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Riddikulus
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« on: March 29, 2011, 12:35:30 AM »

I have been reading a book, "Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700" that goes into great detail about the penances the Church imposed for such things as not using the "missionary" position (one of the opposite positions incurred a penances ranging from 600 prostrations up to denial of communion for 30 years).  One regulation even prescribed between 8-50 prostrations if a man dreamed about relations with his wife.


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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2011, 12:54:10 AM »

Thank you both for your replies.  That is how I see it in EO circles today.  Many modern writers (priests and theologians) like Fr. Hopko have a more positive view of sexuality.  As I study the Fathers and older writings in general I see the more negative views that I was not aware of before. 

I have been reading a book, "Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700" that goes into great detail about the penances the Church imposed for such things as not using the "missionary" position (one of the opposite positions incurred a penances ranging from 600 prostrations up to denial of communion for 30 years).  One regulation even prescribed between 8-50 prostrations if a man dreamed about relations with his wife.

It makes me wonder if what we have today is a "watered-down" Orthodoxy.

P.S.  I prefer to agree with the views of Hopko and others, yet I don't feel comfortable saying that the early Fathers were "wrong".

Fwiw, that book had a huge negative impact on me. Now look at me, lol! I can't decide what I am. Not entirely because of that book, of course, but that book on Noonan's book on Contraception had a big part in getting the ball rolling. I hope you come out of it in better shape than I did Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2011, 01:02:19 AM »

There are a lot of different areas covered in the book.  For premarital sex, "...defiling a virgin, was tantamount to rape, even if she consented, and the penance was as high as nine years."

"St Basil's Rule listed a penance of seven years of exclusion from communion...the shorter, but more intense penance, based on the Rule of St. John the Penitent...ranged between one and three years of fasting, accompanied by one hundred to two hundred prostrations a day."

The book is by Eve Levin, and is published by Cornell University Press 1989.
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2011, 01:09:23 AM »

Thank you both for your replies.  That is how I see it in EO circles today.  Many modern writers (priests and theologians) like Fr. Hopko have a more positive view of sexuality.  As I study the Fathers and older writings in general I see the more negative views that I was not aware of before. 

I have been reading a book, "Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700" that goes into great detail about the penances the Church imposed for such things as not using the "missionary" position (one of the opposite positions incurred a penances ranging from 600 prostrations up to denial of communion for 30 years).  One regulation even prescribed between 8-50 prostrations if a man dreamed about relations with his wife.

It makes me wonder if what we have today is a "watered-down" Orthodoxy.

P.S.  I prefer to agree with the views of Hopko and others, yet I don't feel comfortable saying that the early Fathers were "wrong".

Fwiw, that book had a huge negative impact on me. Now look at me, lol! I can't decide what I am. Not entirely because of that book, of course, but that book on Noonan's book on Contraception had a big part in getting the ball rolling. I hope you come out of it in better shape than I did Smiley

I can understand why something like this would have such a huge impact on anyone's faith. My first reaction was "why do I bother?" I think this is one of those cases where ignorance is bliss.  laugh My goodness, one has to wonder how people coped with such impositions on their bedroom activities! Did they simply put up with it because they knew no better?
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2011, 01:11:09 AM »

Thank you Asteriktos.

The Orthodoxy that I fell in love with is the Orthodoxy of Bishop Kallistos, Fr. Thomas Hopko, Clark Carlton, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev and many other modern Orthodox writers.  Since being exposed to the writings about the toll-houses, this book, and many other writings, I am having a lot to process. There seems to be a real dichotomy between what was taught in the past and what is taught today.
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2011, 01:15:53 AM »

Yes Riddikulus,

Since becoming Orthodox I have been studying a lot about the Church of the past.  Of course we can see much of the same in the Catholic Church (one hour pre-communion fast today for example), but we Orthodox are not supposed to have watered down the praxis.  I find myself reading today where I have to question some of the saints and Fathers on certain beliefs.  It is very troubling to me.
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 01:18:06 AM »

Thank you Asteriktos.

The Orthodoxy that I fell in love with is the Orthodoxy of Bishop Kallistos, Fr. Thomas Hopko, Clark Carlton, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev and many other modern Orthodox writers.  Since being exposed to the writings about the toll-houses, this book, and many other writings, I am having a lot to process. There seems to be a real dichotomy between what was taught in the past and what is taught today.

