Sanfilippo’s “Conjugal Friendship”

Recently the Public Orthodoxy site has published a piece by Giacomo Sanfilippo under the title “Conjugal Friendship”. In it Sanfilippo writes, “To the question, ‘Can two persons of the same gender ‘have sex’ with each other?’ we hear from Holy Tradition a resounding no. Yet if we ask, ‘Can two persons of the same gender form a bond in which ‘the two become one?’ the scales begin to fall from our eyes. Holy Tradition possesses in germinal form everything necessary to articulate, thoughtfully and cautiously, an Orthodox theology and spirituality of what we now call same-sex love, adequate to the pastoral needs of the 21st century”. Like all liberals and heretics of every age, of course the claim is made that the new heresy is actually just the old Orthodoxy dressed in modern garb. Those who have been following the LGBQT debate until now will recognize that by the “the pastoral needs of the 21st century” is meant simply conformity to the worldly spirit of our age and the insistent demands of secular western culture.

Sanfilippo is quite right in pointing out that in previous ages, the “ideal of friendship as constitutive of ‘one soul in two bodies’” has a long and venerable history. He cites the writings of Plato and Aristotle, and the examples of David and Jonathan.  Making Christ and John another example is pushing it, to say the least, despite their embrace in the Mystic Supper (which evidently forms the basis for a modern “icon” of “Christ the Bridegroom”, which is simply disturbing visual trash). Sanfilippo might also have added as a champion of the glory of Philia the writings of C. S. Lewis, especially in his book The Four Loves. In it, Lewis opined that friendship was a virtue under-valued in his day because it was so little experienced in his day.

Of course Lewis’ day is not our day (he died in 1963), and the disease of sexualizing everything which was seizing western culture by the throat in Lewis’ day has progressed far and has thoroughly throttled our own culture today. Even then Lewis gave fair warning, cautioning against the idea that “every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual”. In fairness to Sanfilippo, his paper stops short of suggesting that all deep same-sex friendships are at base covertly homosexual. But Sanfilippo does make clear that by “conjugal friendship” he means what we would identify as gay marriage.

There several problems with the details in his presentation. By saying that the monastic/ liturgical rite of “brother-making” (Greek adelphopoiesis) “precedes by a century or two that of marriage”, he gives the impression that somehow the late Byzantine rite of “brother-making”—i.e. sanctifying a deep bond between friends for a specific purpose—somehow shares some sort of ontological parity with marriage. (Shades of John Boswell!) Otherwise why mention the timing at all? In fact of course marriage itself did not arise after brother-making, but in the Garden. But the fact that the current rite of marriage in its Byzantine liturgical form continued to evolve after the form of brother-making ceased evolving is irrelevant. If anything it shows the shortened shelf-life of the form of brother-making and its limited use. The rite of adelphopoiesis did not continue to evolve liturgically because the need for it ceased to be felt.

Sanfilippo also says that the term “sexual orientation” is modern, and its use “as a marker of personal identity” was unknown to the ancients. That is true, but that does not mean that the ancients felt no such desires, or that their words condemning homosexual activity no longer apply to us today. It simply means that they did not share our own modern obsession with personal identity.

Also problematic is his anachronistic identification of certain details of friendship as suggesting a sexual component to the friendship. Mentions of “patristic encomiums to friendship that have an almost romantic quality about them”, or an icon which “depicts SS. Theodore of Tyre and Theodore Stratelates in military attire holding hands like any modern couple” are misleading in the extreme. Again, Lewis could have warned him. “Kisses, tears and embraces are not in themselves evidence of homosexuality” he wrote. They are only evidence that all ancient friendships had a physical component to them, and that the modern disease of sexualizing everything, including friendship, had not taken hold of the ancients.   Hard as it may be for some today to believe, a friendship could be physical, and still not sexual.

