We live in era tragically characterized by the glorification of the flesh and its pleasures.
The windows of your computer show indecent and sexually provoking materials; you will see hundreds of sites that cater to immoral cravings. Pornography is depicted as an innocent game for pleasure, because it is justified as amoral, having no victim or perpetrator of any crime. If you are an adult and choose to visit such sites and enjoy, the government does not find any criminal act involved. The concept of sin is not in the book of the penal code of the government. But God’s Word says that the body of every human being, particularly the body of a baptized person, is the temple of God. How many Christians are seriously thinking that pornography desecrates the abode of God? Because it arouses human body and mind against sexual purity and chastity. It even destroys the sanctity of the sacramental union of married couples. How many of our Orthodox Christians are victims of this disastrously sinful habit, and how many are confessing this sin and seeking forgiveness in the sacrament of confession? If you are a slave of this vice, shake it off and come and reconcile with God and restore enduring purity. You will have peace of mind.
What about our habit in reading? Are we given to the habit of reading indecent books that arouses voluptuousness and sensuousness? A good number of adult reading materials do not foster Christian ethical values on human sexuality. As Christians we have to safeguard ourselves against opportunities that lead us to sexual immorality. Some of the modern secular books, including sex education reading materials, deal with sexuality outside marriage as amoral, and even healthy. Even some liberal Christian thinkers have tried to explain fornication as an acceptable practice before marriage. Most of them consider masturbation or self abuse as simply very natural and hence not imputed as sinful or immoral! A young man who came for seeking spiritual counseling told this writer that he was told by a monk-priest that masturbation was “just a weakness of the flesh”, not a topic to be confessed in the confessional, nor was it a grave sin at all. An elderly priest in America has told this writer that recently there is very little mention of such sins when he listens to the confessions of young people; some thirty years there was frequent mention of such moral issues pricking the mind of young people who sought guidance and counseling. Are our young people properly prepared for the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the help of the Book of Examination of Conscience, which reflects the moral teachings of the Christian Church? Yes, fornication and masturbation are no more considered among the sins to be confessed or repented! Thus the human soul becomes the property of the devil. Once a person is possessed by the devil, he does not realize he is under the grip of the devil; nor would he ever recognize that he is in sin. This is what happened to our generation. Sins are no more sins. Take for example, homosexuality: some Protestant churches are ordaining homosexual men and women to the ministry of their churches! Why worry? These actions are all results of our natural urges, like the biological functions in washrooms. But God’s Word emphatically tells us that these are violations of His laws, and invite eternal damnation for those who commit them.
Look at the advertisements: Who are we watching mostly? Modestly dressed young women? No! Most of the advertisements are exposures of partial nudity, if not total nudity. These provocative exposures do lead us to sinful voluptuous desires. But Christian morality clearly teaches that sexual arousal outside the holy matrimony is a grave sin, which is to be confessed in the confessional. Utilitarianism and capitalism exploit your sensuality to generate more money for the entrepreneur.
Is our married life morally safe? We presume that every marital act in our marriage is morally acceptable; but the fact is that it is not so. This is an age that demands limiting of children in a family. The truth is that when couples deliberately limit their family size without morally justifiable reasons and through questionable means are basically on ethically slippery grounds. An Orthodox Christian has to make this decision only with the moral guidance of his spiritual father or pastor. Enjoying marital relations for the sake of meeting only the noble unitive objective of sacred marriage may not always satisfy God’s demand for the sacrament of marriage. Seldom has this writer seen some childless marriages, a situation voluntarily embraced by couples. Please understand that a prenuptial agreement for a childless marriage renders a marriage null and void. It never brings grace; and it is not a sacrament according to sacramental theology. The Christian marriage has two inseparable goals or objectives, unitive and creative; although every unitive act does not entertain a creative aspect every time, both of these objectives are sacramentally intertwined in a Christian marriage. What about artificial marital enhancers? Use of drugs like Viagra may be morally questionable if it is not meant for treating a pathological condition that might impede the unitive objective of sacred marriage; if it is used for sheer intensification of pleasure or on selfish motive, there definitely rises an ethical question.
One of the beautiful aspects of our Orthodox life is that we are mostly nourished by our married clergy; and it is an apostolic practice and it is a glorious tradition unlike the Roman Church. Our married clergy should be living examples of Christian married life for the laity. We urge our priests to examine their own married life and see if it is without moral inadequacies. Approach your altar every Sunday, every day, with a clear conscience of pure and holy marital relationship behind you. The Ark of Covenant is said to be an object of fire; if it is so, the holy altar of the New Covenant, where the body and blood of Christ are offered, is indeed FIRE; and if you touch this Fire with a morally tainted married life, you will be burned, and the Church you serve will also be destroyed! We wonder the lack of sexual purity could be a reason for many perilous situations our churches have gone through or are going through. Let no celibate priests or monk-priests approach the holy altar with the stains of self-indulgence or other immoralities. The flesh is very powerful and if we do not subjugate it with prayer and other appropriate disciplines, like fasting and manual work, it will subjugate us and make us its saves, and we fail as Christians. If you have any such stains, repent and approach the church for God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation.
We take pride in being a part of the modern affluent societies. Although there is poverty in many parts of the world, a good number of us have been given good food and modern comforts. In western societies, we eat more than what we need; and we also waste life-sustaining foods. WE do not need steaks and chops or heavy dinners everyday. Occasional festivities for a reason could justify such menus. We eat for our nourishment and health. But wasteful spending for foods and other comforts is just a thirst for satiating our gluttony; and gluttony is one of the deadly vices in Christian life. Eating more than what is required or indulging in very luxurious edibles is also a mark of gluttony.
Get back to your God, Christians, through genuine repentance, and restore your unity with your Savior Jesus Christ!