In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Akathist prayers to the Mother of God known as the Inexhaustible Cup, kontakion and ikos 9:
All the angels are amazed at thy mercy, O Lord, for thou hast given to sinful mankind a strong defender and helper. She sees our weakness and delivers us from the bitter disease of drunkenness and other addictions, teaching the faithful to sing to God: Alleluia!
The most exalted human mind cannot praise sufficiently the glorious appearance of thine icon, O Sovereign Lady, nor can we sinners utter from our impure lips a hymn of praise worthy of thee, our intercessor. Seeing the multitude of miracles coming from thee in thine icon, we rejoice in soul and spirit and proclaim:
Rejoice, holy image pouring forth miracles; rejoice, speedy deliverer saving us from misfortune and sorrow!
Rejoice, thou who hast put to shame those who have denied thee; rejoice, protection from every evil of all those who run to thee!
Rejoice, gentle radiance dispersing the darkness of our passions and sins; rejoice, source filling our hearts with the love of thy Son and for thee!
Rejoice, wisdom setting us on the path of repentance; rejoice, our mediatress for a good answer before the righteous Judge!
Rejoice, O Sovereign Lady, the Inexhaustible Cup which quenches our spiritual thirst!
I’d like to welcome all of you who are listening to the podcast, Healing Addictions: The Orthodox Method of Treatment, sponsored by the non-profit organization, the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup. If you need any further information on our fellowship, we encourage you to join us. Please consider going to inexhaustiblecup.org and look at our website and consider membership, that we might, together, pray for one another and enter into this ministry of intercession which we believe is a most important and essential ingredient in our treatment of all manner of addictions.
Today I’m going to continue to discuss the topic of the treatment of the sexual addiction, from both the 12-Step fellowship perspective, SA, which I’ve discussed already, as well as the Orthodox method of treatment on this topic. As I mentioned before, it is my humble opinion that we all should be committed to the virtue of chastity and sexual purity, and therefore we must be committed to combating the evil forces which involve lust.
This most important topic needs to be discussed over and over, because fundamentally we know this: lust kills love. Lust is the enemy of God and of mankind, for God is love, and the Lord God calls all of us, his children, to experiencing further adoption by our loving Father through the only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the action of the Holy Spirit. It is the action of the Holy Spirit and God himself that seeks that we might walk humbly and obediently before him, have communion with him in our prayer and in our relationship with one another. There is no virtue more important, for it emulates both God and the immaterial world, the angels which he created, which are holy, than the virtue of chastity and sexual purity. We have a host of heavenly saints who exemplified conquering the powers of darkness and the temptations regarding lust and the love of sensual pleasure in order to be healed and in order to be sanctified. Love of sensual pleasure we know destroys the soul.
We are living in a society today where there is pervasive liberal and lust-filled acceptance of all different manners of the way lust reveals itself in our world. One of the most grievous of sins, which has been discussed and spelled out for centuries as the sin of self-abuse is masturbation. As I have mentioned to you before in our earlier podcasts, all sexual activity outside of the confines of sacred and holy matrimony, a covenant relationship between a husband and a wife, a man and a woman, before Christ, before the Lord High God, is immoral. It is perverted, and it involves itself outside of this sacred union, which is holy matrimony. It is involved in the world of fundamentally fornication. This manifestation of fornication includes sexual relations with others outside of marriage and sexual relationship with oneself: masturbation. It is incredibly destructive. From the SA perspective, Sexaholics Anonymous, it is extremely addictive and destructive to the soul, to the emotional parts of one’s heart and self, and to one’s body.
Masturbation is destructive because one prostitutes oneself in this act, and fundamentally it involves lust, because just has I have spelled out that lust seeks out to lust after others and to be lusted after, masturbation principally includes towards self. This act produces the prison of selfishness and self-centeredness which is fundamentally the product of our fallen nature. We were created to be in a relationship and to know the Lord God and the holy mysteries and to be involved in loving God and loving others. Our selfishness and self-centeredness need to be avoided and addressed, and the very act of masturbation produces more and more selfishness and self-centeredness. Therefore [it] is highly dysfunctional and destructive. From the SA perspective lust and masturbation go hand in hand.
The perverted will chooses to be involved in a world of fantasy, not reality. As I mentioned before, lust is an addiction to the intrigue and the forbidden, and man becomes beast-like and he or [she] imitates the demons rather than the holy angels, who are pure and innocent, faithful to God in their humility and their obedience. So the SA definition is very clear that sexual sobriety includes no sex with self and no sexual activity outside of a spousal, heterosexual, legal marriage—holy matrimony.