The main problems with Sanfilippo’s thesis are twofold. First, he fails to see that friendship need not be confined to two persons. His relentless pairing of friends and talk about “one soul in two bodies” fails to see that friendship need not be so confined. Again Lewis: “Two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best…True friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth…They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves…’” Sanfilippo’s insistence on regarding friendship as consisting of two persons when real friendship does not so confine itself reveals his secret agenda. Friendship is not necessarily the exclusive union of two that he would make it. He is not in fact talking about Friendship and Philia, but about Marriage and Eros. For Eros is exclusively and jealously about two persons, as the Song of Solomon shows. By focusing relentlessly upon friendship as pairing (e.g. talk of “the two becom[ing] more perfectly a single I”) he distorts the true nature of friendship.

The second and most fundamental error in Sanfilippo’s message is the sexualisation of Friendship. Friendship may be conjugal, if one marries one’s friend and soul-mate. But most friendships are not conjugal—that is, they are not sexual.   The fact that healthy friendship is not exclusive, jealous, or confined to two persons reveals this. One may have four friends or more, but (in Christian thought) only one spouse. Conjugal union is, by definition, a union of two and only two, because it is sexual. Friends stand symbolically side by side; spouses, face to face. The face to face posture of spouses expresses, both symbolically and physically, the sexuality of their union, and its essential difference from Friendship. Sanfilippo’s talk of “two persons of the same gender form[ing] a bond in which ‘the two become one’” deliberately sexualizes a non-sexual bond. Two persons of the same gender can indeed have a friendship and form a bond. But Sanfilippo’s use of the phrase “the two become one” (from the Biblical description of marriage) introduces an alien element into the bond. He is not helping scales to fall from our eyes, but simply our minds to become confused. That confusion, part of a modern secular sexualisation of practically everything in our culture, is typical of homosexual concerns. It is also characteristic of Public Orthodoxy, and Fordham University.

 

31 comments:

    1. It is more than troubling. The Public Orthodoxy site is a symptom of a deeper malaise in North American Orthodoxy–a redefinition/ renunciation of real Orthodoxy while retaining the name.

      1. I’m afraid so, I’ve seen it in the Greek Church, totally spiritually exhausting. Should I leave for something more traditional like ROCOR, or zhould I stay in GOARCH, I need prayers.

        1. Don’t be silly. There is no need to tar a whole jurisdiction with the heresies of a few laypeople. If you are truly bothered, you should contact the Bishops of these people and ask why they continue to be communed.

  1. Another contortionist. Great effort, many words, to twist the truth. Father, thanks for exposing these fallacies. They are so easily hidden within the cunning speech.

  2. Thank you very much, Fr. Lawrence, for this very thoughtful, insightful, and quick response to this flawed and deceptive attempt to promote what cannot be promoted as an expression of true Orthodox Christianity.

  3. Thank you for the very insightful commentary, Father. Although the OP in PO was rather short, you were able read between the lines. To make your position even stronger, may I suggest that you anticipate and clarify what the nature of the love that David and Jonathan had, being “more wonderful” than that of a woman (see 2 Sam 1:26).

    1. Fr. Seraphim: Thank you for your kind words, and your excellent suggestion. Rescuing Scripture from such revisionism is tiresome, but seems to be necessary.
      David’s words about Jonathan in 2 Sam. 1:26 was part of his larger lament in v. 19-27, and one purpose of the lament was not simply to express his personal grief over the death of his beloved friend Jonathan and his father Saul, but also to show to others that he was not the enemy of the House of Saul. This was politically astute, since David’s ultimate purpose was to win over all Israel to himself, including Saul’s tribe of Benjamin, and he had to present himself as a unifier, and therefore not an inveterate foe of Saul’s House. His point about his love for Jonathan as “more wonderful than the love of women” focussed on the constancy of the bond—a man might divorce his wife, but David would never break his covenant with Jonathan. That covenant, established in 1 Samuel 20, included the bit that once he was king, David would not secure his throne by wiping out what remained of the House of Saul (normal practice for kings in those days), but would let them live: “Yahweh will be between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever” (v.42). The bond and covenant had nothing to do with sexual fervour, but with concern for their future descendants.

