The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 years ago

The Apostolic Right to Take a Believing Wife

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This is the intention of ordination to a married man, is that he be elevated by the grace of the sacrament of priesthood to a way of life where he and his family could actually be an encouragement to the faithful and a constant reminder that living the life in Christ as a family is possible. Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenem. Father Josiah is the pastor of Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. For more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah, the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. This morning's episto lesson came from Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter Nine, and he reveals, brothers and sisters, his vision, his functioning commitment his apostolic pastoral principles for how he lives. He says something very beautiful to the Corinthians at the beginning of the epistle lesson. He says, you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord the Church, the community was the proof, the very stamp of what Paul and his ministry were all about. It's a beautiful connection between the pastor and the flock and the fact that success as a shepherd is a parent or not in the health and condition of the flock. He goes on and he enumerates some rights that apostles, bishops and priests have. One of those rights that he enumerates is the right to be supported by their flock and he 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 goes on 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 ends his exhortation, is explanation about his principles to them by saying this. But he foregoes everything, he gives up every right, he makes no claims at all and in himself even gave up being supported by the church and even gave up the blessing of family life, left there be any obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. This is the Great Apostle, brothers and sisters, who lived from beginning to end wholly for the sake of Christ and to discharge the ministry that 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 you about 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 the reft 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 a sandwich for someone who was visiting and a man was there who was very friendly 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's how he responded to me. I didn't respond at all. I don't know what 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 I met in some priests lives. President, therea not in my life. It's always cool. In my life, always cool. But you know, our our our dear neighbors, our compatriots, those who are Roman Catholic in our in our country, they have really, really suffered, really suffered by the scandals involving clergy and sexual deviance, and many of them think that if only their priests could marry, things would be better. I get this question all the time from the Latins about this. Don't. Don't I think that if the 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 marry is really a great solution or an end to scandal. In fact, you know the stats. The vast, vast majority of the scandal are not Roman Catholic priests leaving the priesthood to get married or even having illicit relationships with women who are their peers. It is a lack of self control to contain homosexual, perverted lust that will not be solved by marriage. Marriage is not the solution to a homosexual disposition that is not being contained. I also don't think marriage is the solution because if you know anything about the other major Christian group in America, the Protestant Church, you know that the Protestant churches are racked with clerical sexual scandal and almost always it involves married pastors. So just getting 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 reaction to scolastic Roman Catholicism, almost all of the major disciplinary issues of the Protestant Church have been established in contradiction or in reaction to the Catholic Church, and since the Catholic Papacy was insisting as a law in the Middle Ages that all priests be celibate. The Protestants went to the exact opposite direction and that they don'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 of celibacy to live their life. The PENDULUMT goes from one side mandatory celibacy to overhear no celibacy at all. The Orthodox faith maintains the Apostolic Standard while encouraging them 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. Certainly it works for the salvation of those who are in that state, but it must be embraced according to why it was given. St Paul and his teaching lists a lot of requirements for the Office of Bishop, Priest and Deacon and he makes it clear that the clergy are expected to live pure lives, to be 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 the Lord, saying you know me through you. And he also says it's the same about priests and their families. The reason he makes the requirement for a priest 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, can be evident in the family's face. A clergyman is supposed to be, according to Saint Paul, a Master of himself, upright, wholly and self controlled, and the priestly family is to be a model of Christian living for the Faithful, because if a priest family can't provide that, where are the faithful supposed 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 of the church. The priest is the one responsible for the guiding of the faithful into sexual wholeness and holiness in and through the sacrament of repentance. And a priest can heal if he himself is not healed. He can't bring any one to wholeness if he's in peaces. Saint Nikolai Velimirovitch, the author of the prologue, the great bishop who died in Nineteen fifty six and who labored for many years here in America. He has these beautiful words to say about priests and the sexual standards of the church. He says even in the Old Testament the law was exceptionally severe in judging the priests, not only the priests but their 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 the law. Quote and the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing a whole or she profanes her father, and she shall be burnt with fire. Leviticus twenty one nine. Reading this St Nicolai continues, one becomes speechless. When such a peculiar emphasis has put on the holiness of priests in a symbolic and passing dispensation like the old covenant, what shall we say of the holiness of the priests of Christ in the new oof? The Law of 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 impediments to ordination. The church lays out her requirements for priests by establishing those impediments which, if found in a man's life who is an aspirant to become a priest, disqualify him from ordination. We who share in Christ high priesthood, who, with our own hands, hold not the shadowy types of Christ but the 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, and the sense of the extreme sacredness of the Christian priesthood has always led the church to demand of her clergy high sexual standards of purity. The sacred canons of the church regulate clerical sexuality and forbid such things as fornication and adultery, sodomy, all of those things prior to marriage which, if they exist, noullify the possibility of a man to become a priest. Not only did the cannons regulate what the priest must be like, but the sacred cannons of the Ecumenical Councils 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 wife can'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 her again and must must divorce her if he used to retain his priesthood. All of these standards exist in the church. Not to suggest that there isn't forgiveness for these things. Absolutely there is. The church, as you heard today in the Gospel, listen, the church is the very guard and a forgiveness. This is where we find forgiveness for everything. The Lord desires to forgive all, and he will even forgive the priest or the priest's wife who has fallen into tragedy. But forgiveness is not the same thing as service