Understanding Homosexuality: An Orthodox Perspective (Part II)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY: AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE (Part II)
[Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America]
by Father George Morelli

Instruments of Creation

Because the sexual dimension of male and female intercommunion has a physical component, the male and female sexual organs are also part of God's creativity and thus subject to a higher understanding of the nature and purpose of man outlined in book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The sexual organs of the male and female function complementarily, although the term "function" here means more than an anatomical symmetry. From the Orthodox Christian perspective, the term has a moral dimension that elevates the anatomical function to the higher purpose of God. Pleasure is certainly an important and blessed part of sexual union. Yet, sexual union exists for more than pleasure. Other aspects exist including the procreation of the human race, greater knowledge of and commitment towards the spouse, and others.

Indeed, the body is the vessel through which salvation is appropriate and experienced. Take for example the "overshadowing of the Holy Spirit" on Mary (Mother of God) that made possible the conception and birth of Christ. Jesus was nurtured in the womb of Mary and entered the world through the birth canal just as most people do. Here we see the anatomical dimension - a human body created of matter - functioning in a holy way, i.e., the birth of the Son of God into the world.

Properly understood, the sexual dimension of life replicates the creative work of God in the world. In our day, this awareness is dim. Man is defined by his sexual desires, rather than his aspirations to channel and regulate those desires into the moral structures by which stable and enduring relationships are created and nurtured, and through which the purpose of God can be accomplished.

How, then, are we to understand sexual relationship in the proper moral terms? It starts with the example of Christ's love for mankind. Jesus Christ is the full and complete expression of the love of the Father for His creation. Christ came in order to restore the ruptured communion for which man was created to share with God; a restoration that required that the death caused by Adam's sin to be overthrown. It was a sacrifice of the first order since Christ was not under the same penalty of death as Adam and all mankind because He never sinned. The sentence of death was not upon Him, thus His entry into death was completely voluntary.

Christ's love was selfless. Saint Paul taught that such selflessness must also exist in marriage. Spousal love is a self-emptying love that models the exhortation of Christ: "For whoever was to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it" (St. Matthew 16:25). He refined this exhortation to conclude that marriage replicates the relationship between Christ and the Church: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25).

For Orthodox Christians heterosexual marriage then, is the only proper social context for sexual relationships because: 1) marriage is the only place where the self-emptying love necessary for creative communion between male and female can take place: and 2) marriage is the only union capable of creating new life. Marriage in this context is more than a sociological arrangement. Rather, it is sacramental in context and thereby partakes in some measure of God Himself.

Any type of sexual activity that is not based on self-giving, self-emptying, committed and creative love is impure and will inevitably become self-centered (and often manipulative and degrading) and thus impure. Love always has as its center the good and welfare of the other.

In this context Saint Paul wrote: "the body is not meant for immortality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." As God's love is not casual, crude, rude and self-centered; so too, sexual love should not be this way. As God's love is giving, emptying and creative, so too, should sexual love be. Each person has to live a spiritual life in love and devotion (Hopko, 1976). This leads to a sexual life whole and pure and pleasing to God. If sexual union is to be Godlike, it is to be blessed and sanctified in marriage.

Blessed Marriage

The Orthodox Church views marriage as a process with stages. The spiritual direction of couples that are planning to marry takes into account these stages with the goal of improving the marital relationship. Orthodox thinker Oliver Clement states that details as to when the creative act of procreation will take place are the responsibility of the couple but the Scriptures, moral tradition and teaching of the Fathers are clear that sexual union is a creative act in which the Biblical mandate that the "two shall become one flash" is fulfilled (Clement, 1985).

Further, being open to having a child is essential in Orthodox marriage. For Clement it is even more necessary in modern times "to emphasize the importance and mystery of the child, the conscious act of faith that now constitutes the bringing to birth, biologically and spiritually, of this strange guest of the couple." Father Thomas Hopko wrote: "True love in marriage supposes the bearing of children" (Hopko, 1976). Children are the natural fruit of the love of a blessed conjugal union. This end is impossible in autoeroticism, casual heterosexual union, and homosexual union.

Justifying a Homosexual Lifestyle: Secularism

Secularization is a direct attack on what has been passed down by Christ to His Church. According to Saint Paul, Christians are to put on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:6). Saint Paul's exhortation is fundamental to Christian moral awareness, codified in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, which draws from the uniquely Apostolic proclamation that God is love.

Throughout the centuries, these Apostolic teachings were believed and lived. A Tradition emerged centered around and drew from this Apostolic message that has come to be known as "the mind of the Church". This phrase implicitly asserts the authoritative character of Holy Tradition in questions of faith and morals. Secularism on the other hand, subjects the Tradition to foreign criteria drawn from and inextricably bound to the assumptions that shape modern culture, thereby undermining the authority of Holy Tradition, secularism, in other words, is a break from the past.

A way of concealing this attack on the Church is to base it on human rights principles that are fundamental to modern society. A good example is the universal declaration of human rights adopted the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A of 10 December 1948. The first sentence of Article 2 states: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." On the surface these principles seem unassailable. However, what happens when moral license is defined as a right? What happens when appetites rather than reason reign? Sentimental love and fairness now replace the self-emptying and creative love revealed to us by the Holy Trinity.

_____________________________

"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

+++

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George