The Orthodox view on the sin of masturbation, which the Fathers have always considered self-abuse, is not only clear but it has been spelled out over the years. It is considered, first and foremost, masturbation, that is, onanism: an act of physical, emotional, and spiritual suicide. The holy Scripture is very clear in leading all of us to not only consider sexual purity and chastity, but it also spells out the nature of sexual immorality and sin, which includes the sin of masturbation. For example, let me grant you three or four scriptures that are extremely important as we discuss combating the passions, particularly the passion of lust.
For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you should abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel, in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.
And then, in 1 Peter 2:11:
Beloved, I beg you, as sojourners and pilgrims: abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
And then in Romans 13:13-14:
Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.
And then, further, in Ephesians 3:12:
But fornication and all uncleanliness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints, neither filthiness. For it is a shame to even speak of those things which are done of them in secret, let alone do them.
And again in Romans 8:13:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.
According to Matthew 5:28-29:
But I say unto you that whosoever lookest on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that the whole body should be cast into hell.
And then lastly, from St. John 14:21:
For he who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me.
We must consider that this topic of masturbation and its consequences fundamentally comes down to whether we will love God first and foremost with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul, or whether we will love ourselves. All sexual sin is extremely destructive because it involves the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that we are all called to offer, as well as our soul and mind, unto the Lord as a living sacrifice. It is up to us to enter into the entire experience of holy matrimony on some level with the Lord himself, for he is the Bridegroom and we are his bride, and all of us have been made in his image and likeness and called to the holy altar, to the holy banquet, and we come, even though we have sinned, we do everything we can to come undefiled. We come having received a new garment at baptism, the white and pure garment, and should be committed to being freed from every form of sin, especially in the area of sexuality. For we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it is the desire of the Holy Spirit for us to be free from this poison and this manner by which we can become defiled before him, and basically where we are not properly prepared to be in his holy presence.
We receive the garment of holy baptism, a garment which is white, a robe of purity, and we acquire this through holy confession. This is why we repeatedly go to holy confession, because we must acknowledge our sins and we must be freed from them by grace. There’s no greater method of treatment that is offered to us than a relationship with a spiritual father-confessor and the sacrament of holy confession.
When it comes to speaking about sexual impurity or sins of sexual immorality, including masturbation, the Fathers and the Mothers of the holy Orthodox Church have brought this topic to a very heightened level. We need to have attention to what has been written and what the saints have spelled out in this area. I want to bring forth insight along the lines of the sacrament of holy confession from a manual of confession, which is written by our righteous and God-bearing Father Nikodemos the Hagiorite. This wonderful work brings forth more than anything else the canons of the holy Orthodox Church on the topic of sexual sin and immorality more than anywhere else, I believe. For those that have not come across it, I highly urge you to consider it.
One particular saint, St. John the Faster, writes very specifically and points out where masturbation falls and what God’s attitude is on this grievous sin, which as I mentioned before seems to be acceptable among many. It is downright amazing that our society has reached the point where the topic itself, coming from doctors and therapists and people in helping professions and even clergy can talk about this topic as if it is an acceptable phenomenon and not only that but that it should be promoted, even, to set a person free.
This is very sad, and it is very grievous, that we have reached a point where it is commonplace that this particular sin is talked about with so much acceptance, because, as pointed out by St. Nikodemos and St. John the Faster, this particular sin is rooted in lust and it always includes a spiritual component. In that spiritual component are legions of demonic powers invested in the destruction of mankind. Where there is any sexual immorality, including the act of masturbation, there is the movement of the demonic, tempting and promoting sexual misconduct, beginning with this sin which the Fathers call self-abuse. So let us take a look at what St. John the Faster writes.
Masturbation is a sin so abhorrent to God that on account of it, he put to death Onan, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, because he was the first to commit this act upon the earth. It is therefore also called onanism. For the holy Scripture says in Genesis 38:10: “And the thing which he (Onan) did appeared as evil before God, wherefore he slew him.” It is an opinion of many teachers that God so strongly abhorred those prideful philosophers of the Greeks that he allowed them to be ruled by this sin as a punishment for their idolatry for, having come to know God, they failed to glorify him as God.
This is inferred from that which divine Paul says about them: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanliness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves” (Romans 1:24). Whereby the expression “their own bodies between themselves,” he was referring to masturbation, during which the body both acts upon itself and suffers an action of its own.
