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Author Topic: What is the Priesthood?  (Read 645 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 04, 2012, 11:55:58 AM »

What exactly is it?  Maybe that doesnt make sense... but let me try and explain.

I was talking with an episcopalian friend about the typical womens ordination/homosexual marriage stuff.  I may have mentioned this friend before here, but hes way smarter than me.  He knows the Orthodox Church wont ever do these things, but when I told him that, he seemed surprised.  He asked me why The Orthodox Church wouldnt ever ordain women.  My best answer was that the Priesthood is emblematic of God incarnate and that the Priest and his congregation is an "icon" of Christ and his bride, the Church.  Christ has always been depicted in our icons as a male, and the Church always seems to be described in a feminine manner.

Is that an decent answer?

It seems to me that the real issue here for progressive Christians a failure to recognize that there actually IS a distinction between the masculine and feminine. They say that we are all equal in Christ (which is true) so therefore there is no reason why women cant be Priests.  I would say that they are correct that we, male and female, are all equal in Christ, but there is still (obviously) a distinction between the two.  There are certain things thats men can do that women cant, and certain things women can do that men cant.  Its not that we arent equal, its just the way it is.

I guess the simple answer would be that an all male Priesthood is the way its always been, therefore we dont need to change it to fit our personal desires. But as you may know, that answer doesnt always suffice when having this discussion...

Thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2012, 12:35:35 PM »

The iconic argument I have never found particularly Orthodox, but more of an apology by the Vatican, with its ideas of "once a priest, always a priest," mandated celibacy (to complete the icon), "Alter Christus" "Alter Christi" etc.

The priest in the parish stands as the proxy of the bishop. Period.  Hence the question revolves on whether women can be consecrated bishops.

Christ had women disciples and apostles.  He consecrated none of them to the episcopate.  So before we ask if we can consecrate women to the episcopate, we first had to answer why Christ did not.  And no, it is not because of the times: plenty of cults in Christ's day had priestesses, even high priestesses.  And even some Christian sects had female bishops, although, like the Episcopalians, no episcopate, at least in the apostolic sense.

And of course, there question must be asked, does anything distinguish the boys from the girls?  Of course, plenty.
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 12:52:08 PM »

The "because of the times" argument is a popular one that they like to use.  I honestly do not know how to "debunk" that one.  Also, I do not know anything about these other cults and sects that may have had women priests in its day.  Thats something I would be interested in hearing more about.

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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 02:16:45 PM »

I think the only reason that we can truly state for an all male priesthood is that it is the Tradition of the Church.  It is part of what was handed down to us and we, until it is no longer the Tradition of the Church, should pass it on the way we received it.  One of those orthodox paradoxes. The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, and the Church is not going in that direction at this time. We can make up reasons why it is the way it is, but why?
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2012, 11:18:44 PM »

I think the only reason that we can truly state for an all male priesthood is that it is the Tradition of the Church.  It is part of what was handed down to us and we, until it is no longer the Tradition of the Church, should pass it on the way we received it.  One of those orthodox paradoxes. The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, and the Church is not going in that direction at this time. We can make up reasons why it is the way it is, but why?

I agree that this is the best answer.  But when youre engaged in a multi-hour long discussion with a very intelligent friend, sometimes that answer isnt enough..  As the conversation escalates, I usually end up saying what I said in my OP.  Its easy for me and other Orthodox to be satisfied with an answer like "its just our tradition. thats the way it is."  And actually, I told him that I didnt have much of a personal opinion on the issue and that I chose to follow the Church's teaching on that matter.  I actually have two progressive Episcopalian friends, and both of them have been surprisingly supportive when I tell them that I choose to side with my Church's teachings.  Both of them seemed to respect and appreciate the idea of being subordinate to the Church. 

I mainly just wanted to better understand what the Priesthood actually is.  Thats the main reason I asked.  Id also like to able to have a more intelligent discussion on the subject next time it comes up.

