Is there sex in Orthodoxy?
Let’s go straight to the sources. Namely , to the church calendar, which regulates the life of an Orthodox Christian to household details: for example, when food with vegetable oil is allowed in fasting, and when not. But we are interested in something else: when “it is possible”, and when “no.” I hope you’ve guessed what this is about?
So, “it is impossible” during fasting, on Wednesday and Friday, on the eve of the twelfth, temple and great holidays, Sundays and Christmas time. After simple calculations, it turns out that for sexual intercourse – mind you, only married spouses and only for the purpose of childbearing – it is allowed in 2011 about 116 days. If we assume that it is not always desirable to have sex these days or if there is no opportunity for this, then it turns out that with sex in Orthodoxy is a big trouble.
But what about unmarried spouses and just people with normal reproductive ability or married spouses who just “want to”? There is only one thing left – to repent of the sin of fornication and suffer about it. Moreover, the prodigal thought itself, that is, the thought on the topic of sex, is considered a sin. As a priest who has served twenty years in the church, I can inform the reader that a significant part of the parishioners do not pay attention to these prohibitions and repent of the fornication sin formally. And if at the same time they experience spiritual discomfort, then only from their own hypocrisy and the absurdity of the situation – repentance to the priest in obtaining natural pleasure.
But most of the Orthodox, under the influence of the church, perceive their own sexuality as the greatest sin and are desperately fighting it. As a rule, sexuality wins in this struggle – nature is still stronger than abuse against it. The result of losing in this struggle is a person’s neuroticism with a gradual transition to a possible psychopathy.
What do we find on the relationship of Orthodoxy to sexuality in church sources? A very expressive prayer “The Rule of Defilement”. It is read when “it happens to someone to get used to in a dream,” that is, to experience an orgasm during sleep. In this “Rule” the prayer asks the Lord to rid him of sexuality, which is called “feces and bad bodily”, the body that has experienced an orgasm is considered unclean, leprosy and enveloped in an ulcer. The psychological consequences of such a prayer practice are obvious: a deep internal conflict, the alienation of the body with its natural needs and, as a result , the neurotization of human life.
As an illustration of the church’s negative attitude to the physicality and sexuality of a person, one can cite the church’s prohibition on a woman entering the church during menstruation. True, now in some parishes this prohibition applies only to participation in the sacraments. At the same time, a general negative attitude towards physicality and sexuality persists. From a psychological point of view, perhaps in this prohibition the fear of the church consciousness of the natural feminine nature, living by its own laws, is manifested.
And now the lives of the saints. Most of the saints, glorified by the church, performed a spiritual feat – acquired virtues and fought with passions. One of the most important achievements was the victory over prodigal passion, that is, over one’s own sexuality. Rev. John Climacus (7th century) wrote about the spiritual edification of the monks under his care (7th century): “… I appointed [them] to go through a silent life, as an opposition to fornication and the stench of carnal impurity, so that they would not miserably turn from intelligent creatures into wordless animals” ( “Ladder”, 8−18). This is an example of a typical monastic attitude towards sexuality. A literary example of such an attitude to one’s own sexuality is well known from L. Tolstoy’s novel “Father Sergius”.
Of the many — if not innumerable — biographies of Christian ascetics, we know that they have struggled with sexual desire for decades or their whole lives, and not every wrestler has won. Most often there was a draw, that is, for some time the “prodigal passion” ceased to bother, and then it all started again, and so all my life.
The same story is subject, if I may say so, to the sexual life of so many modern Orthodox believers. Becoming a church Orthodox believer, a person attacks his own sexuality in an effort to destroy it. Sexual desire is suppressed for some time, and then it flares up with renewed vigor. And so it can last a lifetime. A huge amount of psychic energy is spent on this struggle – for the struggle is waged with nature itself.
And if a person is preoccupied with the struggle with his own sexuality, then in no case can we say that he is free from sexuality. On the contrary, he is completely involved in sexual experiences, absorbed in his own sexuality, while hating her and suffering from the inability to get rid of her power. In the language of analytical psychology, he lives on his own sexuality in the form of denial. What it is? I will explain with a simple example.
It is summer now. Normal, natural living this time of year will be, for example, to dress in light summer clothes, spend more time in the fresh air, sunbathe and swim. But summer can be lived in the form of its denial. For example, to hate heat and the sun, dress in winter clothes and sit at home near the heater. The result of such a summer residence can be heat stroke and disturbances in the body.
In the same way , the Orthodox tradition offers a person to live their sexuality in the form of its denial: “There should not be sexuality. All efforts to combat sexuality! ”
So, is there sex in Orthodoxy? Yes, there is, and it is very much, but it appears in a perverted, pathological form – in the form of denial. The consequences of this “sex” are reduced quality of life and numerous neurotic disorders. I can confidently talk about this as a priest with twenty years of experience.
Why do people choose this kind of “sex”? The reasons are the most common: fear of sexuality carried out from the parental family; psychological trauma associated with unsuccessful sexual experience; lack of resources for a full sexual life. The church confidently and authoritatively declares that there should not be sex, that it is bad, and a sexual loser finds in his church his native environment, in which he is even more degraded.
A respectful, Christian attitude towards a person is to help him overcome life’s difficulties, including sexual ones, and not to increase his suffering, suggesting that sex turns a person into a “wordless animal”.