your views would probably be considered a 'pious belief'. In other words there is nothing wrong with holding such views so long as you don't try to force them on others whose spiritual strength isn't up to such a standard. Also, if your beliefs cause you to think that you are superior to other people then you have just fallen into the sin of pride. However if you hold these views without thinking any less of other people but rather humbly reflect upon your own sins and weaknesses then your potential Orthodox priest may be willing to baptise you while suffering you to retain your current belief. Pray for me please.

But what I'm wondering is, does God hold everyone else up to the same standard as I believe He does?
« Last Edit: November 13, 2007, 08:15:13 PM by Patriarch Noah I »
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2007, 08:20:30 PM »
But what I'm wondering is, does God hold everyone else up to the same standard as I believe He does?

How can any of us know the mind of God?

Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2007, 08:39:47 PM »
How can any of us know the mind of God?

Through the Tradition of the Church?  ;D
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Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2007, 10:56:38 PM »
Through the Tradition of the Church?  ;D

In that case the answer to your previous question is no. St. John Chrysostom in his treatise 'On Virginity' specifically said that there were enough people in the world, the command 'be fruitful and mulitply' came from a time when there were very few people (at least thought to be) on the planet and by the time of Chrysostom the argument was considered moot by said father. Chrysostom prefered the explination of Paul as the only legitimate reason for sex, 'I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.' That is to say, sex is to stop the burning and the overcomming of passions, and this is the reason that marriage is allowed, not for the purpose of procreation.

Now sure, you may be able to find others who say different thing, I'm guessing mostly in the west, but I would find it hard to see how someone could fancy themselves a 'traditionalist' and disregard the theology of Paul and Chrysostom on a matter.

Offline Carole

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2007, 11:06:33 AM »
Hi, I'm new here. I'm also a Catholic, and I think I may be on my way East. However, i do have some questions on Orthodoxy's views on sex. I could describe my views on sex as "puritanical". I don't believe that sex is evil when conception is likely between a married couple, but in any other case I see it as sinful I have been told by some Catholics that I'm far too conservative. What does the East have to say?

At the risk of being indelicate ... Are you saying that all sexual relations between a husband and his wife are sinful if there is no possibility for conception?  Such as if either the husband or wife are sterile?  Or after the wife has gone through menopause? 

I do not believe you will find any teaching in the tradition of either Church that supports that assertion.  Though I may be wrong.  The Catholic perspective is that sex between a husband and a wife has more than one purpose.  One, of course, being procreative.  One being unitive.  And one being the avoidance of concupience (the better to marry than to burn referenced earlier).  None of these purposes exist in a vacuum apart from the others.  Thus the idea that sex between husband and wife is sinful if procreation is not possible would seem to be unsupported.
Carole

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2007, 11:25:32 AM »
The Catholic perspective is that sex between a husband and a wife has more than one purpose.  One, of course, being procreative.  One being unitive. 

Hi Carole,

As I have already mentioned (and you might remember that), I was blasted for this "unitive" by some Catholics on the Ukrainian site "Maidan." They say that it's a total perversion of the Fathers. According to their reading of patristic sources, only a pure, spititual life of the couple in marriage was viewed as unitive. Copulation was unanimously viewed by Fathers as if not exactly "unlawful" (in marriage), but at the very least as something low, aboninable, kind of like defecation :(. There is never any holiness in that. I tried to argue but never succeeded, because my opponent quoted dozens over dozens of passages from St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and other, and all I could do in return is to quote... well, Hemingway. :) It really does look like the idea that sex in marriage is a holy, noble thing because it strengthens the union between the members of a couple comes entirely from our secular culture and not from patristics...

And one being the avoidance of concupience (the better to marry than to burn referenced earlier). 

Yeah, that's Fathers, and St. Paul.

None of these purposes exist in a vacuum apart from the others.

And that's again, it seems, our modern culture.

 
Thus the idea that sex between husband and wife is sinful if procreation is not possible would seem to be unsupported.

I wish you were correct. Sorry for playing the devil's advocate. :(

« Last Edit: November 14, 2007, 11:26:11 AM by Heorhij »
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2007, 11:54:58 AM »
In that case the answer to your previous question is no. St. John Chrysostom in his treatise 'On Virginity' specifically said that there were enough people in the world, the command 'be fruitful and mulitply' came from a time when there were very few people (at least thought to be) on the planet and by the time of Chrysostom the argument was considered moot by said father. Chrysostom prefered the explination of Paul as the only legitimate reason for sex, 'I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.' That is to say, sex is to stop the burning and the overcomming of passions, and this is the reason that marriage is allowed, not for the purpose of procreation.

Now sure, you may be able to find others who say different thing, I'm guessing mostly in the west, but I would find it hard to see how someone could fancy themselves a 'traditionalist' and disregard the theology of Paul and Chrysostom on a matter.

Chrysostom repeats this in his commentaries on the Epistles.  Glad you brought it up.
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Offline Simayan

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2007, 04:27:11 PM »
Patriarch Noah I, peace be with you. Your views would probably be considered a 'pious belief'. In other words there is nothing wrong with holding such views so long as you don't try to force them on others whose spiritual strength isn't up to such a standard. Also, if your beliefs cause you to think that you are superior to other people then you have just fallen into the sin of pride. However if you hold these views without thinking any less of other people but rather humbly reflect upon your own sins and weaknesses then your potential Orthodox priest may be willing to baptise you while suffering you to retain your current belief. Pray for me please.