I appreciate the input thus far.  Im sure many of you are tired of discussing the issue.
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2012, 11:35:57 PM »

Supplementing what has been written above, the Orthodox Church considers the priest to be an Icon of Christ, through his bishop.  So it would be logical for that icon to be a male, as was Jesus Christ.
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 10:06:00 AM »

what the Priesthood actually is

Well as a definition, -  (presbyter) One who has been properly (canonically) ordained to administer the Holy Sacraments and to preach the Word of God. A candidate for priesthood must meet the requirements of education and moral character.


But that is too simple; the Priesthood itself is among its Sacraments. So you may need to explain to folks what we mean by sacraments.
Quote
specific acts performed in and by the Church itself during which individual believers receive in a mystical (mysterious) way from God the power and ability to experience the Church’s very mystery in the context of divine revelation as God’s agent for the salvation of the "cosmos", the entire universe. In other words, at the “Mysteries” the partaker does not acquire a knowledge of God and his grace. As such, the importance of these Mysteries does not stem from the external functional and ceremonial form, but from what it provides or mediates to provide, i.e. the supernatural and so the mystical reality offered to the partaker through the Church which performs this act.

“What the Priesthood actually is” is not an easy question to answer because it is of the mysteries of the church.

The Quote is  from:  http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/dogmatics/voulgaris_priesthood.pdf

(This link also, has in chapter VIII the question of woman priests, in it ties the priesthood the Fatherhood of God.)
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 10:32:38 AM »

FYI - Fr. Alexander Schmemann on Women's Ordination:

"When you asked me to outline the Orthodox reaction to the idea of women's ordination to the priesthood, I thought at first that to do so would not be too difficult. It is not difficult, indeed, simply to state that the Orthodox Church is against women's priesthood and to enumerate as fully as possible the dogmatical, canonical, and spiritual reasons for that opposition.
On second thought, however, I became convinced that such an answer would be not only useless, but even harmful. Useless, because all such "formal reasons" - scriptural, traditional, canonical - are well known to the advocates of women's ordination, as is also well known our general ecclesiological stand which, depending on their mood and current priorities, our Western Brothers either hail as Orthodoxy's "main" ecumenical contribution or dismiss as archaic, narrow-minded, and irrelevant. Harmful, because true formally, this answer would still vitiate the real Orthodox position by reducing it to a theological context and perspective, alien to the Orthodox mind. For the Orthodox Church has never faced this question, it is for us totally extrinsic, a casus irrealis for which we find no basis, no terms of reference in our Tradition, in the very experience of the Church, and for the discussion of which we are therefore simply not prepared.
Such is then my difficulty. I cannot discuss the problem itself because to do so would necessitate the elucidation of our approach - not to women and to priesthood only - but, above all to God in his Triune Life, to Creation, Fall and Redemption, to the Church and the mystery of her life, to the deification of man and the consummation of all things in Christ. Short of all this it would remain incomprehensible, I am sure, why the ordination of women to priesthood is tantamount for us to a radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith, the rejection of the whole Scripture, and, needless to say, the end of all "dialogues." Short of all this my answer will sound like another "conservative" and "traditional" defense of the status quo, of precisely that which many Christians today, having heard it too many times, reject as hypocrisy, lack of openness to God's will, blindness to the world, etc. Obviously enough those who reject Tradition would not listen once more to an argument ex traditione...."
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/SchmemannOrdination.php
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 07:45:51 PM »

The iconic argument I have never found particularly Orthodox, but more of an apology by the Vatican, with its ideas of "once a priest, always a priest," mandated celibacy (to complete the icon), "Alter Christus" "Alter Christi" etc.

I feel the same, though I can't put my finger on why the argument does not sit well with me. Some questions that come to mind:

1. If the priest acts in the place of Christ, why is it necessary that he invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Precious Gifts, rather than merely pronounce the words of institution as do the Latins?

2. If the priest is an icon of Christ and must accordingly be male, why must he not also be a Jew and of the circumcision?