Everything evolves! The Holy Spirit is always at work. Remember that St Paul said to be nice to one's slaves.
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 01:23:07 AM »

Yes, that is true.  It took almost 1900 years for the Christian world to finally get rid of slavery. Brazil had it until 1888.  Also, for hundreds of years the Church punished people for practicing witchcraft, though not  on such a horrific scale as in the West.
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 01:24:14 AM »

Yes Riddikulus,

Since becoming Orthodox I have been studying a lot about the Church of the past.  Of course we can see much of the same in the Catholic Church (one hour pre-communion fast today for example), but we Orthodox are not supposed to have watered down the praxis.  I find myself reading today where I have to question some of the saints and Fathers on certain beliefs.  It is very troubling to me.

I wouldn't see this particular issue as a watering down, but a basic improvement in the area of human rights. Whose business is it what a husband and wife agree to do in the privacy of their bedroom? Why do we throw out the old burdensome law only to create another for the faithful? Oh mankind, that rule making creature! And I would consider it very dangerous to stop questioning the opinions of others, even those opinions of saints and fathers. They aren't infallible and I figure that if I'm going to be judged in some way for error, I would rather it was my error than a blind following of other people's errors.
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2011, 01:29:28 AM »

I think that Minasoliman was accurate when he replied earlier:

"It seems wholly proper then that two sides from this developed later on, the radical ascetic side that looks at anything less than ideal is sinful (and most of the Church fathers later on were ascetics; I would wonder what a married Church father would write if he even had time to write while caring for his family), and the more "liberal" side that anything other than clear sins are virtuous."

There are extremes that need to be guarded against.
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2011, 08:48:20 AM »

you are correct that many today do not want to teach what the Church has traditionally taught - and this is indeed a watering down. but take heart, the truth remains the truth despite those who are either ignorant of it or think they know better.
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2011, 10:42:24 AM »

Thank you both for your replies.  That is how I see it in EO circles today.  Many modern writers (priests and theologians) like Fr. Hopko have a more positive view of sexuality.  As I study the Fathers and older writings in general I see the more negative views that I was not aware of before. 

I have been reading a book, "Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700" that goes into great detail about the penances the Church imposed for such things as not using the "missionary" position (one of the opposite positions incurred a penances ranging from 600 prostrations up to denial of communion for 30 years).  One regulation even prescribed between 8-50 prostrations if a man dreamed about relations with his wife.

It makes me wonder if what we have today is a "watered-down" Orthodoxy.

P.S.  I prefer to agree with the views of Hopko and others, yet I don't feel comfortable saying that the early Fathers were "wrong".

Not watered down, just fuller: we are not restricted to monastic literature, but now have writings by the Faithful Fathes (and Mothers!) who actually have experience of marriage.  I suspect that the penitentials you speak about were written by monastics who had little or no experience of marriage.  St. John Chrysostom was not totally able to get out of that context, but he did consider the issue of sterile couples, and fully endorsed them making love.  He also stated that because of overpopulation (!), marriage was no longer needed, but stated that it continues as it is a good in itself.
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2011, 10:50:58 AM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2011, 11:01:45 AM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?

Does holiness = experiential knowledge about all things?
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2011, 11:07:43 AM »

knowing the Creator helps you to know His creation. i just dont understand why we pick and choose certain teachings and say aaah those are just random opinions, or those are based in ignorance of marriage, or ignorance of science. how do we know which teachings we're allowed to disregard and which we're not? we can't ignore the Church Fathers because they were monastics and yet cling to St. John Chrysostom just because we like him - he wasn't married either, so why should i accept anything he says about it? with this line of thinking our beliefs about marriage would have to be based on St. Gregory of Nyssa and Tertullian and whoever else was married, but i dont know any married person who is willing to do that.
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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2011, 11:10:42 AM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?

Does holiness = experiential knowledge about all things?

According to St. Isaac the Syrian and others... yes. That's one area where there's a disconnect that I struggle with.
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2011, 11:20:04 AM »

Yes Riddikulus,

Since becoming Orthodox I have been studying a lot about the Church of the past.  Of course we can see much of the same in the Catholic Church (one hour pre-communion fast today for example), but we Orthodox are not supposed to have watered down the praxis.  I find myself reading today where I have to question some of the saints and Fathers on certain beliefs.  It is very troubling to me.

