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Author Topic: Marriage and Sexual Morality in the Orthodox Tradition  (Read 15948 times) Average Rating: 0
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Cudgel
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« on: April 25, 2009, 11:17:48 AM »

(1) What is marriage for Christians and non-Christians such that it legitimizes formerly illicit sexual relations?

(2) Does marriage have a theologically normative starting point? Is there an "official" (God-given) answer to the question of how people enter marriage or when a new marriage comes into being or does revelation itself assume deference to pre-existing laws and customs?
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 11:29:11 AM by Cudgel » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2009, 01:41:17 PM »

I'm not sure if I understand your questions fully, but I'll take a stab.

Regarding the first, perhaps the question is better looked at from another angle.  Instead of asking if/why marriage legitimizes formerly illicit sexual unions, let's first ask why sexual union outside of marriage is illicit?  If marriage is a reflection of the bond between Christ and the Church, that bond cannot exist unless Christ is the One on Whom that bond is built; sex outside of marriage bonds flesh, but without Christ.

So if two people who were sexually active before marriage get married, it's not that the Church "legitimizes" their sexual union.  Rather, the Church recognizes that these two have been formally united in Christ.  In the early church, between the 4th and 10th centuries (it was only after the 10th century that the church gained a monopoly on marriage and required a church wedding for all Christians due to the Tetragamy Controversy in 907), before the formal wedding ceremony was ever developed, a couple simply got married according to the customs of their region/culture, and the Church recognized their marriage only after the couple partook of communion together, and were made one in Christ.  That's what marriage does - it makes us one flesh in Christ, and the marriage becomes a locus and vehicle of the divine presence, a reflection of Christ and the Church, a source of new life (Christ makes all things new, even marriage), which is concretely (ideally) lived out in the life of the Church.


So I think that answer may help with both questions.  Certainly, pre-existing laws and customs have influenced how we enact the marriage rite, but ultimately, it is all about becoming one flesh in the Body of Christ, the ultimate consumation being the couple's partaking of communion together at each liturgy.

Hope this was some help.

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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2009, 02:04:24 PM »

SakranMM,

Thanks for the response. To clarify my question, my understanding of the Tradition at this point is that sexual union is meant to occur *only* within marriage.  This is God's will for all people, especially Christians, but revelation leaves the question of when and under what conditions a couple is to be considered married unanswered as this is wholly defined by pre-existing laws and customs.  I believe that a man and a woman can become one flesh without marriage regardless of their intentions or level of commitment, which is why God prohibits sex outside marriage. I may be wrong, but that is my interpretation of the following texts:

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH."
(1 Cor. 6:15-16)

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mark 19:6)

Observe how the Lord and St. Paul interpret the Genesis text.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 02:08:32 PM by Cudgel » Logged
GiC
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2009, 02:10:43 PM »

The closest thing you'll find to the Christian legal tradition in reference to Marriage is from Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis http://www.constitution.org/sps/sps.htm

An even better source would be Leo VI's Βασιλικά, but good luck even finding a copy in Greek and there is no English Translation.

Your questions seem to be a bit broad and I'm not sure if there's some predetermined prejudices behind them, perhaps you could try to revise them.

However, to shed some light on your inquiries, there was always this concept of a growing relationship that eventually grows to the point of allowing sexual relations and this point was traditionally not marriage. Traditionally there would be an engagement, which was an ecclesiastical ceremony (involving the exchange of rings in later custom) that was legally binding before both the Church and State, breaking off an engagement was actually the exact same legal proceedings of getting a divorce, with the sole difference being that if you did successfully break it off in the courts you were not considered as having been divorced. After an engagement which was generally a minimum of six months, usually much longer, during which time you had been in a legally and ecclesiastically binding relationship, but were not allowed to live together or anything, there would be the ceremony of the Crowning, which from a legal perspective was the act of marriage, after this ceremony any disolution of the relationship would be regarded as an actual divorce before the courts. After this ceremony the couple was allowed to move in together and live as a married couple. However, this is not the point at which sexual activity became socially acceptable, the couple would wear their crowns for a week and a week after the crowning would be another ceremony, the removal of the crowns, the couple had lived together as husband and wife for a week at this point, but were not supposed to engage in sexual activity, it was another stage of the relationship. After the removal of the crowns, then sexual activity became socially acceptable.

This is how it worked in theory, in practice it never worked so well, sexual activity immediately after the crowning slowly became more and more acceptable to the point where the Church began holding the crowning and removal of the crowns in back-to-back ceremonies. Then, because an engagement was just as legally binding as a marriage before the courts, many started to view the engagement as being close enough to live together, rather than abandon or alter the customary traditions related to engagement, crowning, and removing of the crowns, this problem was practically solved by moving the engagement to immediately before the crowning, so there were three ceremonies combined into one. The longest engagement you'll generally see anymore is a few hours if the engagement happens before a liturgy and the marriage during it. There are some examples even today of longer engagements, but I haven't heard of any separation of the crowning and the removal of the crowns over the last several centuries.

Perhaps this concept of the development of a relationship, at least in theory, answers your questions about the theology behind marriage and sexuality. If you're looking for more practical answers, the issue becomes much more comples...and cynical, like most social elements of Byzantine law.
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2009, 02:24:19 PM »

GiC,

Thanks for this information and please do not hesitate to write more. My question is a bit broad and I believe that's because I only partially understand my question. One bias of my question is that I assume "marriage" has one referent rather than many or that the many possess a common essence.  Could you please tell me the sources you are drawing your information from so that I could read more?  Just to make sure I have the old order of things straight:

1. Engagement/Exchange of rings (6+ months)
2. Crowning (Legal marriage)
3. Live together as husband and wife for a week (except without sex)
4. Removal of crowns (ecclesiastical marriage?)

Quote
If you're looking for more practical answers, the issue becomes much more complex...and cynical, like most social elements of Byzantine law.

Of this I have already been fully persuaded, but I definitely would not mind hearing your own thoughts on such matters (i.e., application of those rules/norms today).
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 02:33:39 PM by Cudgel » Logged
PeterTheAleut
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2009, 04:20:03 PM »

GiC,

Thanks for this information and please do not hesitate to write more. My question is a bit broad and I believe that's because I only partially understand my question. One bias of my question is that I assume "marriage" has one referent rather than many or that the many possess a common essence.  Could you please tell me the sources you are drawing your information from so that I could read more?  Just to make sure I have the old order of things straight:

1. Engagement/Exchange of rings (6+ months)
2. Crowning (Legal marriage)
3. Live together as husband and wife for a week (except without sex)
4. Removal of crowns (ecclesiastical marriage?)

Quote
If you're looking for more practical answers, the issue becomes much more complex...and cynical, like most social elements of Byzantine law.

