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Author Topic: You who without corruption gave birth to God the Word  (Read 2962 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: January 11, 2010, 01:59:19 AM »

What is "corrupted" about human sexuality?
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 02:06:59 AM »

Nothing.  The phrase "you who without corruption gave birth to God the Word" alludes to the Virgin receiving the fullness of the Godhead into herself without beint destroyed by it, as in the adumbration of the Burning Bush.
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 02:17:44 AM »

^Right. Our Lady's perpetual virginity does not point to the impurity of sexual relations within the context of marriage. Rather, it points to the divine miracle of the Incarnation. The perpetuity of her virginity is also not a condemnation of marital relations, it is the fulfillment of prophecy- Ezekial 44:2.

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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2010, 02:29:55 AM »

I am also making a big assumption in thinking that "corruption" refers to intercourse.  It could mean sin or blemish of any kind.  I must just be a prude!
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2010, 02:39:46 AM »

Fwiw, I haven't really run across anything in the Eastern Fathers which equated sexuality with being dirty or corrupted. If memory serves, you can perhaps find hints of that view in some saints, such as Augustine, Gregory Dialogist, and Caesarius of Arles. However, in most Easterners this view seems to be absent, and there is even the explicit recognition in some that sexual attraction is perfectly natural and good. Now, I believe that some Eastern Fathers (e.g. St. John Chrysostom and St. John of Damascus) held that sex was a post-lapsarian happening, but even in saying this they did not conclude that sex was somehow a corruption or corrupted thing.
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2010, 02:51:34 AM »

I am also making a big assumption in thinking that "corruption" refers to intercourse.  It could mean sin or blemish of any kind.  I must just be a prude!

Indeed Alveus, get your mind out of the gutter! Wink
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2010, 02:53:30 AM »

In response to the OP, in our parish we often use the translation:

"thou who without stain barest God the Word"

This, at least to me, implies something regarding her sin status.
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2010, 02:59:47 AM »

I think what was making me take it in a sexual sense was the use of the world "defilement" in some translations.  Again, not directly referring to sex, but in English defilement certainly has closer ties to sexual chastity than does "corruption."
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2010, 03:56:02 AM »

The Greek word used in the It is Meet magnificat is adiaphthoros. The root word phthora means ruin, destruction, so adiaphthoros essentially means undestroyed. Cymbyz is quite right to link it with the prefiguration of the Incarnation by the burning bush.
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2010, 06:21:41 AM »

I always thought it was a reference to the belief that her hymen was not broken in the birthing process.
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2010, 10:23:11 AM »

The OCA, if I remember correctly, using the translation "without defilement". I always assumed this meant that she remained ever-virgin.
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2010, 10:36:46 AM »

I do believe the "corruption" or "defilement" refers to sexual union. Quite a few of the fathers viewed sexuality as a result of the fall; for example, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor.  In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex, just as the angels do: 'whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature is (unspeakable and inconceivable by human conjectures, except that it assuredly exists), it would have operated also in the case of men, who were “made a little lower than the angels" to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker.' St. Gregory assumes that we will resume reproducing in this manner in the age to come.
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2010, 11:09:22 AM »

Awhile ago I heard, I think on some AFR podcast, that "without corruption" is the best translation, and does not have sexual connotations.
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2010, 12:04:17 PM »

I do believe the "corruption" or "defilement" refers to sexual union. Quite a few of the fathers viewed sexuality as a result of the fall; for example, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor.  In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex, just as the angels do: 'whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature is (unspeakable and inconceivable by human conjectures, except that it assuredly exists), it would have operated also in the case of men, who were “made a little lower than the angels" to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker.' St. Gregory assumes that we will resume reproducing in this manner in the age to come.

If you would, please explain why you make the leap from sex being the result of the fall, to sex being a corruption or defilement in some sense. This is not a leap that I believe the Church Fathers make--not the Greek speaking ones, anyway. Many things changed in man after the fall, and they were not all sinful or corrupt things (Christ himself experienced some of the consequences of the fall).
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2010, 12:35:11 PM »


If you would, please explain why you make the leap from sex being the result of the fall, to sex being a corruption or defilement in some sense. This is not a leap that I believe the Church Fathers make--not the Greek speaking ones, anyway. Many things changed in man after the fall, and they were not all sinful or corrupt things (Christ himself experienced some of the consequences of the fall).