I wouldn't see this particular issue as a watering down, but a basic improvement in the area of human rights. Whose business is it what a husband and wife agree to do in the privacy of their bedroom? Why do we throw out the old burdensome law only to create another for the faithful? Oh mankind, that rule making creature! And I would consider it very dangerous to stop questioning the opinions of others, even those opinions of saints and fathers. They aren't infallible and I figure that if I'm going to be judged in some way for error, I would rather it was my error than a blind following of other people's errors.

What is this idea of rights? A Christian has no rights, only the responsibility to obey Christ and his Body. That isn't to say that individual saints are right on everything, but Holy Tradition and the collective witness of the Church must be obeyed.

And there is no privacy for a Christian either. Since every aspect of life has a spiritual dimension, including bedroom activity, Christ and the Church have a say in it. That isn't to say we should talk about sex to everyone, but it's not something that's absolutely private and sacrosanct and up to the husband and wife to decide alone. The Church gives us rules and guidelines about what and how much we can eat, so it has every right to do so with sex as well. Both are spiritual activities.

To say "It's my life and I'll live like I want" (or the more nuanced version, "I'll take it under advisement, but I make the final choice") is the opposite of the point.

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?

Does holiness = experiential knowledge about all things?

I wouldn't say "equal to", but funny things happen when a person is deified and starts to live the life of the Trinity.

More insight is available to a holy saint than to the rest of us. If theosis can lead saints to things like clairvoyance (which seems to be a lot more bizarre than teaching people things), I hardly think their opinions on married life are free to be ignored. I would say a true saint, who lives the life of the Trinity, has more spiritual insight about activity n than a person who engages in n but is subject to the passions.

Or in other words, experiential knowledge isn't all it's cracked up to be. (Nor is it spiritually objective.)
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« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2011, 11:27:39 AM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
Because a lot of what the monastic Fathers write desplays their ignorance of marriage.  Holiness does not confer omniscience.

Take for instance the praise of St. John of Kronestadt, for something for which he should be condemned?

What in particular are you refering to in Tertullian (who has his own problems) and St. Gregoy tows the same line as the monastic Fathers?
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« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2011, 11:30:36 AM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?

Does holiness = experiential knowledge about all things?

According to St. Isaac the Syrian and others... yes. That's one area where there's a disconnect that I struggle with.
The purified nous of the saints can read the logoi in created things, but they have to come into contact with those things.
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« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2011, 11:31:00 AM »

Without derailing the thread, how does one determine what is "true," in terms of timeless, binding truth, within the patristic heritage, and what was merely their opinion? Or do you guys accept everything they say on every matter? (That's not a snarky challenge, I'm genuinely curious). From what I've read in the evolution thread, jckstraw72, you definitely seem to be of the latter mindset.

If someone is elevated to Sainthood, has obtained the Trinitarian life (as you put it), do we accept all their writings carte blanche? Is there no need for interpretation, cultural context, etc., like the way we handle the scriptures?
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« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2011, 12:59:29 PM »

Without derailing the thread, how does one determine what is "true," in terms of timeless, binding truth, within the patristic heritage, and what was merely their opinion? Or do you guys accept everything they say on every matter? (That's not a snarky challenge, I'm genuinely curious). From what I've read in the evolution thread, jckstraw72, you definitely seem to be of the latter mindset.

If someone is elevated to Sainthood, has obtained the Trinitarian life (as you put it), do we accept all their writings carte blanche? Is there no need for interpretation, cultural context, etc., like the way we handle the scriptures?

That is the crux of the problem as I see it.  I would think that if a majority of the Fathers agreed on something then that opinion would have the strength of a consensus.  It is difficult to seperate personal opinions from inspired teaching.

Blessed Theophylact, in his commentary on the parable of Lazurus and the Rich man wrote:

"This is a parable and not, as some have foolishly imagined, something which actually occurred. For good things have not yet been allotted to the righteous, nor punishments to the sinners."

I think this is a personal opinion, for I have read other interpretations that use this story as an example of the intermediate state. If Blessed Theophylact's position were correct, and the story describes the period after the final judgment, then how could the rich man's brothers still be alive?

In the debate about the Orthodox teaching on sexuality I am attempting (and it is difficult) to compare the teachings of the Fathers and see what, if any consensus they hold on the matter.  I think that many writers today cherry pick what they want from such writings to back up their position.

