Author Topic: What does Orthodoxy say of those of us who neither marry or become monastic?  (Read 1389 times)

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Offline Nicholas_83

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This may be a bit of hangover from the Roman Catholic ideas on vocation I grew up with; but I've come to the point in my life where I've given up the idea of marriage but am also too old for monasticism (30 is cutoff in my church's tradition... I considered it seriously in my twenties but other factors sidetracked that)... I admit to some serious anxiety about purpose in my life. What does the Church have to say to those like me?

Offline William T

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That you don't deal with the craziness of marriage or monasticism and have to deal with the craziness of not being married or monastic.

Offline biro

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So, nothing.
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Offline Volnutt

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1 Corinthians 7 talks about how the unmarried are freer to devote themselves to God. Given that monasticism in its modern form didn't exist in the first century, it seems pretty clear to me that there was an informal version of consecrated virginity.
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For some elite men in Byzantium lifelong bachelorhood seemed to be a respectable option. Photios was in his late 40’s before he was ordained and raised to Patriarch.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 07:44:02 AM by Iconodule »
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Offline Hinterlander

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You have the freedom to volunteer around your parish and wider community.

Also, what is your job? You could take on a profession that might pay less but be of more direct service to people.

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Single and happy!

I didn't "plan" on ending up single and childless...but...that's how it panned out for me.

Other than a few odd days when I allow loneliness to infiltrate my being, I am truly blessed, happy and busy.

I am able to volunteer not only at my local parish, the greater Church family, local Orthodox churches, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc.  I am also able to pursue my hobbies.  Nobody awaits me at home...so, if I linger longer over a project....nobody is missing me, or not fed because I am not there, etc.

I am able to devote time and energy to endeavors other than spouse and family.

It is all what YOU choose to do with YOUR life.  I know some miserable singles...and I know some very happy ones.
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Offline Dominika

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This may be a bit of hangover from the Roman Catholic ideas on vocation I grew up with; but I've come to the point in my life where I've given up the idea of marriage but am also too old for monasticism (30 is cutoff in my church's tradition...

Wow, really? Isn't it against stroies like st. Moses the Black?
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Offline Nicholas_83

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Dominika:
Well. I keep hearing and reading this number. I suppose there may be exceptions. I never talked to my father of confession about it as I simply assumed this was correct

Offline Sharbel

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First off, cut off ages are not hard limits, especially if you're still in the ballpark.  So, do not let this stop you from looking further into monasticism and contacting monasteries to discern your commitments.

On the other hand, as others have mentioned, the freedom to not have a time to be back home and to to answer a distress call from a friend at the drop of the hat allows you to give more of your time to others. I'm sure that it would bring you happiness to serve others in the many ways suggested throughout this thread.
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Offline Porter ODoran

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The Christian life is applicable to all, in my analysis. Specifically, as others have implied, be busy, be brotherly. Don't fail to build friendships, even with families, and to have plenty of work and activity to do with others -- loneliness is death.
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Offline Iconodule

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In the introduction to his translation of Saint Ephrem's "Hymns on Paradise," Sebastian Brock talks about two forms of celibate life that were fairly common in Saint Ephrem's region and in other Christian communities, before Egyptian-style monasticism spread there. One was the ihidaya (the same word could mean solitary, only-begotten, and other related words) which was a single man or woman living alone though not cut off from the community. I guess this is more-or-less what Saint Paul has in mind in the first letter to the Corinthians. The other was the qaddishe which was married couples who voluntarily renounced marital intercourse. Neither category would be considered monks really, as they generally remained involved in the community. Saint Ephrem himself was an ihidaya, though he is often anachronistically portrayed as a monk. As such he was zealously involved in public service.
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Offline MariaJLM

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I've often wondered about this myself. I think I do feel the call to monasticism, but in the case that I don't end up doing that I know marriage isn't exactly an option either. Through some exploration I have discovered there's other options, fortunately. You could do missionary work. That could be anything from engaging with local troubled folks to interacting with orphans. My particular jurisdiction does plenty of work for Ukrainian orphanages.

Essentially, as Christians we are called to serve the needy. Doing it as an unmarried person could actually be beneficial imo. While married people channel most of their energy into raising their families, unmarried people obviously have to channel it elsewhere? Why not channel it in serving humanity in a compassionate Christ-like manner?