Of this I have already been fully persuaded, but I definitely would not mind hearing your own thoughts on such matters (i.e., application of those rules/norms today).
I think in the interaction of Orthodox marriage rites with American marriage customs, one has to make a distinction between the customary engagement of 6+ months and the Orthodox betrothal service, which is what I believe GiC is calling an engagement.  I've seen even Orthodox men and women announce their engagements months before their wedding, and yet still not be formally betrothed in the Church until their wedding days.  The betrothal relationship is very much like an engagement in that it CAN precede the wedding by just as much time as an engagement, but the betrothal usually precedes the crowning by only a few hours.  I guess you could say the betrothal is a much more formalized and much more serious commitment to a future marriage than an engagement, in that engagements can be and often are broken, whereas the breakup of a betrothal is much more difficult and possibly more like a divorce.
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GiC
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2009, 04:56:22 PM »

GiC,

Thanks for this information and please do not hesitate to write more. My question is a bit broad and I believe that's because I only partially understand my question. One bias of my question is that I assume "marriage" has one referent rather than many or that the many possess a common essence.  Could you please tell me the sources you are drawing your information from so that I could read more?  Just to make sure I have the old order of things straight:

1. Engagement/Exchange of rings (6+ months)
2. Crowning (Legal marriage)
3. Live together as husband and wife for a week (except without sex)
4. Removal of crowns (ecclesiastical marriage?)

The Removal of the Crowns is more like the formal ecclesiastical conclusion of the marriage ceremony, the crowning is the marriage itself, in both a civil and ecclesiastical sense.

As for sources, the Βασιλικά outlines much of this as do the commentaries of the Balsamon, Zonaras, and Aristenos in the Σύνταγμα...just look up the canonical references to marriage, lots of good stuff there. As for secondary sources, Constantine Pitsakis's ‘Législation et strategies matrimoniales: Parenté et empêchements de mariage dans le droit byzantin.’ (L'Homme Revue Francaise d'anthropologie. 154-155 avril-septembre 2000. pgs. 677-696) is an excellent article that discusses much of this stuff in considerable detail with solid academic references to original sources as well as a few interesting secondary sources. Also, I'd very highly recommend Angeliki Laiou's Sex, Consent, and Coercion in Byzantium. It's part of her compilation Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies, she truly is a first class Byzantine scholar.

If looking for something more accessible, John Chryssavgis' Love, Sexuality, and the Sacrament of Marriage and John Meyendorff's Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective are far from perfect, but they're adequately written, just don't expect the level of academic scholarship you'd find in Pitsakis, Laiou, Ruth Macrides (she writes in English, but can't think of any relevant articles of hers to this exact question off the top of my head, though I'm sure she's written something good on it), or Andreas Schminck
(cant think of anything specific from him, but haven't read much of him as my German is saddly lacking, but if your German is a bit better than mine I'd recommend looking him up, he publishes regularly in the German-language journal, Fontes minores). One thing you'll learn if you get too deep into questions surrounding Orthodox Canon Law/Byzantine Ecclesiastical Law and the development of customs throughout the late Empire is that even passable English sources and translations are few and far between. It's best if you can read Byzantine Greek and probably be able to work through a document in French as well...knowledge of Latin, German, and modern Greek is also very useful.

Quote
Of this I have already been fully persuaded, but I definitely would not mind hearing your own thoughts on such matters (i.e., application of those rules/norms today).

If you have any practical questions about customs, law, or society from the Byzantine era; I'm probably the person to ask on this board and feel free; more spiritual questions or theological questions where you're looking for the party line, on the other hand, should probably be directed elsewhere Wink
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2009, 05:02:06 PM »

  I've seen even Orthodox men and women announce their engagements months before their wedding, and yet still not be formally betrothed in the Church until their wedding days.  The betrothal relationship is very much like an engagement in that it CAN precede the wedding by just as much time as an engagement, but the betrothal usually precedes the crowning by only a few hours.

In the early days of the Church when its marriage customs were simply those of the State, betrothal could take place months before the wedding and during the time of betrothal sex was acceptable,  in order to determine if a child could be conceived.  If the woman did notr become pregnant there was no requirement on the families nor on the man and woman to proceed to a marriage.

In time (but I am not sure when) the Church abandoned this system and it now demands that the Betrothal and the Wedding (Crowning) take place as one ceremony.


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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2009, 05:07:22 PM »

I think in the interaction of Orthodox marriage rites with American marriage customs, one has to make a distinction between the customary engagement of 6+ months and the Orthodox betrothal service, which is what I believe GiC is calling an engagement.  I've seen even Orthodox men and women announce their engagements months before their wedding, and yet still not be formally betrothed in the Church until their wedding days.  The betrothal relationship is very much like an engagement in that it CAN precede the wedding by just as much time as an engagement, but the betrothal usually precedes the crowning by only a few hours.  I guess you could say the betrothal is a much more formalized and much more serious commitment to a future marriage than an engagement, in that engagements can be and often are broken, whereas the breakup of a betrothal is much more difficult and possibly more like a divorce.

I believe the word technically used by the priest in the service service is αρραβωνος, which would probably translate better to engagement, whereas the service is often called μνηστροις, or betrothal. But now we're both splitting hairs. Wink
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2009, 05:08:48 PM »

  I've seen even Orthodox men and women announce their engagements months before their wedding, and yet still not be formally betrothed in the Church until their wedding days.  The betrothal relationship is very much like an engagement in that it CAN precede the wedding by just as much time as an engagement, but the betrothal usually precedes the crowning by only a few hours.

In the early days of the Church when its marriage customs were simply those of the State, betrothal could take place months before the wedding and during the time of betrothal sex was acceptable,  in order to determine if a child could be conceived.  If the woman did notr become pregnant there was no requirement on the families nor on the man and woman to proceed to a marriage.

In time (but I am not sure when) the Church abandoned this system and it now demands that the Betrothal and the Wedding (Crowning) take place as one ceremony.

Sources?

For one thing the betrothal and wedding were separated by substantial amounts of time really until the fall of the Empire, are you saying that the Church was formally giving its blessing to premarital sex for all that time?
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2009, 05:44:55 PM »

[For one thing the betrothal and wedding were separated by substantial amounts of time really until the fall of the Empire, are you saying that the Church was formally giving its blessing to premarital sex for all that time?

I imagine that depends on the definition of "premarital" as regards the betrothal period.  I defer to your greater knowledge in this area.
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2009, 07:33:58 PM »

If you have any practical questions about customs, law, or society from the Byzantine era; I'm probably the person to ask on this board and feel free; more spiritual questions or theological questions where you're looking for the party line, on the other hand, should probably be directed elsewhere Wink

I seek the first [the customs and laws from the Byzantine era]as a means to the second [answers to more spiritual questions or theological questions.] I also am most definitely not looking for a mere restatement or thoughtless application of the "party line."  When discussing these matters I make the threefold distinction:

(1) The rules, that is, what is supposed to come directly from God.
(2) The principles behind the rules.
(3) Applications of the principles behind the rules.