Certainly there is the need to carefully examine and compare these writings of the Fathers and not accept them carte blanche.   

 
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« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2011, 01:02:11 PM »

Quote
If someone is elevated to Sainthood, has obtained the Trinitarian life (as you put it), do we accept all their writings carte blanche? Is there no need for interpretation, cultural context, etc., like the way we handle the scriptures?

Consider St. Augustine of Hippo, a recognized Orthoedox Saint whose theology on several critical matters is deemed heretical.  Ditto St. Didymos the Blind of Alexandria, a Saint, but his Origenist writings were condemned by the 5th Ecumenical Council.
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« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2011, 01:12:20 PM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?

Does holiness = experiential knowledge about all things?

According to St. Isaac the Syrian and others... yes. That's one area where there's a disconnect that I struggle with.
The purified nous of the saints can read the logoi in created things, but they have to come into contact with those things.

No, spiritual knowlege is gained by looking inward, not outward. Hence the saints' knowledge of the creation of the world, the Fall of Man, the stars, the future, clairvoyance, and other things they did not "come into contact with."
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« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2011, 01:48:10 PM »

Without derailing the thread, how does one determine what is "true," in terms of timeless, binding truth, within the patristic heritage, and what was merely their opinion? Or do you guys accept everything they say on every matter? (That's not a snarky challenge, I'm genuinely curious). From what I've read in the evolution thread, jckstraw72, you definitely seem to be of the latter mindset.

If someone is elevated to Sainthood, has obtained the Trinitarian life (as you put it), do we accept all their writings carte blanche? Is there no need for interpretation, cultural context, etc., like the way we handle the scriptures?

we dont have to believe every single thing that every single Saint says. but in the instances of evolution and marriage and others, when you start to see Father after Father after Father after Father saying the same thing, you start to see the mind of the Church emerging. one or two Fathers saying something that no one else says, or that is contradicted by other Fathers is different than these subjects on which there is much harmony.
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« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2011, 01:50:34 PM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
Because a lot of what the monastic Fathers write desplays their ignorance of marriage.  Holiness does not confer omniscience.

Take for instance the praise of St. John of Kronestadt, for something for which he should be condemned?

What in particular are you refering to in Tertullian (who has his own problems) and St. Gregoy tows the same line as the monastic Fathers?

im just referring to the general teaching that virginity is a higher path than marriage. St. Gregory and Tertullian would both agree to that and they were both married.

i just think its dishonest to dismiss the Fathers because they were monastics, but to cling to St. John Chrysostom who was also monastic.
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« Reply #25 on: March 29, 2011, 02:06:29 PM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
Because a lot of what the monastic Fathers write desplays their ignorance of marriage.  Holiness does not confer omniscience.

Take for instance the praise of St. John of Kronestadt, for something for which he should be condemned?

What in particular are you refering to in Tertullian (who has his own problems) and St. Gregoy tows the same line as the monastic Fathers?

im just referring to the general teaching that virginity is a higher path than marriage. St. Gregory and Tertullian would both agree to that and they were both married.

Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but 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.
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« Reply #26 on: March 29, 2011, 02:26:47 PM »

I think a problem some are having with this teaching is that they assume that, since the need to reproduce sexually is considered a result of the Fall, that marriage must therefore be considered bad or even sinful. I would just point out that death is also the result of the Fall- if it had not been for the Fall, there would be no need for the Resurrection. Just as the Resurrection is a holy, saving solution to the problem of death, so is the mystery of marriage a holy, saving solution to the problem of sexual division and sexuality (alongside monastic virginity). In both cases, God turns something bad into something good. So everything good the saints have to say about marriage is not a contradiction to the understanding that sexual division is a result of the Fall which needs to be overcome.
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« Reply #27 on: March 29, 2011, 02:29:42 PM »

I think a problem some are having with this teaching is that they assume that, since the need to reproduce sexually is considered a result of the Fall, that marriage must therefore be considered bad or even sinful. I would just point out that death is also the result of the Fall- if it had not been for the Fall, there would be no need for the Resurrection. Just as the Resurrection is a holy, saving solution to the problem of death, so is the mystery of marriage a holy, saving solution to the problem of sexual division and sexuality (alongside monastic virginity). In both cases, God turns something bad into something good. So everything good the saints have to say about marriage is not a contradiction to the understanding that sexual division is a result of the Fall which needs to be overcome.

truism!
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« Reply #28 on: March 29, 2011, 02:41:33 PM »

"Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but 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 of Nyssa, On the Making of Man

This is the type of statement that I have difficulty with, comparing humans to angels.  Angels are incorporeal, they do not have bodies nor sex organs, and I don't think that they eat or drink of necessity.  It's another statement that sex/marriage is a result of the fall.  Why then did God create male and female? (of course in an earlier posting one of the Fathers is quoted as saying it was because God foresaw the fall).