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Essentially, as Christians we are called to serve the needy. Doing it as an unmarried person could actually be beneficial imo. While married people channel most of their energy into raising their families, unmarried people obviously have to channel it elsewhere? Why not channel it in serving humanity in a compassionate Christ-like manner?

I can make a pickup line out of this... ;)

Hey there are single folks that are in need of love from another, that's Christianly no? ;D
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Essentially, as Christians we are called to serve the needy. Doing it as an unmarried person could actually be beneficial imo. While married people channel most of their energy into raising their families, unmarried people obviously have to channel it elsewhere? Why not channel it in serving humanity in a compassionate Christ-like manner?

I can make a pickup line out of this... ;)

Hey there are single folks that are in need of love from another, that's Christianly no? ;D

I need love, RobS. 

Offline Alpha60

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Essentially, as Christians we are called to serve the needy. Doing it as an unmarried person could actually be beneficial imo. While married people channel most of their energy into raising their families, unmarried people obviously have to channel it elsewhere? Why not channel it in serving humanity in a compassionate Christ-like manner?

I can make a pickup line out of this... ;)

Hey there are single folks that are in need of love from another, that's Christianly no? ;D

It actually is, although matrimonial love, and love for strangers are I think equally legitimate variations on the same divine principle.  I love love and I love that there are different forms of love.  :)
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Offline ComingofAge

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This may be a bit of hangover from the Roman Catholic ideas on vocation I grew up with; but I've come to the point in my life where I've given up the idea of marriage but am also too old for monasticism (30 is cutoff in my church's tradition... I considered it seriously in my twenties but other factors sidetracked that)... I admit to some serious anxiety about purpose in my life. What does the Church have to say to those like me?

Brother Nicholas,

I am right there with you! Although right now I am still dating, but I feel like I am on the verge of giving up. This is not because I fear I will be unsuccessful but because I feel like my heart is elsewhere. I am still considering the monastic life as well, but right now I am somewhere stuck in between the two and I've been here for awhile now. This "middle way" that I have found myself in has led me to have the same question as you. "What does the Church have to say of this?" Well, I found this interesting article from Ancient Faith that you might find helpful:

Generally speaking, there are two ways of life in the Orthodox Church that are considered to be blessed: marriage and monasticism. The two of them are often considered to be opposite extremes, but they do have a great deal in common. Both involve life within a community, either the marital community, the family, or the monastic community; both involve a sacrifice of the will, obedience to others; and both are paths to holiness, and indeed both are callings. Unfortunately there is a tendency to think only of the latter, of monasticism, as a calling, a special vocation, while marriage is considered to be simply to be a normal or default position.

But of the two, marriage and monasticism, marriage is the one that is most frequently referred to and considered as a sacrament. In other words, the purpose of marriage is to lead us into union with Christ. Through loving obedience, through a sacrifice of the will, through patience, through learning to love as Christ loved us, we are able to attain holiness and sanctity.

There is, however, a middle way, which is not considered as popular in the Church and has not been for centuries, which is celibacy outside of the monastic life. This is greatly frowned upon by many Orthodox Christians. This is very unfortunate, because in the early Church this was considered to be also a blessed way of life, and there are many cases, many examples of saints who were called to this particular way of life. St. Paul the Apostle is an obvious example; St. Haralambos the priest-martyr. These were not monks, per se, but they were celibate. Virginity or celibacy was considered to be an exalted calling. It was greatly encouraged if one was so inclined.

-By Fr. Vassilios


So far, for me, this "middle way" has been very successful. I am closer to God than I have ever been and I am never distracted and never lose sight of Him. However, it is His Will that must be done, so I am still open to the idea of marriage or monasticism in case the Lord directs me towards either of those two paths. But the beautiful thing is that I don't feel like I am not fulfilling my calling or something like that because I am always very close to the Lord, even on this path. I pray that maybe this will give you some hope.

In Christ,
ComingofAge


Dear ComingofAge, such long quotations are not allowed. Moreover, you have not linked the article nor given the precise source. Please, remember about the Forum Rules in the future posting there.
Dominika, Global Moderator
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 01:09:36 PM by Dominika »
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Offline biro

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I have lost most of my spiritual joy. Never experienced it very frequently anyway.