Excellent post, Didymus.


I've not done as much reading on the Fathers as some other people here, but from all I've gathered, it would seem that sex is indeed a gift that is given once two people are married. Whether they choose to keep it to strictly procreation or continue post menopause, I refer you to the quoted post for my opinion.
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Offline Orest

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2007, 10:37:51 PM »
George (brat!)
I have to totally disagree with what you say below:
Quote
As I have already mentioned (and you might remember that), I was blasted for this "unitive" by some Catholics on the Ukrainian site "Maidan." They say that it's a total perversion of the Fathers. According to their reading of patristic sources, only a pure, spititual life of the couple in marriage was viewed as unitive. Copulation was unanimously viewed by Fathers as if not exactly "unlawful" (in marriage), but at the very least as something low, aboninable, kind of like defecation . There is never any holiness in that. I tried to argue but never succeeded, because my opponent quoted dozens over dozens of passages from St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and other, and all I could do in return is to quote... well, Hemingway.  It really does look like the idea that sex in marriage is a holy, noble thing because it strengthens the union between the members of a couple comes entirely from our secular culture and not from patristics...

Check these books with quotes from the patristic fathers:
Demetrios J. Constantelos.  Marriage Sexuality & Celibacy A Greek Orthodox Perspective.
Light & Life Publishing Co., MInneapolis, 1975.  Notice his footnotes.  A small book but really worthwhile buying.  Don'e let those Latinized Byzantine Catholics in Halychyna fool you.

From the master himself:
Saint John Chrysostom.  On Marriage and Family Life.
 Translator David Anderson Translator Catharine Roth
Format: Paperback: 114 pages.
Publisher: St Vladimirs Seminary Pr (03/01/1997)
ISBN: 0913836869ISBN13: 9780913836866
List price: $9.95
I would advise you to buy these 2 books.

Then of course there is this standard book:
John Meyendorff. 
Quote
Marriage: An Orthodox perspective.
Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975.

Also just in passing, I remember my professors and priest saying, that Catholic translators had the tendency to translate chastity in the original Greek as virginity in English, so beware.

Orest

MODERATION:
Edited to change a pejorative reference to Eastern Rite Catholics.
For further explanation, please see: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13388.msg184953.html#msg184953
George
« Last Edit: November 15, 2007, 12:29:45 PM by ozgeorge »

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2007, 12:15:05 AM »
^^  Orest,  you double-posted.  Would you like me to delete the duplicate?


DONE.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2007, 12:33:28 AM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline Orest

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2007, 12:17:14 AM »
yes, please.  I don't know how to do it.
Thank you.

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2007, 12:36:59 AM »
yes, please.  I don't know how to do it.
Thank you.
I believe all you can do is modify your post to delete all its contents, and then only within 24 hours or less after you posted it.  Only a moderator can remove the post entirely, but I wanted to make sure you were OK with what I wanted to do so you didn't think I was acting in a heavyhanded way.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2007, 08:20:11 AM »
Hi Carole,

As I have already mentioned (and you might remember that), I was blasted for this "unitive" by some Catholics on the Ukrainian site "Maidan." They say that it's a total perversion of the Fathers. According to their reading of patristic sources, only a pure, spititual life of the couple in marriage was viewed as unitive. Copulation was unanimously viewed by Fathers as if not exactly "unlawful" (in marriage), but at the very least as something low, aboninable, kind of like defecation :(. There is never any holiness in that. I tried to argue but never succeeded, because my opponent quoted dozens over dozens of passages from St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and other, and all I could do in return is to quote... well, Hemingway. :) It really does look like the idea that sex in marriage is a holy, noble thing because it strengthens the union between the members of a couple comes entirely from our secular culture and not from patristics...

Yeah, that's Fathers, and St. Paul.

And that's again, it seems, our modern culture.

I wish you were correct. Sorry for playing the devil's advocate. :(



Just a couple of things:

Yes, a lot of the Fathers say a lot of things that remind me of what a lot of monks today say/write about marriage.  When one such monk stated
"besides the wedding service, there is no service of the Church that praises marriage [as if that weren't enough]."  I replied, "Yes, like the hymn we sing at Pascha where Christ 'comes forth from the tomb like a monk from his monastic cell.'"  When does a bridegroom come from his bridal chamber?  And what has he done.....?

Marriage, not monastic profession, is counted among the Seven Sacraments/Holy Mysteries (yes, I know the number Seven is late and artificial, but yet the Church settled on it nonetheless). Yes, there are those who try to get around this, following Abelard who said it was the only Sacrament that did not give grace (!), in particular talking about the "spiritual union" as the unitive part of a marriage.  (It's interesting how they deny the gnostic implications of this)  Listen to the marriage service, and the numerous references to betting children.  That doesn't happen from "spiritual union" (thought that should be there too).  Btw, Liturgy trumps Patristics.