3. If a priest is ontologically different to a layman, how does he cease to have the charism of priesthood if he is laicised?
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« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2012, 08:10:47 PM »

That the bishop symbolises Christ in the Liturgy is one you'll find in many patristic sources, so I'm not sure what's not Orthodox about the iconic argument.

1. If the priest acts in the place of Christ, why is it necessary that he invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Precious Gifts, rather than merely pronounce the words of institution as do the Latins?

The priest acts in the place of the bishop, who represents Christ. To act as an icon of Christ in the Liturgy doesn't mean one acts as Christ. I don't think there is anything inconsistent in saying that the Bishop is an icon of Christ while insisting that it is by the descent of the Holy Spirit, not the mere utterances of the bishop, that the Holy Gifts are sanctified.

Quote
2. If the priest is an icon of Christ and must accordingly be male, why must he not also be a Jew and of the circumcision?

Throughout the Scriptures the relationship between God and His people is described as a spousal relationship. Christ is the Bridegroom the Church/Israel His bride. In the context of prophecy and revelation, gender is given an emphasis that age/race/height/weight are not.

Speaking spiritually rather than in terms of physical attributes, the Jew - Gentile distinction is one made often, as is circumcised - uncircumcised. The Christian Church is out of the Gentiles, but it is not a Gentile Church, it is the New Israel. Baptism has taken the place of circumcision of the flesh, which St. Paul says is neither here nor there. So the Christian bishop who represents Christ in the Liturgy is both an Israelite and circumcised.

Quote
3. If a priest is ontologically different to a layman, how does he cease to have the charism of priesthood if he is laicised?

Does the iconic argument imply an ontological difference between priest and layman?
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« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2012, 08:21:24 PM »

That the bishop symbolises Christ in the Liturgy is one you'll find in many patristic sources, so I'm not sure what's not Orthodox about the iconic argument.

1. If the priest acts in the place of Christ, why is it necessary that he invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Precious Gifts, rather than merely pronounce the words of institution as do the Latins?

The priest acts in the place of the bishop, who represents Christ. To act as an icon of Christ in the Liturgy doesn't mean one acts as Christ. I don't think there is anything inconsistent in saying that the Bishop is an icon of Christ while insisting that it is by the descent of the Holy Spirit, not the mere utterances of the bishop, that the Holy Gifts are sanctified.

Quote
2. If the priest is an icon of Christ and must accordingly be male, why must he not also be a Jew and of the circumcision?

Throughout the Scriptures the relationship between God and His people is described as a spousal relationship. Christ is the Bridegroom the Church/Israel His bride. In the context of prophecy and revelation, gender is given an emphasis that age/race/height/weight are not.

Speaking spiritually rather than in terms of physical attributes, the Jew - Gentile distinction is one made often, as is circumcised - uncircumcised. The Christian Church is out of the Gentiles, but it is not a Gentile Church, it is the New Israel. Baptism has taken the place of circumcision of the flesh, which St. Paul says is neither here nor there. So the Christian bishop who represents Christ in the Liturgy is both an Israelite and circumcised.

Quote
3. If a priest is ontologically different to a layman, how does he cease to have the charism of priesthood if he is laicised?

Does the iconic argument imply an ontological difference between priest and layman?

Perhaps I am unfairly conflating the Latin "in persona Christi" with the so-called "iconic argument".
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« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2012, 08:36:56 PM »

Perhaps I am unfairly conflating the Latin "in persona Christi" with the so-called "iconic argument".

You may be right that the "iconic argument" as a technical term is similar to "in persona Christi". If what I was describing has a different name and Isa was referring to something else, please correct me.
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2012, 09:18:51 PM »

Only men can be priests because men can't give birth.
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2012, 09:45:41 PM »

Only men can be priests because men can't give birth.

Does the priesthood accorinding to the order of Melchizedek exist outside the Orthodox church?
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« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2012, 10:21:03 PM »

Perhaps I am unfairly conflating the Latin "in persona Christi" with the so-called "iconic argument".

You may be right that the "iconic argument" as a technical term is similar to "in persona Christi". If what I was describing has a different name and Isa was referring to something else, please correct me.