The argument that there are myriad numbers of angels, and that they do not reproduce through marriage is not relevant to the reproduction of mankind (or animals for that matter).  Angels are an entirely different class of beings.  Man is unique, created in the image and likeness of God, something that the angels were not.  It is a weak argument to base the behavior of humans on the behavior of the angels.

As for the verse: "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven," cannot be construed to mean that man was just like the angels before the fall, it just refers to the issue of marriage after the last judgment.

I don't think it is the Orthodox teaching that the purpose of mans creation, or of theosis, is to become just like the angels that God created.  The angels had free will, evidenced by the fall of Satan, but they don't have a redeemer, or a plan for salvation that we know of.  The Savior did not incarnate, die, and rise, to provide salvation for the fallen angels.

Some of the Fathers seem to imply though that we are striving to be like the angels.  To emulate their obedience to God is praiseworthy, but man was not created simply as a corporeal version of the angels.

At least that is how I see it.

 
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« Reply #29 on: March 29, 2011, 02:46:24 PM »

i would just be wary of characterizing something that so many Fathers say as a weak argument.
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« Reply #30 on: March 29, 2011, 02:52:54 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

The idea that sex/marriage was a result of the fall makes no sense to me.  God created them male and female with material bodies that needed to eat and drink.  It's interesting to note that God created Eve from part of Adam's body.  He did not simply materialize her out of nothing.

I would think that God created the angels in their entirety at one time, not that they multiplied over time through some process of mitosis, or cell division.
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« Reply #31 on: March 29, 2011, 02:54:59 PM »

Man is both spiritual and corporeal, yes; but the two are not equal. The flesh must be subservient to the spirit- when man sins, the opposite happens: he becomes bestial and the spirit is enslaved to carnal passions. So in this sense we strive to become like angels- the spirit rules over the body. In this way, the  body can become deified- so man's calling to imitate angels does not mean abandoning or negating the body.
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« Reply #32 on: March 29, 2011, 02:56:01 PM »

i would just be wary of characterizing something that so many Fathers say as a weak argument.

Of course, which is why I find the subject troubling and disturbing.  It is because of my respect for the Fathers that I am concerned about my feelings on this subject.  I would never toss the opinion of any Father aside in a casual manner, but I am seeking to find a consensus among the Fathers on these issues.
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« Reply #33 on: March 29, 2011, 02:56:42 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.
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« Reply #34 on: March 29, 2011, 02:59:08 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.

Iconodule, could you show me were to find St. Gregory's writings about this?  I am interested to read more of what he has to say on the subject.
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« Reply #35 on: March 29, 2011, 02:59:15 PM »

i would just be wary of characterizing something that so many Fathers say as a weak argument.

Of course, which is why I find the subject troubling and disturbing.  It is because of my respect for the Fathers that I am concerned about my feelings on this subject.  I would never toss the opinion of any Father aside in a casual manner, but I am seeking to find a consensus among the Fathers on these issues.

If you really want a consensus, be content with the Church's basic teaching on marriage which is borne out in the hymns and prayers attached to the Mystery of Marriage. That is the most essential stuff. You can't go wrong there and there is nothing there about whether or not sexual division is a result of the Fall. If the teaching of some of these Fathers trouble  you, don't fret over it. I doubt that any of the Fathers intended this teaching to be a "deal-breaker" for Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #36 on: March 29, 2011, 02:59:49 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.

ooooh ok, ive wondered about the animals, but that makes sense- they have only a material element so of course they sexually reproduce. thank you for that!
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« Reply #37 on: March 29, 2011, 03:02:05 PM »

i would just be wary of characterizing something that so many Fathers say as a weak argument.

Of course, which is why I find the subject troubling and disturbing.  It is because of my respect for the Fathers that I am concerned about my feelings on this subject.  I would never toss the opinion of any Father aside in a casual manner, but I am seeking to find a consensus among the Fathers on these issues.