In Genesis God always end a days work of creation saying it is "good."  He changes only when He says "It is not good for man to be alone (monos, >monakhos "monk"), the verse which become the leitmotif in the EO marriage service.  Where does Eve come from?  The flesh of Adam's side.  What does Adam say?  "Flesh of my Flesh."  What does Genesis conclude? The two become "one flesh."  What does Christ conclude?  "What God has joined let no man put asunder."



So instead instead of the battle of the patristic quotes, looking at the trees, look at the above forest.
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Offline Fr. George

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2007, 09:43:03 AM »
I believe all you can do is modify your post to delete all its contents, and then only within 24 hours or less after you posted it.  Only a moderator can remove the post entirely, but I wanted to make sure you were OK with what I wanted to do so you didn't think I was acting in a heavyhanded way.

You can only modify your post within 10 or 15 minutes, not a day.  I don't know if you can delete in that period of time.
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2007, 11:30:06 AM »
instead instead of the battle of the patristic quotes, looking at the trees, look at the above forest.

I couldn't agree more. Yet, I hear every now and then that if you disregard opinions of the holy Fathers of the Church, you aren't really Orthodox. That saddens me tremendously.
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Offline Orest

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2007, 12:43:56 PM »
Quote
I couldn't agree more. Yet, I hear every now and then that if you disregard opinions of the holy Fathers of the Church, you aren't really Orthodox. That saddens me tremendously.

Dear Heorhij,
I think we Orthodox have to be careful not to become legalistic.  God gave us a mind to use.
I remember a learned professor saying that we Orthodox approach theology by first going to the scriptures, secondly to our liturgy (because as Jaroslav Pelikan states we sung our theology before it was formalized by Ecumenical Councils) and thirdly to tradition.
We do not do battle with verses from different Church fathers instead of swords.  Some of the isolated quotes from different church fathers do not jive with the whole picture: scripture, liturgy and tradition.  But we always have to look at the whole picture.

God bless,
Orest

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2007, 05:25:24 PM »
Dear orest, thank you, I understand, and appreciate this.

I would not be bothered by this whole question, you know... It's just that every once in a while, I hear, or feel, this hatred to everything "fleshly," material, corporeal, and this very strong anti-sexual, anti-erotic stance. In short, according to the people who have this stance, holiness, things sacred cannot be, allegedly, associated with anything material, and least of all with anything that triggers erotic sensations. Only immaterial, only "pure spirit," only complete silencing of all passions and even emotions, only stillness, only hesichasm. And when I say to these people what you said above, they reply something like, "of course, what else can you say... being as filled with all this bodily FILTH from inside as you are... you better repent and agree with us - and with the Fathers - that there is nothing holy in this material world, in this stinking hurting rottening dying BODY, and especially in this SEX..." :(
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Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2007, 06:17:40 PM »
Dear orest, thank you, I understand, and appreciate this.

I would not be bothered by this whole question, you know... It's just that every once in a while, I hear, or feel, this hatred to everything "fleshly," material, corporeal, and this very strong anti-sexual, anti-erotic stance. In short, according to the people who have this stance, holiness, things sacred cannot be, allegedly, associated with anything material, and least of all with anything that triggers erotic sensations. Only immaterial, only "pure spirit," only complete silencing of all passions and even emotions, only stillness, only hesichasm. And when I say to these people what you said above, they reply something like, "of course, what else can you say... being as filled with all this bodily FILTH from inside as you are... you better repent and agree with us - and with the Fathers - that there is nothing holy in this material world, in this stinking hurting rottening dying BODY, and especially in this SEX..." :(

Well, I can only speak from my point of view. While I am definately not gnostic, I am vary skeptical of those who praise everything sexual when it is between husband and wife. According to these people, oral and anal are all right as long as they culminate in the vagina. I say that is a perversion of said organs, and then I ask why it has to culminate in the vagina, if both are enjoying themselves, than it is unative, no? Then I get a blank stare, and I usually mutter something to myself about moving to a desert somewhere...
« Last Edit: November 15, 2007, 06:17:56 PM by Patriarch Noah I »
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Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2007, 06:24:51 PM »
With that line of reasoning it's no wonder you consider the desert.  ;)
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2007, 06:34:29 PM »
With that line of reasoning it's no wonder you consider the desert.  ;)
Is my reasoning not sound?
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2007, 06:41:50 PM »
Is my reasoning not sound?
Not really a question of logic, but of application to Orthodoxy. Appears more as idle speculation, frankly - the flip side of the Muslim 'anything and everything is OK, except copulation before marriage'. But then, I'm probably on your side as I do not agree with orest.
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #27 on: November 15, 2007, 07:12:41 PM »

Well, I can only speak from my point of view. While I am definately not gnostic, I am vary skeptical of those who praise everything sexual when it is between husband and wife. According to these people, oral and anal are all right as long as they culminate in the vagina. I say that is a perversion of said organs, and then I ask why it has to culminate in the vagina, if both are enjoying themselves, than it is unative, no? Then I get a blank stare, and I usually mutter something to myself about moving to a desert somewhere...