  4. “The love that dare not speak its name” is now “the heresy that dare not quite be fully enunciated”!

  5. I agree with 99% of your response Fr L. No doubt that Sanfilippo ‘s piece was odd if nothing else. The images it conjured and the liberties it took were a little disturbing. It played fast and loose with quotes and confusing.

    I will disagree with the very last sentence of the piece. ” It is also characteristic of Public Orthodoxy, and Fordham University.” As a serious Orthodox Christian, I find there website to be very helpful and applicable in my daily life. That does not mean I agree %100, but I love the topics they discuss and my faith is strong enough that Im not scandalized by everything I disagree with. There has been some WONDERFUL articles written on that site. For example, Fr. Marc Dunaway, not a radical by any means, posted a wonderfully written, thoughtful piece a couple months ago titled “Bringing Orthodoxy to America.” I have met both George and Telly, the editors to Public Orthodoxy, and they are wonderful god fearing people. They also, do not %100 agree with everything posted on there site, but they want ot encourage discussion and help Orthodox people process difficult topics.

    ALSO Father L, I would not throw around the word “Heretic” so casually. I understand that that word has become a kinda “click” word and is fun to use against people, but it implies that the person is evil and is setting out with evil intentions. Rather, we are all ORTHODOX and we sometimes have varying opinions and ideas and just because we disagree, that does not make them a heretic. It is an irresponsible word to use, especially coming form a priest. WE are all sinners, we are all off base on some ideas, and some of us even disagree with the church fathers, but that does not make somebody a heretic….it makes them a critical thinking christian.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my terms. By “heretic” I mean someone who deliberately teaches something contrary to the received Tradition of the Church. Whether they are also evil or are motivated by evil intentions I leave to God. There are indeed varying opinions and ideas in the Church, and espousing them does not necessarily constitute heresy. But contradicting a received part of Tradition does. Thus Arius was a heretic when he deliberately denied the divinity of Christ, and anyone is a heretic if he denies the received teaching of the Church regarding sexuality and gender. Of course a heretic perceives himself to be Orthodox and claims his teaching is Orthodox—Arius thought he was Orthodox. What matters is not self-definition, but actual conformity to received Tradition. If anyone’s “critical thinking” (a term I note also left undefined) contradicts the received Tradition, then that critical thinker, if he refuses to be corrected, is a heretic. There may be other definitions of the term, but that is the one I used in my blog piece, and one consistent with the Fathers.

      1. Thank you for the clarification of the word “heretic.” I would also again point out that the Public Orthodoxy blog posts many great articles that are thought provoking and well written. I have already mentioned Fr. Dunaway’s and there are many, many more. To judge the whole blog and the authors on one post (or even numerous) that you deem “heretical” is harsh and wrong. I understand that this is the climate we live in and if somebody disagrees with you you undermine them and dismiss all their points, but I think the Public Orthodoxy blog deserves better than this. I recently heard that they have over a quarter million unique hits to their page which is probably 10x more than most other Orthodox blogs. Wether you disagree with them or not, they are witnessing to many people and causing many people to have discussions they would otherwise not have. To dismiss PO so quickly is reckless and irresponsible. I would encourage you to take another look at their page and realize that many of the authors are thoughtful, well intentioned people.

        1. There are indeed many good articles on the Public Orthodoxy site, including the recent one from Dr. Carrie Frost. A careful reading of my piece will show that I am not dismissing Public Orthodoxy wholesale, but identifying it as a source of confusion. When a site mixes good pieces with heretical ones, what can the result be for the average layman but confusion? The site gives the impression that certain things (such as the Church’s teaching about sexuality) is up for debate among Orthodox Christians, when in fact it is not. It is this refusal or inability to distinguish between things genuinely up for debate and other things that are not which led me to identify both the Public Orthodoxy site and Fordham University as problematic for the average Orthodox Christian. The fact that their site may have over a quarter million unique hits and cause many Orthodox people to debate what should be regarded as non-debatable is precisely the problem.

