The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

The Apostolic Right to Take a Believing Wife

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This is the intention of ordination toa married man, is that he be elevated by the grace of the sacramentof priesthood to a way of life where he and his family could actually bean encouragement to the faithful and a constant reminder that living the life in Christas a family is possible. Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present thearena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenem. Father Josiah is thepastor of Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is alsothe founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spirituallythirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. For more information on patristicnectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org.And now, Father Josiah, the name of the father and of the sonand of the Holy Spirit, one God. This morning's episto lesson came from SaintPaul's first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter Nine, and he reveals,brothers and sisters, his vision, his functioning commitment his apostolic pastoral principles forhow he lives. He says something very beautiful to the Corinthians at the beginningof the epistle lesson. He says, you are the seal of my apostleshipin the Lord the Church, the community was the proof, the very stampof what Paul and his ministry were all about. It's a beautiful connection betweenthe pastor and the flock and the fact that success as a shepherd is aparent or not in the health and condition of the flock. He goes onand he enumerates some rights that apostles, bishops and priests have. One ofthose rights that he enumerates is the right to be supported by their flock andhe mentions he says, does anyone ever go to war at his own expense? Does someone plant to feel and not eat from it? And he goeson and he says they also have the right to marry. He said,I'm I the only one who doesn't have the right, me and Barnabas,to take along a believing wife, like the reft of the apostles and CEPHIS. These are some of the rights of the clergy. And then he endshis exhortation, is explanation about his principles to them by saying this. Buthe foregoes everything, he gives up every right, he makes no claims atall and in himself even gave up being supported by the church and even gaveup the blessing of family life, left there be any obstacle to the Gospelof Christ. This is the Great Apostle, brothers and sisters, who lived frombeginning to end wholly for the sake of Christ and to discharge the ministrythat had been entrusted to him. What a man, what a man.I want to expound just one verse from this Epistle Lesson and talk with youabout it this morning, and that is the verse where Saint Paul says,do I not have a right to take along a believing wife, like thereft of the apostles and Cephis the right to take along a believing wife.This subject of clergy and their wives is exceedingly important to our culture today.It is something that I am interact with people on the street with constantly.Twice this week I had interactions about this.

Once I was in subway getting asandwich for someone who was visiting and a man was there who was veryfriendly and he engaged me in conversation. He had just come to town.He's Catholic and he said Your Orthodox, aren't you, and I said yes, he goes. All you priests get to marry. That's cool. That'show he responded to me. I didn't respond at all. I don't knowwhat it has to do with being cool or not. It is apostolic.It is the tradition of the church. Sometimes it's cool. I meant Imet in some priests lives. President, therea not in my life. It'salways cool. In my life, always cool. But you know, ourour our dear neighbors, our compatriots, those who are Roman Catholic in ourin our country, they have really, really suffered, really suffered by thescandals involving clergy and sexual deviance, and many of them think that if onlytheir priests could marry, things would be better. I get this question allthe time from the Latins about this. Don't. Don't I think that ifthe pope let their priests marry, things were to be a lot better?Not Really. My answer is not really. I don't think allowing clergy to marryis really a great solution or an end to scandal. In fact,you know the stats. The vast, vast majority of the scandal are notRoman Catholic priests leaving the priesthood to get married or even having illicit relationships withwomen who are their peers. It is a lack of self control to containhomosexual, perverted lust that will not be solved by marriage. Marriage is notthe solution to a homosexual disposition that is not being contained. I also don'tthink marriage is the solution because if you know anything about the other major Christiangroup in America, the Protestant Church, you know that the Protestant churches areracked with clerical sexual scandal and almost always it involves married pastors. So justgetting married is no solution from tragedy and strife like this. In fact,the Protestant Church, since it was born in the sixteenth century in a reactionto scolastic Roman Catholicism, almost all of the major disciplinary issues of the ProtestantChurch have been established in contradiction or in reaction to the Catholic Church, andsince the Catholic Papacy was insisting as a law in the Middle Ages that allpriests be celibate. The Protestants went to the exact opposite direction and that theydon't insist that their priests Mary, but they are ninety nine percent married.They have no sense and no viable way for anybody who has the gift ofcelibacy to live their life. The PENDULUMT goes from one side mandatory celibacy tooverhear no celibacy at all. The Orthodox faith maintains the Apostolic Standard while encouragingthem anastic life. We don't require it of our clergy or of anyone.We believe it's a love gift offered to God freely and while praising Celibacy,we honor marriage and it's August life and...