I was not even thinking, actually, about "oral and anal." I don't want to peak into other married couples' lives, I don't want to "analyze" or "dissect" those things. And these "nuances" did not, actually, even feature in my discussions with those "Patristics-inspired" haters of sex. Their point was not about "what" is "OK" - it was simply, anything sexual, bodily, material is NOT HOLY, low, bestial, of cattle, stinking, rotten, filthy.
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Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #28 on: November 15, 2007, 07:27:57 PM »
Well, I can only speak from my point of view. While I am definately not gnostic, I am vary skeptical of those who praise everything sexual when it is between husband and wife. According to these people, oral and anal are all right as long as they culminate in the vagina. I say that is a perversion of said organs, and then I ask why it has to culminate in the vagina, if both are enjoying themselves, than it is unative, no? Then I get a blank stare, and I usually mutter something to myself about moving to a desert somewhere...

And the vaginal intercourse aspect of the whole thing is so important why? I really do enjoy these sexuality threads, granted the discussions are nearly always far beyond the realm of completely absurd, but it's like reading the flat earth society's website, you read something, you laugh, thinking it has to be parody, then you realize it isn't, you're scared for a second, then you realize, 'oh, wait, these people represent one hundredth of one percent of the population, let's just sit back and laugh at it.'  ::)

However, in this particular case, I still must confess that I'm not entirely certain...are you serious our just messing with us?

Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #29 on: November 15, 2007, 09:25:26 PM »
And the vaginal intercourse aspect of the whole thing is so important why? I really do enjoy these sexuality threads, granted the discussions are nearly always far beyond the realm of completely absurd, but it's like reading the flat earth society's website, you read something, you laugh, thinking it has to be parody, then you realize it isn't, you're scared for a second, then you realize, 'oh, wait, these people represent one hundredth of one percent of the population, let's just sit back and laugh at it.'  ::)

However, in this particular case, I still must confess that I'm not entirely certain...are you serious our just messing with us?

Uh, I'm serious.  :P And what's so important about that aspect? You mean other than the fact that it is the only way one can procreate? You know, when the Almighty commanded, "Be friutful and multiply," He was talking about reproduction...
« Last Edit: November 15, 2007, 09:28:25 PM by Patriarch Noah I »
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Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #30 on: November 15, 2007, 09:54:09 PM »
I thought you might be...scary.

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #31 on: November 15, 2007, 10:48:56 PM »
Hi Carole,

As I have already mentioned (and you might remember that), I was blasted for this "unitive" by some Catholics on the Ukrainian site "Maidan." They say that it's a total perversion of the Fathers. According to their reading of patristic sources, only a pure, spititual life of the couple in marriage was viewed as unitive. Copulation was unanimously viewed by Fathers as if not exactly "unlawful" (in marriage), but at the very least as something low, aboninable, kind of like defecation :(. There is never any holiness in that. I tried to argue but never succeeded, because my opponent quoted dozens over dozens of passages from St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and other, and all I could do in return is to quote... well, Hemingway. :) It really does look like the idea that sex in marriage is a holy, noble thing because it strengthens the union between the members of a couple comes entirely from our secular culture and not from patristics...

Yeah, that's Fathers, and St. Paul.

And that's again, it seems, our modern culture.

I wish you were correct. Sorry for playing the devil's advocate. :(



It sounds rather gnostic or manichean to me.  The gnostics were big on refraining from sex because they thought it was evil.

Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #32 on: November 15, 2007, 11:31:40 PM »
It sounds rather gnostic or manichean to me.  The gnostics were big on refraining from sex because they thought it was evil.

As far as I know, Christians are also supposed to refrain from gluttony and greed. Does that mean that food or material possesions are evil? No. In the afterlife, we will not have food, posessions, or sexuality, so shouldn't it be encouraged in every Christian, not just the Monks and nuns, to practise greater self-restraint, as a fore-taste of the Divine Beyond? In my ever so humble opinion, the Catholic Church has gone soft when it comes to self-restraint. We pretty much abolished major fasting, and it seems contrary to the Gospel. When Jesus tell His followers to pick up their crosses and follow Him, it hits me in such a way that I cannot put into words. As Blessed Pope John XXIII stated, "A Christian life is a life of sacrifice." I believe it with all my heart.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2007, 11:33:00 PM by Patriarch Noah I »
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #33 on: November 15, 2007, 11:38:12 PM »
As far as I know, Christians are also supposed to refrain from gluttony and greed. Does that mean that food or material possesions are evil? No. In the afterlife, we will not have food, posessions, or sexuality, so shouldn't it be encouraged in every Christian, not just the Monks and nuns, to practise greater self-restraint, as a fore-taste of the Divine Beyond? In my ever so humble opinion, the Catholic Church has gone soft when it comes to self-restraint. We pretty much abolished major fasting, and it seems contrary to the Gospel. When Jesus tell His followers to pick up their crosses and follow Him, it hits me in such a way that I cannot put into words. As Blessed Pope John XXIII stated, "A Christian life is a life of sacrifice." I believe it with all my heart.

I agree 100% with you.  But the problem is that in the post I was responding to the person refered to someone that said that sex is only meant to calm the passions.  If used in any other context it is sinfull.  It is as much as to say sex is evil.  Sex is not evil, that would be gnostic.  But it is good to control your passions and to abstain at times.  I agree that the Catholic fasting has basically ceased to exist.  It has saddened me at times to see that my church has basically rejected any acts of self-sacrifice.  All while admitting that sacrifice is essential to life.

