Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fr Touma (Bitar) on Sexual Immorality

Arabic original here.

Flee from Fornication

The virtues are interconnected, as are vices. Where a person's treasure is, there will be his heart (Matthew 6:21). If the heart is completely oriented toward even a single virtue, then it cannot help but to work in earnest to gradually acquire the rest of the virtues, because in doing so it preserves the one that is dear to it. The same thing happens when a person's heart is attached to even a single vice. Virtue attracts virtue and vice attracts vice. This does not necessarily mean that if a person holds on to one virtue he possesses all of them-- naturally, perfection is required and is possible through God's grace-- but rather it means that at that point a person tends towards a life of virtue in general and in a serious manner or tends away from a life of vice. The life of virtue is a path, as is the life of vice. This allows for the fact that one following a life of virtue is subject to falling into sins from time to time. Likewise, someone following a life of vice is capable of doing good works. Naturally, there are extreme cases in the direction of a life of virtue without sin  or in the direction of a life of vice without good works, but most people are not like this. At that point, the sin a person falls into isn't vice and the good deeds that come are not virtue. Within a life of virtue, sin is a fault. It is inexcusable, but it is closer to a weakness and at its root does not spring from a corrupt inner life. In this case, sin is treated through repentance and the one committing it is healed through confession. As for a good deed within a life of vice, even if it is luminous, it does not go beyond being an opportunity for true, profound, conversion. In such a case, this good deed is reinforced by sincere repentance, otherwise the soul returns afterward to its own vomit. The good deed may not necessarily be repeated in the future because habituation to a life of vice gradually extinguishes in the soul any inclination toward goodness.

In this framework, a person is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ unless he holds completely to at least one virtue. In this very virtue his love for God is made manifest and his faith is made active through it, since faith is either active through love or it does not exist. In other words, faith without works is dead, as we read in the Epistle of St James (James 2:7).

No doubt, the little flock of the Lord Christ continues on, invisibly in the world today. Lovers of virtue-- even a single one-- are present before the Lord and He alone knows them. Our proof of their presence is that the world continues to exist! They are the salt of the earth. Without them, it will become completely corrupt and the last judgment will arrive. But let's be frank-- they are very few in number. Faith is greatly diminished. How do we know this? Because to a great degree love is under attack in this world. You might find manifest among many people psychological, emotional, or intellectual faith. However, faith active in love has become today something scarce! Very few today bear fruit in the Spirit to joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Can we be certain of this? Of course! How? Naturally, not on the level of individuals, except by the grace from above, but with all certainty on the level of society. Our world today has lost much of its love, and consequently its faith, because it is afflicted with sterility! Can something that is sterile, in itself, beget? This is how our world is, sterile in its love and sterile in its faith in God because there is one vice that rules its heart and holds it captive with force and violence unprecedented in history, to the point of making it largely incapable of believing in the Lord Jesus or of loving in Christ. What am I referring to? I am referring to the desire of the flesh: fornication, uncleanliness, and lewdness (Galatians 5:19)! I am referring to the spirit of fornication that spreads in this world like a plague! Naturally, the love of money is terrifying and there are many terrifying, widespread vices. However, the most dangerous and terrifying of them is fornication. The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, says that every sin, whatever it may be, is less serious than fornication, because it is outside the body, while the one who fornicates "sins within his body" (1 Corinthians 6:18). For a person to sin within his body is the most serious sin because the body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, who is yours from God." This means by extension that fornication undermines the possibility of a person becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit! In other words, through fornication and its effect on a person's heart, he is unable to believe in Spirit and in truth and to love in grace and in deed. Fornication afflicts the heart with sterility just like the east wind afflicts fields with drought! What good is a person with a heart that does not love? "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1).

What the Deceiver is doing today in the world to ignite the spirit of fornication in the world is terrifying. It is rare even to find people who are not affected by it. The world today is under the foot of fornication to a tragic degree. Media and communications work to generalize, facilitate, and elaborate the spread and normalization of fornication throughout the earth. Human sciences, in general, have separated fornication and sin. This has caused fornication to become, in the minds of many, something more like a natural practice, and consequently a social virtue! The need for marriage has started to disappear. The form and content of marriage has become like fornication, consumerist! Love disappears. Fornication, in the understanding of many, has become love. There is no more need for fertility! Children are becoming fewer. They have become a burden. Education in the home is corrupted. Divorce has become easy and very common. Adultery becomes a natural need. Apart from a few rare faithful, the trend is toward replacing marriage with cohabitation. By becoming accustomed to fornication, souls have become too weak to strive, to sacrifice, to love! The unity of the family is now easily shattered. Debauchery, in all its manifestations, has become the general rule for relations between young men and women. Perversion, in its various forms, is spreading. It has become something normal! It has not only increasingly come to be acceptable,  but also excused, treated as natural, and legitimized in some places. "That's how he is," they say!

This is not just the state of the world we are in. Even many who are named after faith in the Lord Jesus have declined to this point! Adultery is common! Perversions are treated as normal! The canons of the Church, in both cases, are disrupted! The children of the Church are in the grip of the spirit of the world and the spirit of fornication! In many cases, the life of the Church turns into outward forms, empty words, rituals, buildings, worldly plans... Only a few understand the meaning and value of chastity, which in the understanding of the Fathers is the mother of all virtues. And only the tiniest minority accept it for themselves and strive to follow it! Chastity has become a by-word for reaction, backwardness, being unrealistic, a neurotic and sick soul that does not know how to keep up with the times! It has become a point of mockery! It has come to be considered undesirable and harmful!

As a result of this, faith becomes theoretical and God's love becomes inactive in a people's lives, as they themselves imagine today! For many, the life of virtue becomes something unattainable. Worship is emptied of its content. Rituals come to be practiced in a pagan manner! Spiritual life, as the Church approaches it, declines and becomes meaningless! In the contemporary consciousness, the monastic life is looked upon as the reserve of pietists, fundamentalists, those opposed to science and modernity, failures, egoists, and neurotics!

The spirit of fornication weakens souls and they are no longer able or no longer desire to spend even a little effort to follow even a single commandment! The commandment becomes a burden! God becomes impossible!

Sensitivity dies. Faith is extinguished. Love is betrayed. Someone who holds to even the simplest of the commandments today is like a martyr!

And so, "Flee from fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:18). If chastity is the seed of life, then fornication is the seed of death. If chastity is the foundation of all the virtues, then fornication is the foundation of all the vices!

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of St Silouan-- Douma
November 11, 2012


Andy said...

And whither artificial contraception?

Samn! said...

As for Fr Touma's view:

"There are those who might wonder after this exposition: What about how to treat the body within the framework of Christian marriage, outside the bounds of begetting children, or if one or both of the spouses is unable to have children? Indeed, we do not have a response to give about this. The questions are related to personal conscience and the Church does not legislate about it for us. Indeed, she leaves it for those within the relationship themselves. She only confirms that spiritual fertility is the framework and goal of every physical relation between husband and wife and hands them over to mature, competent spiritual fathers to arrange the matter between them for their well-being, building them up, and rooting them in making an effort toward holiness in their life, insofar as those fathers are our experts in the struggle for spiritual fertility, its details, and the principles of the spiritual life."

[link] http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2011/07/fr-touma-bitar-on-virginity-marriage.html [/link]