The saints go on and speak about this sin. For example, St. John [of] the Ladder, in Step 15, states that masturbation is fornication performed without another body, by which sin that great anchorite fell, concerning whom the divine Anthony said, “A great pillar has fallen.” John calls masturbation:
...death and perdition, which death is always present and borne about with us, especially during the time of our youth. Therefore, it is very difficult to abstain from it and repent who has once been caught in its snare.
We know that this sin especially often begins at a young age and that our young people are especially vulnerable. Let us join one another in praying for one another to combat the temptation to sin in this manner, and let us be concerned for those that are young who may in their own way be especially vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one, who desires to promote this sin more than any other, because it lays a foundation often for sexual abuse and for the addiction, the sexual addiction, to begin at an early age. As we have discussed already, since it involves lust, it will eventually cross every boundary and acting out as well as acting in becomes a way of life. As I’ve mentioned before, it is an act of suicide: spiritual, emotion, and physical death.
St. John the Faster goes on, and St. Nikodemos write:
Therefore it’s very difficult to abstain from it and to repent who has even once been caught in its snare. (As I mentioned before.) That is why one teacher likens masturbation to a great net of the devil and of Hades, by means whereof he has drawn the world to perdition and many are caught in it, but only a few of them ever escape from it, and the devil’s heart rejoices on account of his hunting so much with this net, and he burns incense to it, because it has caught much food and many souls, as Habakkuk says (1:15-16): “He takes it (the world) up with the hook. He catches it in his net and gathers it in his drag. Therefore his heart rejoices and is glad and sacrifices unto his net and burns incense unto his drag, because by them his portion is fat, his meat plenteous.”
But why say so much? Masturbation not only causes the soul eternal harm but also harms the health of the body. The soul is harmed because it deprives it of the kingdom of heaven and condemns it to eternal hell. As Paul says, “Be not deceived. Neither fornicators nor adulterers nor masturbators nor idolaters shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Also St. John Chrysostom interpreted the word “masturbators” to mean men who have become prostitutes, while St. Theophylact interprets it as those who submit to obscenity. Yet many other teachers have understood it as meaning masturbators. Masturbation causes the soul to lose its virginity, which is the most valuable thing in the world. As we have already discussed, it is God’s creation and God’s will that the soul and the body be free from every defilement and especially this one.
Also we hear from St. Meletios the Confessor and St. Symeon the New Theologian, and they say that masturbation causes the soul to offer a sacrifice to the devil with the seed of its body. Also: “Just as the loathsome flow from the body and, if it may be so called, the pleasurable mingling of the heart with any passion, so to speak, constitutes a sacrifice offered by us to the devil.” So they all encourage us to consider and especially the young brethren to guard oneself for the love of God for this thrice-accursed passion. If the lust of the flesh wars against you, then consider the example of the saints, who were often viciously attacked and gained by grace the ability to love God more than anything else created and especially to love God more than oneself.
At this time I’d like to point out a couple of saints who have for me been so important in the fight against lust and temptation. I encourage all of the listeners to consider that no one will ever overcome, and especially this sin, often without help, and that help can principally come as we avail ourselves [of] the communion of saints, a most profound reality and mystery in the holy Orthodox Church. For just as in SA—members of that fellowship learn to admit their powerlessness over lust and to rely on one another to get current, to bring out of the darkness lust and temptation, and to include confession—we have the lives of the saints and the reality that they today are active in their prayer and that they are available for relationship with us. This is done as we turn to them and as we ask for their help.
In the area of lust and temptation and overcoming this particular sin, there are two saints which I would like to point out. They are really special to me personally. The one is the holy virgin and martyr St. Dymphna. She lived in the sixth century, and she has an amazing story. Briefly, I would like to let you know that she was the daughter of a pagan and the daughter of a Christian. Her mother was a Christian and died prematurely, and her father, who was sexually addicted and insane, sought to get someone who could replace his wife. After spending a whole lot of money and getting his staff to go out into the cities looking for an equivalent to his wife, because he couldn’t get over the loss of her, they came back and stated that there was only one woman whose beauty and personality could match that of his wife, and that was his own daughter, Dymphna. Under the spiritual care of her spiritual father at the time, St. Dymphna fled at the moment that she heard that her father was considering the sin of incest in his desire to have relations with her.