Man could previously reproduce in an angelic manner; after the Fall, he relied on this carnal manner of procreation, suitable for the irrational animals. That can hardly be regarded as a neutral change. Sexuality therefore can only be seen as a mark of corruption. That isn't to say that sex, in its proper (married) context is bad, but obviously it isn't holy or ideal either.
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2010, 01:18:01 PM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...
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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2010, 01:23:20 PM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...

Then you're going to have a hard time with the Virgin Birth and a bunch of other stuff too.
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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2010, 01:29:59 PM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...

Then you're going to have a hard time with the Virgin Birth and a bunch of other stuff too.

This point is hardly dogmatic Iconodule; rather it is pure speculation (albeit on the part of a saint) with no scriptural basis.
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2010, 01:41:15 PM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...

Then you're going to have a hard time with the Virgin Birth and a bunch of other stuff too.

This point is hardly dogmatic Iconodule; rather it is pure speculation (albeit on the part of a saint) with no scriptural basis.

We're not a sola scriptura sect; we accept many things that are not clearly indicated by scripture. Nevertheless:

"For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me." - Psalm 50

"For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more, for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." Luke 20: 35-36

St. Gregory is hardly alone on this matter. Sts. John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor, and many others are of like mind on this. This point of view is built into the hymnody of the Church. If there were nothing wrong or corrupt with sexual reproduction, then we wouldn't be upholding virginity as a mark of purity and heavenly virtues so often. The Virgin Birth would be no big deal; the monastic life would not be regarded as higher than married life.
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2010, 01:55:41 PM »

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« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2010, 02:18:27 PM »

Iconodule,

I've been going back over some quotes I have from the Church Fathers on this subject, and it seems that you may be correct. For example, I found one in which St. John Chrysostom refers to sex as a corruption...

"When he was created, Adam remained in paradise, and there was no question of marriage. He needed a helper and a helper was provided for him. But even then marriage did not seem necessary... Desire for sexual intercourse and conception and pangs from childbirth and every form of corruption were alien to their soul." - St. John Chrysostom, On Virginity, 14

So... I guess that's one more issue/difficulty to add to the list.  Undecided
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« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2010, 02:32:10 PM »

Awhile ago I heard, I think on some AFR podcast, that "without corruption" is the best translation, and does not have sexual connotations.

I just listened to that, too.  It's in Fr. Andrew Damick's "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcast series, although which one in particular I can't recall.  It was in an earlier one, probably the one on Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2010, 02:38:11 PM »

Awhile ago I heard, I think on some AFR podcast, that "without corruption" is the best translation, and does not have sexual connotations.

I just listened to that, too.  It's in Fr. Andrew Damick's "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcast series, although which one in particular I can't recall.  It was in an earlier one, probably the one on Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

I hear the proponents of the IC cheering right now.
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« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2010, 02:41:28 PM »

I believe Fr. Andrew brought this point up in his presentation on the IC (I'm sure now it was the podcast on Orthodoxy and Catholicism) and explained that the Orthodox have a different idea of what "corruption" is, especially in light of the IC dogma.  I don't have the time right now to find and transcribe his thoughts, but they are there for all to hear.  It's well worth it. Smiley
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« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2010, 03:08:08 PM »

St. Gregory is hardly alone on this matter. Sts. John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor, and many others are of like mind on this. This point of view is built into the hymnody of the Church. If there were nothing wrong or corrupt with sexual reproduction, then we wouldn't be upholding virginity as a mark of purity and heavenly virtues so often. The Virgin Birth would be no big deal; the monastic life would not be regarded as higher than married life.
We can uphold virginity as a mark of the heavenly virtues, glorify the Virgin Birth, and regard the monastic life so highly without such sentiments being based on some idea that sexual relations are somehow a corruption in and of themselves.  I just don't see the former sentiments as predicated upon any adherence to the latter belief.
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« Reply #25 on: January 11, 2010, 03:13:41 PM »

So right ^^
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« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2010, 05:39:48 PM »

Man could previously reproduce in an angelic manner; after the Fall, he relied on this carnal manner of procreation, suitable for the irrational animals. That can hardly be regarded as a neutral change. Sexuality therefore can only be seen as a mark of corruption. That isn't to say that sex, in its proper (married) context is bad, but obviously it isn't holy or ideal either.