Offline ialmisry

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #34 on: November 16, 2007, 07:24:59 AM »
I agree 100% with you.  But the problem is that in the post I was responding to the person refered to someone that said that sex is only meant to calm the passions.  If used in any other context it is sinfull.  It is as much as to say sex is evil.  Sex is not evil, that would be gnostic.  But it is good to control your passions and to abstain at times.  I agree that the Catholic fasting has basically ceased to exist.  It has saddened me at times to see that my church has basically rejected any acts of self-sacrifice.  All while admitting that sacrifice is essential to life.


Not to be indelicate, BUUUT...

I often get the impression that those who on the issue of gluttony (and I think most of them, if not all, are celibate) have this idea that couples are joined at the waist 24/7.  Just the realities of life include periods of abstinence,  how else do you get the housework done?

I often am amused at these theoretical discussions (and, mostly from celibates, and I'll further, celibate men, they are theoretical) have no idea of the dynamic of a marriage.  As the Russians say, don't take your old rule to your new monastery.

I remember reading monastic literature of the early centuries and was astonished to find how little sex was in it.  LOTS about gluttony (food that is, and it is quite clear they are talking about food).
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Offline Jimmy

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #35 on: November 16, 2007, 06:18:24 PM »

Not to be indelicate, BUUUT...

I often get the impression that those who on the issue of gluttony (and I think most of them, if not all, are celibate) have this idea that couples are joined at the waist 24/7.  Just the realities of life include periods of abstinence,  how else do you get the housework done?

I often am amused at these theoretical discussions (and, mostly from celibates, and I'll further, celibate men, they are theoretical) have no idea of the dynamic of a marriage.  As the Russians say, don't take your old rule to your new monastery.

I remember reading monastic literature of the early centuries and was astonished to find how little sex was in it.  LOTS about gluttony (food that is, and it is quite clear they are talking about food).

I am not sure how this is associated with what I said.  I am not sure what you oppose in what I said.

Offline Νεκτάριος

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #36 on: November 16, 2007, 06:38:59 PM »
I remember reading monastic literature of the early centuries and was astonished to find how little sex was in it.  LOTS about gluttony (food that is, and it is quite clear they are talking about food).

After thinking about it, I can't remember sex within marriage even being mentioned in the sayings of the desert fathers.  There was plenty to be said about gluttony, anger, love, forgiveness and the virtues.  In the entire New Testament, I don't think there is anything about what goes on inside a marriage - just the "boring" stuff about loving neighbors and the like. 

I wouldn't at all be surprised if this more modern obsession with sexuality morality as the end all of Christian morality in certain Orthodox and Catholic circles is directly picked up from American Evangelical Protestantism.   

Offline prodromas

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #37 on: November 16, 2007, 07:27:46 PM »
After thinking about it, I can't remember sex within marriage even being mentioned in the sayings of the desert fathers.  There was plenty to be said about gluttony, anger, love, forgiveness and the virtues.  In the entire New Testament, I don't think there is anything about what goes on inside a marriage - just the "boring" stuff about loving neighbors and the like. 

I wouldn't at all be surprised if this more modern obsession with sexuality morality as the end all of Christian morality in certain Orthodox and Catholic circles is directly picked up from American Evangelical Protestantism.   

That does seem very sound. I was watching some fundamentalist Christian documentary and the men were with there wives boasting that they had sex every day like they have no understanding of control, they said what is marriage for? I remember in a Pentacostal bible study I went to he was describing how Adam looked (eg Tall, muscular)  and how sexually attracted eve must of been instead of the importance of the story!
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #38 on: November 16, 2007, 07:43:01 PM »
After thinking about it, I can't remember sex within marriage even being mentioned in the sayings of the desert fathers.  There was plenty to be said about gluttony, anger, love, forgiveness and the virtues.  In the entire New Testament, I don't think there is anything about what goes on inside a marriage - just the "boring" stuff about loving neighbors and the like. 

I wouldn't at all be surprised if this more modern obsession with sexuality morality as the end all of Christian morality in certain Orthodox and Catholic circles is directly picked up from American Evangelical Protestantism.   

You have made an interesting point. There are still some cultures which do not focus so much attention on sexuality. Many of my Orthodox female aquaintances and friends who grew up in Israel and Syria never had sex ed. classes in school. The culture they were surrounded by was not saturated with the sexual messages and images that we can hardly get away from no matter where we turn. These same women told me they didn't know anything about sexual relations until they got married. Once married they had to learn quickly  ;)  and most of their marriages were arranged. Amazingly, most of these ladies are still married to the same guys...in other words, not too many divorces. But I don't know how happy their marriages are either. Perhaps they have a different view of the whole marriage relationship than we westerners do.

Out of curiosity....I am wondering how many of those who have posted on this thread are single males.  :D

Offline ialmisry

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #39 on: November 16, 2007, 08:47:20 PM »
You have made an interesting point. There are still some cultures which do not focus so much attention on sexuality. Many of my Orthodox female aquaintances and friends who grew up in Israel and Syria never had sex ed. classes in school. The culture they were surrounded by was not saturated with the sexual messages and images that we can hardly get away from no matter where we turn. These same women told me they didn't know anything about sexual relations until they got married. Once married they had to learn quickly  ;)  and most of their marriages were arranged. Amazingly, most of these ladies are still married to the same guys...in other words, not too many divorces. But I don't know how happy their marriages are either. Perhaps they have a different view of the whole marriage relationship than we westerners do.

