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Author Topic: Orthodoxy and sex!  (Read 3919 times) Average Rating: 0
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The young fogey
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« on: October 15, 2002, 09:47:32 AM »

I'm sure that subject heading got your attention!

Justin summed up St John Chrysostom thus:

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However, for Chrysostom the main two points of relations between couples was 1. producing children, and 2. preventing lust.

All true ù but how cold and one-sided! How negative! As if the only positive aspect of sex was baby-making! What about the naturally infertile? What about the post-menopausal? The procreative aspect is temporal, but the unitive aspect is universal.

Some may call me a modernist for this, which is OK since I know and God knows I'm not, and some may think I sound adolescent and sappy here, and that's OK too, but what about love, the unitive, relationship-cementing aspect of it?

Don't get me wrong - dodging the obvious procreative purpose of it is one of the Big Lies of modernity. (The contraceptive mentality that is part of the Culture of Death.) But I hope you all see my point too.
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Dmitri Rostovski
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2002, 09:59:08 AM »

But isn't the only purpose for sex baby-making?  Other than that, no offense, but what good does it really do?  Wasn't the pleasure factor God's way of encouraging procreation?  If so, isn't to use it otherwise an offense to His creation?  Or, am I being to zealous?  Probably...

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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2002, 10:06:59 AM »

Other than that, no offense, but what good does it really do?  

Don't knock it till you try it...and I'm not speaking from personal experience.   Smiley
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The young fogey
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2002, 10:07:00 AM »

According to your logic, Dmitri - and there is a logic to what you wrote - sterile and post-menopause-age couples mustn't have sex, which AFAIK is not what the Church teaches, so what I wrote stands.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2002, 12:29:21 PM »

Serge, I wrote a post, not a 3-volume study Wink  The material on Chrysostom in my post was meant as a counter to the normal literature printed today about Chrysostom which is of the opposite extreme, and makes Chrysostom sound like a 21st century American who is pro-contraception, pro-have-sex-whenever-you-want-we-won't ask-about-it, and a number of other things. I agree that Chrysostom makes exceptions for couples who might not be the typical case, e.g., infertile, older couples, etc., (and the canons never disallowed sex in such cases, even for Priests, as far as I know) and I agree that my post sounded cold by modern standards. It certainly wasn't John Mack! Smiley  (nothing meant against Father John, I enjoy his writing and he's willing to talk online as well, but he's certainly less "cold"). I also agree with the idea that love is a unitive force; but within the scope of love, sex is but one aspect (maybe 5%). It's hard arguing persuasively that Chrysostom put as high a value as we do on sexual relations uniting a couple as an experience in itself, I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't find more than 1 or 2 other Fathers who'd even come close to that. We need to be careful what we say on this issue, because while I agree in principle, the Fathers seemed to not say much on it. We need to figure out why that was.

Justin

PS. Serge, do you realise when you called what I said "negative" you also labeled 75% or more of the early Fathers as "negative? Wink

PSS. If I would have written more, I'm sure I wouldn't have sounded so "negative"... if only to avoid my fiancee being royally mad at me, hehe.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2002, 12:33:14 PM by Paradosis » Logged
The young fogey
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2002, 12:40:42 PM »

OK, Justin, I understand what you're getting at. Too often modern Orthodox writers and speakers in America try to appear 'with it' by being indistinguishable from liberal Protestantism on this issue (contraception), which makes another thread's assertion that secularized Greek-Americans are keen on union with Rome particularly laughable, considering Rome's holding the patristic view on the issue.

P.S. I never said your Chrysostom summary or the Fathers you claim to represent were wrong per se. Just 'negative' and 'one-sided', which is legit criticism that is still orthodox. Even the Fathers weren't perfect. Only the Church as such is infallible.
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2002, 12:03:05 AM »

Dear In Christ,

Being quite busy myself, I haven't had time to read through all the posts.  I'd like to comment to Dmitri directly though.

Friend, sex is wonderful and not just for the physical sensation.  It brings people together in a way that is just not possible by other means.  When my wife and I are mad and we make up and one thing leads to another, I am amazed at how sex restores a balance in a relationship.  It is a healthy way to recreate and restore a bond.  Chemicals go to work in the brain, etc.

I don't think sex should be separated from openness to procreation, but I don't think that one should suggest that there is nothing good about sex.

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2002, 12:11:23 AM »

The notion that sex is only/entirely for procreation is one of the downfalls of the Scholastic system of Philosophy.

Being well educated in St. Thomas Aquinas, his writings, especially his summa, I can tell you that he views sex, and other relations in a very extremely uber-conservative aspect.

Of course, once one examines the scholastic system, one realizes why St. Thomas proposed such limits on sex.