By the way, if you do still have it, ComingofAge, more power to you. Don't let me cramp your style.

It's strange to think that most of what I have to look forward to for the other 40-50 years of my life, is work. That has its place, but it isn't everything. Oh, and going to the shrink. I have increased my medicine, and it helps a little, but the sense of never having what other people have, never goes away. The Bible tells us that coveting is a sin. There are *two* Commandments against it. I can't help it. I can't stop. Everyone, married or not, seems to be happier than I am.

I know full well, I've heard it a million times, that marriage has its difficulties, and many fail. It's a lot of work. True. I know! But if what I have now is not satisfactory - and I've been celibate for 14 years - then what else is there?

Even today, not every marriage is bad and not every one ends up in divorce. My great-grandparents were married 61 years, until great-grandpa died. My grandparents were married 55 years, until grandpa died. My aunt and uncle have been married 40 years. My Mom and Dad will have their 49th anniversary this February. Two couples I know from church just had, respectively, a 55th anniversary and a 50th anniversary.

I'm Orthodox, so I'd like to save sex for marriage. Let me be frank here. Not to shock, but most people, in a dating relationship today, won't put up with that. Most men will give up on a woman pretty quickly if she says that. Not trying to be mean, but it's true. (In case anybody doesn't know this, for purposes of explanation, I'm a heterosexual female.)

I have desires, like any other person. I don't have time or the ability to move to a monastery. That would be a disaster for me and anyone around me.

I can't just "stop thinking about it." Doesn't work that way. I can't just go get drunk every day. That's unhealthy. Self-abuse and sex outside of marriage are considered sins. I don't want to sin.

Most places that allow volunteering aren't open on the weekends. I have to work, so I can't go there during the week. That leaves me... nothing.

In my country, there are a lot of people like me.

What do I do?

If this post was offensive to anybody, I am sorry. I just had to get some things off my chest.
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Offline ComingofAge

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I have lost most of my spiritual joy. Never experienced it very frequently anyway.

By the way, if you do still have it, ComingofAge, more power to you. Don't let me cramp your style.

It's strange to think that most of what I have to look forward to for the other 40-50 years of my life, is work. That has its place, but it isn't everything. Oh, and going to the shrink. I have increased my medicine, and it helps a little, but the sense of never having what other people have, never goes away. The Bible tells us that coveting is a sin. There are *two* Commandments against it. I can't help it. I can't stop. Everyone, married or not, seems to be happier than I am.

I know full well, I've heard it a million times, that marriage has its difficulties, and many fail. It's a lot of work. True. I know! But if what I have now is not satisfactory - and I've been celibate for 14 years - then what else is there?

Even today, not every marriage is bad and not every one ends up in divorce. My great-grandparents were married 61 years, until great-grandpa died. My grandparents were married 55 years, until grandpa died. My aunt and uncle have been married 40 years. My Mom and Dad will have their 49th anniversary this February. Two couples I know from church just had, respectively, a 55th anniversary and a 50th anniversary.

I'm Orthodox, so I'd like to save sex for marriage. Let me be frank here. Not to shock, but most people, in a dating relationship today, won't put up with that. Most men will give up on a woman pretty quickly if she says that. Not trying to be mean, but it's true. (In case anybody doesn't know this, for purposes of explanation, I'm a heterosexual female.)

I have desires, like any other person. I don't have time or the ability to move to a monastery. That would be a disaster for me and anyone around me.

I can't just "stop thinking about it." Doesn't work that way. I can't just go get drunk every day. That's unhealthy. Self-abuse and sex outside of marriage are considered sins. I don't want to sin.

Most places that allow volunteering aren't open on the weekends. I have to work, so I can't go there during the week. That leaves me... nothing.

In my country, there are a lot of people like me.

What do I do?

If this post was offensive to anybody, I am sorry. I just had to get some things off my chest.

Of course I still have my spiritual joy, it only grows stronger as time passes! We don't ever have to lose that! Praise the Lord!!!!!

I am so very sorry to hear of your struggles. I will pray for you. You say being a heterosexual female that most men will not put up with no premarital sex and you are right because as a heterosexual male myself, it is the same for the women I encounter!!! I know that I, being Orthodox, don't want to go there either and this turns some women off too! But I still try. I have always told myself that I would never give up no matter what, even if I felt terrible. And there have been many times where I have felt utterly horrible, but I always stand firm and I always come out the victor by God's grace alone.