  6. I am not usually one to comment on blogs, but I wanted to thank you, Fr. Lawrence, for the first part of your response to the recent article on Public Orthodoxy by Giacomo Sanfilippo. However, I also want to say that the very last comment in your response did not at all fit with the rest of what you wrote and was, in my view, unwarranted and unbecoming. I am a friend and supporter of the founders of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham and I am very hopeful that their work and scholarship will continue to provide a valuable service to the Church. In our family — the family my wife and I were blessed to have with our four children — we had a saying: “Mistakes are allowed.” It was meant to express the love we had among us, along with the confidence and encouragement and generosity we extended to one another as we all grew together. Surely such an atmosphere of love and generosity also has to exist in the family of the Church. While I might think posting the confusing “Conjugal Friendship” was a mistake, I do not think it is a mistake to have a forum where Orthodox Christians can share thoughts and present different points of view, especially perhaps on matters that are controversial. I think we can handle it and we need it. So I hope you will keep on with the first part of your critique but certainly reconsider your judgment at the end and even retract it. I also want to say that I very much appreciated your recent book, The Empty Throne. It provides an important history we also need to think about and discuss.

    1. Dear Fr. Marc: Thank you for your comments, charitable, thoughtful, and measured as always. I appreciate many posts on Public Orthodoxy, including (if I may say) especially your own recent post on liturgical matters, about which I heartily agree. My concern with Public Orthodoxy is not simply that it makes mistakes (mistakes are of course indeed allowed, since they are inevitable), but that it sometimes deliberately sets itself against the received Tradition of the Church. These are not honest mistakes, but the result of an approach which regards as open theological doctrines which are not in fact open. In other words, there is a willingness to deconstruct the Tradition of the Church. It is this which I find disturbing and problematic. Thank you again for your words, and also for your appreciation of The Empty Throne. I look forward to reading your posts, wherever they may be found.

  7. I will disagree with this defense of Fordham and Public Orthodoxy by Benjamin and Fr. Marc. While I have never met George and “Telly” I have also heard from people I know and trust who that they are “good men”. Question: do “good men” = “God fearing”, necessarily?

    As one person who knew them through the OTSA put it they have “a vision” That vision is a *reform* agenda that is justified as what the Church has always done in the face of “the new” which in our case is modernity. The fruits of their scholarly/theological labors however are spoiled. What they end up doing (rather it be secularism in general, homosexualism, women’s ordination, “ecumenicism” and “fundamentalism”, etc.) is not bringing the Church and the Tradition to bear on our time, but on the contrary they bring our time and place (i.e. secularism) to the Church and say in essence “here, eat of this”.

    Those of us with experience in the several Protestant or RC ‘church’s’ have seen this movie before and know how it ends. These “well intentioned” scholars and clergy (and I do mean that – they do have the best intentions but we all know where that road leads) think that they and Orthodoxy are different. They believe they can navigate this gulag of modernity and secularism successfully where others have failed. Indeed, they believe with all their heart that we have no choice and this is exactly what the Spirit is calling on them to do. They are right, except where they are wrong. They borrow too much from the secular understandings of man (anthropos). They lean too heavily on the history of rites/orders and deemphasize the *symbolic* reality (unchanging and unchangeable) of our sexuality and sexual relatedness both outside (homosexualism, etc.) and inside (women’s ordination) the Church which these very rites and orders communicate (as in communion). They appear to believe that they have harnessed a power (as yet unidentified – the atom perhaps? 😉 ) that will nullify the law of unintended consequences. They are “in tune” with the age yet at the very same time strangely naive.

    Modern, secularized man is infatuated with “dialogue”, particularly within Orthodoxy! As Fr. Marc puts it:

    ” I do not think it is a mistake to have a forum where Orthodox Christians can share thoughts and present different points of view, especially perhaps on matters that are controversial.”

