Vladimir Moss





I. Love and Lust


Orthodox. Father, I want you to be the first to know! I’m getting married!

Manichaean. Really? May God save and protect you!

Orthodox. Thank you… But aren’t you going to congratulate me?

Manichaean. Why?

Orthodox. Well… because it’s usual to congratulate people when they get married, to wish them joy.

Manichaean. What is “usual” is not always what is right.

Orthodox. But the Church also rejoices and prays for the joy of the couple that is to be married. “Let that joy come upon them,” says the priest in the marriage service, “such as the blessed Helena received when she found the precious Cross”. As a priest, do you not wish me that joy?

Manichaean. As a priest I wish you the joy of the cross, just as the prayer says. The joy of the cross is the joy of the Holy Spirit that comes through abstinence, through self-denial, through crucifying the passions and lusts of the flesh.

Orthodox. And do you not see the possibility of that joy and that self-denial in marriage? After all, “Holy Martyrs” is chanted during the service.

Manichaean. Not if marriage is simply a condition in which to indulge the lusts of the flesh.

Orthodox. Is that all you see in it? Do you see nothing good in marriage?

Manichaean. No. I see good in the begetting of children, “if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty” (I Tim. 2.15), as the apostle says. And I see good in the prevention of fornication (I Cor. 7.2). However, these are essentially Old Testament criteria. The earth is already overflowing with people; the Messiah is already born, so the Jewish hope of being His ancestor has now been superseded; our attention should be directed towards converting the present population to the faith rather than begetting more people. And in the New Testament Church we have a new ideal, that of virginity: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Cor. 7.1). And a new grace to live by that ideal.

Orthodox. Are you saying that married Christians do not live in the grace of the New Testament?

Manichaean. Yes.

Orthodox. You do surprise me, Father! Tell me: do you believe that the Apostle Peter was a Christian?

Manichaean. I know what you’re going to say: that he was married. But after becoming an apostle he lived with his wife as brother and sister.

Orthodox. Yes, but he did not have to. The Apostle Paul wrote with some irony: “We do not have authority to lead about a wife who is a sister in the Lord, as also the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas, do we?” (I Corinthians 9.5). The irony in his words indicated that he, though an apostle carrying out the highest ministry in the Church of Christ, was of course not forbidden to have a wife; it was not incompatible with his grace-filled ministry of the New Testament. True, he did not in fact take a wife; for “all things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient” (I Corinthians 6.12; cf. 10.23). But he could have – and there is no indication whatsoever that for  St. Paul, who polemicised more than any apostle with those who would confuse the grace of the New Testament with the law of the Old, the married state was incompatible with the life of grace.

Manichaean. There are many things which were good in Old Testament times, but which have been superseded in the New: circumcision, sabbaths…

Orthodox. And marriage?

Manichaeian. Marriage has not been superseded, of course, but it is an Old Testament sacrament, as it were, and appropriate only for those living under the law. For those living in the grace of the New Testament it is sinful.

Orthodox. But this is the heresy of Manichaeism. And Manichaeism is specifically declared by St. John Chrysostom to have been the target of St. Paul’s prophecy: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (I Timothy 4.1-4).

     Manichaeism and its related teachings are demonic, explains St. John, because they condemn as evil those things, such as marriage and certain foods, which are not evil in themselves, but only if taken in excess. For “good things are created to be received… But if it is good, why is it ‘sanctified by the word of God and prayers’? For it must be unclean, if it is to be sanctified? Not so, here he is speaking to those who thought that some of these things were common; therefore he lays down two positions: first, that no creature of God is unclean; and secondly, that if it has become so, you have a remedy: seal it [with the sign of the cross], give thanks, and glorify God, and all the uncleanness passes away.”[3]

Manichaean. I hope you are not accusing me of heresy!

Orthodox. Not if you accept the Orthodox teaching on marriage …But let me ask: what, according to you, is the purpose of marriage?

Manichaean. The aim of Ñhristian marriage is to cure us of the desire to live the married life.

Orthodox. A most paradoxical aim! Please explain.

Manichaean. With pleasure, and you mark my words carefully… I have said, followng the apostle, that the ideal is virginity, abstinence. But if (for the time being) a Christian cannot (or will not) abstain, then he must necessarily, as a kind of penance, bear the burden of bearing and bringing up many children. But if he does not want to have children, he must abstain from marital relations. There is simply no other way. But if a man does not want children, but does want to have marital relations, then this is simply fornication, albeit in marriage – “fornication under a crown”, as my much-esteemed friend, the patrologist Fr. G., has put it. Such a position has simply no relation whatsoever to Christian marriage. Then various devices arise with the aim of preventing the birth of children, “a planned family”, and similar things which God hates.

Orthodox. Well, I can assure you that I do want children, and will do nothing to prevent them appearing.

Manichaean. I am very glad to hear it.

Orthodox. So do I qualify as a New Testament Christian?

Manichaean. If you live with your wife as brother and sister.

Orthodox. But how can I do that and still have children?!

Manichaean. [laughs] Yes, that is a problem…

Orthodox. You may laugh, but I can assure you it is no joking matter for me! You make it sound as if normal married life is incompatible with the grace of the New Testament and therefore with salvation itself!

Manichaean. The problem, my dear friend, is that while your desire to have children is quite unobjectionable, there is no way in which you can fulfil that desire without indulging the lusts of the flesh. And that is sinful.

Orthodox. Tell me, Father: do you think that God would ever command us to do something sinful?

Manichaean. No.

Orthodox. Well, then, please explain to me the following story. In the life of the English Orthodox saint, Wulfhilda of Barking (+c. 1000), we read that for eighteen years before the conception of Wulfhilda, her pious parents, who had already had several children, had been living as brother and sister so as to give themselves up more completely to prayer and fasting. “One night, however, an angel appeared to each of them separately three times, and told them that they should come together so as to beget a daughter who would become a bride of Christ. The next morning they told each other the vision, and discovered that it had been identical for the two of them. So they accepted it as having come from God. Thus was the saint conceived and born…”[4] Here, according to your schema, it turns out that two people living the New Testament life of grace return to the Old Testament life of the law. Although the aim of the spouses was the begetting of a child, they returned to “marital satisfaction”, that is, according to you, to the sinful satisfaction of the passion of lust, albeit to a limited degree. But would God ever call anyone to satisfy a sinful lust? Or to return from the life of grace to the life of the law? Of course not! The only conclusion must be, therefore, that sexual relations in a Christian marriage in no way impede the life of grace.

Manichaean. I believe that in this case God practised “economy” for the sake of the birth of a holy soul.

Orthodox. What do you mean by “economy” here?…

Manichaean. [pause] Permission to sin for the sake of the greater good.

Orthodox. So something like the Jesuit precept so beloved of the Marxists that “the end justifies the means”?

Manichaean. [pause] Er…

Orthodox. Well, while you’re thinking about the answer to that question, let us consider an episode from the life of perhaps the greatest woman saint of the West, the fifth-century St. Brigit of Ireland: “A certain man of Kells… whom his wife hated, came to Brigit for help. Brigit blessed some water. He took it with him and, his wife having been sprinkled [therewith], she straightway loved him passionately.”[5]    

     Again, from the Life of St. Columba, Apostle of Scotland (+597): “Another time, when the saint was living on the Rechrena island, a certain man of humble birth came to him and complained of his wife, who, as he said, so hated him, that she would on no account allow him to come near her for marriage rights. The saint on hearing this, sent for the wife, and, so far as he could, began to reprove her on that account, saying: ‘Why, O woman, dost thou endeavour to withdraw thy flesh from thyself, while the Lord says, ‘They shall be two in one flesh’? Wherefore the flesh of thy husband is they flesh.’ She answered and said, ‘Whatever thou shalt require of me I am ready to do, however hard it may be, with this single exception, that thou dost not urge me in any way to sleep in one bed with Lugne. I do not refuse to perform every duty at home, or, if thou dost command me, even to pass over the seas, or to live in some monastery for women.’ The saint then said, ‘What thou dost propose cannot lawfully be done, for thou art bound by the law of the husband as long as thy husband liveth, for it would be impious to separate those whom God has lawfully joined together.’ Immediately after these words he added: ‘This day let us three, namely, the husband and his wife and myself, join in prayer to the Lord and in fasting.’ But the woman replied: ‘I know it is not impossible for thee to obtain from God, when thou askest them, those things that seem to us either difficult, or even impossible.’ It is unnecessary to say more. The husband and wife agreed to fast with the saint that day, and the following night the saint spent sleepless in prayer for them. Next day he thus addressed the wife in presence of her husband, and said to her: ‘O woman, art thou still ready today, as thou saidst yesterday, to go away to a convent of women?’ ‘I know now,’ she answered, ‘that thy prayer to God for me hath been heard; for that man whom I hated yesterday, I love today; for my heart hath been changed last night in some unknown way – from hatred to love.’ Why need we linger over it? From that day to the hour of death, the soul of the wife was firmly cemented in affection to her husband, so that she no longer refused those mutual matrimonial rights which she was formerly unwilling to allow.”[6]

Manichaean. You make the saints sound like sex-therapists!

Orthodox. Love-therapists, perhaps, not sex-therapists.

Manichaean. I am very suspicious of your examples from the lives of little-known British and Irish saints. I insist on a return to the Holy Scriptures and the Eastern Fathers of the Holy Orthodox Church!

Orthodox. Well, I do not object, so long as you accept that the lives of the Western Fathers of the Orthodox Church, who died many centuries before the West fell into heresy, are also part of Holy Tradition… So let us return to the Holy Scriptures. For example: “If you marry you do not sin” (I Cor. 7.28), and “marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13.4).

Manichaean. I think that the apostle meant only that the marriage bed is not adultery or fornication.

