On Sex and Monasticism
(This excerpt was originally going to be included in Book Two: Daughter of Odysseus: Searching for Ithaka. Here, the main character Christine reflects on the dichotomy between being faithful to her Christian beliefs and being sexually pure, and the reality of her fallen nature and the desires she struggles to fight against. ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ Thus, is Christine’s predicament. Thus, is all of our predicament.)
So central was monasticism to Orthodox Christianity, so strong a hold did it have over the religious conscience of the pious, that it had tempted Christine on many occasions. Reading monastic literature that elevated chastity and virginity over and above marriage and sex, fasting and praying with a religious zeal that would have put John the Baptist to shame, and visiting a monastery back in Australia where she cavorted with cloaked virgins in an enclosed world of prayer, prostration and praise all made Christine want to embrace this lifestyle with all her sacred strength.
The hypocritical Christine could be oh so puritanical and was fiercely proud of herself for having been carnally celibate for six years. Carnally—for her mind engaged in fantasies that would have alarmed even the most hardened pornographer. But this did not stop from seeing herself as a born-again virgin. Born again in purity—hymen and all.
Whilst the pious, holy life of sexless monasticism beckoned her temptingly.
But she had stirrings within her, physical stirrings. Sometimes intensely so. Like she would explode any moment from frustration and desire. Like a frantic animal on heat howling for a mate.
She made the mistake made by many pursuing the path of angelic ‘purity’ that Christianity had elevated. By negating the reality of her body, of the flesh and of sexual desire—by pretending to be both bodiless and sexless—she failed to perceive that the lust that had merely ‘slumbered’ would emerge more ferocious than ever, more perverted than ever. She failed to understand that her body and her sexuality were central to her very being; that humans were by their very nature sexual beings and that, deep down, she longed for a sexual love of such spiritual intensity she would at last find that androgynous wholeness and transfiguration that was akin to complete and utter union with her God.
She rejected with all her soul that promiscuity and body cult of modern society. A cult that left modern man more estranged and degraded than ever. That saw women brutalised and abused sexually millions of times over. She grieved over a theology that saw women as the gateway to the devil; as a defected creature who existed merely to tempt the holy man on his path to perfection and union with God. Not a unique creature in her own right but only finding perfection by abandoning her evil feminine nature and embracing a sexless existence that monasticism preached.
And angry—angry over a theology that had betrayed the spirit of the Gospel. For Christ did not shy away from women. He did not disparage or condemn women as temptresses whose sexuality ensnared the pious man. Did not condemn the woman who bathed his feet with perfumed ointment with her feminine sensuality and compassion. Did not discourage women disciples and who celebrated at the Wedding of Cana.
Wholeness. Sexual wholeness. Spiritual wholeness. This is what Christine deep down longed for. Not a perverted lust. Not a shattered reality. Not a debased animal sexuality that merely led to corruption and emptiness. Not a bitter sense of estrangement from a patriarchal Church. Not a need to flee the world and find solace in virginity.
She could not deny the centrality of monasticism to the Orthodox World. Of its holy men and women who did find wholeness and who grew in the likeness of God by attaining angelic purity.
But she longed for her yang—that masculine energy that would complement her femininity—the heaven to her earth—the light to her dark. Where she would sacrifice her selfish ego and find a love that will bring completion and metaphysical reality to her world.
That would bring spiritual fullness and holiness to her very being.