    If only this vision, this reform agenda, this secularized and secularizing theology were so innocent like a mere “controversy”. It is much more than that however. It is the secularizing acid that destroys the ground upon which we can even agree on what a “controversy” is. If homosexualism (i.e. the “ism” – that which justifies itself) is a “controversy” then there are no controversies because there is not enough of the Faith left from which to *see* anything at all, let alone compare and contrast it within the dialectic to arrive at a controversy, and the light has been mixed with the darkness and we are truly lost.

    There are a myriad of ways that we as Orthodox are failing in our secular soujorn (which in our time and place is “the world” of the New Testament). In my opinion where Orthodoxy is going to really stumble down the modern rabbit hole is not with homosexualism but when (and not if) it creates a new order of female deacons. This will not be a restored “female deaconess” of old but rather a new thing, a new creation of seminary trained young (both married and unmarried) women who fill the perceived “need” that folks like Dr. Frost talk about. I have nothing but respect for Dr. Frost and was her student for a semester, but I could not disagree with her more on this supposed practical, spiritual, ontological need for the female diaconate. More than that, I maintain that this need is not in the end genuine – it is a passion yes and very real, but it is not something that is of the Spirit and it is not something that He is leading us as Church into – on the contrary. I myself have a real sadness at the what the EP did through his proxy the Alexandrian Patriarchate (see what I did there 😉 ) but that is yet another facet to this story.

    In any case I have gone on too long for a post in a comment box. I trust Fr. Lawrence you won’t be too impressed with these seemingly reasonable “ah, what’s the harm in talking about this? Are we not all adults here, and mature enough in the Faith that we can discuss this or that and the Spirit will blow will He will. Don’t you understand nothing but *good* can come from the precious and holy font of d-i-a-l-o-u-g-e…”

  8. Fr. Lawrence, the second sentence should read:

    While I have never met George and “Telly” I have heard from people I know and trust that they are “good men”.

    You need an editing function!

    😉

  9. Whenever I hear of the virtue of dialogue on such matters, I cannot help bit recall these and other such words of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
    To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
    Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

    Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
    But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

    These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

    Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

    These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

    But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
    And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
    Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
    And to present you faultless
    Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
    To God our Savior,
    Who alone is wise,
    Be glory and majesty,
    Dominion and power,
    Both now and forever.
    Amen.

    “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”

    Forgive me, but none of this sounds like what many today would call “healthy dialogue.” On the contrary, these are the words of shepherds admonishing their flocks to have nothing to do with so-called ‘brethren’ who persist in espousing what is contrary to the faith of Christ – the words of wise and holy men who understood the malignant nature of such ‘dialogue’ and the consequence of suffering such men to continue in open rebellion against sound doctrine.

  10. Again Father Farley, first I thank you.
    Christopher and Brian, second.
    Before I comment, I admit that my response will be a most unscholarly response to those whose identity is largely scholastic, only because it is their chosen vocation. It is not mine. I am a common person, with a college education (psychology and nursing), but common to the core. I can not hide it, as you will see in my response.
    After reading the responses in defense of PO I wondered what does PO stand behind, ie what are her standards. Easy enough to find out, I went to the website. Here’s what it says: “Our goal is to feature insightful, provocative op-ed style pieces from scholars of Orthodox Christianity…..fosters intellectual inquiry…teaching that is critical to the ecclesial community…and the promotion of Christian unity… related to the interdisciplinary study of Orthodox Christian traditions.” [op-ed=commentary; interdisciplinary=relating to more than one branch of knowledge.] Although I am familiar with these words I need to look them up and place them in context. Bear with me, please.
    So what is the standard? Orthodox Christian traditions? What traditions? Shouldn’t that read in the singular, tradition?
    After reading Christopher’s response, a little thick 😉 , but understanding the gist, I wondered how would the Apostles have reacted to these Orthodox scholars? only next to read Brian’s response. Well, what can I say. Amen.
    To the defenders of PO, your response may be that PO is not meant for me personally. True. However, since PO is displayed on the world wide web, including many who may be interested in Orthodoxy, this site does the Tradition and the Truth of our Faith no justice. As a new convert from Protestantism, well read and learned for many years, quite familiar with the “critical thinking” approach, I have had my fill of such things. I am not looking for more critical thinking. I am looking for Truth. I want answers. Not a dissecting scholarly approach that takes away and/or adds to what was handed down as Tradition. I found my questions answered in the Orthodox faith. There is no doubt in my mind that I am speaking for many converts to Orthodoxy.
    Father Farley, whose credentials are impressive, scholarly, no doubt, yet has kept to the Tradition. He speaks in plain language, and is blessed to recognize false teachings. PO defendants jump at the word heretic. Why? You’re treading in muddy waters, that’s why. Your conscience is pricked. PO fosters “intellectual inquiry” but to what end? When the truth was twisted in Mr. Sanfilippo’s article, what was your response? Nothing! We’re left with a sea of op-eds. If one is inquiring about Orthodoxy what does he come away with? Anything goes! If it doesn’t fit here, we’ll make it fit somewhere else. PO says she promotes Christian unity. Again, to what end? Orthodoxy must be watered down, be inclusive to everything that comes down the pike. Unity? to who? Certainly not the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. As you can plainly see, I am tired of the dialogue. It’s sickening. It’s exhausting. And a waste of time. It takes away from the fundamental teachings of the Church, the Fathers, Scripture, that if we hear it once, then a thousand times, it would never be enough.
    Ok, I warned you this wouldn’t be a scholarly answer. I just wanted you to hear from those in another segment of society. I pray for the day these things can be resolved. I cling to Christ’s words that the gates of hell will not prevail.

