Sexual Ethics and Pastoral Care

Blessed Christopher, called Christesia

Blessed Christopher, called Christesia

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Savior Jesus Christ,

By Father John Anthony McGuckin [Source: The Orthodox Church. An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture]

Orthodoxy understands sexuality to be a God-given power that develops and deepens human communion by spiritual and physical love, and the mutual opening out to the other that intimacy fosters. The sexual drive of attraction to intimacy naturally moves in a more complex cycle, as a process of mutating that communion of two persons outwards from spiritual union, to biological diversification, the 'openness' to new life that develops the double bond of the lovers into the extended bond of a new family. For these reasons, and representing both aspects in its dimension (communion and creativity), human sexuality is understood by Orthodoxy to be God-blessed when it is within the context of deep mutual love and open to the transmission of new life. In other words the Church understands human sexuality to be raised to the standard of divine blessing in the context of marriage. Sexual love is given by God to the world as a Creation blessing. It is something beyond and outside the Church of Christ; but the Orthodox understand it in a new ay, for it is a universal blessing on the race which has been taken a new and wonderful level by the grace of Christ that fulfilled its ancient aspirations for communion, and refashioned it as one of the ways that the saints have to discover spiritual communion. This is the blessing that is spoken of and celebrated in the Orthodox Church's wonderfully joyous wedding service. It is this fire of love that the Orthodox Church looks to with wonderment as a standard of sanctification for the majority of its believers on earth...For most Christians, however, the natural sexual drives lead a person through growing experience of maturation, and ever-growing complexity of patterns of external relationship: from the self-referential desires for satisfaction of infantilism, through the years of learning to be aware of the needs of others in adolescence, to the growing conceptualization of the fulfillment of self-identity in communion with another in emotional and spiritual maturity. The sexual drive naturally propels human beings along this spiritual path of ascent. It is, however, a very powerful drive, and can as easily propel the human experience into addictive and unhappy behaviors as it can lead it to the transcendent fulfillment of love.

One of the common lies of the modern era is that everyone everywhere is having glorious sexual experiences devoid of the last vestiges of Christian sex-hating Puritanism. Almost any magazine sells this illusion of sex. Statistics show a more worrying side of the reality, however: that male fertility in the species has been steadily declining by large percentages over the last fifty years. We may think this is not so significant, given the fears we have of a world-population explosion, but it is important to remember that humans, like gorillas, pandas, and elephants, are a species that has relatively great difficulty in reproduction, and a small imbalance in fertility rates can lead to precipitately bad results very quickly. At a time when the media suggest sexual liberation has brought unrestricted sexual freedoms and happiness, the reality is that the sexual life is a source of deep unease for many human beings. For many it has become a life-threatening terror. For many others, caught up in the commercial exploitation of our insatiable human curiosity, it has led to lives blighted by exploitation.

The reason sexuality can become a problem (that is, become a source of dissonance within the human being rather than a force of joy and wholeness) is that humans are meant to experience sexuality in a way very different from any other animal on the face of the earth. Human sexuality begins in the procreative process common to all biological species, but ends (because humankind is the image of God) in a mystery of love and spiritual fulfillment. If sexuality is divorced from the rhythms inherent in this spiritual path it does not offer a road of blissful enjoyment of pleasure; on the contrary it offers a stony track to dissatisfaction and alienation from the roots of our being. The problem is, of course, that it is an urgent loud voice sounding in one's ears after the age of puberty, and in contemporary society where unethical media are often the most available voices of guidance, it is now often the case that young men and women first learn about sexual identity from the least qualified, most dubious, sources. The fundamental spiritual law in Christ's Church, relating to any approach to sexuality, is that the believer (Christian) allows the Lord to enter in and transfigure the sexual power, from being merely an innate biological drive into becoming a vehicle for love, and ultimately a vehicle for spiritual communion.

The learning involved is sexual ethics is a learning that is truly embodied. One needs a context: supportive and wise voices, and powerful role models. In an age such as this, and in an ecclesiastical environment where the topic is too often avoided like a taboo, it is difficult to find a context where human development can be properly and powerfully harmonized with the path of spiritual development; where sexual joy and chastity can be discussed s two concomitant spiritual powers that need harmony in any balanced life, let alone the higher mysteries of the Christ-life. This call to give guidance is one of the highest 'priestly' tasks of the married couple in the family home. This important educational process in ways of living is a testament to the spiritual maturity and common love of Christians living together. It is a process that cannot be left to school or state, or adolescent peer groups. The Orthodox Church, knowing how significant it is to learn, and re-learn, sexual ethics as one grows and changes life condition, encourages all the faithful to have a spiritual guide, A Starets or starissa (geronda or gerondisa), or at least a priestly confessor, who can be relied on to be a wise and safe guide. Parents should be involved in helping the young to choose such as spiritual counselor carefully, one who will often be a mature Christian of their own gender, since the role of spiritual father or mother is not restricted to the clergy. The guide can offer a powerful support and encouraging counsel for matters that the adolescent believer may not wish to discuss with their parents. These soul-guides, as the ancient Irish Church used to call them, are very important resources for the Orthodox Christians of all ages as they navigate the realities of their ethical lives, especially in matters relating to sexual behavior.

(To be continued)

Please note: It extremely important for all Orthodox Christians to follow the guidance of our Holy Church rather than the corrupt and unethical media or the decadent world and society. People finally realize the power that the secular world has over us and how we are indoctrinated and brainwashed by it. We must protect our children from it and turn to our Christian Church, our Christian values, Christian ethics and morality, to Our All-Holy Creator for inspiration and guidance.

We have all given too much trust to the secular and unbelieving world that we live in. We have, tragically, entrusted our corrupt society to raise our children. We have allowed this unethical secular world to enter into our homes and lives. As Orthodox Christians we can trust only one person, the God-man, Christ our God and Savior and no one else! All Christian children must be raised within the church and her protection. When an Orthodox Christian baptizes their child, the child after he or she has been chrismated becomes immediately a full member of the body of Christ, the Church. He or she, who is baptized and chrismated, has all the rights of an Orthodox Christian believer. As a full member of the Church, following the sacrament he or she is immediately given Holy Communion.

However, Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation is the beginning of a life-long commitment to Christ. The Christian parents and godparents are expected to raise the child within Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church. Baptism should not become an isolated spiritual experience. The child can only mature spiritually by the grace of the Holy Spirit within the Church that Jesus established, and not in a pagan-like society.

What we are all witnessing today, is contrary to the precepts and values, of Our Christian faith. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us: "No servant can serve two masters; for either we will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (St. Luke 16:13). Ultimately loyalty cannot be divided. Life is devoted either to God first or the world first, not both. Our loyalty as Christian disciples is to the Son of God, our redeemer and only master.





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


With sincere agape In Christ's Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George