No, it was my error, though I think an easy one to slip into.
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« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2012, 10:50:29 PM »

Only men can be priests because men can't give birth.
Go on.
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« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2012, 11:23:38 PM »

That the bishop symbolises Christ in the Liturgy is one you'll find in many patristic sources, so I'm not sure what's not Orthodox about the iconic argument.
Can you cite some?  The first one I recall, St. Ignatius, goes "Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church."  "Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. Do all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another, and let no one look upon his neighbour after the flesh, but continually love each other in Jesus Christ."
(Trallians 3, Magnesians 6)

1. If the priest acts in the place of Christ, why is it necessary that he invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Precious Gifts, rather than merely pronounce the words of institution as do the Latins?
The priest acts in the place of the bishop, who represents Christ. To act as an icon of Christ in the Liturgy doesn't mean one acts as Christ. I don't think there is anything inconsistent in saying that the Bishop is an icon of Christ while insisting that it is by the descent of the Holy Spirit, not the mere utterances of the bishop, that the Holy Gifts are sanctified.
It does somewhat follow.  The gnostics who did not believe a  bishop had to be a man also believe the bishop only played a part in their liturgy, i.e. other than playing the part and filling the role of bishop like an actor playing a role in a play, the bishop had no independent existence.

Quote
2. If the priest is an icon of Christ and must accordingly be male, why must he not also be a Jew and of the circumcision?
Throughout the Scriptures the relationship between God and His people is described as a spousal relationship. Christ is the Bridegroom the Church/Israel His bride. In the context of prophecy and revelation, gender is given an emphasis that age/race/height/weight are not.

Speaking spiritually rather than in terms of physical attributes, the Jew - Gentile distinction is one made often, as is circumcised - uncircumcised. The Christian Church is out of the Gentiles, but it is not a Gentile Church, it is the New Israel. Baptism has taken the place of circumcision of the flesh, which St. Paul says is neither here nor there. So the Christian bishop who represents Christ in the Liturgy is both an Israelite and circumcised.
The problem arises, however, in that the most misused verse of those advocating for female priests says "never Jew nor Greek" like it says "neither male nor female in Christ Jesus."

Quote
3. If a priest is ontologically different to a layman, how does he cease to have the charism of priesthood if he is laicised?

Does the iconic argument imply an ontological difference between priest and layman?
Yes.

The answer lies in why we worship the Father and the Son and not Mother and Daughter.
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« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2012, 11:26:52 PM »

Perhaps I am unfairly conflating the Latin "in persona Christi" with the so-called "iconic argument".

You may be right that the "iconic argument" as a technical term is similar to "in persona Christi". If what I was describing has a different name and Isa was referring to something else, please correct me.

No, it was my error, though I think an easy one to slip into.
I distinguish between "in persona Christi" and "alter Christi/alter Christus."  The former does not involve the "iconic argument," the latter does.
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« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2012, 10:54:29 AM »

Only men can be priests because men can't give birth.
Go on.
For women, their roughly 28-day menstrual cycle corresponds to a multiplication by 4 of the 7-day week: 4 times 7 days is 28 days.

Women shed both body and blood as part of that cycle.

The shedding process lasts an average of four days. Each of these four days corresponds to the four 7-day weeks, meaning that each of the four days corresponds to the Sabbath of each of the four 7-day weeks.

Like the Sabbath, women (in traditional cultures, and in the Torah) are to "rest" during the 4 days of menstruation.

Menstruation does not happen if they are pregnant (or, in other words, if they are about to take part in the 'incarnation' of a new human life).

Unlike women, men cannot claim the power to sacrifice, as part of their biological nature, body and blood during a quadruplicated 7-week cycle. Unlike women, men cannot claim, as part of their biological  nature, to "rest" on a monthly (or, symbolically) weekly cycle. Men cannot claim, as part of their biological nature, to be able to give birth to a newly incarnated human being.