    1. My apologies Paula for being thick – I was trying to address too much in that post. Your right to suspect that behind this defense of dialogue and scholarly inquiry is an agenda. While there are several variations on a theme, the thing that ties it all together is a secular mind when it comes to the “how” of knowledge (epistime). Orthodox scholars (modern scholastics) are simply too deep in their methods to see this – and when they do they justify it as necessary. It is not necessary, and the fruits reveal this.

      Dialogue is not salvific in itself and furthermore is not a way, technique, or method to find salvation. This is why you find it so tiring. Dialogue is what secularists *do* because it is how a secular man (anthropos) forms and constitutes his self, his very being. Descartes said it best:

      I think {in other words I talk a lot to myself}, therefore I AM

      [note: to the scholar’s out there I know I am doing Cartesian ontology backwards – my contention is that is because that is how it in fact plays out empirically]

      That makes man a product of his own inner dialogue. Christianity is the very opposite – our self is a “product” of God and is not dependent on anything we do – most especially our speech and knowledge of good and evil. We are only to listen. Think about it – the Neptic Fathers perceive dialogue as not a help, but a hindrance to our becoming fully human and recommend a program of acesis to silence dialogue of all types (inner and outer). We see in the Gospel Mary “at the feet of the Lord listening (akouo)” and of course what was Martha doing? She probably just wanted help fixing this or that – a “critical” reform – all for the Glory of God of course 😉

      More thickness I know… 😉

      1. Hi Christopher,
        Oh, trust me, no need to apologize for your “thickness”! It’s me…depending on content, it sometimes takes me a while to assimilate.
        Your point is well taken regarding the “how’s” of knowledge taken too far. It’s like straining at that gnat….
        And yes, the Fathers do warn about talkativeness and inquisitiveness. Also St. James’ warning let not many of you become teachers, who will receive stricter judgement .
        Although our intentions are well meaning, we all need help in the areas where we lack. We all need that guidance, as you point out, Mary knew.
        Thanks Christopher. Keep on posting!

    2. Paula,
      Your “unscholarly” comment far exceeds the wisdom of most scholars I know.

      “’I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
      And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’
      “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? … Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren – not many wise according to the flesh… But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
      ………………………………………………………………………………..
      “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves…despisers of good… headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! …always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions…Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

      My own sense is that things will likely get much worse. We have been warned that they will. But faith (which you clearly have) is greater than knowledge, so-called. Truth is stronger than lies; goodness and beauty are stronger than evil and corruption. Even the lies of this age (including the ones coming from those who falsely claim to speak for the tradition) testify to the truth of the faith we have received. Though it saddens me at times, it also comforts me greatly.