Orthodox. The Fathers are more positive than you. In his commentary on this passage, St. John Chrysostom writes: “Marriage is pure”.[7] Again, Blessed Theophylact comments on the same verse: “By ‘in all’ he means ‘in every way’ and ‘in every season’”.[8]

Manichaean. The apostle knew that the majority of people would not be able to accept the ideal of virginity. And since marriage is better than fornication, he wanted to encourage marriage in the weaker brethren.

Orthodox. I see… So marriage is the legal permission to sin in a small way in order to avoid sinning in a big way!

Manichaean. Yes, though I wouldn’t have put it so crudely…

Orthodox. Crude or not, that is what you believe. And if you are right, then the Orthodox Church is wrong to treat marriage as a holy sacrament, and hypocritical in its prayers for the married couple, since there is no trace in them of the idea that they are in any way sinning.

Manichaean. Fr. G. says that marriage is a sacrament in the way that the sacrament of confession is a sacrament. The Church in the sacrament of confession does not bless further sin, but by means of this sacrament helps the restoration of the unity of the person with the Body of Christ that has been violated by sin. The meaning of crowning is analogous: it forgives the sin of sensual pleasure that is inevitably incurred in marriage.

Orthodox. Fr. G. is a very original theologian! Too original, I’m afraid. The sacrament of confession absolves sin after it has been committed, not before, and only on condition that a firm resolve is made not to repeat the sin. The sacrament of marriage, on the other hand, neither speaks of any sin in marriage, nor, a fortiori, absolves one from it. If Fr. Gregory were right, then it would be necessary for the married couple to seek forgiveness from God every time they made love, and every such act would have to be considered, not as an expression of the bond created in marriage, but as a violation of it!

Manichaean. You know, several of the Fathers – for example, Blessed Augustine in The Good of Marriage, - indicated that the pleasure of intimate relations in marriage is sinful, but is “covered”, as it were, by the good intention of bearing children.

Orthodox. [smiles] I thought you didn’t want to return to the Western Fathers…

Manichaean. Blessed Augustine is a Father well-known in the East.

Orthodox. And one who, as St. Photius the Great testified, did not in all respects reflect the Tradition of the Eastern Church. Much as I respect Blessed Augustine, I do not believe that he was expressing the consensus of the Fathers on this point. He was, after all, a Manichaean in his youth, and traces of that doctrine may have persisted in him, tempting him not to accept the words of the apostle on the purity of the marriage bed in their full simplicity. St. John Chrysostom, as we have seen, had a different point of view.

Manichaean. Alright then, leaving aside the question of the sinfulness or otherwise of the sexual act, can you deny that it has no value except in the producing of children?

Orthodox. I do deny that, and consider it to be a typically Latin idea. The Latins, - not the Celtic saints whose lives I quoted earlier, but those who fell into the heresy of Papism - followed Augustine’s thought to its logical conclusion and ceased to treat marriage as a sacrament. According to Roman Catholic theology, marriage is a contract performed, not by God through the priest, but by the couple themselves. The fruits of this sombre, non-sacramental view of marriage have been unequivocably bad. Thus the idea that a married couple can achieve sexual stability while believing that the very means to this end, marital relations, is inherently sinful, has led, directly or indirectly, to a large proportion of the heresies and perversions that have bedevilled the history of Western Christianity: the enforced celibacy of Catholic priests, the "immaculate conception" of the Virgin by her parents Joachim and Anna, the profoundly adulterous "chastity" of the troubadors, the definitely sensual "mysticism" of Teresa of Avila and other Latin "saints", the ban on all marriage by the Shakers and other Protestant sects, the sexual hypocrisy of the Victorians, and, as a long-delayed and therefore enormously exaggerated reaction to all this blasphemy against the goodness of God’s original creation, the general permissiveness towards almost all kinds of truly sinful acts in the twentieth century.

Manichaean. So what, according to you, is the positive value of sexual relations in marriage apart from the procreation of children?

Orthodox. Its value, apart from the procreation of children and the gradual quenching of the passion of lust, lies in the fact that it is the natural expression of the love between the husband and wife. A certain Orthodox Christian put it rather well: “Physical relations may be elicited by lust, but they may [also] be elicited by love. The spouses enter into physical relations not with the aim of removing over-excitement and quenching the ragings of the flesh, but because they love each other, because they are striving for unity. The unity which marital relations gives to the spouses is not comparable with unity in the Body of Christ, but it is an image of it and is accepted into the Church. The aim of marriage is to lessen the element of lust in physical relations and increase the element of love.»[9] And again: “The unity of spouses, on being accepted into the Church is liberated in the Church from its limitedness. Love for ones spouse becomes a school of love for all.”

Manichaean. Are you saying that it is possible for there to be no lust in the sexual act?

Orthodox. In practice, because of our fallen state, it is almost impossible to clearly separate the elements of love and lust in the sexual act, just as it is almost impossible to separate greed from restoration of the organism in the act of eating, or sinful anger from righteous anger in the disciplining of children and subordinates. Absolute purity is unattainable in our fallen state in any significant action, and not only in marital relations. The important thing is that the dominant motive in any particular act should be pure.

Manichaean. If love were the dominant motive in marriage, then the spouses would not enter into sexual relations.

Orthodox. So if I understand you rightly, you believe that love cannot be the motive for entering into sexual relations, but only lust?

Manichaean. That’s right.

Orthodox. That’s what I was afraid of… I, however, believe, with the Orthodox Christian quoted above, that “the motive for entering into sexual relations may be both lust, that is, the egocentric desire to satisfy the whim of one’s flesh with the help of a partner, and love for one’s spouse, the desire for both spiritual and bodily union with him or her”[10]

     In fact, I believe that love must be the main motive for entering into sexual relations. I do not exclude the desire for children or the desire to avoid fornication as secondary motives. But neither of these secondary motives can or should be pursued without love or outside the context of the sexual act as an expression of love. Without love, the other person in sexual relations is not an end in him or herself, but purely an instrument for attaining some other goal. And that, in my view, is immoral.

Manichaean. Alright, as regards abstract principles and general contexts I agree. However, when we come down to concrete actions, and in particular to the sexual act itself, then you must admit: here we are simply talking about animality. It is not love, but naked, fallen passion, pure lust.

Orthodox. Just that? Are you sure? All lust and no love?

Manichaean. If there is any love, then it is overwhelmed by lust at the climax of the act.

Orthodox. I think you are wrong about that. I think that the quality of sexual relations between couples is as varied as the quality of the couples themselves. In the one couple, lust can indeed dominate to such an extent that each is simply using the other as a vehicle for sensual indulgence – or some other passion (most rapes, as is well-known, are in fact expressions of hatred, not love or lust). But in others, sexual feeling is transmuted into tenderness, in which the lover strives above all to give, and not to take, to show love, not to receive pleasure. Thus Tobias on his wedding-night specifically denied that his feeling for his wife was lust: "Thou madest Adam, and gavest him Eve as his wife for an helper and stay of them came mankind: Thou hast said, It is not good that man should be alone; let us make unto him an aid like unto himself. And now, O Lord, I take not this my sister for lust, but uprightly: therefore mercifully ordain that we may become aged together..." (Tobit 8.6-7).

     Sex can be animality – when human beings choose to live like animals. But sex can also – in very closely defined circumstances (lawful, Christian marriage between spouses who truly love each other) – be the expression of love. Sexuality within the one-flesh relationship of marriage is not simply a means to another end, procreation (although it is that), and not simply a concession to weakness (although it is that, too), but the completely natural and lawful expression of that relationship of unity as such.

Manichaean. You speak about love and unity. And yet is not love and unity attainable without physical relations? Is not the love and unity of the Church a non-physical unity? And is not this, as you have just admitted, higher than the love and unity of a married couple?

Orthodox. Of course. But there is a physical element in the love and unity of the Church – the participation of all members of the Church in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Manichaean. But there is no physical pleasure in the relations between members of the Church (outside marriage), nor, of course, in the reception of the sacraments.

Orthodox. I think that the presence of absence of pleasure is irrelevant to our discussion. Love is good, and lust is evil. But pleasure is neither good nor evil as such. Everything depends on the context in which it is experienced, on the motives and aims of the individual. There is spiritual pleasure, intellectual pleasure, aesthetic pleasure, physical pleasure.... 

Manichaean. I could accept that there was no sin in sexual relations if there was no pleasure in them either.

Orthodox. So pleasure is sin, and even the essence of sin, according to you! And the only truly happy – i.e. sinless – marriage is that in which there is no pleasure at all!

Manichaean. Well, you must remember that, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, pleasure and pain were introduced into the world as a result of the fall.

Orthodox. But that is not the same as to say that pleasure - or pain, of course - is necessarily sinful. Thus St. Photius the Great explicitly states that sexual pleasure in marriage is “lawful”, while at the same time explaining why there could be no pleasure (or pain) at the conception and nativity of Christ: "It was needful that a mother should be prepared down below for the Creator, for the recreation of shattered humanity, and she a virgin, in order that, just as the first man had been formed of virgin earth, so the re-creation, too, should be carried out through a virgin womb, and that no transitory pleasure, even lawful, should be so much as imagined in the Creator's birth: since a captive of pleasure was he, for whose deliverance the Lord suffered to be born."[11]

     Again, St. John of Damascus divides pleasures into three categories: (1) natural and necessary, (2) natural and unnecessary, and (3) unnatural and unnecessary. “Some pleasures are true, others false. And the exclusively intellectual pleasures consist in knowledge and contemplation, while the pleasures of the body depend upon sensation. Further, of bodily pleasures, some are both natural and necessary, in the absence of which life is impossible, for example the pleasures of food which replenishes waste, and the pleasures of necessary clothing. Others are natural but not necessary, as the pleasures of natural and lawful intercourse (Greek: ai kata fusin kai kata nomon mixeiV). For though the function that these perform is to secure the permanence of the race as a whole, it is still possible to live a virgin life apart from them. Others, however, are neither natural nor necessary, such as drunkenness, lust (lagneia) and surfeiting to excess. For these contribute neither to the maintenance of our own lives nor to the succession of the race, but on the contrary, are rather even a hindrance. He therefore that would live a life acceptable to God must follow after those pleasures which are both natural and necessary: and must give a secondary place to those which are natural but not necessary, and enjoy them only in fitting season, and manner, and measure; while the others must be altogether renounced. Those then are to be considered good (kaleV) pleasures which are not bound up with pain, and bring no cause for repentance, and result in no other harm and keep within the bounds of moderation, and do not draw us far away from serious occupations, nor make slaves of us.”[12]

     Important here is the last phrase: “making slaves of us”. Almost all the Holy Fathers agree that pleasure in itself is not sinful, although the vicious cycle of human enslavement to pleasure, leading to pain and death, is undoubtedly sinful. Sin consists rather in the enslavement to pleasure than in pleasure itself. As the apostle says: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (I Cor. 6.12).