...rights. Marriage when it's properly lived, when people embrace marriage for the reasons that God has given it. Certainlyit works for the salvation of those who are in that state, but itmust be embraced according to why it was given. St Paul and his teachinglists a lot of requirements for the Office of Bishop, Priest and Deacon andhe makes it clear that the clergy are expected to live pure lives, tobe in strong marriages those who are married and to raise pie of children.Sat Paul said to the Corinthians, you're the seal of my apostleship in theLord, saying you know me through you. And he also says it's the sameabout priests and their families. The reason he makes the requirement for apriest or a deacon to have pious families that aren't accused of dissipation or rebellion, it is because the face of the man, of the father, canbe evident in the family's face. A clergyman is supposed to be, accordingto Saint Paul, a Master of himself, upright, wholly and self controlled,and the priestly family is to be a model of Christian living for theFaithful, because if a priest family can't provide that, where are the faithfulsupposed to look for a Christian family? Besides being icons of sanctified sexual life, priests are supposed to also be teachers and enforcers of the sexual standards ofthe church. The priest is the one responsible for the guiding of the faithfulinto sexual wholeness and holiness in and through the sacrament of repentance. And apriest can heal if he himself is not healed. He can't bring any oneto wholeness if he's in peaces. Saint Nikolai Velimirovitch, the author of theprologue, the great bishop who died in Nineteen fifty six and who labored formany years here in America. He has these beautiful words to say about priestsand the sexual standards of the church. He says even in the Old Testamentthe law was exceptionally severe in judging the priests, not only the priests buttheir families too. The wife and children of a priest had to be,had to be of an exemplarily clean life. Here is a frightening prescription of thelaw. Quote and the daughter of any priest, if she profane herselfby playing a whole or she profanes her father, and she shall be burntwith fire. Leviticus twenty one nine. Reading this St Nicolai continues, onebecomes speechless. When such a peculiar emphasis has put on the holiness of priestsin a symbolic and passing dispensation like the old covenant, what shall we sayof the holiness of the priests of Christ in the new oof? The Lawof Moses gave very specific guidance for priests and required that their families maintained that. In Our canautical tradition, in the church we have what are called impedimentsto ordination. The church lays out her requirements for priests by establishing those impedimentswhich, if found in a man's life who is an aspirant to become apriest, disqualify him from ordination. We who share in Christ high priesthood,who, with our own hands, hold not the shadowy types of Christ butthe very body and blood of Jesus himself, we who called down the Holy Spirit, we are to live above old covenant standards of the priesthood, andthe sense of the extreme sacredness of the Christian priesthood has always led the churchto demand of her clergy high sexual standards of purity. The sacred canons ofthe church regulate clerical sexuality and forbid such things as fornication and adultery, sodomy, all of those things prior to marriage which, if they exist, noullifythe possibility of a man to become a priest. Not only did the cannonsregulate what the priest must be like, but the sacred cannons of the EcumenicalCouncils State that the priest's wife also have...