This is the way I had come to understand the patristic tradition as well. 

The marriage bed is undefiled, but that still has qualifications attached.  For example, "undefiled" isn't necessarily a free license for sodomy in marriage.  Many an Evangelical Protestant sermon I heard over the years encouraged teenagers to be sexually pure by viewing marriage as the finish line, and then anything goes.  Just make it down the isle intact, and then your spouse becomes your kinky sex thing, and it's all holy in the sight of God, who looks down on the bed approvingly as your spouse indulges your every fantasy.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic.  I have gotten the impression consistently from patristic sources that humanity's sexuality is indeed a corruption and a product of the fall.  That is not to say that sexual intercourse within marriage is unacceptable.  It is good in that it produces more humans, but intercourse isn't "holy", even under the best of circumstances.

Tapping into that creative potential within ourselves mirror's God's creative nature, and therefore it is an aspect of the divine image within us.  However, while I am typing this I realize that all animals reproduce, yet they are not in the divine image, so this ability to procreate might not mirror the divine within us.  God does not create a pantheon by begetting himself over and over.  Also, if angels can indeed reproduce somehow even though they are bodiless, it can not be a reflection of the image of God, as angels are not created in the image of God.  So our creative potential which mirrors the divine image must refer to our rational faculties and our ability to manipulate physical reality around us like no other creature in the created order can.

That being said, even an explanation like the one I just gave wouldn't be proper either, because what is divine within us mirrors God in a microcosmic way.  God, according to the Orthodox Church, does not create from preexisting matter, but rather from nothing.  We do not create in that way, so perhaps our creative potentials do not necessarily reflect the nature of God. 

Whatever!
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« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2010, 05:52:40 PM »

In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex
I find it a little difficult to buy that...
Then you're going to have a hard time with the Virgin Birth and a bunch of other stuff too.

I don't think that the Virgin Birth loses everything profound by affirming the holiness of human sexuality.  It would lose something, but not everything.  A virgin birthing a child is a miraculous sign regardless, and gives authority to the one birthed.

The dogma which would suffer is the Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God.  There would be no need for her to remain a virgin after Christ's birth if sexual activity within marriage was indeed "holy."  In fact, if it's holy, then the more sexual activity the better.  But the hymnody and patristics of the Church are clear: the Mother of God is the Holy of Holies, and for sexual activity to have taken place before or after the incarnation through her body, it would have been a defilement of holy ground.

Perhaps the "impurity" of sexuality can be further illustrated by the Old Covenant.  Were there temple laws which prevented priests from entering if they had been sexually active?  I know that the first commandment was to be fruitful and multiply, and that the creation was "good", so we are always treading on thin ground when dealing with this type of thing, because the temptation is always present to disdain material reality, which is in fact quite wonderful!  But while the people were commanded to multiply, that does not imply that human sexuality is holy as it exists now.  Also, if we are looking at the sequence of events in Genesis in a totally literal way and not as two separate creation accounts, one could argue that this multiplication was taking place before the Fall in some different way.  I don't see it that way, but maybe the fathers did.
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« Reply #28 on: January 11, 2010, 06:59:34 PM »


Iconodule,

I've been going back over some quotes I have from the Church Fathers on this subject, and it seems that you may be correct. For example, I found one in which St. John Chrysostom refers to sex as a corruption...

"When he was created, Adam remained in paradise, and there was no question of marriage. He needed a helper and a helper was provided for him. But even then marriage did not seem necessary... Desire for sexual intercourse and conception and pangs from childbirth and every form of corruption were alien to their soul." - St. John Chrysostom, On Virginity, 14

So... I guess that's one more issue/difficulty to add to the list.  Undecided

He may have been referring to lust in that quote, however.
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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2010, 07:06:11 PM »

He may have been referring to lust in that quote, however.

But how does "conception" play into that?  Maybe you're right about desire, but not about conception itself.
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« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2010, 07:39:02 PM »

He may have been referring to lust in that quote, however.