Manichaean. Alright, I agree. But you have to agree: the less you indulge in pleasure the less you are enslaved to it.

Orthodox. In general, yes; for our faith is an ascetic faith in which self-denial is the norm. Nevertheless, we must never confuse ends with means: the end is spiritual freedom, and one of the means to that end is self-denial. But absence of pleasure is neither good nor evil in itself, and cannot be considered to be a criterion of spirituality. For, as Bishop Theophan the Recluse writes: “No matter how spiritual someone is, he cannot help but give the intellectual and carnal their rightful sphere; he maintains just a little of them, in subordination to the spirit. Let intellectuality be not too broad (in scientific knowledge, arts and other subjects), and let carnality be firmly restrained – then he is a real, whole person.”[13]

     For, as New Hieromartyr John (Steblin-Kamensky) writes, “the Christian is not a stranger to earthly joys. On the contrary, he appreciates them to a much higher degree than the unbeliever, because he believes that they have been given to him not by chance, and the joy of this or that experience of event in life is united in him with the spiritual experience of boundless gratitude to the One Who knows all our needs. The Christian is not a stranger to earthly joys, but does not make them the aim of his life, he does not fight against his neighbour for their sake, and does not seek them. Therefore he receives them ‘pure’, and they do not darken his spirit.”[14]

     Also, much depends on the individual here: a measure of indulgence that is harmful for one person may cause no harm to another. It is right sometimes to indulge in some innocent pleasure, for example, on church feast-days, when fasting is forbidden and a measure of pleasure for the body contributes to the joy in the soul, in accordance with the word: “wine maketh glad the heart of man” (Psalm 103.16).

Manichaean. But this is just a concession to weakness. Some of the hermits fasted all year round.

Orthodox. St. Antony the Great said that even ascetics have to relax at times.

Manichaean. But relaxation for the hermits did not go as far as marrying.

Orthodox. Of course not! But neither do the Orthodox hermits abhor marriage in the way you do. Indeed, the canons of the Council of Gangra anathematise those who abhor marriage.

Manichaean. I have my private opinion about the Council of Gangra. The conciliar canons are a juridical document, and so it is always dangerous to allow too much leeway for their interpretation. From the literal meaning of the canons one could form the impression that marriage and virginity were equal in honour.

Orthodox. Private opinions which contradict the mind of the Church should not be expressed in public. The Church accepts the Canons of the Council of Gangra; evidently you do not. In any case, we do not need the witness of hermits and councils when we have the unambiguous witness of the highest authority of all. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who is perfect man and perfect God, came to the marriage in Cana of Galilee and turned the water into wine. He actually increased the pleasure and the joy of the wedding-feast. Was He wrong?

Manichaean. No, of course not, but….

Orthodox. Not only was He not wrong, but He demonstrated thereby a most important truth about marriage: that He came, not to deny the pleasures and joys of marriage, but to infuse them with the “sober intoxication” of the Holy Spirit, as St. Gaudentius of Brescia points out.[15] For the gift of the Holy Spirit that is given in the sacrament of Christian marriage both purifies the pleasure and elevates the joy of the married couple. Thus the priest in the marriage service prays that they should have “concord of soul and of body. Exalt them like the cedars of Lebanon, exalt them like a luxurious vine. Give them seed in number like unto the full ears of grain; that having sufficiency in all things, they may abound in every good work which is well-pleasing unto thee. And let them behold their children’s children, like a newly-planted olive-orchard round about their table…”

     So I repeat: Love is good, and lust is evil. But pleasure is neither good nor evil as such. Do you agree?

Manichaean. Yes, I agree.

Orthodox. So with your permission I would like to return to what I consider to be the more important theme, the theme of love and unity, and to the analogy between the love and unity that reigns in the Church and the love and unity that reigns in the “little church”, as St. John Chrysostom calls it, of the Christian marriage.[16]

     A married couple form one unit through their spiritual and physical relationship sanctified by the grace of God. This unit then enters into the wider and deeper unity of the Church, which wider unity is both the foundation and the seal of their married unity. It is the foundation, because true unity in marriage is impossible without unity in Christ, which is why the canon law of the Church allows only Orthodox spouses to be married in the Orthodox Church. And it is the seal, because without the grace of constant participation in Christ their own union would fall apart, which is why marriage in the early Church formed part of the Divine Liturgy, at which both spouses communicated of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Manichaean. I need to see patristic authority for this view of yours.

Orthodox. And you shall have it. St. Cyril of Alexandria writes: "Christ, having taken as an example and image of that indivisible love, accord and unity which is conceivable only in unanimity, the unity of essence which the Father has with Him and which He, in turn, has with the Father, desires that we too should unite with each other; evidently in the same way as the Consubstantial, Holy Trinity is united so that the whole body of the Church is conceived as one, ascending in Christ through the fusion and union of two peoples into the composition of the new perfect whole. The image of Divine unity and the consubstantial nature of the Holy Trinity as a most perfect interpenetration must be reflected in the unity of the believers who are of one heart and mind" - and body, he adds, for this "natural unity" is "perhaps not without bodily unity".[17]

Manichaean. Still, it seems to me that you exaggerate the element of physical union in marriage, as if it was that, and not spiritual union, that constituted marriage.

Orthodox. But it is precisely the physical union that constitutes marriage. Did not the Lord Himself define marriage in this way, saying that “they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matt. 19.6)? And that is why the only reason He allows for divorce is adultery (Matt. 5.32); for it is precisely adultery which destroys the “one-flesh” relationship through the joining of the flesh of one of the spouses to a third person. [18]

     Very apt in this connection are the words of holy New Hieromartyr Gregory (Lebedev), Bishop of Schlusselburg: “'And they two shall be one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh' (Matt. 19.6), that is, the people have ceased to exist separately even in the physical sense. They have become one physical body, 'one flesh'. That is what the fulfilment of the will of God has done... It has not only completed and broadened their souls in a mutual intermingling, it has changed their physical nature and out of two physical existences it has made one whole existence. That is the mystery of marriage[19] Thus marriage is not primarily procreation, but creation; it creates an ontological change in the persons being married: they are no longer two, but one flesh. And this change has “completed and broadened their souls”.

Manichaean. I don’t find anything about “completing and broadening their souls” in the Holy Scriptures. This is sentimental rubbish. The Fathers talk only about the procreation of children and the prevention of fornication.

Orthodox. That is not true. Read Ephesians 5, the reading from the apostle appointed by the Church for the marriage service, in which the main emphasis is precisely on love - which love is the essential condition for the fulfilling and broadening of our souls. And please be careful about dismissing the words of a bishop-martyr as “sentimental rubbish”…

Manichaean. Alright. The only thing I insist on is that an element of lust is inescapable in sexual relations.

Orthodox. And the only thing I insist on is that when we speak about the love between a husband and wife this is not a euphemism for lust, but is indeed love, and not something else. As the love-stories of every nation testify, for the sake of his beloved a genuine lover is prepared to suffer any privation. This love is genuinely self-sacrificial and therefore it is genuinely love, not lust, even if it contains a physical element. In the Holy Scriptures God very often compares himself to a bridegroom (Hosea 2.19-20; Song of Songs; Isaiah 54.5, 61.10, 62.5; Ezekiel 16.8; Matthew 22.1-14, 25.1-13; John 3.29; Eph. 5.32; II Cor. 11.2; Rev. 19.7, 21.2). For, far from sexual love sanctified by the grace of Christian marriage being the opposite of true love, it is in fact the closest image on earth of God’s love for man (on the part of the husband) and of man’s love for God (on the part of the wife).


II. Adam and Eve


Manichaean. Alright. But I think we can approach this question from a different point of view, the point of view of the original creation. Now if I can prove to you that Adam and Eve had no sexual relations in Paradise, will you agree that sexual relations belong exclusively to the fall?

Orthodox. Let me see your proof first.

Manichaean. The Holy Fathers make it clear that sexual relations came only after the fall, and were a product of the fall. Thus St. Gregory of Nyssa writes that the differences between man and woman were created by God in prevision of the fall. And St. John of the Ladder writes: “If he [Adam] had not been overcome by his stomach, he would not have  known what a wife was”.[20]

Orthodox. There are two questions here. First, the nature and purpose of the differentiation of the sexes. And secondly, the nature of our first parents’ sexual relationship, if any such existed, before the fall.

     I would agree that there were no sexual relations as we know them in Paradise. But I do not accept that there was no sexuality of any kind there. But men and women were created from the beginning, before the fall, with a natural, unfallen need for each other.

Manichaean. What is your evidence for that statement?

Orthodox. The Holy Scriptures. God said: “it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper like unto him” (Gen. 2.18). In other words, Adam, though sinless and unfallen, was nevertheless incomplete on his own. Nor was this incompleteness due simply to a lack of rational (non-animal) company, otherwise God could simply have sent him an angel, or another man, to supply his lack. No: Adam needed a companion who would help him, and who would be like him without being too similar to him.