...to measure up to the bishop standards. The bishop must approve of the wife of the priest. The candidates wifecan't be from a lude profession. She herself have to be a virgin.If she commits adultery, the priest is not allowed ever to sleep with heragain and must must divorce her if he used to retain his priesthood. Allof these standards exist in the church. Not to suggest that there isn't forgivenessfor these things. Absolutely there is. The church, as you heard todayin the Gospel, listen, the church is the very guard and a forgiveness. This is where we find forgiveness for everything. The Lord desires to forgiveall, and he will even forgive the priest or the priest's wife who hasfallen into tragedy. But forgiveness is not the same thing as service at thealtar. It's one thing to forgive, it's another thing to be able tobe qualified to stand before the altar, to touch the holy things and toserve them to the people of God. This is why you will not findin the Orthodox church like, unfortunately exist so many places where a priest willgo through a great fall, he will step away from his service for ayear and then all of a sudden he's back. There is no back,except, if you mean by back, back in the faithful, in communion, if he's done his repentance, but there's no back to the altar.These regulations are simple and they require that the clergy be above reproach so thatthe people themselves can be elevated and can have what is rightfully theirs, whichis a clergyman who is Living The commandments of the Gospel, proving in hislife to all the faithful that such a life is possible. For Goodness Sake, if a priest can't do it, who's going to do it? Marriedpriests and their presuteras Juriette are expected to remain true to each other, notdivorcing each other in this life, nor remarrying should their spouse fall asleep inthe Lord before them. A priest is also guarded from sexual impropriety by therules of the church, which require him to wear his Cassock, his clericalattire at all times around the lady, to avoid bars and Taverns, notto attend Raucous parties and wedding banquets or to dance. This is why piouspriests love their cassocks. Their cassocks provide for them a message to themselves dayin and day out. The cassock says to the priest, be a priest. This is what it says and believing. There's plenty of times priests are tiredof being priests and they don't want to be priests and they would rathernot have someone kiss their hand or ask them for a prayer wherever, wheneverthey see them. But the CASSOCK calls them to the higher life and says, sorry, that's not how it works. Be a priest when you want tobe a priest. The CASSOCK says be a priest all the time.And let me say in closing a word specifically about clerical celibacy. The churchis always praised chastity and adored virginity as a witness to the fact that theKingdom of God is in our midst. We've always a recognized in the bodyof the faithful that it's especially apropole for priests and bishops to live Celibate lives, and all the priests and bishops who do we give great honor to anyoneliving in a mille of holiness, close to the holy altar and frequently touchingholy things. It makes beautiful sense for them to live lives of celibacy.This is why we bestow special honor on...

Celibate priests. We make them ourcommandrets, we allow them to stand in a higher rank at the holy altaredthan the married priests. We choose our bishops from the ranks of these celibates. This is clear. The priestly lists of the church have been filled withsaints, bishops and priests who have lived this kind of life. We honorit, and it's not surprising, therefore, to us that, with such alove of chastity and an esteem for the priesthood, at times segments ofthe church have been tempted to legislate what is a free gift. The firsttime this was attempted was at the Council of Elvira. This was in threehundred and six in what is today's Spain, actually in Granada, and at thiscouncil it was legislated that any priest and any bishop or Deacon who isactively serving the divine liturgy must cease and desist from any conjugal relations with hiswife. This was a local council in three hundred and six. Little bitlater, at the first Ecumenical Council, was the first major push in thewest to try to get the church to accept this as normative for her priests. Some of the delegates from the pope, on the floor of the first EcumenicalCouncil, stood up and said that those who are serving the services mustnot be allowed to sleep with their wives. They didn't mean by that that priestshould sexually fast before serving liturgy. There was no debate about that.Everyone that did that and does that. What they sugget were suggesting is thatif you're going to be an active priest, never again will you sleep with yourwife. It took one of our great Egyptian monks, a papa anl they're from the desert, elder path Mutios, who was at attendant atthe first Ecumenical Council, to take the floor of the council and to standup and to rebuff this and he said as only an elder who had beenliving in such extreme asceticism could say. He stood up on the floor ofthe first Ecumenical Council and he said. What is being suggested, while noblewhen voluntarily embraced, cannot be legislated in the church, for to do sois to become more holy than the apostles, which of course, is impossible.You, I have a different standard than the Apostolic Standard. You're notmore holy than the apostles. You're wrong. Elder Pathmudius won the day at thefirst Ecumenical Council, but this continued to be a point of contention forcenturies between Rome and the east. It was definitively a draft in the canonsof the six Ecumenical Council and was on the agenda of the two attempted reunioncouncils after the great sism in the thirteen century in Leon and the fifteen centuryin Ferrara, Florence. It continued to be a matter of great debate betweenthe Orthodox and the papacy. I want to read to you the cannon,the thirteen cannon, of the six Ecumenical Council. This sums up definitively,in the most authoritative way, what the teaching of the church is on thesubject, since we have learned that in the Church of the Romans it isregarded as tantamount to a canon that ordinands to the diaconate or presbiterate must solemnlypromise to have no further intercourse with their wives. Continuing, however, inconformity with the ancient cannon of Apostolic rigorism in Orderliness, we desire that henceforththe lawful marriage ties of sacred men become stronger, and we are no wisedissolving their intercourse with their wives, nor depriving them of mutual relationship and companionship, when properly maintained in due season.