But how does "conception" play into that?  Maybe you're right about desire, but not about conception itself.

It's possible corruption is an additional and distinct item rather than a description of the previous items...
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« Reply #31 on: January 12, 2010, 09:32:46 AM »

I hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, but I'm looking through the Festal Menaion and came across some Nativity hymns:

"What shall we call thee, O full of grace? Heaven? For thou hast made the Sun of Righteousness shine forth. Paradise? For thou has put forth the flower of immortality. Virgin? For thou hast remained without corruption. Pure Mother? For thou hast held in thy holy embrace a Son who is God of all. Pray unto Him to save our souls." - A Theotokion from the First Hour of  Christmas Eve (emphasis mine)

"The sea monster spat forth Jonah as it had received him, like a babe from the womb: while the Word, having dwelt in the Virgin and taken flesh, came forth from her yet kept her uncorrupt. For being Himself not subject to decay, He preserved His Mother free from harm." - From the first canon of canticle six of Nativity Matins

I remember some other hymns that also equated the unbroken seal of the Virgin's womb with incorruption, but I can't find them at the moment.
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« Reply #32 on: January 12, 2010, 10:16:25 AM »

We have to magnify the virginity. How else would we know Panagia gave birth to God in a miraculous way instead of a regular man.
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« Reply #33 on: January 12, 2010, 11:14:33 AM »


He may have been referring to lust in that quote, however.

Yes, that's possible. He might also just be plain wrong. At the same time that I was reading the above quote I gave, I was also reading quotes from St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrysostom about how man is naturally included to marriage (including the sexual aspect), how it's pleasurable, etc. I gave it a day to think about it, but I guess I'm going to need to dig a lot deeper and longer, if I'm going to explore the subject at all.
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« Reply #34 on: January 12, 2010, 11:31:44 AM »

At the same time that I was reading the above quote I gave, I was also reading quotes from St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrysostom about how man is naturally included to marriage (including the sexual aspect), how it's pleasurable, etc. I gave it a day to think about it, but I guess I'm going to need to dig a lot deeper and longer, if I'm going to explore the subject at all.
Can you point out some of their works that relate to that issue or link some quotes, please? Undecided
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« Reply #35 on: January 12, 2010, 12:10:19 PM »

Well, the two I was referring two in my last message are...

"Let no one think however that herein we depreciate marriage as an institution. We are well aware that it is not a stranger to God's blessing. But since the common instincts of mankind can plead sufficiently on its behalf, instincts which prompt by a spontaneous bias to take the high road of marriage for the procreation of children" - St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, 8

"And how become they one flesh? As if you should take away the purest part of gold, and mingle it with other gold; so in truth here also the woman as it were receiving the richest part fused by pleasure, nourishes it and cherishes it, and withal contributing her own share, restores it back a Man. And the child is a sort of bridge, so that the three become one flesh, the child connecting, on either side, each to other." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians

There are a few more, but I am having problems finding them among the mish mash of quotes (largely from contemporary sources) that I have in several computer notepad/wordpad files. If I still had certain books, like the one by David Ford on St. John Chrysostom, it would probably be a bit easier.
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« Reply #36 on: January 12, 2010, 01:45:17 PM »

I believe Fr. Andrew brought this point up in his presentation on the IC (I'm sure now it was the podcast on Orthodoxy and Catholicism) and explained that the Orthodox have a different idea of what "corruption" is, especially in light of the IC dogma.  I don't have the time right now to find and transcribe his thoughts, but they are there for all to hear.  It's well worth it. Smiley

I just listened to this podcast yesterday. This is it: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxyheterodoxy/orthodox_and_roman_catholic_differences_-part_2

Fr. Andrew seems to say that corruption refers to the physical state. He rightly states that in birth one bleeds and may tear etc. Mary was returned to her pre-pregnancy state as though she had not been pregnant/given birth.
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« Reply #37 on: January 12, 2010, 01:54:12 PM »

I believe Fr. Andrew brought this point up in his presentation on the IC (I'm sure now it was the podcast on Orthodoxy and Catholicism) and explained that the Orthodox have a different idea of what "corruption" is, especially in light of the IC dogma.  I don't have the time right now to find and transcribe his thoughts, but they are there for all to hear.  It's well worth it. Smiley

I just listened to this podcast yesterday. This is it: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxyheterodoxy/orthodox_and_roman_catholic_differences_-part_2

Fr. Andrew seems to say that corruption refers to the physical state. He rightly states that in birth one bleeds and may tear etc. Mary was returned to her pre-pregnancy state as though she had not been pregnant/given birth.