Sometimes the line between 1 and mere theories about 2 is blurred. Sometimes, we get 2 wrong and are thus mistaken on 3, or we might get 2 right but still get 3 wrong due to inaccurate data.  For example, that portion of the universal Christian consensus against non-procreative sexual activity or artificial contraception who opposed it solely or primarily on the basis of Aristotelian biology (semen=potential/actual person) would necessarily have to revise their position (at least somewhat) due to new information (as most Orthodox do today), although those who oppose it for other theological reasons (it destroys the intended symbolism/oneness of the sex act, sex is only for procreation, etc.) can still do so. Today, young people often dialogue with pastors on "how far they can go" in terms of 1 and they are met (rightly so) with 3s. There is nothing wrong with this, as the attempt to do 3 correctly and charitably is an unambiguous part of 1, but this task demands much vigilance and prayerful discernment as the answers are not always obvious. I do think knowing how the two questions I raised at the beginning of this thread have been answered historically would greatly enhance the productive capacity of discussions on these matters in the present time.
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2009, 06:31:27 PM »

TERTULLIAN

It is better for a man not to marry, because it is tainted with concupiscence

An Exhortation to Chastity, chap. 9.
“The Lord Himself said, ‘Whoever has seen a woman with a view to concupiscence has already violated her in his heart.’ But has he who has seen her with a view to marriage done so less or more? What if he have even married her?-which he would not do had he not desired her with a view to marriage, and seen her with a view to concupiscence; unless it is possible for a wife to be married whom you have not seen or desired. I grant it makes a wide difference whether a married man or an unmarried desire another woman. Every woman, (however), even to an unmarried man, is "another," so long as she belongs to some one else; nor yet is the means through which she becomes a married woman any other than that through which withal (she becomes) an adulteress. It is laws which seem to make the difference between marriage and fornication; through diversity of illicitness, not through the nature of the thing itself. Besides, what is the thing which takes place in all men and women to produce marriage and fornication? Commixture of the flesh, of course; the concupiscence whereof the Lord put on the same footing with fornication. "Then," says (some one), "are you by this time destroying first-that is, single-marriage too? "And (if so), yes not without reason; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication. Accordingly, the best thing for a man is not to touch a woman; and accordingly the virgin's is the principal sanctity, because it is free from affinity with fornication.”
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2009, 06:51:58 PM »

TERTULLIAN

It is better for a man not to marry, because it is tainted with concupiscence

An Exhortation to Chastity, chap. 9.
“The Lord Himself said, ‘Whoever has seen a woman with a view to concupiscence has already violated her in his heart.’ But has he who has seen her with a view to marriage done so less or more? What if he have even married her?-which he would not do had he not desired her with a view to marriage, and seen her with a view to concupiscence; unless it is possible for a wife to be married whom you have not seen or desired. I grant it makes a wide difference whether a married man or an unmarried desire another woman. Every woman, (however), even to an unmarried man, is "another," so long as she belongs to some one else; nor yet is the means through which she becomes a married woman any other than that through which withal (she becomes) an adulteress. It is laws which seem to make the difference between marriage and fornication; through diversity of illicitness, not through the nature of the thing itself. Besides, what is the thing which takes place in all men and women to produce marriage and fornication? Commixture of the flesh, of course; the concupiscence whereof the Lord put on the same footing with fornication. "Then," says (some one), "are you by this time destroying first-that is, single-marriage too? "And (if so), yes not without reason; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication. Accordingly, the best thing for a man is not to touch a woman; and accordingly the virgin's is the principal sanctity, because it is free from affinity with fornication.”
I'm not sure I understand the relevance of this reference to Tertullian.  For one, it was this fierce opposition to marriage and marital relations, among other things, that eventually led him to embrace the Montanist heresy and fall away from the Church.  Do you suggest that we might be able to glean some truth from a more moderate reading of this advice?
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2009, 07:20:12 PM »

PetertheAleut,

I thought it relevant because Tertullian is answering the question I opened the thread with directly although his theological presuppositions might be flawed.  All the Fathers opposed marital relations without the intent or possibility of procreation while everyone (Protestant, Orthodox and even Catholics through NFP) seems to have concluded that was a bad idea...
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« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2009, 07:37:08 PM »

Thank goodness they all concluded it was a bad idea! What is "NFP"?
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« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2009, 07:39:03 PM »

Rosehip,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_family_planning

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6375261.stm
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« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2009, 07:50:09 PM »

Thanks! I would have never guessed on my own (truly, I was completely puzzled about that one!). Not sure I agree, though, but I suppose it doesn't concern me anyhow, so what does it matter.
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« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2009, 08:00:25 PM »

All the Fathers opposed marital relations without the intent or possibility of procreation...
Really?  I've seen quite a few posters here offer evidence from St. John Chrysostom that this is just not the case.
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« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2009, 08:13:00 PM »

PetertheAleut,

It does appear that St. John Chrysostom did not embrace this view, but I have conversed with one priest who is a scholar on the saint who believes that he did.  Assuming he didn't, he remains the only exception that *I* have seen.  [Warning: Quote Avalanche]

“If we marry, it is only so that we may bring up children.” St. Justin Martyr (c. 160)

“After throwing the seed into the ground, the farmer awaits the harvest. He does not sow more seed on top of it. Likewise, to us the procreation of children is the limit of our indulgence in [sexual] appetite.” Athenagoras the Athenian (c. 175)

“To such a spiritual man, after conception, his wife is as a sister and is treated as if of the same father.” St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195)

“Whatever is sought [sexually] beyond the desire of procreation is condemned by God.” Lactantius (c. 304-313)

“When the menstrual purgations appear in the wives, their husbands should not approach them, out of regard to the children to be begotten. For the Law has forbidden it when it says: “You will not come near your wife when she is in her separation” [Lev. 18:19]. Nor, indeed, let them have relations when their wives are with child. For [in that case] they are not doing it for the begetting of children, but only for the sake of pleasure. Now a lover of God should not be a lover of pleasure.” (Apostolic Constitutions, compiled c. 390)

Is it not you [the Manichæans] who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time…? This proves that you approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. (St. Augustine)

The married must be admonished to bear in mind that they are united in wedlock for the purpose of procreation, and when they abandon themselves to immoderate intercourse, they abandon the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure.  Let them realize that though they do not then pass beyond the bounds of wedlock, yet in wedlock they exceed its rights. (St. Gregory the Great)

…vice is the mistaken use of ideas from which follows the abuse of things. For example, in what concerns woman, the proper use of intercourse is its purpose of procreation. So the one who concentrates on pleasure is in error as to its use by considering as good what is not good. Therefore such a person misuses a woman in having intercourse. (St. Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on Love, Second Century, 17)
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« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2009, 08:17:26 PM »

Now I do believe that the Orthodox Church abandoned the old teaching on this matter in response to previously unknown and inaccessible scientific data on the human reproductive system, but change it we certainly did:

http://www.hli.org/seminariansforlifeinternational/sem_for_life_eastern_orthodoxy.html

Also here:  http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/frluke_newage.aspx

The Church cannot condescend any further, and she considers sinful any means or method, whether natural or artificial to prevent conception and avoid procreation. For they who employ such means prove that they consider sensual pleasure the sole purpose of intercourse. From this it becomes evident why the Church does not permit Holy Communion to such individuals, nor to anyone else who does not conform to the Apostles ordinance concerning self-control (I Cor. 7:5) and to the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church.*

* See Canon LXIX of the Holy Apostles and the commentary in The Rudder, 94. See also the following canons and the commentaries on them: Canon XIII of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Ibid. 230: Canon III of Dionysios of Alexandria, Ibid. 54950; Canon XIII of Timothy of Alexandria, Ibid 672-73; Canon V of John the Faster, Ibid. 702.

