Living In An Age Of Pornography And Overcoming LustAug 27, 2021
Orthodox Anthropology Summary
The Fathers of the Church teach us that man's true health is associated with the state of perfection intended for him by nature, the potential of the Pre-Fall man.
Perfection means deification or theosis, the ability to become god, attainable by grace.
The Ancestral Sin disrupted the perfection process intended for our first parents and by implication, us; and the Ancestral Sin infects all the universe. The Ancestral Sin occurs when our first parents chose in their free will to follow the suggestion of the serpent and turn away from the commandment of God.
The result of the Ancestral Sin is the dis-ordering of the drives/appetites of mankind; no longer inclined to God, sin infects all of man's desires, dis-ordered drives lead to further complications such as addiction, distraction, the major passions, including lust, greed, envy, wrath, etc.
The remedy of this is the Life in Christ, baptism gives us a new birth, the possibility of perfection. The Ascetical, Liturgical life of the Church provides a method of theosis, deification that overcomes all sin; with great struggle.
On the Passion of Lust
Lust (porneia, Greek) is man's pathological use of his sexuality.
The use of sexuality is in no way original in human nature, and only appears in mankind as a result of the Ancestral Sin.
The Church Fathers teach that Adam and Eve desired one another and came together sexually only after they had turned away from God, referring to the intimations of Scripture. (Genesis 3:16; 4:1) [pg. 159, Larchet]
St. John Damascene-"Virginity was original and innate in the nature of men. In Paradise, virginity was the normal state. When through transgression death entered the world, only then did Adam know his wife and she gave birth." (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith; IV.20. Cf II.12, 20)
St. John Chrysostom-"Adam and Eve had intercourse only after their disobedience and their exile. Previously they lived like the angels…Thus, in the order of time, virginity holds the title of priority.' Homilies on Genesis XVIII.4
Many other Fathers teach the same-Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Jerusalem, Symeon The New Theologian, …
Yet the use of sexuality in marriage is not at all to be condemned, for it permits the perpetuation of the human race. These two are held by the Fathers, God blessed the sexual union for that reason. It is taught that sexual activity in marriage is called to the same sanctification as all the other functions of human existence.
In the context of marriage, the passion of lust does not consist then in making use of the sexual function, but in its perverse, abusive use. It indicates the wrong use of the function; a perversion, a use contrary to its natural end goal and for this reason contranatural and abnormal-in other words, pathological. (Larchet)
So, we see that sexual activity is not in a separate category of sin, but as with all passions, it is a misuse or abuse of the natural function and is therefore treated in a similar fashion.
It does seem though that sexual passion is more deeply rooted than some passions (my opinion) and can be more difficult to battle. The analogy may be that of drug abuse and heroin. Drug abuse is treated the same way with all drugs and alcohol, but heroin addiction is particularly more difficult to overcome, for example. This could possibly be linked to fantasy and the logismoi.
Interestingly, saints who never had the occasion to see porn, nor were never sexually impure are also attacked by the demon of lust or fornication. ( c.f., St. Joseph the Hesychast)
Grasping the Traditional teaching about virginity and sexuality is helpful in the treatment process because it gives a more sane and realistic view of what healing is than is available outside the Orthodox tradition.
The deification of man is the goal, we are capable of purity in Christ. We can become chaste. Our goal is NOT merely abstinence from lust but purity of soul and body, acquiring the Likeness of Christ. (chaste does not mean virginal or without sexual activity but indicates a holiness in the activity, thus the marriage bed should be chaste)
Fr. Josiah Trenham; Marriage and Virginity According to St. John Chrysostom; Fr. Josiah does a thorough treatment of the teaching of the Church Fathers on Marriage, Virginity, etc.
Therapy of Spiritual Illness, An Introduction to the Ascetic Tradition of the Orthodox Church; vol. 1 by Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet is the source from which this is taken.
Compiled and edited by Fr. Stephen Lourie
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