      Christ is risen!

  11. Father,
    I was perplexed by your statement that “‘Christ and John’s embrace in icons of the Mystical Supper’ is simply disturbing visual trash.” Are you referring to Sanfilippo’s *description* of the embrace’s significance? Because it does seem to me that the two are embracing in the icon.

    1. Thank you so much for your question. I mis-spoke myself, and have corrected the article accordingly. The disturbing image to which I refer can be viewed at: http://www.google.ca/search?biw=1487&bih=674&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=christ+bridegroom+icon+st+john&oq=christ+bridegroom+icon+st+john&gs_l=psy-ab.3…4538.5794.0.7123.5.5.0.0.0.0.51.241.5.5.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.0.0.AuPd6NDbkGE#imgrc=l2lWBLnHwh27tM
      As you see, it is hardly the traditional icon of Christ the Bridegroom, if for no other reason that St. John is in it. It was Fr. Hopko who first pointed out to me the disturbing features of their postures and the shape and position of Christ’s scroll. I will say no more, but with Fr. Hopko’s explanation, the disturbing features are apparent.

  12. Father bless! I thank you wholeheartedly for your article. I am a practising Orthodox Christian from Greece, 48, married and father of 2 kids, In fact, I am bi-sexual, with a strong attraction to younger men. For several years I used to have occasionally, and sometimes quite often indeed, homosexual relationships. I thank God I am doing much better now, with the help of my extremely patient and clement spiritual Father, and the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos.
    Saying “I am doing much better now” I don’t mean only that I have completely stopped these relationships, or even their substitute, web-chatting with persons of the same inclination; I mean also – and I would like to stress this – that I feel much more “full” in my personal and spiritual life, because of that breaking of life-dominating sinful habits…
    There is always a hope, but you need perseverance, prayer and humility. The way is not easy, it’s painful, but there is NO OTHER WAY. It’s called repentance. If you keep on justifying yourself, not only do you stay where you were, but also you fall even lower…You are going to fall lower, there is absolutely no doubt about it. In the course of my numerous homosexual “adventures”, I have known many many persons like me (as a matter of fact, I am not able to count them….) and my conviction stems from my experience….I can tell you from my long and painful experience, that practicing homosexuality, in one or another way, is a deadly trap leading to nowhere, or, to say it better, to the self-demolition. This is not just a belief based on theory or ideology….

    Any attempt to introduce indirectly homosexuality in the Church, even by some priests (Arida, Courtey) or professional “theologians” (Papanikolaou…) is an insult and a fraud. First, it is an insult against Christ and against our brothers and sisters in Faith struggling in Christ, inside Church, against their homosexual tendencies. Secondly, it is a fraud against Church and against homosexual people searching in Orthodoxy a way for redemption, because these pseudo-Orthodox theories want just to dull their conscience, not to pacify it. They lead to confusion, not to redemption, not to acceptance. These people should be ashamed of themselves!
    All the Saints of the Church, since the times of the Apostles till our days, till St Silouan, St Porphyrios and St Paisios of Mt Athos, talk about repentance, call to repentance….Their sermon is based on repentance and humility. When I stopped justifying myself and started to repent (and I am still at the very beginning of that painful way…), I started to see more clearly the impasse at which I had been found myself…

    It is very sad that in the so-called “Holy and Great Council” of Creta, in 2016, the word “repentance” appear nowhere in the conciliar texts. Quite significantly, one of the major contributors of these texts is said to be metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon…

    With love in Christ, from Greece,
    Ioannis

    1. Thank you so much for your courageous and candid comments. Yours is a much needed voice and witness. May God bless and strengthen you as we all together strive for repentance and creep towards the Kingdom, freedom, and eternal joy.

  13. A necessary clarification to my previous comment. When I wrote “These people should be ashamed of themselves!”, I mean, of course, the false teachers and advocates of “tolerance”.
    Ioannis

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