So that if anyone is found worthyto be ordained a Subdeacon, a deacon or a priest, let him nowise be prevented from being elevated to such a rank while cohabiting with a lawfulwife, nor must he be required, at the time of ordination, torefrain from lawful intercourse with his own wife, lest we be forth to be downrightscornful of marriage, which was instituted by God and blessed by his presence, as attested at the unequivocal declaration of the Gospel Utterance. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder, and the apostlesteaching. Marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled and art. Thou bound toa wife, do not seek to be freed. When Corinthian seven, weare cognizant that those who met in Carthage and made provisions of decency in thelife of priests declared that subdeacons and deacons and presbyters, busy in themselves asthey do with the sacred mysteries, according to their rules, are obliged topractice temperance in connection with their helpmates, in order that we may likewise keepthe injunction handed down through the Apostles and continued from ancient times in force,knowing that there is a proper season for everything, and especially for fasting andpraying, for those who assist in the ceremonies of the sacrificial altar have tobe temperate in all things, at the time when they are handling holy things, so that they may be able to gain whatever they ask God for.If, therefore, anyone, acting contrary to the apostolic canons, require anyperson who is in sacred orders, any priest or deacon or Subdeacon, toabstain from intercourse and association with his lawful wife, let him be deposed fromoffice, and if any priest or deacon expel his own wife on the pretextof reverence for the altar, let him be excommunicated and if he persists,let him be deposed from office. This is canon thirteen of the six ECOMENICALcouncil, and you heard what it says. Far from eclipsing the bonds of marriageor in any way weakening conjugal union between a husband and a wife,the priesthood strengthens and deepens Marital Union. It does not abrogate marriage, itinvigorates it in transforms it, granting it in God's will and even more heavenlycharacter. This is the intention of ordination to a married man, is thathe be elevated by the grace of the sacrament of priesthood to a way oflife where he and his family could actually be an encouragement to the faithful anda constant reminder that living the life in Christ as a family is possible.So there you haven't brothers and sisters. I know this was somewhat thematic andscholarly, Blah Blah Blah, but what I'm telling you is that we havean apostolic rule to keep in the church in the midst of a culture rackedby concern about this very thing. On the one hand, are brothers andsisters, the seventy million Catholics in this country who are mourning the great tragedyof sexual scandal amongst their clergy and are trying to heal from it, andon the other side, those of our brothers and sisters who are Protestants,who have no appreciation for the celibate life and can't find a way to offera viable means of sexual asceticism. In the midst of this confusion, thechurch honors marriage and she praises Celibacy and she asks from her priests those thathave the gift of marriage to live according to the high standard of the Gospel, practicing temperance and raising their families without reproach, a very challenging, difficulttask, but the one that the church insists, insists on from her clergy. This is what is in the mind of the church. And when youhear Saint Paul say, do I not...

...have a right to take along abelieving wife? Have the rest of the apostles and Cephists, maybe you'll knowwhat he's talking about. Amend we hope that you have enjoyed and have beenedified by this presentation offered to you by patristic nectar publications, a non profitorganization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like moreinformation on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectardot org. Again, that's W W W dot patristic nectar dot org.

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