Phronema II: Sexuality in its proper context

From Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).”

– From Celibacy in Context by Maximos Davies in First Things, December 2002:  Simply put, every single Christian who is capable of love is called to discipline that love through the asceticism of celibacy. Just as every Christian is called to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so also every Christian is called to be celibate. Seen in its true context of asceticism, celibacy ceases to be a legal requirement for a small section of the Christian faithful and is revealed instead as an aspect of the universal vocation of all believers. 

Maximos Davies is a monk of Holy Resurrection Monastery, a monastic community under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Eparchy of Van Nuys, California. He penned this wonderful short essay that explains a piece of the Eastern Christian phronema, the mindset of Eastern Christianity. As a monk, he is celibate, yet in spite of this ( or is it because of this?) he understands the right thinking of the Eastern Church on the expression of sexuality that has been largely forgotten in modern society, even among some of the most recognized class of celibates, the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Here we come to another important insight within the pastoral tradition of Eastern Christianity. Celibacy is not primarily an individual calling. In the first place it is a vocation for the whole Church. Only secondarily is this vocation realized in individual lives. It follows that celibacy cannot be authentic if it is attempted individually. Celibacy can only be lived in a real way if it is seen as a shared way of life. For the Christian East, celibacy is lived corporately and within the context of communal asceticism. Continue reading