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« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2009, 08:24:27 PM »

But the Bible itself says marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Anyhow, the Church doesn't hold these views very strictly anymore; I mean these views you have presented from the Fathers. For one thing, it has come to my knowledge that many priests give holy communion to couples who are living together without being properly married-so why would it withhold communion from a married couple who is using birth control for whatever reason? That's a private matter between them, or at least one that the couple can discuss with the priest. Each case is unique and I always understood that the Church is compassionate in such matters. It is the husband's duty to care for his wife in such matters, whether or not they are planning to have children and whether or not they can have children.
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« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2009, 08:28:42 PM »

But the Bible itself says marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Anyhow, the Church doesn't hold these views very strictly anymore; I mean these views you have presented from the Fathers. For one thing, it has come to my knowledge that many priests give holy communion to couples who are living together without being properly married-so why would it withhold communion from a married couple who is using birth control for whatever reason? That's a private matter between them, or at least one that the couple can discuss with the priest. Each case is unique and I always understood that the Church is compassionate in such matters.

I think that you're right, and the Fathers' strict position, I believe, was the best application of accepted theological principles to accepted scientific/biological realities at the time.  There was a change; some (Catholic polemicists and Orthodox traditionalist on this matter) believe that there was a change in theology whereas I see only a change in praxis.  A good example exists with respect to divorce.  Christ formally gave divorce the hardest slam possible but the Church allows two and up to three in serious cases.  I don't know how such logic would apply to other behaviors but such questions should be addressed at some point.

For one thing, it has come to my knowledge that many priests give holy communion to couples who are living together without being properly married.

Technically, nothing in the NT forbids this in principle, but Scripturally I think we could say such behavior is normally immoral and/or unwise.
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« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2009, 01:20:41 AM »

It does appear that St. John Chrysostom did not embrace this view, but I have conversed with one priest who is a scholar on the saint who believes that he did.  Assuming he didn't, he remains the only exception that *I* have seen.  [Warning: Quote Avalanche]
A quote avalanche does not a patristic consensus prove.  All it proves is that the Fathers you selected for your quote avalanche all believed a certain way.  Assuming St. John Chrysostom did not embrace the more negative view of marital relations, do you disregard his wisdom merely because he disagrees with your artificially manufactured "patristic consensus"?

I also have to ask why you trust one priest's interpretation of St. John Chrysostom merely because he is a scholar on the saint.  Does his scholarship alone make him the arbiter of what Chrysostom believed?  What if other Chrysostom scholars disagree?
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« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2009, 01:51:39 AM »

A quote avalanche does not a patristic consensus prove. All it proves is that the Fathers you selected for your quote avalanche all believed a certain way. 

For the record, I am agnostic on St. John Chrysostom. Otherwise, every Patristic author who wrote on the topic and all relevant church canons assume and assert the same thing. That's why Bishop Ware asserted that the Orthodox Church banned artificial contraception and the Greek Orthodox Church banned all forms of birth control except abstinence in 1937:

Quote
  In sharp contrast to some modern views, consider the following scholarly conclusions of the Serbian Hierarch, Bishop Artemije, a spiritual son of Blessed Justin of Chelije. At the end of his article "The Mystery of Marriage in a Dogmatic Light" (Divine Ascent, Volume 1, Numbers 3/4 (1999), pp. 56-57) his Grace writes:

On the basis of all that has been said thus far, we are able to surmise the Churchs teaching on Marriage and may concisely define it as follows:

    1) The Church, adhering faithfully to the Lord Jesus, the Holy Apostles, and the Holy Fathers, puts virginity on a higher level than marriage, for "the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or virgin is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; hut the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (I Cor. 7:32-35).

    2) Because of our weakness, the Church also allows marriage, blesses it, and hallows it. In this way she sanctifies the natural union of two "into one flesh" and renders it a Mystery-Sacrament. Conjugal relations within marriage are blessed only for the sake of procreation.

    3) The Church condescends to our weaknesses even further and also tolerates relations within marriage that result from "lack of self-control" (in accordance with I Cor. 7:5-9), when such relations do not have procreation as their immediate purpose, but rather serve as medicine against immorality or adultery (that is, extramarital relations). When such is the case, one ought to realize and acknowledge his lack of self-control and to humble himself before the Lord. He should not expect to receive crowns for his weakness, but rather should hope that God will have mercy on him because of his humility. This condescension on the part of the Church, however, is not to be construed as a toleration of any prophylactic measures that would prevent the possible conception of a child.

    4) The Church cannot condescend any further, and she considers sinful any means or method, whether natural or artificial to prevent conception and avoid procreation. For they who employ such means prove that they consider sensual pleasure the sole purpose of intercourse. From this it becomes evident why the Church does not permit Holy Communion to such individuals, nor to anyone else who does not conform to the Apostles ordinance concerning self-control (I Cor. 7:5) and to the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church.*

    * See Canon LXIX of the Holy Apostles and the commentary in The Rudder, 94. See also the following canons and the commentaries on them: Canon XIII of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Ibid. 230: Canon III of Dionysios of Alexandria, Ibid. 54950; Canon XIII of Timothy of Alexandria, Ibid 672-73; Canon V of John the Faster, Ibid. 702.


http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/frluke_newage.aspx


Quote
The Orthodox Church remains faithful to the biblical and traditional norms regarding premarital sexual relations between men and women. The only appropriate and morally fitting place for the exercise of sexual relations, according to the teachings of the Church, is marriage. The moral teaching of the Church on this matter has been unchanging since its foundation. In sum, the sanctity of marriage is the cornerstone of sexual morality.

...The possible exception to the above affirmation of continuity of teaching is the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health.

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7101

Quote
This brings me to the most difficult and controversial question of all - what everyone wants to know about and no one wants to ask about: birth control.

Frankly, it is difficult to know where to start because the subject has many ramifications. Perhaps I might begin by mentioning how other churches tend to view this question. In the Roman Catholic Church, for example, artificial birth control is forbidden under any circumstances. The reason is because the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches that the primary purpose and function of marriage is to have children; thus, procreation is the primary reason for sexual intercourse. This teaching is rooted in the augustinian tradition, which treats sexuality, even within marriage, as basically sinful, and therefore procreation is held to be a necessary justification for the marriage act, as it serves to fulfill God's command to be fruitful and multiply. In Old Testament times there was a legitimate concern to perpetuate the human race. Today, however, that argument is unpersuasive, and many Roman Catholics feel justified in disregarding it.

Protestants, on the other hand, had never developed a clear teaching on marriage and sex. Nowhere was birth control explicitly mentioned in the Bible, so when the Pill became available in the early '60s, they welcomed it and other reproductive technologies as milestones in the march of human progress. Very soon these came a proliferation of sex manuals, all developed on the notion that God had given man sexuality for pleasure. The primary purpose of the marriage act became not procreation but recreation, an attitude which simply fortified the Protestant teaching that God wants man to be personally fulfilled and happy, and therefore sexually gratified.

Even abortion was accepted. It was only in the mid '70s, when the Roe v. Wade debate heated up, and it became increasingly evident that abortion was murder that evangelical Protestants began to rethink their position. In the late '70s they came aboard the pro-life cause, where they remain in the forefront today. It was the issue of abortion that made them realize that human life must be protected from the moment of conception, and that contraception by means of abortifacients was impermissible. Meanwhile, liberal Protestant mainline churches remain committed to the pro-abortion position, and have no restrictions on birth control.