Manichaean. It is obvious that Eve was created in order to help Adam in the procreation of children.

Orthodox. I don’t think that was the only reason. And there is no hint of that at this stage in the Biblical discourse. In any case, procreation could have been through a process of sexless cloning, or, as St. Gregory of Nyssa suggests, in the same manner as the angels multiplied[21], rather than sexual reproduction. No: Adam needed a deeper kind of help, a help linked, not to his incapacity to reproduce on his own, but to some incompleteness in his inner nature. He needed not a physical mate, but a soulmate.   

     This is confirmed by St. John Chrysostom, who writes: “How great the power of God, the master craftsman, making a likeness of those limbs from that tiny part [the rib of Adam], creating such wonderful senses and preparing a creature complete, entire and perfect, capable both of speaking and of providing much comfort to man by a sharing of her being. For it was for the consolation of this man that this woman was created. Hence Paul also said, ‘Man was not created for the woman, but woman for the man’ (I Cor. 11.9).”[22]

     Again, the holy new Martyr-Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow writes: "Without a helpmate the very bliss of paradise was not perfect for Adam: endowed with the gift of thought, speech, and love, the first man seeks with his thought another thinking being; his speech sounds lonely and the dead echo alone answers him; his heart, full of love, seeks another heart that would be close and equal to him; all his being longs for another being analogous to him, but there is none; the creatures of the visible world around him are below him and are not fit to be his mates; and as to the beings of the invisible spiritual world they are above. Then the bountiful God, anxious for the happiness of man, satisfies his wants and creates a mate for him - a wife. But if a mate was necessary for man in paradise, in the region of bliss, the mate became much more necessary for him after the fall, in the vale of tears and sorrow. The wise man of antiquity spoke justly: 'two are better than one, for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up' (Eccl. 4.9-10). But few people are capable of enduring the strain of moral loneliness, it can be accomplished only by effort, and truly 'all men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given' (Matt. 19.11), and as for the rest - 'it is not good for a man to be alone', without a mate."[23] [24]

Manichaean.  But monks and nuns live as monads even while contending with a fallen nature that Adam did not have.

Orthodox. This is indeed a paradox: that Adam, though unfallen, needed a mate, whereas fallen monks and nuns can do without one. But this indicates, not the illusoriness of Adam’s need (for the Word of God is quite specific about it), but rather the supernatural, charismatic quality of virginity. For virginity is a gift of God that carries human nature, not only above the fallen state, but even higher than the original, unfallen state of Adam in Paradise. So great is this gift that it is revealed only in very few of the righteous of the Old Testament (the Prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, St. John the Baptist), and is revealed in its full glory only in the New Testament.

Manichaean. Alright. But I want you to specify more clearly what you mean by this “need” that Adam had for Eve. Surely you don’t mean a sexual need?! The need for sex is fallen.

Orthodox. There is a difference between fallen need and unfallen need. Fallen need tyrannises; unfallen need does not tyrannise, and should therefore properly not be called “need” (for that implies a certain compulsion), but “attraction” or “appetite”. Thus St. Cyril of Alexandria writes of Adam's body before the fall: "It had indeed innate appetites, appetites for food and procreation, but his mind was not tyrannised by these tendencies."[25]

Manichaean. This is a new idea to me! And I need more than one patristic testimony to believe it! You make it sound as if Adam was fallen before the fall!

Orthodox. Perhaps you have a wrong idea about what is fallen… Here’s another patristic testimony. St. Gregory Palamas writes that “the natural motions related to the begetting of children can be detected in infants that are still at the breast… The passions to which it [carnal desire] give birth belong to us by nature; and natural things are not indictable; for they were created by God Who is good, so that through them we can act in ways that are also good. Hence in themselves they do not indicate sickness of soul, but they become evidence of such sickness when we misuse them.”[26] Are you satisfied?

Manichaean. Conditionally. Go on.

Orthodox. There can be no doubt that the closeness of Adam and Eve in Paradise had certain forms of expression more perfect than what we now recognise as the sexual act or “platonic love”. It was expressed primarily on the psychological level, but there is no reason to suppose that there was not also a physiological element in it.[27]

Manichaean. I hope you are not talking about sexual union!

Orthodox. No. I have already agreed that there were no sexual relations as we know them between Adam and Eve in Paradise. However, they were of one flesh. Thus "the Lord God brought a deep sleep (Greek: ekstasiV, literally “ecstasy”[28]) on Adam; and while he was asleep, he took one of his ribs, and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man" (Gen. 2.21-22). The great Serbian Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich writes about this event: “This is the foundation of, and the reason for, the mysterious and attraction and union between man and woman”[29] – a foundation laid, it should be noted once more, already in Paradise.

Manichaean. I don’t see how Velimirovich can draw this conclusion.

Orthodox. The conclusion is justified because the account of the creation of Eve from the flesh of Adam is linked directly, by the word “therefore”, with the following passage, which is the “foundation charter”, as it were, for the sacrament of marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one” (2.24). These words, whose authority was confirmed by Christ Himself (Matt. 19.6), as well as by the Apostle Paul (Eph. 5.31), make clear that the physical union of man and woman was in the original plan of God for mankind; for there can be no other interpretation of the word “cleave” (or “cling”).[30] And yet this law of physical attraction and union is described by St. Paul asa great mystery” (Eph. 5.31).

Manichaean. I think it is a mistake to consider that the law of the physical and attraction of man and woman is “a great mystery”. St. Paul was talking about the union between Christ and the Church, which is a virginal union.

Orthodox. The union between Christ and the Church, like the union between Adam and Eve in Paradise, is both virginal and one-flesh, the flesh being that of Christ Himself, which He took from the Virgin and then gives to all believers in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Moreover, it is clear that St. Paul was identifying the two mysteries – that of human marriage, and that of the union between Christ and the Church.

     Or perhaps we can put it another way: the mystery of human marriage is an icon of the mystery of the marriage between Christ and the Church. And the lower mystery derives its holiness from the higher mystery, just as an icon derives its holiness from its archetype. Thus the marriage of male and female is a great mystery because it was created to symbolise a still greater mystery, the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church. And this is the explanation for the phenomenon of sexual differentiation, attraction and union (which, by the way, is a major problem for evolutionary biology). God planted sexuality in the midst of His creation so that men, by pondering on this lower mystery, should by analogy come to a deeper understanding of the higher mystery of God’s love for mankind and His union with man in the Incarnation.

     But even in its own terms sexual love leading to marriage is a great mystery. For, as St. John Chrysostom writes, “the girl who has always been kept at home and has never seen the bridegroom, from the first day loves and cherishes him as her own body. Again, the husband, who has never seen her, never shared even the fellowship of speech with her, from the first day prefers her to everyone, to his friends, his relatives, even his parents. The parents in turn, if they are deprived of their money for another reason, will complain, grieve, and take the perpetrators to court. Yet they entrust to a man, whom often they have never even seen before…, both their own daughter and a large sum as dowry. They rejoice as they do this and they do not consider it a loss. As they see their daughter led away, they do not bring to mind their closeness, they do not grieve or complain, but instead they give thanks. They consider it an answer to their prayers when they see their daughter led away from their home taking a large sum of money with her. Paul had all this in mind: how the couple leave their parents and bind themselves to each other, and how the new relationship becomes more powerful than the long-established familiarity. He saw that this was not a human accomplishment. It is God Who sows these loves in men and women. He caused both those who give in marriage and those who are married to do this with joy. Therefore Paul said, ‘This is a great mystery’.”[31]

Manichaean. I think you should be more careful about comparing heavenly things with earthly things. It is only by the greatest economy that God allows sinful human relationships to be images of heavenly mysteries.

Orthodox. Call iteconomyif you like. But the fact remains, and the Holy Fathers confirm the fact. Thus another aspect of this mystery is that from the union of the two a third is brought into being. One divides into two, then the two reunite to form, not one only, and not three only, but three-in-one! As St. John Chrysostom writes: “A man leaves his parents, who gave him life, and is joined to his wife, and one flesh – father, mother, and child – results from the commingling of the two. The child is born from the union of their seed, so the three become one flesh.”[32] And again, still more clearly: “They come to be made into one body. See the mystery of love! If the two do not become one, they cannot increase; they can increase only by decreasing! How great is the strength of unity! God’s ingenuity in the beginning divided one flesh into two; but he wanted to show that it remained one even after its division, so He made it impossible for either half to procreate without the other. Now do you see how great a mystery marriage is! From one man, Adam, He made Eve, then He reunited these two into one, so that their children would be produced from a single source. Likewise, husband and wife are not two, but one; if he is the head and she is the body, how can they be two? She was made from his side; so they are two halves of one organism. God calls her a ‘helper’ to demonstrate their unity, and He honors the unity of husband and wife above that of child and parents. A father rejoices to see his son or daughter marry; it is as if his child’s body is becoming complete. Even though he spends so much money for his daughter’s wedding, he would rather do that than see her remain unmarried, since then she would seem to be deprived of her own flesh. We are not sufficient unto ourselves in this life. How do they become one flesh? As if she were gold receiving the purest of gold, the woman receives the man’s seed with rich pleasure, and within her it is nourished, cherished, and refined. It is mingled with her own substance and she then returns it as a child! The child is a bridge connecting mother to father, so the three become one flesh… That is why the Scripture does not say, ‘They shall be one flesh’, but that they shall be joined together ‘into one flesh’, namely the child. But supposing there is no child, do they then remain two and not one? No, their intercourse effects the joining of their bodies and they are made one, just as when perfume is mixed with ointment.”[33]          Thus the mystery of the union of man and woman in marriage, which reflects the union of God and man in the God-man, gives birth to the mystery of the union of father, mother and child in the family, which in turn reflects the Holy Trinity-in-Unity of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both mysteries may be said to be aspects of the image of God in man. For the image is imprinted not only on man and woman as individuals, but also on their union with each other, and on the whole family of men they were called to create through this union. Thus St. Gregory of Nyssa writes: “Adam, not having a created cause and being unbegotten, is an example and image of the uncaused God the Father, the Almighty and Cause of all things; while Eve, who proceeded from Adam (but is not born from him) signifies the Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit proceeding.”[34] And St. Anastasius of Sinai writes: "Adam is the type and image of the Unoriginate Almighty God, the Cause of all; the son born of him manifests the image of the Begotten Son and Word of God; and Eve, who proceeded from Adam, signifies the proceeding Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit. This is why God did not breathe in her the breath of life: she was already the type of the breathing and life of the Holy Spirit."[35] [36] Manichaean. There you go again! Exalting earthly “love” far beyond its true worth!