at the altar. It's one thing to forgive, it's another thing to be able to be qualified to stand before the altar, to touch the holy things and to serve them to the people of God. This is why you will not find in the Orthodox church like, unfortunately exist so many places where a priest will go through a great fall, he will step away from his service for a year 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 that the people themselves can be elevated and can have what is rightfully theirs, which is a clergyman who is Living The commandments of the Gospel, proving in his life 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? Married priests and their presuteras Juriette are expected to remain true to each other, not divorcing each other in this life, nor remarrying should their spouse fall asleep in the Lord before them. A priest is also guarded from sexual impropriety by the rules of the church, which require him to wear his Cassock, his clerical attire at all times around the lady, to avoid bars and Taverns, not to attend Raucous parties and wedding banquets or to dance. This is why pious priests love their cassocks. Their cassocks provide for them a message to themselves day in 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 tired of being priests and they don't want to be priests and they would rather not have someone kiss their hand or ask them for a prayer wherever, whenever they 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 to be a priest. The CASSOCK says be a priest all the time. And let me say in closing a word specifically about clerical celibacy. The church is always praised chastity and adored virginity as a witness to the fact that the Kingdom of God is in our midst. We've always a recognized in the body of 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 anyone living in a mille of holiness, close to the holy altar and frequently touching holy 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 our commandrets, we allow them to stand in a higher rank at the holy altared than 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 with saints, bishops and priests who have lived this kind of life. We honor it, and it's not surprising, therefore, to us that, with such a love of chastity and an esteem for the priesthood, at times segments of the church have been tempted to legislate what is a free gift. The first time this was attempted was at the Council of Elvira. This was in three hundred and six in what is today's Spain, actually in Granada, and at this council it was legislated that any priest and any bishop or Deacon who is actively serving the divine liturgy must cease and desist from any conjugal relations with his wife. This was a local council in three hundred and six. Little bit later, at the first Ecumenical Council, was the first major push in the west 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 Ecumenical Council, stood up and said that those who are serving the services must not be allowed to sleep with their wives. They didn't mean by that that priest should sexually fast before serving liturgy. There was no debate about that. Everyone that did that and does that. What they sugget were suggesting is that if you're going to be an active priest, never again will you sleep with your wife. It took one of our great Egyptian monks, a papa an l they're from the desert, elder path Mutios, who was at attendant at the first Ecumenical Council, to take the floor of the council and to stand up and to rebuff this and he said as only an elder who had been living in such extreme asceticism could say. He stood up on the floor of the first Ecumenical Council and he said. What is being suggested, while noble when voluntarily embraced, cannot be legislated in the church, for to do so is to become more holy than the apostles, which of course, is impossible. You, I have a different standard than the Apostolic Standard. You're not more holy than the apostles. You're wrong. Elder Pathmudius won the day at the first Ecumenical Council, but this continued to be a point of contention for centuries between Rome and the east. It was definitively a draft in the canons of the six Ecumenical Council and was on the agenda of the two attempted reunion councils after the great sism in the thirteen century in Leon and the fifteen century in Ferrara, Florence. It continued to be a matter of great debate between the 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 the subject, since we have learned that in the Church of the Romans it is regarded as tantamount to a canon that ordinands to the diaconate or presbiterate must solemnly promise to have no further intercourse with their wives. Continuing, however, in conformity with the ancient cannon of Apostolic rigorism in Orderliness, we desire that henceforth the lawful marriage ties of sacred men become stronger, and we are no wise dissolving 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 worthy to be ordained a Subdeacon, a deacon or a priest, let him no wise be prevented from being elevated to such a rank while cohabiting with a lawful wife, nor must he be required, at the time of ordination, to refrain from lawful intercourse with his own wife, lest we be forth to be downright scornful 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 apostles teaching. Marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled and art. Thou bound to a wife, do not seek to be freed. When Corinthian seven, we are cognizant that those who met in Carthage and made provisions of decency in the life of priests declared that subdeacons and deacons and presbyters, busy in themselves as they do with the sacred mysteries, according to their rules, are obliged to practice temperance in connection with their helpmates, in order that we may likewise keep the 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 and praying, for those who assist in the ceremonies of the sacrificial altar have to be 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 any person who is in sacred orders, any priest or deacon or Subdeacon, to abstain from intercourse and association with his lawful wife, let him be deposed from office, and if any priest or deacon expel his own wife on the pretext of 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 ECOMENICAL council, and you heard what it says. Far from eclipsing the bonds of marriage or in any way weakening conjugal union between a husband and a wife, the priesthood strengthens and deepens Marital Union. It does not abrogate marriage, it invigorates it in transforms it, granting it in God's will and even more heavenly character. This is the intention of ordination to a married man, is that he be elevated by the grace of the sacrament of priesthood to a way of life where he and his family could actually be an encouragement to the faithful and a 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 and scholarly, Blah Blah Blah, but what I'm telling you is that we have an apostolic rule to keep in the church in the midst of a culture racked by concern about this very thing. On the one hand, are brothers and sisters, the seventy million Catholics in this country who are mourning the great tragedy of sexual scandal amongst their clergy and are trying to heal from it, and on 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 offer a viable means of sexual asceticism. In the midst of this confusion, the church honors marriage and she praises Celibacy and she asks from her priests those that have 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, difficult task, but the one that the church insists, insists on from her clergy. This is what is in the mind of the church. And when you hear Saint Paul say, do I not...

...have a right to take along a believing wife? Have the rest of the apostles and Cephists, maybe you'll know what he's talking about. Amend we hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by patristic nectar publications, a non profit organization 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 more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's W W W dot patristic nectar dot org.

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