Out of curiosity....I am wondering how many of those who have posted on this thread are single males.  :D

I'm divorced. :(  How does that rate?
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Offline Νεκτάριος

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #40 on: November 16, 2007, 09:02:41 PM »
Out of curiosity....I am wondering how many of those who have posted on this thread are single males.  :D

I don't count since I only posted about the epistemology of the singe male posters and not about the topic.  And GiC definetely doesn't count since he only posted to make fun of the other single male posters.   ;)

Probably a topic for another thread, but of late it seems I've been having to read more Islamic theology / history than anything else and the so-called puristic / fundamentalist movements really only date to the 19th century.  That's why I'm wondering if a parallel movement exists in Christianity - especially since I'm reading a book by Fr. Andrew Louth at the moment called Discerning the Mystery that hints at this.  But maybe I'm just a nerd for thinking discussions about religious / philosophical / literary movements are better suited for a public discussion and pastoral advice to the confessional...


Offline Paradosis

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #41 on: November 16, 2007, 11:44:12 PM »
Hi, I'm new here. I'm also a Catholic, and I think I may be on my way East. However, i do have some questions on Orthodoxy's views on sex. I could describe my views on sex as "puritanical". I don't believe that sex is evil when conception is likely between a married couple, but in any other case I see it as sinful I have been told by some Catholics that I'm far too conservative. What does the East have to say?

You clearly believe that procreation is the chief aim and justification for sexual activity.  Holy Orthodoxy shares this belief.  However, we must properly interpret what this belief means.  The importance of procreation is not due to some idea that sexual union is a mere biological process.  Rather, sexual union is geared primarily for procreation because it is the crown of the union of the couple.  If we say that marital relations are an aid in helping the couple on the path of theosis, this is fulfilled in openness to a child who will join and help the couple on this path.  If marital relations are a way to overcome lust and selfishness, this is fulfilled in openness to a child who will be authentically loved as one who is a perpetuation of the other spouse.  If marital union is a reflection of the love of the Holy Trinity, it will be the love of two that is not indifferent to the presence of a third.  If marital union is a reflection of the love of Christ for the Church, it will be open to the fruitfulness that marks Christ's love for the Church.  If marital union is sacramental, it will seek to be life giving like the sacraments are.  Procreation truly is the crown of all sexuality, and rightly do the Holy Fathers speak of its importance.  Of course, there are some Fathers who focus too much on the earthly nature of marital relations and emphasize the difficulties that married people have in having their love transfigured, but these tendencies hardly rise to the level of doctrine and can be replaced by more holistic and positive views of marriage and sexuality. 

You also believe that post-menopausal sex is sinful.  However, I am unaware of either the Orthodox or Roman Catholic Church ever stating this.  Certainly, as we grow older, we should loosen our attachments to the things of the earth, including sex as we prepare for the heavenly kingdom where our marital union will be solely spiritual in nature.  However, the Church has never commanded couples to refuse sex when it is no longer naturally possible for it to be procreative.  Any condemnation you may find in the Holy Fathers would be to deliberate actions done by the couple that keep procreation from occurring (contraception), not having relations when nature simply keeps conception from occurring.           

Even regarding contraception, the Orthodox Church allows couples to use other forms of family planning than the ideal form of total abstinence, when they have a true need to limit the size of their families and aren’t called to the high demands of total abstinence.  This is an exception and not the norm, however. 

God bless,

Adam           
« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 11:51:29 PM by Paradosis »

Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #42 on: November 17, 2007, 12:12:55 AM »
You clearly believe that procreation is the chief aim and justification for sexual activity.  Holy Orthodoxy shares this belief.

Except for St. Paul, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom and various other equally minor figures in Church History. Just a quick clarification, carry on.

Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #43 on: November 17, 2007, 12:21:41 AM »
You clearly believe that procreation is the chief aim and justification for sexual activity.         
The chief aim and justification of eating is to provide nutrients for the body.

sexual union is geared primarily for procreation
Eating is geared primarily towards providing nutrients for the body.

When you eat, are you thinking "I need 14.3 grams of protein to rebuild my sternocleidomastoid muscle, .7 grams of protein to strengthen my cardiac muscle, 0.5 milligrams of Vitamin K to  maintain my clotting sequence......." or are you enjoying your food, satisfying your hunger, savouring it's taste etc?
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Offline Paradosis

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #44 on: November 17, 2007, 12:27:17 AM »
Except for St. Paul, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom and various other equally minor figures in Church History. Just a quick clarification, carry on.