Orthodox. The theology of the icon entails both a great distance between the icon and the archetype, and a great closeness. On the one hand, just as a wooden icon and its archetype are of different natures, according to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, so the love between a husband and his wife and its archetype in the love between Christ and the Church are different in nature – as different as heaven is from the earth. On the other hand, just as the grace of the archetype is communicated to the icon because of the likeness between the two, according to the Seventh Council, so the grace of the love between Christ and the Church is communicated to those who are truly married in Christ, and who have been made partakers of His Divine nature (II Peter 1.4) in Baptism and Chrismation, and in His deified human nature in the Eucharist.

     Thus the holiness of marriage between two believers in Christ follows, in a sense, from the holiness of the marriage between each believer with Christ. Of course, the “vertical” marriage of each believer with Christ is higher and infinitely more important. However, the “horizontal” marriage fits into the structure with no fissure or schism.

     In this vision, while due preference is given to the supreme glory of virginity, no dishonour is given to the lesser glory of marriage, but both virgins and married people, both monads and dyads, are harmoniously integrated as shining and perfectly sculpted stones into the building of the Church, so that as one body they may be presented “as a bride prepared for her husband” (Rev. 21.2).

Manichaean. Nevertheless, I think we should have less mysticism and more realism. Instead of speculating about the relationship between Adam and Eve, and building vast, insubstantial clouds of “sexual metaphysics” on that basis, we should concentrate on the realities of our fallen condition.

Orthodox. In my opinion, it is impossible accurately to define the nature of our fall unless we first understand what we have fallen from. However, I am quite happy to turn to our fallen condition if you want. Where shall we start?


III. Fall and Resurrection


Manichaean. From the Holy Scriptures, and in particular from the verse: “In sins did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 50.7). This shows that even in lawful sexual relations there is an element of sin.

Orthodox. The Scriptures should always be interpreted in the light of the whole body of the Holy Scriptures, and of the Holy Fathers. Thus the best interpretation on this verse is provided by Job: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14.4). And by St. John Chrysostom, who interprets this verse to refer to original sin, adding: “therefore he [David] does not condemn marriage, as some have thoughtlessly supposed”.[37] Thus it is not a question of the sexual act being sinful in itself, but of it being the vehicle for the transmission of sinful human nature from generation to generation.

Manichaean. As a result of original sin, all our faculties are diseased and have become passionate. To submit to passion is sin. Therefore to submit to fallen sexual passion inside marriage, while less sinful than outside marriage, is still sin.

Orthodox. First, we have to be clear about the passions. There are two kinds of passion, according to the Holy Fathers: innocent and sinful. The Eastern Fathers make a distinction between “lawful” or “natural” and “unlawful” or “unnatural” pleasures and desires or passions. A natural passion is an impulse that is in accordance with nature as God originally created it; while a culpable passion is, in St. Maximus' words, "an impulse of the soul that is contrary to nature."[38] Culpable passions feed on natural ones like parasites: the culpable passion of gluttony - on the natural passion to satisfy hunger, the culpable passion of indolence - on the natural desire to rest weary limbs, the culpable passion of lust - on the natural passion of sexual desire. Some culpable passions have no natural counterpart, like avarice, which St. John Chrysostom contrasts with sexual passion in this respect.[39]

Manichaean. That is all very well, but the fact remains that since the fall all our faculties are fallen and passionate.

Orthodox. So we must never use any of our faculties?

Manichaean. I didn’t say that.

Orthodox. No, but it follows logically from what you are saying. I accept that our faculties are fallen, but I do not accept that every expression of our faculties is necessarily sinful. If that were so, then in order to avoid sin, we would have to stop thinking altogether, since the thinking faculty of our soul is fallen, and we would have to stop being angry in all circumstances, even against sin and heresy, since the incensive faculty of our soul is fallen, and we  would have to abstain from all sexual activity, even in marriage, since our desiring faculty is fallen. But that would mean that we  would have to become like logs, neither thinking nor feeling in any way. That is not Christianity, but Buddhism.

Manichaean. But how can a fallen faculty bring forth unfallen fruits?

Orthodox. By being brought out from under the dominion of the devil, and being placed under the dominion of the Holy Spirit, Who can transform the fallen impulses of the soul, resurrecting them to their former, unfallen state. And this is done through prayer, fasting and good works, and especially by the reception of the sacraments, whereby we receive a transfusion of grace, as it were. We must always remember, as Archbishop Theophan reminds us, that marriage is a sacrament which communicates grace.

Manichaean. But the Christian destroys his fallen impulses. He does not resurrect them.

Orthodox. Fallen impulses must be crucified in order to rise again in a new and incorrupt form. By “crucifixion” here I do not mean complete “destruction”; for the source in our human nature from which these fallen impulses come cannot be destroyed, precisely because it is part of human nature. In any case, to destroy human nature is a kind of mutilation or castration, which is forbidden by the Church. Our human nature must not be destroyed, but transformed, redirected, resurrected. And then it can be used for the good, since then we are talking, not about fallen impulses, but about natural ones.

Manichaean. Nevertheless, the Fathers speak about a complete extirpation of the passions. This is what, for example, St. Maximus the Confessor says with regard to the eight principal passions. Only through extirpating the passions is passionlessness possible.

Orthodox. However, the same Holy Father uses the word “passion” in a different sense in other passages. Thus he speaks about the eight evil or unnatural passions as being a sickness of the two natural passions – desire and anger. Like the unnatural passions, the natural passions are “alogical”. But they are not “paralogical”, and can be “logicised” when they are led by the spirit towards the Logos, Christ, giving ardour and strength to man’s striving for God. Thus he writes: “Let our intelligence, then, be moved to seek God, let our desire be roused in longing for Him, and let our incensive power struggle to keep guard over our attachment to Him. Or, more precisely, let out whole intellect be directed towards God, tensed by our incensive power as if by some nerve, and fired with longing by our desire at its most ardent”.[40]

Manichaean. Can you adduce any further patristic testimonies in your support?

Orthodox. I can. For example, St. Gregory the Theologian writes: “I am united to God in an indivisible identity of will, and that through making reasonable in a fitting manner the irrational powers of the soul by leading them through reason to a familiar commerce with the mind: I mean anger and desire. I have changed the one into charity, and the other into joy.”[41] And St. Theodore the Great Ascetic, commenting on the same Father, writes: “Every deiform soul is tripartite, according to Gregory the Theologian. Virtue, when established in the intelligence, he calls discretion, understanding and wisdom; and when in the incensive power, he calls it courage and patience; and when in the faculty of desire, he calls it love, self-restraint and self-control. Justice or right judgement penetrates all three aspects of the soul, enabling them to function in harmony.”[42]Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes that “if we use our reason aright and master our emotions, everything can be transformed into virtue; for anger produces courage, hatred - aversion from vice, the power of love - the desire for what is truly beautiful…”[43]

Manichaean. I don’t see how anger is transformed into courage.

Orthodox. St. Isaiah the Solitary explains: "There is among the passions an anger of the intellect, and this anger is in accordance with nature. Without anger a man cannot attain purity; he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy."[44] So anger is necessary in order to hate evil - “Be angry, and sin not”, says David (Ps. 4.5).

Manichaean. And how is desire transformed into the love of the beautiful – I mean the spiritually beautiful?

Orthodox. Solomon says of Wisdom: “I loved her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride, and I became a lover (Gk: erasthV) of her beauty” (Wisdom 8.2). Thus, purified of all unnatural, sinful elements, sexual passion can aid the love of the good, the good being perceived as beauty.

     Again, St. John of the Ladder writes: “I have seen impure souls raving madly about physical love; but making their experience of such love a reason for repentance, they transferred the same love to the Lord; and overcoming all fear, they spurred themselves insatiably on to the love of God. That is why the Lord does not say of that chaste harlot: ‘Because she feared,’ but: ‘Because she loved much,’ and could easily expel love by love.”[45] And again: “Someone told me of an extraordinarily high degree of purity. He said: ‘A certain man, on seeing a beautiful body, thereupon glorified the Creator, and from that one look he was moved to the love of God and to a fountain of tears. And it was wonderful to see how what would have been a cause of destruction for one was for another the supernatural cause of a crown. If such a person always feels and behaves in the same way on similar occasions, then he has rise immortal before the general resurrection.”[46] Do you see how the fallen faculty is not destroyed in its essence (for it is impossible to destroy human nature), but is resurrected by a redirection of its innate energy in a different, God-pleasing direction, and that these faculties are the very means “by which we may be raised towards union with the heavenly”, in St. Gregory of Nyssa’s words?[47]

Manichaean. This sounds dangerously like the Freudian idea of sublimation to me. Or rather, it’s worse than that: you seem to regard sexual relations as a path to the knowledge of God! As if sex has anything to do with the Holy Trinity! This is Gnosticism! This is Tantrism!

Orthodox. But Father, I’ve been quoting from the Holy Fathers!

Manichaean. This is not patristics, but sexopatrology! It’s disgusting! It reminds me of the Parisian school of “lyrical Orthodoxy”!