I will leave you to look up this holy saint and to read her story, but she ended up, along with her confessor, hiding and fleeing from her father, but her father eventually found her. Upon coming into the room and proposing to her, the holy Dymphna, out of her great love for Christ and in preservation of her purity and chastity and her commitment, her marriage in its own right to the Lord himself, gave up her life and was martyred by her own father. She, I do believe, can be of great help to anyone who would seek her holy intercession for acquiring sexual purity and chastity and freedom from sin.
The other saint that I might point out is a wonderful holy woman named St. Justina, who lived in the third century. Her story, again, I will only briefly describe. Her story was, having been viciously attacked by the diabolical and during a life of purity and holiness and prayer, she came under great attack, particularly in the very area that she was committed to preserving: her sexual purity. The demons attacked her to the point where she describes being tempted, physically, and her blood boiling with the passion to give into lust, which she never did. I’ll briefly read an account of her temptation and her overcoming by grace the attacks of the evil one in this area.
The maiden was accustomed to offer up prayer to the Lord every night, and when at the third hour of the night she had risen to pray to God, she suddenly felt in her body as it were a strong wind, an evil tempest of carnal desires, the burning of the flames of Gehenna. She was beset by this assault and inner storm for a long time. The youth, Aglaïas, came to her mind, and wicked thoughts arose in her. She felt her blood boiling in her as in a kettle, and the maiden was amazed and ashamed of herself for considering that which she had always regarded as vile. The wise Justina perceived that it was the devil who had stirred up this struggle within her, and straightaway she took up the weapon of the sign of the cross. She hastened to God in fervent prayer and cried out to Christ as her bridegroom from the depths of her heart, saying:
O Lord Jesus Christ my God, lo, my enemies have risen up against me, and I have prepared a snare for my feet. My soul is brought low, but I have remembered thy name in the night, and I am glad. When they compassed me around about, I have fled unto thee, hoping that my adversary might not rejoice over me, for thou knowest, O Lord my God, that I am thy servant. For thee have I kept the purity of my body, and to thee have I entrusted my soul. Wherefore preserve thou thy lamb, O good Shepherd. Do not permit the beast which seekest to devour me to consume me, and grant me to prevail over the evil desires of my flesh.
Having prayed thus for a long time, the holy virgin put the enemy to shame. Overcome by her prayer, he fled from her in humiliation and calm returned to Justina’s body and heart. The flame of desire was quenched. The conflict within her ceased. Her boiling blood was calmed, and she chanted a hymn of victory, giving glory to God. “We cannot,” the devil said, “bear to look upon the sign of the cross, but must flee from it, for like fire it burns us and drives us far away.”
May we take the holy example of St. Justina, St. Dymphna, many other holy Mothers and Fathers of the Church as an example, and may we continue to seek, through prayer, fasting, and especially holy confession, the need to be free and to acquire sexual purity as a gift which can fundamentally only come by grace and the action of the Holy Spirit. And let us consider especially holy confession to be a great source of healing and deliverance, and may you consider that confession to a spiritual father, ordained by God, is not only necessary but an invitation, no matter how far one has been tempted or fallen, to come out of the darkness and to be whole-heartedly committed to holiness, which would include our words, our deeds, and our thoughts. May holy confession become a sanctuary and a refuge for every one of us, and may we acquire contrition of heart, which is an essential ingredient for the Lord to dispense absolution and remission of our sins and to root out the sources by which we seek self-destruction and self-abuse, especially in the area of our sexuality.
I will further discuss these topics, including other forms of the illness of sexual dysfunction and sexual addiction, which include the topic of homosexuality, in further podcasts. I ask that all of you that are listening consider joining us in the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup and our prayer for one another as our first defense under the spiritual care and the omophor of the Mother of God known as the Inexhaustible Cup, who is our Champion Leader and who is invested in participating along with the Holy Spirit in delivering each and every one of us from temptations and the action of the diabolical which seek the destruction of every man, woman, and child, for she truly calls us by name along with the Lord himself in the holy chalice to come and to come under her protection, her holy assistance, and her holy intercession.
For she, by her holy intercession, vanquishes the spirits of darkness, particularly in this area, which seek the destruction of mankind. In many ways we not only thank her and consider her, but we know that we must, along with her, have the help of other saints in their intercession for us that we might acquire holiness and purity and that we might over and over acquire the garment of holy baptism, of purity, in order to stand at the holy altar and receive, properly prepared, the holy mysteries: the precious body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation and for our healing.
My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O Holy Trinity; glory to thee. Amen.