Fr. John Breck in his book The Sacred Gift of Life:  Orthodox Christianity and Bioethics makes this statement about procreation.  He also says that the univite nature of marital relations is honorable, but is a blessed corollary to the more fundamental purpose of procreation.  I've always thought that he was right.  I'll read up more about the topic though.  Thanks.  :)

God bless,

Adam 
« Last Edit: November 17, 2007, 12:36:53 AM by Paradosis »

Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #45 on: November 17, 2007, 12:59:50 AM »
Fr. John Breck in his book The Sacred Gift of Life:  Orthodox Christianity and Bioethics makes this statement about procreation.  He also says that the univite nature of marital relations is honorable, but is a blessed corollary to the more fundamental purpose of procreation.  I've always thought that he was right.  I'll read up more about the topic though.  Thanks.  :)

Well, I guess I must conceede this argument, all I can cite in support is Paul, Basil, Nyssa, and Chrysostom...I don't have anything to put up against a Fr. John Breck. ;)

In all seriousness, yes reproduction was the original point of sex, billions of years of biological evolution bear witness to this. But we also observe amongst animals of higher intelligence (including homo sapiens) an enjoying of the act for itself, for pleasure independent of reproduction. And amongst the most intelligent of animals (i.e. homo sapiens), the one species that actually understands the mechanisms of sex (though granted, we just started to have a good grasp on it over the last 200 years, but long before that we had some pretty good hypothesis) the purpose of pleasure has become the primary concern. Perhaps, on the grand scale, perceptions of sex are related to overall intelligence; in which case, pleasure should be the most noble asperation for sex, since it is only the most intelligent species that exploit it for this pleasure and homo sapiens that enjoy this pleasure while having also learned how to deal with the often less pleasurable (depending on circumstances) 'side effect' of reproduction.

Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #46 on: November 17, 2007, 08:08:14 AM »
the most intelligent of animals (i.e. homo sapiens),
No, sorry, we're the third most intelligent, right behind dolphins and white mice. ;D
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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #47 on: November 17, 2007, 04:33:39 PM »
No, sorry, we're the third most intelligent, right behind dolphins and white mice. ;D
White mice?  White mice?  WHITE MICE?  ???

ROTFL! :laugh:



Well, in keeping with the OP, white mice certainly are quite *AHEM* procreative.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2007, 04:34:42 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #48 on: November 17, 2007, 04:44:17 PM »
White mice?  White mice?  WHITE MICE?  ???
Yep, they've been performing experiments on us for years.  ;)
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Offline Patriarch Noah I

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #49 on: November 18, 2007, 06:06:39 PM »
Quick question, do the Orthodox believe that celibacy is a superior vocation?
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #50 on: November 18, 2007, 06:26:48 PM »
Quick question, do the Orthodox believe that celibacy is a superior vocation?

Yes and no; if you're not "built" for the celibate life, then married life is a superior vocation; if you are, then celibate life is superior.  On the flip side, if you're married but aren't "built" for marriage, then celibacy would have been better; if you are, then marriage is.

St. John Chrysostom words it more like this: if you can live a celibate life, then do so.  But if the passions are too strong, it would be better for you to marry than to burn because of your sin.

There are a few who hold up the vocation of motherhood as a high (or the highest) vocation, which in context would imply a sacred marriage.
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #51 on: November 18, 2007, 06:35:06 PM »
Quick question, do the Orthodox believe that celibacy is a superior vocation?

In his book titled "Pravoslavie" ("Orthodoxy"), Protopresbyter Fr. Sergiy Bulgakov writes that being married and faithful to God is probably a more difficult and honorable vocation than being a monk. (Sorry, I only read this book in its original Russian, not sure whether there are good English translations; if you are fluent in Russian, I will be happy to give you references.)
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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #52 on: November 18, 2007, 09:50:34 PM »
Yes and no; if you're not "built" for the celibate life, then married life is a superior vocation; if you are, then celibate life is superior.  On the flip side, if you're married but aren't "built" for marriage, then celibacy would have been better; if you are, then marriage is.

St. John Chrysostom words it more like this: if you can live a celibate life, then do so.  But if the passions are too strong, it would be better for you to marry than to burn because of your sin.

There are a few who hold up the vocation of motherhood as a high (or the highest) vocation, which in context would imply a sacred marriage.
Interesting that the Theotokos is honored as the greatest example of BOTH celibacy AND motherhood...  IIRC, the Latin Church has traditionally emphasized Mary's virginity, as can be seen in their favorite title for her:  Blessed Virgin Mary; whereas the Eastern Churches have traditionally emphasized her role as Mother, with such an exalted title as Theotokos ("Birthgiver of God").  No one else has ever been chosen for this paradoxical role of Virgin Mother, so no one else can ever be BOTH lifelong celibate AND a mother (or father).  However, the Church certainly needs both and blesses both vocations as equally valuable means to salvation.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2007, 09:51:11 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #53 on: November 18, 2007, 11:04:21 PM »
No one else has ever been chosen for this paradoxical role of Virgin Mother, so no one else can ever be BOTH lifelong celibate AND a mother (or father).  However, the Church certainly needs both and blesses both vocations as equally valuable means to salvation.