It is important for us to be aware of the teachings of these other churches on the subject of sexuality, for they can unconsciously affect our own views. We must be aware, furthermore, of the pervasive influence on our society of the sexual revolution unleashed by the availability of the Pill. The promiscuous attitude that it fostered still prevails today. Because of our culture's obsession with sex and sexual gratification, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of our Church's teaching concerning sexuality. This teaching is found in Scripture, in the canons of various Ecumenical and Local Councils, in the writings and commentaries of various Holy Fathers of the Church, who far from avoiding or tiptoeing around this issue, write about it very frankly and at length; and, finally, this teaching is mirrored in the lives of many of the saints (the parents of Saint Sergius of Radonezh come to mind).

The specific subject of birth control is less readily accessible; one cannot simply look it up in a concordance or index. It can, however, be extrapolated from the very clear teachings of the Church on abortion, on marriage, and on asceticism. Before plunging into a discussion on the subject, we should point out that the Orthodox Church is not as dogmatic here as the Roman Catholic Church, and it is very much a pastoral issue where there may be multiple considerations. Nevertheless, liberty should not be used for license, and we would all do well to keep before us the age-old standard given us by the Church.

Having said all this, what exactly is the Church's teaching concerning birth control?

The practice of artificial birth control - by which is meant "the pill," condoms, or any other kind of device - is actually condemned by the Orthodox Church. The Church of Greece, for example, in 1937 issued a special encyclical just for this purpose, to condemn birth control.

Likewise, the Romanian and Russian Churches, to name just two others among many - have more than once, in former times, spoken out against this practice. It is only in recent times, only in the generation since World War II, that some local Churches (the Greek Archdiocese in this country, for example) have begun to teach that it "might" be all right to practice birth control in certain circumstances, as long as this is discussed with the priest beforehand and has his agreement.


http://www.roca.org/OA/155-156/155h.htm


Quote
Birth Control/Contraception - Different opinions exist within the Orthodox Church regarding the question of birth control and contraception. While in the past years there was a condemnation of anything which diminished the natural order within marriage, today the question of birth control is left largely to the consciences of the husband and wife who alone determine how many children they can responsibly bring into the world. Of course, couples confused in this matter, or unable to make an informed decision, are advised to consult their priest for guidance on what the Church advises regarding the issues of parenthood and family.

http://www.holy-trinity-church.org/index.php?Itemid=134&id=69&option=com_content&task=view


Coupled with the quotes I already provided and the claims of a past universal consensus from innumerable Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant sources, I'd say my claim has considerable prima facie validity.
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« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2009, 01:56:55 AM »

Otherwise, every Patristic author who wrote on the topic and all relevant church canons assume and assert the same thing.
Have you read them all?

If a Father were to disagree, would you brand him "not a Father" in order to stack the deck so that all the "Fathers" agree?
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« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2009, 02:25:39 AM »

For one thing, it has come to my knowledge that many priests give holy communion to couples who are living together without being properly married.

When I asked my spiritual father to provide an example of when he might "bind" a sin in confession or temporarily excommunicate a person, this was the example he gave.  If they would not repent of the sin, then he would deny them absolution and the Eucharist until they either got married or separated.
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« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2009, 02:49:37 AM »

Otherwise, every Patristic author who wrote on the topic and all relevant church canons assume and assert the same thing.
Have you read them all?

No, I haven't read them all, and I probably never will.  I have read enough theologians and scholars across traditions who affirm liberal viewpoints on birth control and the spacing of children affirm that the Patristic consensus on the issue was that sex without the intent and possibility of procreation was morally illicit for my belief to be rationally justified:

www.geocities.com/derghazar/BC_ORTH2.DOC
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« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2009, 03:10:03 AM »

MORE QUOTES:

Quote
Clement of Alexandria

"Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 [A.D. 191]).

Clement of Alexandria

"To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature" (ibid. 2:10:95:3).

Lactantius

"God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital ['generating'] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring" (ibid. 6:23:18).

Epiphanius of Salamis

"They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption" (Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 [A.D. 375]).

Jerome

"But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?" (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]).

Augustine

"For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage . . . to yield it to the partner lest by fornication the other sin damnably [through adultery]. . . . [T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God . . . by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting [children], is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of a harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of a harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that . . . when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose [orally or anally consummated sex], the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman" (The Good of Marriage 11-12 [A.D. 401]).

St. Gregory the Dialogist writes to St. Augustine: "...when lust takes the place of desire for children, the mere act of union becomes something that the pair have cause to regret;...this carries a warning with it. For when the Apostle Paul said, 'If they cannot contain themselves, let them marry,' he at once added, 'I speak this by permission and not of commandment.


Even the Protestant Reformers were on board:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-01-040-f

Quote
John Calvin wrote [...] in his Commentary on Genesis:

    The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring.


I stand by my claim that all non-procreative sexual activity was universally condemned by Orthodox, Catholics and Protestant until the 20th century.
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« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2009, 03:25:54 AM »

I stand by my claim that all non-procreative sexual activity was universally condemned by Orthodox, Catholics and Protestant until the 20th century.

So do you think that Orthodox Christians should continue this teaching, or that current understandings on the nature of sexuality are better?
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« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2009, 03:37:16 AM »

Alveus,

I make a threefold distinction between the rules, the principles behind rules and the application of the principles behind rules.  I believe that with respect to the ban on all non-procreative sex we are dealing largely with the third item established within a scientific model of sex and seminal fluid that we would regard as flawed and inaccurate. The best example I can think of is the science behind and practice of bloodletting.  Certainly the doctors were well-read and well-intentioned, but they were simply wrong.  If by mid-20th century most Western European physicians and psychology Phds are still supporting the 3000+ year old party line on seminal fluid as man's vital energy, then I don't think they can be held morally responsible for theologizing around it. That's my conclusion.

Here's American scholarly medical research in 1957:

Quote
An ounce of semen is considered to be equal in value to sixty ounces of blood, of which it constitutes an extract of some of its most valuable constituents, as far as its vitalizing power is concerned. Dr. Frederick McCann remarks on this point, 'From what has been stated it must be admitted that the spermatic fluid does possess potentialities justifying the belief of ancient writers concerning its vital properties.' . . .

    The following are among the many physiological evidences which demonstrate the value of continence:

    1. There is a remarkable similarity of chemical composition between the semen and the central nervous system, both being especially rich in lecithin, cholesterin and phosphorus compounds, which would indicate that seminal emissions withdraw from the body substances necessary for the nutrition of nervous tissues.

    2. Excessive voluntary seminal losses (through masturbation, coitus, coitus interruptus, and contraceptive practices) are debilitating and harmful to the body and brain.

    3. Excessive involuntary seminal losses (through nocturnal emissions, diurnal emissions, spermatorrhea, etc.) are debilitating to the nervous system and may cause neurasthenia.

    4. Observations of the immediate effects of the sexual orgasm indicate that it temporarily exhausts the nervous system, and when repeated too frequently leads to chronic nerve-weakness (sexual neurasthenia).

    5. Continence is beneficial to the brain (for conserved lecithin from retained semen is a true brain food). Hence some of the greatest intellectual geniuses in ancient and modern times led continent lives. These include Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Spinoza, Newton, Kant, Beethoven, Herbert Spencer, etc. . . .