Orthodox. You have misunderstood me. It is not sexual relations, but chastity, which is the essential prerequisite for the knowledge of God, for it is the pure in heart who will see God. However, the point I have been making is that chastity is not a negative virtue, simply the absence of sex, but rather the redirection and resurrection of sexual desire. This redirection is first away from all forbidden objects and towards one’s wife, and then, in its highest form, away from all material things and towards God alone.

Manichaean. I still need more patristic evidence for this most surprising doctrine.

Orthodox. And you shall have it. Consider, for example, this passage from St. Gregory Palamas: "Not only hast Thou made the passionate part of my soul entirely Thine, but if there is a spark of desire in my body, it has returned to its source, and has thereby become elevated and united to Thee."[48] And again the same Holy Father writes: "Impassibility does not consist in mortifying the passionate part of the soul, but in removing it from evil to good, and directing its energies towards divine things... Through the passionate part of the soul which has been orientated towards the end for which God created it, one will practise the corresponding virtues: with the concupiscent appetite, one will embrace charity, and with the irascible, one will practise patience. It is thus not the man who has killed the passionate part of the soul who has the pre-eminence, for such a one would have no momentum or activity to acquire a divine state and right disposition and relationship with God; but rather, the prize goes to him who has put that part of his soul under subjection, so that by its obedience to the mind, which is by nature appointed to rule, it may ever tend towards God, as is right, by the uninterrupted remembrance of Him... Thus one must offer to God the passionate part of the soul, alive and active, that it may be a living sacrifice. As the Apostle said of our bodies, 'I exhort you, by the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God' (Rom. 12.1)."[49] And again: “Therefore those who love the Good (oi erastai twn kalwn) carry out a transposition (metaqesin) of this faculty and do not make it die; they do not such it into themselves without letting it move, but they show it to be active in love towards God and neighbour”.[50]


IV. Marriage and Monasticism


Manichaean. Alright, you have a point. Nevertheless, marriage remains an earthly institution. Monasticism calls us to a higher mystery which is above and beyond all the good things of this life.

Orthodox. Undoubtedly. But we are talking about the good of marriage here, not the still higher good of monasticism. Remember: monasticism is not made higher through the denigration of marriage. Rather it is the opposite: monasticism is exalted because it is an even better good than the good of marriage. For, as St. Seraphim of Sarov said: “Marriage is good, and virginity is very, very good”.

Manichaean. Marriage is less good because it has an admixture of sin.

Orthodox. No! Otherwise, the marriage service would be an occasion for sorrow rather than joy! For how can a sacrament be celebrated over that which is inherently sinful? “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory” (I Cor. 15.41). And yet they all shine with the same light, which is pure and undefiled in each. It is the same with marriage and monasticism. Undoubtedly monasticism is the greater light. But marriage is also a light, in which there is no darkness at all.

Manichaean. Still, I can’t help feeling sad that you have renounced the virginal state in which you lived before, and so you have fallen – or have decided to fall in the future. If virginity is higher than marriage, the transition from virginity to marriage must be a transition from the higher to the lower, which is sad.

Orthodox. So, according to you, the marriage service should really be an occasion for mourning in that the couple to be married are renouncing the virginal state! But lifelong virginity is a gift of God which is not given to all. If a man feels that he does not have this gift, it is as well that he enters into marriage earlier rather than later. And it is a cause for joy that he has found the right person with whom he can carry out the calling given to him by God.

Manichaean. But the gift of virginity can be given to anyone who asks for it with sufficient determination.

Orthodox. No. The Lord Himself said: “Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given” (Matt. 19.11). And St. Paul says: “I wish that all men were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (I Cor. 7.7). Gifts are in the power of the giver, not of him who receives. God gives one gift (virginity) to one, and another (marriage) to another, knowing which gift is suited to the character and circumstances of each, which gift will bring forth the greater fruit in each. God calls some to monasticism and others to marriage, knowing that some in each category will prove worthy of their calling and gift, and others unworthy. He knows that there are some wise virgins, and some foolish – and that some non-virgins will be higher in the Kingdom than either. If all Christians were called to be virgins, and it simply depended on the determination of each individual, then St. Seraphim would not have told one woman who wanted to marry that she must become a nun, and to another who wanted to become a nun that she must marry.

Manichaean. God gives the gift of virginity to those who, in the Lord’s words, “can receive it”, that is, whom He foresees will not fall into fornication; whereas the weaker vessels He leads towards marriage, since the purpose of marriage is to prevent fornication (I Cor. 7.2).

Orthodox. I have already agreed that one of the purposes of marriage is to avoid fornication. But it is only one purpose. And I think that God’s gifts are distributed for much deeper and more mysterious reasons than simply the greater or lesser sexual temperance of this or that person. What of those monks who fell into fornication, but repented and later became saints? Are we to conclude that they should really have married first?

Manichaean. Not necessarily. Perhaps all the temptations of married life – the everyday cares, the looking after children – would have quenched their zeal for God. St. Paul gives this as one of the main reasons for the superiority of monasticism over marriage (I Cor. 7.34).

Orthodox. Yes indeed, that is just my point! In fact, I believe it is the main reason. The main reason why monasticism is superior to marriage is that it creates better conditions for the struggle against the passions, less distractions of every kind. It is not a question of sexuality in the first place, still less of avoiding the supposed “sinfulness” of sexual relations in marriage.

Manichaean. And yet even the married are called to abstain from sexual relations if possible. For the apostle writes: “The time is short; so let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those involved in worldly affairs as though they were not involved” (I Cor. 7.29,31).

Orthodox. The apostle is talking about non-attachment to material things here, not total sexual abstinence. For St. Gregory Palamas, immediately after citing this verse, writes: “This, I think, is harder to accomplish than the keeping of one’s virginity. For experience shows that total abstinence is easier than self-control in food and drink”.[51]

Manichaean. My friend Fr. G. says that a man can separate from his wife for the sake of abstinence, even without his wife’s permission. One of Justinian’s novellas permits it.

Orthodox. There is another of Justinian’s novellas which says that any legislation of the Church which contradicts the Canons of the Church is ipso facto illegal. The canons specifically forbid clergy to put away their wives “under pretext of religion” (Apostolic Canon 5), “lest we should affect injuriously marriage constituted by God and blessed by His presence, as the Gospel saith: ‘What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder’; and the Apostle saith, ‘Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled’; and again, ‘Art thou bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed’” (Sixth Ecumenical Council, Canon 13).

Manichaean. But I know of cases from the lives of the saints in which the saint has left his wife without her permission.

Orthodox. There are exceptions to every rule. But the rule must still be maintained as the norm, and nobody is permitted to deny the norm set by God. This point is well illustrated by a recently-discovered life of the British saint, Monk-Martyr Nectan of Hartland (+c. 500). St. Nectan’s father, Brychan, was a local prince who left his wife to practise the ascetic life in Ireland. After several years of asceticism, he returned to his native land, and there, finding his wife still alive, “although he had not proposed any such thing himself”, he had relations with her and begat several sons and daughters – one for each year of his unlawful abstinence. Brychan recognised his fault, saying: “Now has God punished me for vainly intending to act contrary to His will.”[52] Brychan and his children, all of whom became monastic missionaries in south-west England, are counted among the saints of the British Church – a happy ending which would not have come to pass if he had continued his unlawful asceticism to the end of his life…

Manichaean. You promised not to quote from any more lives of the Celtic saints!

Orthodox. Yes, forgive me…

Manichaean. So let us return to the real Tradition… The Lord Himself says: “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14.26).

Orthodox. However, Blessed Theophylact interprets this verse as follows: “The Lover of man does not teach hatred for man, nor does He counsel us to take our own lives. But He desires His true disciples to hate his own kin when they prevent him from giving reverence to God and when he is hindered from doing good by his relationship to them. If they do not hinder us in these things, then He teaches us to honor them until our last breath”.[53]

Manichaean. Still, you have to admit: the highest level of sanctity is unattainable for married people.

Orthodox. I would agree that a married person cannot hope to achieve all the crowns, for the simple reason that there is a special crown for virginity. The Church teaches that a special reward is reserved for the great feat of monasticism. And Archbishop Theophan of Poltava writes: “With the blessedness of virginity there is no comparison, neither in heaven, nor on earth.”[54]

Manichaean. So you agree with me…

Orthodox. Not completely. St. John Chrysostom writes: “Use marriage temperately, and you will be the first in the Kingdom of heaven and be counted worthy of all its blessings”.[55] And again: “If any marry thus, with these views, he will be but little inferior to monks; the married but little below the unmarried.”[56]

Manichaean. The question here is: what is the meaning of  temperately”? My friend Fr. G. argues that “temperately” means “virginally”, insofar as the meaning and aim of Christian marriage does not differ in any way from the celibate life. 

Orthodox. I think you should pay more attention to the actual words of the Holy Fathers, and less to Fr. G.’s interpretation of them! What does the saint actually say? “It is possible, very possible, also for those who have wives to be virtuous, if they wish. How? If they, while having wives, shall be as though they had them not, if they will not rejoice in acquisitions, if they will use the world as if not using it (I Cor. 7.29-31). But if some have found marriage an obstacle, let them know that it is not marriage that serves as an obstacle, but self-indulgence ill-using marriage, just as wine does not produce drunkenness, but evil self-indulgence and its intemperate use. Use marriage in a temperate way, and you will be the first in the Heavenly Kingdom and will taste all its blessings, which may we all be worthy of through the grace and love for man of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

     The critical comparison here is between wine and sexual relations. Just as it is possible to drink wine sparingly without getting drunk, so it is possible to have sexual relations in marriage “in a temperate manner”, without it serving as an impediment to the spiritual life. Complete abstinence from sexual relations is definitely not indicated. If it were, then the saint would have said that one must not drink wine even in small quantities because even the smallest consumption leads to drunkenness. But the whole point of the comparison is that in wine-drinking, as in marital relations, small, “measured” use is not harmful. For, as St. John Chrysostom writes, commenting on St. Paul's phrase "sold under sin": "Desire is not sin; but when it becomes extravagant, and breaks the bonds of lawful marriage, and springs even upon other men's wives, it becomes thereafter adultery - not, however, because of the desire, but because of the lack of moderation."[57] So there is no evidence that St. Chrysostom meant by “temperance” “complete abstinence”.