Yes, that was it!  Thanks lizzyd for hunting down the Fr. Andrew's commentary! Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: January 12, 2010, 05:40:29 PM »

And if I may add, there's also the Tradition that she bore Christ without feeling pain. I just remembered a verse from a troparion, I think it's a Theotokion:
-...συνέλαβες, ἀδιαφθόρως ἐν γαστρί, καὶ πρὶν ὠδινῆσαι τέτοκας· καὶ μετὰ τόκον Παρθένος...(in Greek)
-..you conceived without corruption, and bore without pain (or labour), you remained a Virgin after birth...(in English)
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« Reply #39 on: January 12, 2010, 05:48:24 PM »

St. Gregory is hardly alone on this matter. Sts. John Chrysostom, Maximus the Confessor, and many others are of like mind on this. This point of view is built into the hymnody of the Church. If there were nothing wrong or corrupt with sexual reproduction, then we wouldn't be upholding virginity as a mark of purity and heavenly virtues so often. The Virgin Birth would be no big deal; the monastic life would not be regarded as higher than married life.
We can uphold virginity as a mark of the heavenly virtues, glorify the Virgin Birth, and regard the monastic life so highly without such sentiments being based on some idea that sexual relations are somehow a corruption in and of themselves.  I just don't see the former sentiments as predicated upon any adherence to the latter belief.

Are the Angels given to one another in marriage? Perhaps all of this stems from our Fathers wishing to be like unto the Angels which are in heaven... ?

Not that such things are 'debased' but that such things aren't 'heavenly'?
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« Reply #40 on: January 14, 2010, 09:11:40 AM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...

Me to (being a biology teacher), but that's also what St. John Chrysostomos says in his Homilies on Genesis.
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« Reply #41 on: January 14, 2010, 09:16:15 AM »

 In On the Making of Man, St. Gregory says that, if man had not sinned, he would have reproduced without sex

I find it a little difficult to buy that...

Me to (being a biology teacher), but that's also what St. John Chrysostomos says in his Homilies on Genesis.

So does this assume that the male and female genitalia were created after the fall?
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« Reply #42 on: January 14, 2010, 09:17:51 AM »

And if I may add, there's also the Tradition that she bore Christ without feeling pain. I just remembered a verse from a troparion, I think it's a Theotokion:
-...συνέλαβες, ἀδιαφθόρως ἐν γαστρί, καὶ πρὶν ὠδινῆσαι τέτοκας· καὶ μετὰ τόκον Παρθένος...(in Greek)
-..you conceived without corruption, and bore without pain (or labour), you remained a Virgin after birth...(in English)


I also noticed that in Luke 12:33 the text uses the same root when it talks about the moth that DESTROYS: ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει. Can it mean that ἀδιαφθόρως is "without destruction," or "without breaking something?" Then it has nothing directly to do with human sexuality per se; rather, it indicates that during the conception and birth of Christ, something (in the birth canal?) was not "broken" or "destroyed..."
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« Reply #43 on: January 14, 2010, 09:33:04 AM »

Heorhij, look at post #8.
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« Reply #44 on: January 14, 2010, 09:51:34 AM »

I am also making a big assumption in thinking that "corruption" refers to intercourse.  It could mean sin or blemish of any kind.  I must just be a prude!

I am not sure it means that she never sinned or did something wrong that was not sin after all she was born with a fallen nature, but that by the time the Lord was conceived in the womb of Mary she had obtained theosis by grace which was fully realized in the incarnation.  At the moment of the incarnation she had been truly filled with the fullness of God in her.  The impact on a person, to have the fullness of God within, must have a staggering impact on any individual.

Without sin or blemish to me was her current state at the time of the incarnation and birth of our Lord.

I am probably wrong though as usual lol, and as always open to correction.
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