    Convincing evidence of the benefits of continence and that the assumed 'sexual necessity' is an illusion is afforded by the study of the debilitating effects of sexual orgasm, which are immediate and striking. Though these have been attributed to purely nervous origin, there can be no doubt that they are chiefly due to the harmful effects of the seminal discharge, which involves a sudden withdrawal from the body of calcium, lecithin and other substances necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Havelock Ellis, in his 'Studies in the Psychology of Sex', quotes the observations of Dr. F.B. Robinson on this subject . . . He notes that when a stallion cohabits with a mare for the first time, after a short, vigorous coition, he is apt to fall down in a dead faint, which Robinson traces to brain anemia thus produced. He mentions one case of a mare falling dead immediately after coition. Young bulls frequently faint away after the first connection with a cow, and it is very common to observe a young bull so exhausted that he sneaks off to a quiet corner and lies down for a couple of hours. . . . In the case of the boar, the orgasm rises to such a pitch that the animal seems on the verge of pain, and is usually exhausted for several hours.

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/bernard.htm

I believe that we should identify the theological principles the Fathers were attempting to follow as distinct from their scientific presuppositions, revise our positions accordingly, and move on.
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« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2009, 03:45:07 AM »

I believe that we should identify the theological principles the Fathers were attempting to follow as distinct from their scientific presuppositions, revise our positions accordingly, and move on.

You answer still is not plain enough for me to get at its meaning.  What revised position do you suggest?
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« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2009, 04:02:39 AM »

I believe that we should identify the theological principles the Fathers were attempting to follow as distinct from their scientific presuppositions, revise our positions accordingly, and move on.

You answer still is not plain enough for me to get at its meaning.  What revised position do you suggest?

[The following is my opinion; I am not an authorized spiritual advisor.]

I believe that the proper starting point for Christians seeking to understand the meaning and proper use of sexuality is the New Testament, specifically, Christ's and the Apostles' interpretation of the Genesis text. 

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said to them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said to them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and join to his wife; And they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:2-8)

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." (1 Cor. 6:15-16)

Based on these texts and how they have been traditionally read, I infer that Christians are to seek sexually monogamous relationships with persons of the opposite sex within a context of ultimate commitment [this implicitly excludes prostitution, polygamy, pornography, swinging, homosexuality, rape, etc.]  Divorce is evil and many children are blessings, but we live in a fallen world.  Some marriages will end in tragic divorce and the procreation of children will have to be spaced and their numbers predetermined by the married couple. Before and after marriage, what is appropriate?  To what rules and principles do Christ and the Apostles bind us?  Those married must find sexual satisfaction in their partner alone without exception.  Sexual intercourse and sexual activity in general were designed to bond spouses and serve as the means of bringing life into the world. As St. Paul teaches, sexual intercourse makes two persons one flesh regardless of their intent or level of commitment, even between a believer and a prostitute. It would seem unwise and hazardous to abuse this great power in premarital relationships.
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« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2009, 06:45:03 AM »

  A good example exists with respect to divorce.  Christ formally gave divorce the hardest slam possible but the Church allows two and up to three in serious cases. 


I am interested in the number of divorces because I have heard other Orthodox say that there may be three divorces.

I was taught that there may be only ONE divorce, but up to a total of three marriages.

For example ----  your wife runs away with the clown from the circus.  You may divorce her.

So you marry again but your second wife is taken from you by some illness.

So you may marry a third time.

But not a fourth time.

Do you know which Orthodox Churches allow three divorces?
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« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2009, 08:55:20 AM »

  A good example exists with respect to divorce.  Christ formally gave divorce the hardest slam possible but the Church allows two and up to three in serious cases. 


I am interested in the number of divorces because I have heard other Orthodox say that there may be three divorces.

I was taught that there may be only ONE divorce, but up to a total of three marriages.

For example ----  your wife runs away with the clown from the circus.  You may divorce her.

So you marry again but your second wife is taken from you by some illness.

So you may marry a third time.

But not a fourth time.

Do you know which Orthodox Churches allow three divorces?


I am not well read on this question; it was my understanding that the number of divorces/remarriages allowed were identical.  I welcome correction.
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« Reply #35 on: April 28, 2009, 11:32:51 AM »


I stand by my claim that all non-procreative sexual activity was universally condemned by Orthodox, Catholics and Protestant until the 20th century.


The opinion was certainly present, especially in the west, but it was by no means universal. Paul, in his letter to Corinth allowed marriage as a means of preventing 'sin', not a means of procreation. In his treatise 'Against Remarriage' Chrysostom actually talked of overpopulation telling people that Remarriage was hardly justified by a desire to procreate, but could be allowed to prevent 'sin'. Chryssavgis's work I earlier recommended also presents numerous patristic sources that would not fall in line with your theory. The fact of the matter is that with this issue, like nearly every other issue, 'patristic consensus' is a myth. There were as many different opinions as there were cultures and personal experiences.
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« Reply #36 on: April 28, 2009, 12:36:41 PM »

Do you know which Orthodox Churches allow three divorces?

All of them, the legal compromise worked out eventually prohibited a fourth marriage, it never addressed the issue of divorce, you can have as many of those as you'd like (though practically limited to the number of marriages, which is actually four in rare cases, but the fourth is only allowed for a childless widower older than 30 and younger than 40).

The legal basis was the 9th Novel of Emperor Leo le sage, which prohibited fourth marriages (said nothing of divorce), though ironically it was also the same Leo IV who entered into a fourth marriage (it's good to be king). After his third wife died leaving him no surviving male heir and convinced that one was necessary to prevent the Empire from decending into another violent struggle for the throne as it had seen in the previous century sought to gain one. Not wanting to directly confront the law written and promulgated by his own hand without good cause, he first took a Mistress, the famed Zoe Carbonopsina. When he did have a son by her (the future Emperor Constantine VII) he decided that it was worth the effort and struggle to circumvent his own law to legitimize the marriage with Zoe (in hindsight, a pretty good decision considering Emperor Constantine VII was a good Emperor one of the greatest scholars the Empire ever produced, apparently Leo had pretty good genes, considering the intellectual successes of the Macedonian dynasty which no doubt would have lasted even longer had the Empress Zoe not been forced to be so aggresive and make so many enemies in order to merely maintain her throne, but that speeks more to the damage misogyny caused the Empire than the failures of the dynasty).

The Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus agreed to baptize Constantine, but demanded the Emperor separarte from Zoe, understanding the problems this would cause for the transfer of power and the violence and bloodshed that would inevitably follow, Leo declined and was married to Zoe by a Latin priest in the city three days later. Patriarch Nicholas objected and Leo sent out an appeal to the other four Patriarchs, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem all sided with the Emperor Leo against Nicholas who had plotted against Leo in the past and Leo determined Nicholas was simply using this as an excuse to plot against him again and was forced to abdicate, Euthymius was then consecrated Patriarch of Constantinople and gave his blessing to the marriage.

Upon Leo's death his brother Alexander became Emperor Regient for Constantine, Alexander deposed Euthymius, dismissed the admiral Himerios, and imprisoned Zoe in a nunnery, then recalling Nicholas attempting to use the marriage issue to depose the young Emperor Constantine VII and secure the throne for himself. He died 13 months later, officially of 'exhaustion', but also fulfilling his brother's prophecy that he'd reign for 13 months, many historians believed he was poisoned as he was an incompetent Emperor with many enemies in the Imperial Court. He left the Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus as Regent of the Emperor over the 7 year old Emperor Constantine VII who had been co-Emperor since the age of 2. Zoe was eventually able to secure enough political support in the Imperial Court despite her imprisonment to force Nichoals to abdicate is Regency and coronate Zoe Empress of Rome and Regent to Constantine VII. The struggle between Euthymius and Nicholas caused an internal schism in the Church of Constantinople for eight years and was not ended until the Tomos of Union in 920. Three years later, union with Rome, which had been broken off in 912 by Nicholas when restored to the Patriarchate, was reestablished by Nicholas under the direction of Emperor Constantine VII and co-Emperor Romanos I (Constantine's father-in-law).