Manichaean. Alright. But the majority of the saints were monastics.

Orthodox. If you count all the martyrs, then I am not at all sure that the majority are monastics. However, I would agree that the majority of the most famous saints, including the very greatest such as the Mother of God and St. John the Baptist, were virgins or monastics. And this is a clear witness to the general superiority of monasticism over marriage as a Christian path in life. But that is a point I have never disputed. What I dispute is your contention that marriage necessarily involves sin because of the element of sexual relations. And that marriage in itself prevents men from reaching the highest levels of sanctity.

Manichaean. I think you will find that the married saints were saints, not because of their marriage, but in spite of it. They either ceased from marital relations, and were therefore purified of sexual stain, or they suffered martyrdom, which removes all stains.

Orthodox. The Martyr Thomais of Alexandria was martyred for her faithfulness to her husband, with whom, as far as we know, she led a normal married life. St. Daniel of Skete recommended that monks suffering from sexual temptations should pray to her for relief, which would appear to indicate that her virtue lay precisely in her refusal to succumb to sexual sin. Her martyrdom did not “remove sexual sin”, but was the culmination of her successful struggle against sexual sin.

     Again, take a still more illuminating example: Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and Tsaritsa-Martyr Alexandra. Anyone who has read the diaries of these saints will know that their love was far from platonic. And yet nobody has suggested that this love of theirs, being “fallen”, was an impediment to their holiness. On the contrary, as Fr. Sergius Furmanov has said, “The family of the Tsar was an icon of the family… The holy royal couple, who constructed their family happiness on a love that was in no way darkened in the course of 24 years of marriage, shows the path to young people, that they may with prayer to God for help seek for partners in life.”[58]  

Manichaean. I think what is meant here is that the Tsar-Martyr’s marriage was not darkened by any shadow of infidelity. I accept that married fidelity is a virtue, albeit of a negative kind.

Orthodox. Not that negative. Alexis Khomyakov said: “For the husband his wife is not one of many women, but the woman; and her spouse is for her not one of many men,but the man. For both all other people have no sex."[59] In my view, that is a high ideal.

Manichaean. Nevertheless, fidelity is not the same as chastity; for chastity necessarily implies complete abstinence. Married chastity is possible only for married couples who live as brother and sister, like Adam and Eve in the garden. For they were “married”, and yet had no sexual relations.

Orthodox. It seems to me that you concentrate too much on the sexual act itself. I have already indicated that Adam and Eve’s relationship in Paradise was sexual even if it did not involve the sexual act.

Manichaean. Chastity in the strict sense is not possible where certain sexual reactions are deliberately stimulated. And when a couple decide to make love they are deliberately stimulating certain sexual reactions. That is why I believe Fr. G. is justified in his use of the term “fornication under a crown” (áëóä ïîä âåíöîì).

Orthodox. Within the one-flesh of the marriage relationship there can be no such thing as fornication; and the very idea of “fornication under a crown” must be categorically rejected as a contradiction in terms. For the Russian word for fornication, blud, suggests the idea of wandering, “the wandering of concupiscence” (Wisdom 4.12), whereas it is impossible to “wander” in relation to one’s own flesh.

Manichaean. Alright, let us not use the wordfornication. Let us talk instead about lust. Can you deny that lust is stimulated in marriage?

Orthodox. Lust is present in all fallen men, whether married or monastics. From one point of view, there is more lust in monasticism than in marriage because the monastic does not have the sexual release provided in marriage, and while abstaining from sexual acts may be still more tormented by sexual thoughts and desires. The Lord Himself said: “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5.28) – a command which applies, of course, to both monastics and married people. In that sense lust is more stimulated in monasticism than in marriage. Hence the words of the apostle: “It is better to marry than to burn” (I Cor. 7.9). In fact, as we have seen, St. Paul recommends monasticism over marriage, not because it stimulates lust less, but because it contains fewer worldly cares (I Cor. 7.32-33).

     Thus monasticism does not eliminate lust immediately, any more than marriage does. But both states, properly used, serve to moderate lust and increase chastity and true love. The aim for both is chastity, and chastity can be attained by both. I would compare chastity to the summit of a mountain. Monasticism is the shorter, but more difficult way to the summit, with a real danger of falling over a precipice. It offers a greater struggle with sexual temptation, but a quicker victory over it – and a greater reward in proportion to the greater struggle. Marriage is a longer, and intrinsically easier way to the top. However, the danger of getting distracted along the way, of becoming absorbed in the cares of life and therefore abandoning the journey altogether, is great.

Manichaean. Still, abstinence is always better than indulgence.

Orthodox. Not necessarily. Marriage is a one-flesh relationship, and therefore total abstinence is contrary to its nature and purpose. That is why the Apostle Paul says: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Corinthians 7.5)

Manichaean. But Fr. G. says that, according to St. John Chrysostom, St. Paul’s “Deprive not” is only a form of “Deprive” for tender ears” Orthodox. Your Fr. G. again! Father, is not the meaning of the apostle’s words clear enough? Why should the apostle say “deprive not” if he meant “deprive”?!

     We must remember that the grace of marriage works within the one-flesh relationship to purify and transfigure the passions. For marriage is not simply a permit to sin in a small way so as to avoid sinning in a large way. No: marriage is a sacrament which communicates grace; and as such it changes that which it touches - so long as it is received in the proper manner, as part of the Christian life as a whole. It changes two bodies into one, and lust into chastity – not immediately, of course, but gradually.

      In this connection, the words of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava are especially relevant: “People in recent times have forgotten that the grace of God is communicated in the sacrament of marriage. One must always remember this grace, stir it up and live in its spirit. Then the love of the man for the woman and of the woman for the man will be pure, deep and a source of happiness for them.”[60]

Manichaean. You know, this sounds all very well. But Christianity is not romanticism. And there still seems to me to be a streak of romanticism in you, a tendency to glorify sexual passion in the romantic manner, which is so prevalent in our civilisation.

Orthodox. I am as much against romanticism as you are. Except for that “romanticism” which is to be found in the Holy Scriptures themselves.

Manichaean. What do you mean? I don’t find it in the Scriptures. Which is why I suspect your quotations from the Holy Fathers. I hope you are not going to make the very crude mistake of interpreting The Song of Songs in a literal manner! You know, the Holy Fathers interpreted it as an allegory of the soul’s purely spiritual love for God.

Orthodox. I know. I was thinking of another passage from Solomon:Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely hind, a graceful doe. Let her affection fill you at all times with delight, be infatuated always with her love…” (Prov. 5.18-19) Manichaean. I think the Holy Fathers would also interpret this passage in an allegorical manner.

Orthodox. I don’t think so. This is what St. Gregory the Theologian wrote, obviously referring to this passage: “For man and wife the union of wedlock is a bolted door securing chastity and restraining desire. And it is a seal of natural affection. They possess the loving colt which cheers the heart by gamboling, and a single drink from their private fountain untasted by strangers, which neither flows outwards, nor gathers its waters from without. Wholly united in the flesh, concordant in spirit, by love, they sharpen in one another a like spur to piety…”[61]

Manichaean. It seems to me that, according to your logic, marriage should be as sensual as possible!

Orthodox. I never said that marriage should be as sensual as possible. But I do believe that the married couple should not be prevented from having joy in each other. St. Ignatius the Godbearer writes: "Speak to my sisters that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands in flesh and in spirit. In the same way enjoin on my brothers in the name of Jesus Christ 'to love their wives as the Lord loved the Church'.. It is right for men and women who marry to be united with the consent of the bishop, that the marriage may be according to the Lord and not according to lust."[62] Here there is a frank admission that marriage is designed to satisfy certain natural needs, both fleshly and spiritual. But the satisfaction of these needs is “not according to lust [Gk. epiqumia]”, but “according to the Lord” if it is done with the blessing of the bishop – that is, with the grace of God imparted through the sacrament of marriage. Thus there is no prudery, no attempt to deny the satisfactions of marriage; for the result of that, among fallen men and women, would be that they would seek satisfaction outside marriage, and the first purpose of marriage, to avoid fornication, would be frustrated. This is not hedonism, but realism.

Manichaean. Alright, I am beginning to come round to your point of view. But I still have one difficulty: how do you interpret the Scripture: “These are they who have not defiled themselves with women; for they are virgins” (Rev. 14.4)? Does this not mean that those who are not virgins are defiled?

Orthodox. No, it does not. The Scriptures cannot contradict each other. We have already seen that Hebrews 13.4, as interpreted by the Holy Fathers, clearly indicates that marriage and sexual relations in marriage are pure. So the passage from Revelation that you quote cannot have a meaning contradictory to that. I think the resolution of the problem is simple. For those who have made a vow of virginity relations with women are a defilement, which also explains why so many monastic texts speak about marriage as if it were a defilement. In the context of the monastic struggle, this is perfectly understandable and right. But in the broader context of Christian theology as a whole, and for those who have not made a vow of virginity, there is no defilement in entering into lawful marriage. Thus St. Gregory the Theologian says to those preparing to be baptised: “Are you not yet married to the flesh? Fear not this consecration; you are pure even after marriage. I will take the risk of that. I will join you in marriage. I will dress the bride. We do not dishonour marriage because we give a higher honour to virginity. I will imitate Christ, the pure Bridegroom and Leader of the Bride, as He both worked a miracle at a wedding, and honours marriage with His Presence.”[63] Former Manichaean. Alright. I am convinced…

Orthodox. Glory to God!… So, Father, will you marry us?