Considering modern advancements in cloning technology I wouldn't throw around that 'ever' word in this context...ever's an awful long time. ;)

« Last Edit: November 18, 2007, 11:04:49 PM by greekischristian »

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #54 on: November 19, 2007, 01:18:26 AM »
Considering modern advancements in cloning technology I wouldn't throw around that 'ever' word in this context...ever's an awful long time. ;)
Heaven forbid we should ever clone you. :o  One GiC is more than enough. ;)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2007, 01:20:12 AM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline GiC

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #55 on: November 19, 2007, 01:54:38 AM »
Heaven forbid we should ever clone you. :o  One GiC is more than enough. ;)

;D

Offline Nyssa The Hobbit

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #56 on: November 19, 2007, 07:36:34 PM »
Yep, they've been performing experiments on us for years.  ;)

LOL

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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #57 on: November 20, 2007, 03:48:43 PM »
Indeed. Brilliant man--able to see reality in a way no one else could. Memory eternal.
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Offline Orest

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #58 on: November 21, 2007, 03:14:03 AM »
Here is a good quote:

"A life lived in the world can be as good, in the eyes of God, as one spent in a monastery.  It is indeed only the keeping of God's commandments, love of all, and a true sense of humility that matter, wherever we are."

  St. Macarius of Optina




Offline Aline

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #59 on: December 10, 2007, 04:48:00 AM »
Some basic teachings of God which the orthodox uphold strongly include:

1)Homosexuality is totally forbidden and those who practice it cannot enter the kingdom of God without repentance.

2)People are to abstain from sex until marriage.

3)Women should look at the theotokos as the prime example of upholding their virginity until marriage.

4)Marriage is one of the great mysterires of the church and a gift to man and woman.It is something satan loves to attack and attempt to breakdown so as to spit in Gods face

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #60 on: December 10, 2007, 11:01:31 AM »
Some basic teachings of God which the orthodox uphold strongly include:

1)Homosexuality is totally forbidden and those who practice it cannot enter the kingdom of God without repentance.
Well, technically, NO ONE who practices ANY sin--that basically includes all of us--can enter the kingdom of God without repentance.  Why pick on homosexuality?  I'm sorry to sound like I'm defending such sin, which I'm not, but if you first take a look at the reference thread we have for all our discussions on homosexuality, The Topic of Homosexuality on This Forum, which will direct you to existing threads where such discussion is permitted and encouraged, you will find that most people don't know how to discuss this hot issue online without giving many of our posters serious offense with their judgmental self-righteousness.
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Offline Tamara

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #61 on: December 10, 2007, 11:47:26 AM »
The Theotokos is an example for all of us. Not just women. Men must retain their virginity too before marriage.
What good does it do a couple if only the woman retains her virginity?
In this day an age, if a man is promiscuous and then marries a virgin he runs a high risk of contracting HPV and then
giving it to his bride. Once a woman has HPV she is at risk for cervical cancer. Not a nice wedding present to receive.
Keep that in mind all of you guys out there....your cavalier bachelor lifestyle can lead to cancer in your future, unsuspecting wife.


« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 12:07:36 PM by Tamara »

Offline lubeltri

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #62 on: December 10, 2007, 12:10:43 PM »
Well, technically, NO ONE who practices ANY sin--that basically includes all of us--can enter the kingdom of God without repentance.  Why pick on homosexuality?  I'm sorry to sound like I'm defending such sin, which I'm not, but if you first take a look at the reference thread we have for all our discussions on homosexuality, The Topic of Homosexuality on This Forum, which will direct you to existing threads where such discussion is permitted and encouraged, you will find that most people don't know how to discuss this hot issue online without giving many of our posters serious offense with their judgmental self-righteousness.

Agreed, Peter, though I would add the caveat that there is at least some justification for emphasizing the sinfulness of homosexual acts at this point in time. Increasing Christian communities are abandoning the idea that such acts are sinful at all---many are even sacralizing them. This is a serious danger to souls---I was saddened to overhear two gay men rave about the local "gay" Catholic church (John Kerry's church, BTW) at Borders last night. Such a scandal when Christian pastors are encouraging destructive sin.

The Issue has become a cause celebre among liberal Christians, and it must be answered. So, yes, it is a sin like everything else, but at the moment we don't have churches sacralizing theft or adultery. Other sins of our time (gluttony, sloth) are conveniently ignored by many churches and should definitely get more attention, but even they are not sacralized like homosexual acts are.



I agree, though, that how this is communicated in charity is very important.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 12:10:58 PM by lubeltri »

Offline EofK

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #63 on: December 10, 2007, 12:19:43 PM »
Forgive my ignorance, but what is the significance in the second picture in the above post? 
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Offline lubeltri

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #64 on: December 10, 2007, 12:26:18 PM »
Forgive my ignorance, but what is the significance in the second picture in the above post? 

That is ++Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church. He was consecrated 4 years ago in defiance of the worldwide Anglican Communion. He is a divorced noncelibate homosexual who lives with his male partner. He is also something of an activist for "gay" liberation. His consecration was (rightly) seen as an intentional affront to the moral teachings of historic Christianity and Anglicanism. It was a statement of defiance by the current leadership of the Episcopal Church, and it sparked a conflict that may destroy the Anglican Communion as we know it. All over what is called "the Issue."
« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 12:30:01 PM by lubeltri »

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Orthodoxy on sexuality...
« Reply #65 on: December 10, 2007, 02:17:39 PM »
^ I think you missed an important point I tried to make, lubeltri.  If you want to discuss homosexuality on this forum, then please read the thread, The Topic of Homosexuality on This Forum, and post your comments on one of the threads linked there.
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