In the Council of Constantinople in 920 (the council that, along with Imperial Authority, drafted the Tomos of Union), Nicholas was forced to issue a posthumous decree that validated Leo's marriage to Zoe and the ecclesiastical law on multiple marriages was established. They were limited to three, but the exception of a Widower over 30 and under 40 was also established (Leo was 39 when he demanded a fourth marriage), which continued as Canon Law, Ecclesiastical Law, and the Civil Law of the Empire.
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« Reply #37 on: April 28, 2009, 01:43:14 PM »


I stand by my claim that all non-procreative sexual activity was universally condemned by Orthodox, Catholics and Protestant until the 20th century.

The opinion was certainly present, especially in the west, but it was by no means universal. Paul, in his letter to Corinth allowed marriage as a means of preventing 'sin', not a means of procreation. In his treatise 'Against Remarriage' Chrysostom actually talked of overpopulation telling people that Remarriage was hardly justified by a desire to procreate, but could be allowed to prevent 'sin'. Chryssavgis's work I earlier recommended also presents numerous patristic sources that would not fall in line with your theory. The fact of the matter is that with this issue, like nearly every other issue, 'patristic consensus' is a myth. There were as many different opinions as there were cultures and personal experiences.

Thanks for your responses, and please do not stop writing about the fascinating history behind this.  I searched in vain in other venues for dispassionate criticisms of my ideas so I find our conversation especially refreshing. I actually own and have read the Chyrssavgis book. I understand "sin" in two senses:

1) Absolutely forbidden/Intrinsically evil
2) Not really bad but less than absolutely perfectly ideal

I think (1) in strong sense covers a substantial bulk of relevant authors and most relevant church canons, and (2) covers the Church today. I see naturally infertile sex as tolerated in most authors within the background of "no relations during fasting periods" and sex as a consequence of the fall:

Quote
St. John Chrysostom: "'And Adam knew his wife Eve'. Mind you, when did this take place? After disobedience, after the exile from Paradise; then intercourse began; before disobedience, they lived like Angels, and nowhere is there any mention of intercourse. Because previously we were not subject to physical needs, therefore from the beginning virginity was preeminent."

St. Athanasius the Great says this: "God's original intention was that we give birth not through marriage and corruption; the violation of the commandment introduced marriage as a result of Adam's transgression, i.e., as a result of falling away from the commandment given to him by God."

St. John Damascene explains: "...the commandment go forth and multiply does not necessarily mean through conjugal union. For God could increase the human race by another means, if people had preserved the commandment inviolate to the end."

St. Maximos the Confessor states very plainly this: "Indeed being in Himself the universal union of all, He has started with our division and become the perfect human being, having from us, on our account, and in accordance with our nature, everything that we are and lacking nothing, apart from sin (Heb. 4:15), and having no need of the natural intercourse of marriage. In this way He showed, I think, that there was perhaps another way, foreknown by God, for human beings to increase, if the first human being had kept the commandments and not cast himself down to an animal state by abusing his own proper powers. Thus God-made-man has done away with the difference and division of nature into male and female, which human nature in no way needed for generation, as some hold, and without which it would perhaps have been possible. There was no necessity for these things to have lasted forever."

I found a comment on a blog that articulates some of the very real consequences of what we're discussing:

Quote
What you have written is beautiful. However, what are the full implications of what you are proposing? My grandmother lived the life you uphold and was continually pregnant until she was 45 years old. She bore 13 children. She nearly died in her last pregnancy because she had started menopause. The older sisters had to raise the baby of the family because my grandmother never fully recovered her health. The doctors told my grandfather no more babies. But my grandmother knew better and she refused to let my grandfather sleep with her ever again. They had separate bedrooms for the rest of their lives. So much for marital communion. Sorry to be a realist but I am also an Orthodox mother and wife who would like to be alive and healthy to take care of my family.  http://ochlophobist.blogspot.com/2007/03/orthodoxy-and-contraception-part-iv.html#4747387567800236970
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« Reply #38 on: April 28, 2009, 10:01:39 PM »

ST. BASIL'S CANONS ON COHABITATION

XXII. Men who keep women carried off by violence, if they carried them off when betrothed to other men, must not be received before removal of the women and their restoration to those to whom they were first contracted, whether they wish to receive them, or to separate from them. In the case of a girl who has been taken when not betrothed, she ought first to be removed, and restored to her own people, and handed over to the will of her own people whether parents, or brothers, or any one having authority over her. If they choose to give her up, the cohabitation may stand; but, if they refuse, no violence should be used. In the case of a man having a wife by seduction, be it secret or by violence, he must be held guilty of fornication. The punishment of fornicators is fixed at four years. In the first year they must be expelled from prayer, and weep at the door of the church; in the second they may be received to sermon; in the third to penance; in the fourth to standing with the people, while they are withheld from the oblation. Finally, they may be admitted to the communion of the good gift.

XXVI. Fornication is not wedlock, nor yet the beginning of wedlock. Wherefore it is best, if possible, to put asunder those who are united in fornication. If they are set on cohabitation, let them admit the penalty of fornication. Let them be allowed to live together, lest a worse thing happen.

XXXVIII. Girls who follow against their fathers' will commit fornication; but if their fathers are reconciled to them, the act seems to admit of a remedy. They are not however immediately restored to communion, but are to be punished for three years.

XL. The woman who yields to a man against her master's will commits fornication; but if afterwards she accepts free marriage, she marries. The former case is fornication; the latter marriage. The covenants of persons who are not independent have no validity.

XLII. Marriages contracted without the permission of those in authority, are fornication. If neither father nor master be living the contracting parties are free from blame; just as if the authorities assent to the cohabitation, it assumes the fixity of marriage.


http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202199.htm
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1. Fornication occurs when a free man engages in intercourse with a woman who has not been released from her authorities. 
2. Two independent persons seem to be able to make a covenant.
3. Persistent cohabitors are allowed to remain together but are forced to undergo penance for four years.
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« Reply #39 on: April 29, 2009, 02:45:10 AM »

1. Fornication occurs when a free man engages in intercourse with a woman who has not been released from her authorities. 
2. Two independent persons seem to be able to make a covenant.
3. Persistent cohabitors are allowed to remain together but are forced to undergo penance for four years.

There's a lot of legal development you're ignoring here; remember, Basil wrote in the fourth century and was simply reiterating the customs he had observed (he actually objected to a few in his canons, which are more social commentaries than legal precepts, as you will find to be the case with many 'patristic canons'). First, many of the canons you mention deal specifically with slaves, which is obviously a moot issue today; even if one is technically a slave in this day and age, there is no legal force to back it up under international law. Secondly, this was written before Justinian essentially eradicated patria potestas in his Corpus Juris Civilis, after which children were relatively free to make contracts independent of the will of their fathers (unless it involved property given to the children by the father...or mother, the definition of what remained of patria potestas was essentially expanded to include both parents by Justinian, with several quantitative differences based on relative sex and age).