Former Manichaean. With the greatest pleasure!

Orthodox. [smiles] You’re not against pleasure any more, then?

Former Manichaean. Not this kind of pleasure! And I must thank you for enabling me now for the first time to utter the prayer of the marriage service with conviction: “O Holy God, Who didst creat man out of dust, and didst fashion his wife out of his rib, and didst unite her unto him as a helpmeet; for it seemed good to Thy majesty that man should not be alone upon the earth: Do thou even now, O Master, stretch out Thy hand from Thy holy dwelling-place and unite this Thy servant, and this Thy handmaid; for by Thee is the husband united unto the wife. Join them in one mind; crown them into one flesh, granting unto them the fruit of the womb, and the enjoyment of fair children…”



Dedicated to the servants of God Alexei and Olga, on their marriage.




March 1/14, 2002.




[3] St. Chrysostom, Homily 12 on I Timothy.

[4] V. Moss, The Saints of Anglo-Saxon England, volume III, Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1997, p. 7.

[5] Bethu Brigte, edited by Donncha O hAodha, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1978, 45, p. 32.

[6] St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, II, 42; translated by William Reeves, Lampeter: Llanerch Enterprises, 1874, 1988, pp. 103-104.

[7] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 30 on Hebrews, P.G. 63:281 (col. 210).

[8] Blessed Theophylact, P.G. 125:756B (col. 389).

[9] Oleg VM, “O lyubvi. Kak govoril ministr-administrator”, http://webforum.land.ru/mes.php? Id=2297293&fs=0&ord=1&1st=&board=12871&arhv=

[10] Oleg VM, “Protokol raznoglasij”, http://webforum.land.ru/mes.php? Id=2308343&fs=0&ord=1&1&board=12871&1st=&arhv=

[11] St. Photius, Homily on the Birth of the Virgin, 9. Translated by Cyril Mango in The Homilies of Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Harvard University Press, 1958.

[12] St. Damascene, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, II, 13.

[13] Bishop Theophan, The Spiritual Life, pp. 61-62.

[14] Hieromartyr John, in Igumen Damaskin (Orlovsky), Mucheniki, ispovedniki podvizhniki blagochestia Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi XX stoletia, Tver: “Bulat”, 2000, vol. 4, p. 247.

[15] See St. Gaudentius of Brescia, Sermon 8, P.L. 20. Translated in M.F. Toal, Patristic Homilies on the Gospels, Cork: The Mercier Press, 1955, vol. I, p. 313.

[16] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians.

[17] St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John 17.21; quoted in Archbishop Ilarion Troitsky, Christianity or the Church? Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, 1971, p. 9. Italics mine (V.M.).

[18] The Church recognises other reasons for divorce insofar as they have the same de facto effect on marriage as adultery. Thus the Council of the Russian church in 1917-18 allowed divorce for 10 reasons, such as apostasy, siphilis, madness and impotence. ("Economy", Living Orthodoxy, 121, January-February, 2000, p. 28)

[19] Hieromartyr  Gregory, Interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, Moscow, 1991, p. 106 (in Russian).

[20] St. John, The Ladder, 15: foreword. According to Blessed Augustine (The City of God, XIV, 26), Adam and Eve may have know some form of sexual union, without fallen lust, in Paradise. However, this view is not found in any other Father.

[21] Thus St. Gregory writes that if we had not sinned, we would not have needed marriage to multiply; for “whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature… , it would have operated also in the case of men, who were ‘made a little lower than the angels’, to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker” (On the Making of Man, XVII, 2).

[22] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on Genesis, 11.

[23] "An Address of the Right Reverend Tikhon", Orthodox Life, vol. 37, no. 4, July-August, 1987, pp. 3-4.

[24] Professor Panagiotes Trembelas puts it as follows: man and woman help each other by "exercising mutual forbearance, encouraging one another, so as to bring their different characters into harmony, so as to love and serve one another, experiencing together the same joys and sorrows, supporting one another in their weaknesses, giving a helping hand in time of need, spending themselves wholly for one another, together carrying the burden of life and the responsibility of a family." (Dogmatique de l'Eglise Orthodoxe Catholique, Chevetogne, vol. III, p. 351 (in French)). Cf. Lady Namier's words: "In the East marriage and the whole of family life are seen as a discipline often likened to that of monasticism. Both rub away the sharp edginess of personality, as pebbles tossed together by sea-waves rub each other smooth in the long run" (The Listener, 12 December, 1957).

[25] St. Cyril, Against Julian, 3, P.G. 76, 637.

[26] St. Gregory Palamas, To Xenia, 41; The Philokalia, vol. IV, p. 309.

[27] In any case, even in its fallen state, the love between men and women is as much, if not much more, psychological than physical. Cf.  Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Confession, Jordanville, 1996, pp. 65-66. Antony Ter-Grigorian rightly notes: “The point does not lie in a division of love into a physical (fallen) and a non-physical (non-fallen) kind. This is not a valid distinction, since all levels and manifestations of love are “transparent”.

[28] Serge Verkhovskoy writes: “The sleep which God brought upon Adam is in Hebrew called tardemah. This word refers to a deep sleep, particularly a sleep in which one sees visions (cf. Genesis 15.12). In Greek this sleep is called extasis and in Russian istuplenie. Thus Adam’s state in this sleep may be understood not as a state of complete insensibility, but rather as a state of inner, supra-conscious tension, in which he was turned, so to speak, to face his future wife. Does this not explain how he was able to recognize her when he first saw her?” (“The Creation of Man and the Establishment of the Family in the Light of the Book of Genesis”, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 1964, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 9).

[29] Velimirovich, The Prologue from Ochrid, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1986, volume IV, p. 241, November 25.

[30] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians.

[31] St. Chrysostom, Third Discourse on Marriage; translated in Roth, C.P. and Anderson, D., St. John Chrysostom: On Marriage and Family Life, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986, p. 95.

[32] St. Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians; translated in Roth & Anderson, op. cit., p. 51.

[33] St. Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians; translated in Roth & Anderson, op. cit., pp. 75-76.

[34] St. Gregory of Nyssa, quoted in Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern), Antropologiya sv. Grigoriya Palamy, Paris, 1950, p. 157 (in Russian).

[35] St. Anastasius, On the image and likeness, P.G. 89, 1145BC; in John Meyendorff, Catholicity and the Church, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1983, pp. 24-25.

[36] "Thus," as Vladimir Lossky writes, "the mystery of the singular and plural in man reflects the mystery of the singular and plural in God: in the same way that the personal principle in God demands that the one nature express itself in the diversity of persons, likewise in man, created in the image of God. Human nature cannot be the possession of a monad. It demands not solitude but communion, the wholesome diversity of love. Then the divine order, 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it,' establishes a certain correspondence between sexuality and cosmic domination of the first couple and the mysterious overcoming in God by duality by the triad. But this paradisal 'eros' would have been as different from our fallen and devouring sexuality as the sacerdotal royalty of man over created being should be from our actual devouring of each other. For God is precise: 'And to the wild beasts... I give all the green plants to eat.' The narrative of creation, let us not forget, is expressed in the categories of the fallen world. But the Fall has changed the very meaning of the words. Sexuality, this 'multiplying' that God orders and blesses, appears in our universe as irremediably linked to separation and death. This is because the condition of man has known, at least in his biological reality, a catastrophic mutation. But human love would not be pregnant with such a paradisal nostalgia if there did not remain painfully within it the memory of a first condition where the other and the world were known from the inside, where, accordingly, death did not exist..." (Lossky, "Creation: Cosmic Order", Orthodox Theology, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, 1978, p. 67).

[37] St. John Chrysostom, On Psalm 50, M.P.G. 55:583.

[38] St. Maximus, First Century on Love, 35; The Philokalia, translated by Palmer, Sherrard & Ware, London: Faber, 1979, vol. II, p. 56.

[39] St. Chrysostom, Homilies on Titus, V, 2.

[40] St. Maximus the Confessor, On the Lord’s Prayer; The Philokalia, vol. II, p. 298.

[41] St. Gregory the Theologian, quoted by St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, P.G. 91, 1665D.

[42] St. Theodore the Great Ascetic, A Century of Spiritual Texts,  no. 24.

[43] St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, XVIII, 5.

[44] St. Isaiah, On Guarding the Intellect: Twenty-Seven Texts, 1.

[45] St. John, The Ladder, 5:26.

[46] St. John, The Ladder, 15:60.

[47] St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection, P.G. 46:61.

[48] St. Gregory Palamas, Triads, I, ii, 1.

[49] St. Gregory Palamas, Triads, II, ii, 5.

[50] St. Gregory Palamas, Triads, III, iii, 15.

[51] St. Gregory Palamas, To Xenia; The Philokalia, vol. IV, p. 302.

[52] Gilbert Noble, The Saints of Cornwall, Oxford: Holywell Press, volume V, 1970, pp. 65-66.

[53] Blessed Theophylact, The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, 14.26.

[54] Archbishop Theophan, Letters, op. cit., p. 37.

[55] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7 on Hebrews, 4.

[56] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians.

[57] St. Chrysostom, Homily 13 on Romans, 1.

[58] Furmanov, Russkij Pastyr’, 36, N 1, 2000,  p. 34. Italics mine (V.M.).

[59] Khomyakov, quoted in Orthodox Life (Jordanville), November-December, 1983, p. 22.

[60] Archbishop Theophanes, Pis’ma, Jordanville, 1976, pp. 35-37 (in Russian).

[61] St. Gregory the Theologian, In Praise of Virginity, 11.263-75, translated in Orthodox Life, November-December, 1981.

[62] St. Ignatius, To Polycarp, 5.

[63] St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration on Holy Baptism, 18.