However, by entering the priesthood, a man is able to symbolically, or mentally, present the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, on a weekly basis, during the Sabbath, the day of rest, and to re-present the incarnation of the human-God Jesus Christ.

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.



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« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2012, 11:06:26 AM »

Only men can be priests because men can't give birth.
Go on.
For women, their roughly 28-day menstrual cycle corresponds to a multiplication by 4 of the 7-day week: 4 times 7 days is 28 days.

Women shed both body and blood as part of that cycle.

The shedding process lasts an average of four days. Each of these four days corresponds to the four 7-day weeks, meaning that each of the four days corresponds to the Sabbath of each of the four 7-day weeks.

Like the Sabbath, women (in traditional cultures, and in the Torah) are to "rest" during the 4 days of menstruation.

Menstruation does not happen if they are pregnant (or, in other words, if they are about to take part in the 'incarnation' of a new human life).

Unlike women, men cannot claim the power to sacrifice, as part of their biological nature, body and blood during a quadruplicated 7-week cycle. Unlike women, men cannot claim, as part of their biological  nature, to "rest" on a monthly (or, symbolically) weekly cycle. Men cannot claim, as part of their biological nature, to be able to give birth to a newly incarnated human being.

However, by entering the priesthood, a man is able to symbolically, or mentally, present the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, on a weekly basis, during the Sabbath, the day of rest, and to re-present the incarnation of the human-God Jesus Christ.

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.
No, that's not it.
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« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2012, 12:38:14 PM »

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.





Interesting, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, where does that leave post-menopausal women? Because we no longer menstruate, do we become de facto men?
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« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2012, 12:49:02 PM »

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.


Interesting, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, where does that leave post-menopausal women? Because we no longer menstruate, do we become de facto men?
The post-menopausal state symbolizes the end of the need to celebrate the Eucharist. In other words, the post-menopausal state symbolizes communion with the Trinity in heaven -- thus, no Eucharist, no sacraments, are necessary at that point.

(This argument would probably be more consistent with Latin theology. I'm  not sure if Orthodoxy would say that the Eucharist/Divine Liturgy is not done in heaven.)
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« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2012, 12:53:18 PM »

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.





Interesting, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, where does that leave post-menopausal women? Because we no longer menstruate, do we become de facto men?
Honorary men.  In Arabic the words for "old," "sterile," "barren" etc. have masculine forms.  But then the word for "menstruate" and "pregnant" are also in masculine form, as men don't do that (the feminine forms means just started either state).

I don't buy any of it.  Sounds like a nature cult.
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« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2012, 01:00:33 PM »

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.





Interesting, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, where does that leave post-menopausal women? Because we no longer menstruate, do we become de facto men?
Honorary men.  In Arabic the words for "old," "sterile," "barren" etc. have masculine forms.  But then the word for "menstruate" and "pregnant" are also in masculine form, as men don't do that (the feminine forms means just started either state).

I don't buy any of it.  Sounds like a nature cult.
"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
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If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.
ialmisry
There's nothing John of Damascus can't answer
Warned
Hypatos
*****************
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Faith: جامعي Arab confesssing the Orthodox Faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
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« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2012, 01:13:34 PM »

For women, religion is incarnate, it's physical, it's biological. For men, religion is theological, it's intellectual, it's psychological. Only if the two meet as one, does religion become "spiritual", which literally means "of the breath", because it's the breath that connects body and mind, incarnation and in-psyche-ation.

Interesting, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, where does that leave post-menopausal women? Because we no longer menstruate, do we become de facto men?
Honorary men.  In Arabic the words for "old," "sterile," "barren" etc. have masculine forms.  But then the word for "menstruate" and "pregnant" are also in masculine form, as men don't do that (the feminine forms means just started either state).

I don't buy any of it.  Sounds like a nature cult.
"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--Who is forever praised. Amen." (Romans 1:25)
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2012, 03:12:45 PM »


I don't buy any of it.  Sounds like a nature cult.

Exactly.
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"If but ten of us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up the entire city."

 St. John Chrysostom
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