Anyway, I understand where you are coming from, life is hard and it sounds like you may have some medical issues which make it harder for you and I am sorry to hear that... but don't give up! We just have to find the right people, not all of them are bad. There are many men out there who are like you (I am one of them by the way, not saying we should date necessarily but hey just saying I am Orthodox too and I hold the same values you do) so keep the faith, keep searching. I also have many Orthodox friends who are just like me, so I know they are out there. Are you actively seeking anyone? We must make an effort to find the right person, they won't just show up on our doorstep, as nice as that would be! It's okay, I have been sad about being single at times too, but the difference is I am actively seeking women, and going on dates when I can. This at least keeps me motivated and keeps me feeling like I am wanted, even though the "right" one has not appeared just yet.

Also, how is your prayer life? Are you fervently praying for your enemies? If not, then the grace of God may have left you. I am sorry, I am not the one to judge or discern this, but this is just my experience. We must always be praying for others, especially enemies, if not then we lose grace.

Are you praying morning and evening, listening to Godly music all the time and praising and thanking the glorious Lord for all He has given? Are you keeping constant remembrance of Him and all that He has done for us? One must feel the utmost gratitude and joy at these thoughts alone!!! Are you reading spiritual books? Are you hanging out with Orthodox friends? Are you involved at church, not just attending but actually sacrificing yourself in some way for the greater whole? Are you speaking truth into others' lives? Are you helping a friend or enemy in need? If we are not doing these things all the time then we become very selfish, isolated and depressed. We have to die to ourselves in order to gain life. I find that this "middle way" I speak of is the perfect place for me to do this. Since I am not tied up in a relationship right now (even though I still want one one day) I am able to spend more time becoming all things to all men, just like St. Paul says.

How long is your workday? If it is only 8 hours then surely you still have time on weekdays to get out and volunteer or help others in some way. What country are you in if you don't mind me asking? Here in the USA, there are always opportunities to help others, even if it is not volunteering at an official place you can still help in many other ways. Just remember that if we only focus on ourselves and not our fellow men and not on praising the Lord in glory every single day and not on constant prayer, then we will lose the spiritual joy and we will lose grace. Again, this is just my experience, I am just a laymen with sinful ideas, but I hope to sacrifice myself for another if I can.

I have found that the only way to live is for me to surrender 100% and not try to control or manipulate anything according to my own plan because if I do that then I fail miserably. At first I thought dying to self was a bad idea, but I decided to try it because everything else never worked. I tried it and the Lord's grace descended and I felt His Holy Spirit and the joy continues to strengthen every day! Again, we die to ourselves in order to gain...but we never do this in a selfish way but always remain completely and entirely humble, remembering that we are always the worst of sinners. This seems a daunting task at first, but God gives us the strength. To die is to gain, so die today! There is no reason for waiting any longer. If you have no joy, then you haven't died yet.
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Offline biro

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Thank you very much. Some good advice. I will try to adapt.
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Offline Ainnir

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((biro))  I pray you find comfort and connection.


Is any of the above Orthodox?  I have no clue, so there's that.

Offline scamandrius

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I once attended a PLC many years ago where a talk was given by an unmarried priest who argued that there simply needs to be a "third way."  Not all are called to marriage and those who aren't does not mean they are called to monasticism.  We have to get away from this either...or option which is not an abandonment of Orthodox theology but an acknowledgement that the world we live in offers new opportunities and new temptations that had not been considered before. 

There are many ways to be single and serve God faithfully as both marriage and monasticism are both ways to serve God through different means.  Some of those ways have already been suggested here.  I'm sure that there are ministries at your church that could benefit from your activity in them.  But, above all, IMHO, I think this is an excellent opportunity for you to set an example as a faithful church goer.  Go to all (or as many as you possibly can) the services your church offers, whether Divine Liturgy, Vespers, Orthros or anything else. 

BTW, I'm not sure about the rule of 30 being the cutoff for novices.  You could use this as a time to visit a monastery for a long period of time.

Good luck to you and your discernment.
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Offline biro

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((biro))  I pray you find comfort and connection.

Thank you.
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