If you really want a consensus, be content with the Church's basic teaching on marriage which is borne out in the hymns and prayers attached to the Mystery of Marriage. That is the most essential stuff. You can't go wrong there and there is nothing there about whether or not sexual division is a result of the Fall. If the teaching of some of these Fathers trouble  you, don't fret over it.

Thank you.  I will read the hymns and prayers of the Mystery.  You are right about not being able to go wrong with these.
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« Reply #38 on: March 29, 2011, 03:03:41 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.

Iconodule, could you show me were to find St. Gregory's writings about this?  I am interested to read more of what he has to say on the subject.


I'm referring to the quote you posted at the beginning, where he says: "What is the starting point of our coming into the world? Is it not almost the same as for irrational animals? Actually it is worse, because the procreation of animals did not originate from sin, whereas in our case it was disobedience that brought in marriage."

I believe I saw another instance of this idea, but I forget where- it might have been St. Symeon the New Theologian.
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« Reply #39 on: March 29, 2011, 03:12:25 PM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
Because a lot of what the monastic Fathers write desplays their ignorance of marriage.  Holiness does not confer omniscience.

Take for instance the praise of St. John of Kronestadt, for something for which he should be condemned?

What in particular are you refering to in Tertullian (who has his own problems) and St. Gregoy tows the same line as the monastic Fathers?

im just referring to the general teaching that virginity is a higher path than marriage. St. Gregory and Tertullian would both agree to that and they were both married.

Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but 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 of Nyssa, On the Making of Man
Angels don't increase.

As to their (actually our) ancient state,

"Then God said, "Let us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness...

So God created man in His Own Image,
    in the Image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.

And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply..."
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« Reply #40 on: March 29, 2011, 03:17:19 PM »

The works of the Fathers must also be balanced with the understanding of the Church, evidence of which may be found in the Constitutions, Synods, and Canons (as well as the Marriage Ceremony as stated by an earlier poster).  Starting with Apostolic Canon 51: "If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman."

Likewise the Synod of Gangra Canon I: "If any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema."


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« Reply #41 on: March 29, 2011, 03:18:55 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.
The Jehovah's Witnesses follow that line of thinking in denying the Real Presence in John 6.
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« Reply #42 on: March 29, 2011, 03:22:11 PM »

but both Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa were married, and probably some others. furthermore, why do we assume they are writing out of their ignorance, rather than writing out of their holiness and experiences of God? why is first-hand experience of marriage necessary to write about it when you're holy?
Because a lot of what the monastic Fathers write desplays their ignorance of marriage.  Holiness does not confer omniscience.

Take for instance the praise of St. John of Kronestadt, for something for which he should be condemned?

What in particular are you refering to in Tertullian (who has his own problems) and St. Gregoy tows the same line as the monastic Fathers?

im just referring to the general teaching that virginity is a higher path than marriage. St. Gregory and Tertullian would both agree to that and they were both married.

Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but 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 of Nyssa, On the Making of Man
Angels don't increase.

How do you know that?

Quote
As to their (actually our) ancient state,

"Then God said, "Let us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness...

So God created man in His Own Image,
    in the Image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.

And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply..."

Yes. And... ?
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« Reply #43 on: March 29, 2011, 03:23:48 PM »

If sex/marriage were not part of God's plan prior to the fall, and humanity was going to be "fruitful and multiply" in some other way, what about the birds and fish and other animals, were they going to reproduce in a non-sexual way as well?

No. Sexual reproduction is natural and blameless in the animals- at least, so says St. Gregory Palamas. It's precisely because it is proper to animals that it is not fitting to man, whose spiritual part should predominate over the fleshly.
The Jehovah's Witnesses follow that line of thinking in denying the Real Presence in John 6.

That's interesting, since denying the Real Presence doesn't follow at all from this line of thinking.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_fallacy
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« Reply #44 on: March 29, 2011, 03:24:46 PM »

The works of the Fathers must also be balanced with the understanding of the Church, evidence of which may be found in the Constitutions, Synods, and Canons (as well as the Marriage Ceremony as stated by an earlier poster).  Starting with Apostolic Canon 51: "If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman."

Likewise the Synod of Gangra Canon I: "If any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema."

None of which contradicts the Patristic quotes provided.
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