But what you essentially are reading into these canons has very little to do with sacramental theology and quite a bit to do with Roman contract law...which was (and is) essentially the point of marriage: an economic contract two people (or, more to the point in those days, two families) entered into believing the economic arrangement to be mutually beneficial...which is why the parents were so concerned about the details, it was to them what one's 401k is to those of middle age today).

As for point three...yes, yes, everything had a prescribed penance in those days, what was seen in reality actually depended on wealth and class and even the lower classes wern't given the full penance; economy has always been the rule, not the exception. And, everything I have said before must be qualified if you're talking about senatorial families and members of the Imperial Court, there your rights and standing depended more on the allies you could make (and how effectively you could either secretly kill or openly castrate and imprison your enemies).
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« Reply #40 on: April 29, 2009, 10:21:37 AM »

But what you essentially are reading into these canons has very little to do with sacramental theology and quite a bit to do with Roman contract law...which was (and is) essentially the point of marriage: an economic contract two people (or, more to the point in those days, two families) entered into believing the economic arrangement to be mutually beneficial...which is why the parents were so concerned about the details, it was to them what one's 401k is to those of middle age today).

I did not see myself as reading any sacramental theology into those canons; I understood this as constitutive by Roman contract law.  Nevertheless, I found your "corrective" quite educational. At this point, I'm trying to create a kind of linear mental timeline of how marriage contracts were created and formed in the Christian Roman Empire from the earliest times to the present and you've been extremely helpful thus far. Speaking of these canons specifically, has Crowning become normative yet? If two "independents" choose to cohabit, are they "married" at that point?
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« Reply #41 on: April 29, 2009, 10:57:23 AM »

But what you essentially are reading into these canons has very little to do with sacramental theology and quite a bit to do with Roman contract law...which was (and is) essentially the point of marriage: an economic contract two people (or, more to the point in those days, two families) entered into believing the economic arrangement to be mutually beneficial...which is why the parents were so concerned about the details, it was to them what one's 401k is to those of middle age today).

I did not see myself as reading any sacramental theology into those canons; I understood this as constitutive by Roman contract law.  Nevertheless, I found your "corrective" quite educational. At this point, I'm trying to create a kind of linear mental timeline of how marriage contracts were created and formed in the Christian Roman Empire from the earliest times to the present and you've been extremely helpful thus far. Speaking of these canons specifically, has Crowning become normative yet? If two "independents" choose to cohabit, are they "married" at that point?


No, by this point the ceremony was not standard, it developed a bit later but even after it developed it didn't gain substantial imact and influence until Leo IV made the Church responsile for all marriages (Christian and non-Christian), by that point the Church had essentially become an arm of the state responsible for a substantial part of Roman social law...by that point the Church and State had become so intertwined that ecclesiastical decisions could be appealed to the secular courts and secular decisions could be appealed to the ecclesiastical courts...with the Emperor being the ultimate arbitrater of all decisions (officially the patriarch maintained the position of supreme ecclesiastical authority, but defying the Emperor was an act of treason, so patriarchs who defied the Imperial will could easilly find themselves convicted of that crime and deposed, a right (deposing patriarchs or other ecclesiastics) the Emperor enjoyed throughout all lands he had dominion and in many he did not).

At this point in history, marriage was still a very secular thing simply blessed by the Church, not performed by the Church. Though it had been custom since apostolic times for a couple to get the blessing of the bishop prior to marriage, and this was still encoded in canon law, marriage ceremonies were ultimately secular. The Church's understanding of giving a blessing to a marriage was when it gave the two partners the eucharist in the context of their marriage (with the understanding that they were married). A more formal involvement in marriage would not come until much later.
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« Reply #42 on: April 29, 2009, 01:06:05 PM »

At this point in history, marriage was still a very secular thing simply blessed by the Church, not performed by the Church. Though it had been custom since apostolic times for a couple to get the blessing of the bishop prior to marriage, and this was still encoded in canon law, marriage ceremonies were ultimately secular. The Church's understanding of giving a blessing to a marriage was when it gave the two partners the eucharist in the context of their marriage (with the understanding that they were married). A more formal involvement in marriage would not come until much later.

I agree, so when Christ spoke and the Apostles wrote of "marriage," what would their original audience have heard?
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« Reply #43 on: April 29, 2009, 09:49:04 PM »

According to St. John Chrysostom, sex in marriage isn't sinful, even if not procreative, and in fact keeps us from sin; while chastity would be better, sex isn't a bad thing to do.

In the book: On Marriage and Family Life, St John Chrysostom, Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, transl. 1986.

St John Chrysostom's Sermon on Marriage (pgs 81-88)

Quote from: pg 85
Marriage was not instituted for wantoness or fornication, but chastity.  Listen to what Paul says: "Because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." These are the two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaste, and to make us parents.

Here he goes on to speak about why procreation is no longer the primary purpose - i.e. how "be fruitful and multiply" isn't the greatest command to husband and wife anymore.

Quote from: pg 86
"So there remains only one reason for marriage, to avoid fornication, and the remedy is offered for this purpose."

So marriage is a place where the conjugal act in the monogamous relationship is a path towards chastity, in that is helps avoid lust, fornication, etc.

Chrysostom's Homily 19 (on 1 Corinthians 7) is also very on point.  It is on pages 25-42 of the book, and it describes how the refusal of conjugal relations by one or the other spouse without the consent of the other is in fact more sinful than their abstinence is righteous, and that marriage is a sacred place for the channeling of the passions into the committed relationship.
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« Reply #44 on: May 03, 2009, 10:27:45 PM »

Modern Christians (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) have with virtual unaniminity (though perhaps informally) rejected the old consensus, namely, that sexual relations are meant for and should always be open the the possibility of procreation within marriage.  Much moral and theological reasoning in the past was built upon this assumption; as "sexual morality" is built upon the understood purpose and meaning of sex, marriage and love.   "Lust" was defined by many Christian thinkers in terms of sexual desire or sexual activity without the purpose of or closed to procreation.  My questions are:

1) What changes, if any, does this logically necessitate?
2) What remains the same despite this conceptual shift?

In my opinion, the foundational texts of Christian sexual ethics are Christ/the Apostles interpretations of the relevant Genesis texts:

"Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matt. 19:3-6) 

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." (1 Cor. 6:15-16)

From these texts and other relevant New Testament texts I deduce,

(a) God created and joined male and female as husband and wife in the beginning, this is God's established order.
(b) When man and woman are joined together in (civil or ecclesiastical) marriage, they should not be separated.
(c) Sexual relations make two persons "one flesh," whether unmarried or already married.

and I understand the essence of contemporary theologically conservative Christian sexual morality to be:

"Sex is meant to establish a special physical-spiritual union between a man and a woman, but only if they are husband and wife."

Upon this theological principle, I see how one could persuasively argue that adultery, bestiality, cohabitation, homosexuality, polygamy, pornography, premarital sex, prostitution, rape, etc. are contrary to God's will to varying degrees.  However, it reduces arguments against consensual heterosexual sex or cohabitation within mature relationships to "God might have implicitly said so" and nothing else, as there is in principle no reason they need be lustful or exploitative.
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