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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2002, 12:48:52 AM »

I apologize for the one-sidedness of my posts. Certainly there is more to be thought of than what I said, and my posts were misleading.  Smiley
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Dmitri Rostovski
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2002, 09:48:10 AM »

Oh, please don't misunderstand me.   I fully recognize the benefits of the sexual bond within Marriage and the restorative properties it can have, but is it necessary?  Or, is it a physical maifestation of tension release therefor a misuse of its purpose?  I don't feel that St. Thomas Aquinas can be blamed for all of this idea either.  St. Gregory of Sinai for instance writes that passions lead to distraction from Theosis.   Since even in marriage we are to seek the Divine, might sexual behavior outside of procreation lead us to this distraction?

Of course, St. Gregory was a monk.  Perhaps I've been reading the Philokalia too much.  Just some thoughts...

Dmitri

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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2002, 12:48:04 PM »

I think a disctinction needs to be made between what monastics sometimes say, and what secular Fathers say. The monks are usually talking about leading the perfect, perfectly christocentric, life, and not things being "good" and "bad" in the way we would think of "good" and "bad". To a monastic, anything that takes away your mind from the contemplation of (or interaction with) God is a lesser good. Marriage itself then, according to some Fathers, is "despised" by Virgins and Monks. Why? Not because it is sinful in itself (numerous Church canons condemn the belief that marriage is sinful), but just because it is a lesser good. Monasticism and virginity are the higher callings, and as Saint Paul points out, allow us to fully focus on God, while in marriage we have a responsibility to worry about earthly affairs. In that way, monks can speak of many things as being things to avoid, while the same things aren't necessarily avoided by those of us living in the world.

I think you're correct, Dmitri, in saying that Aquinas wasn't the first (though I don't think that was what Bobby meant? Smiley )  The west in general has always taken a darker view of sexual intercourse. It was those in the west, for instance, that had the first council to instruct clergy to be celibate, and the first to propose Church-wide celibacy at an Ecumenical Council (the first Ecumenical Council -- ironically, clerical marriage was defended by the monk Paphnutius). Later, during Photius' time, when western and eastern Priests were arguing over jurisdiction in Bulgaria, one of the major charges against the eastern Priests were that they--horror of horrors!--had wives! They hoped that the celibacy of the western Priests in Bulgaria was seen to be a sign of their moral and doctrinal purity. And of course, it later became a mandatory practice for those in the Roman Rite (proper term?). Many early Fathers were--by modern American standards--closed minded, but the general thought on this issue in the west seems to have come from Augustine (Didn't Thomas Aquinas say that he wanted to be know as an Augustinian? I seem to recall that somewhere). In the east, for instance, pleasure experienced during sex wasn't considered a sin unless it was sexual conduct motivated by lust. In other words, it wasn't wrong to enjoy it if you were following the Church's guidelines. In the west this view of enjoying sex--even in a "correct" context--wasn't always approved of. Just some thoughts from what I've read; If I'm wrong on something someone please correct me!


PS. I don't mean to be attacking "the west" here in general, as is sometimes the case in Orthodox polemics, where it seems like "the west" in its entirety is worthless. I'm only trying to explain how I see things regarding this particular issue. Were we talking about christological controversies in the 6th century, I would perhaps be speaking against "the east" collectively Wink
« Last Edit: October 16, 2002, 12:53:31 PM by Paradosis » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2002, 04:59:03 AM »

I'd like to contribute to this discussion as well.

I should state that I am a married woman and perhaps my viewpoint can be regarded as being biased.

Sex in marriage is not just about procreation, or lust, or the relieving of tensions.   It is a gift from God!  It can be a way of saying I love you, I am here for you, I know that you're going through a bad time  and I love you, all the world might turn against you but, in my eyes, you are superior to the whole world, you are in pain and this is my way of easing your pain, etc. etc.  The above apply to both the husband and the wife of course.

I sincerely hope that the above doesn't sound too emotional but sex in marriage is all of the above and a thousand things more.

And what happens when sex is not possible for either partner?   It doesn't matter - there are limitless ways to show your partner that he is loved.

We are human beings and sex is part of being human.

If we decide to follow another path, for example, that of  monasticism then that path will not include sex.   Celibacy will help us to attain that which we seek.    Either way is right - it depends on which path you have chosen to follow.

 Effie
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The young fogey
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2002, 08:15:57 AM »

Effie,

Yours and Dustin's are the best postings I've read on the subject, by far. Both from people who are married and speak from experience.
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2002, 06:44:13 PM »

No need for me to express my complete agreement with these sentiments.

Sex in its proper context is no doubt a sublime experience, and the imagery of matrimony that the Scriptures is replete with is used for no less a purpose than to describe agape itself, and God's love for the Church.

In IC XC
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