The Church of Rome is the second and last place the first bishop Peter reigned after Antioch. From here the Latin Catholic Church began her proliferation across the world, crossing national boundaries while preserving national identity for peoples. How can this happen? What religion could accomplish this? We explain in two other posts (The Evangelization of Celibacy, The Fulcrum of the Kingdom of God) that this has everything to do with celibacy. The other Churches that came out of Antioch did not so emphasize celibacy for priests, religious, and laity and evolved into Churches of national associations but with intact Sacraments. Sources of sacramental graces for millions of peoples and families but with a limited international reach compared to the Latin Church, except when those families migrated.
The premise in western cultures that sexual activity is some sort of necessary evil with only marginal potential for something of beauty has many origins but one can point out the writings of Sigmund Freud, a drug addict and pervert, as one source. The foundation of every psychology department all over the world. We have no control over these urges. Some sort of compromise has to be worked out with our sexuality. But this is not so. This has been permanently changed with the eternal work of Jesus, God and man, and His mother, the Mother of God. The Hearts of the new nature of mankind has been established. The particulars of this eternal event are wholly dependent on you and I.
So worked out for us here, celibacy not only becomes an attainable option, but the practical means for the evangelization of peoples. Without it, the Church of Rome will be reduced to the Church of Italy, or some other geographic boundary.
In the town of Maghdouche overlooking Sidon in southern Lebanon, is where legend says the wife of Potiphar (circa 1500 BC) is buried, seductress of Joseph from the Bible, which does not name her. Jewish, Islamic, and Persian literature have her name Zulaikha. The story in the Bible is that after Joseph’s betrayal and sale into slavery by his kin (Genesis 39), he finds favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian palace guard. In that household, Joseph rejects the advances and seduction of Zulaikha. In the event that led to his imprisonment, Zulaikha grabs the garment of Joseph but he escapes naked running out of the palace. She lies to Potiphar saying that he was the instigator and Joseph is sent to prison. There, Joseph finds new and greater favor and position with the Pharaoh, ultimately becoming a source of salvation and blessings for his kin, the very people who betrayed him.
This story reminds us two recurring themes of God’s grace and mercy:
1. In being wronged and betrayed, we can become a source of grace for people, many more people and much more grace than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. In receiving God’s grace and mercy we bring along other people too.
2. The continuum of grace always occurs through the fulcrum of chastity.
But this story is only an early chapter, with earlier, later, and other chapters to come.
The town of Magdouche is an ancient promontory and look-out post for Sidon. During Phoenician times (peak 1200-800 BC) the promontory had the shrine to Astarte, the pagan goddess of war and sexuality. The pagan legend has Astarte bearing two sons from her brother, Eros and Lust. Astarte is likely the same pagan goddess of Sidon, Ashtoreth, who captured the heart of Solomon, son of David (1 Kings 11:5).
The shrine was taken over by Christians after the Virgin Theotokos stayed in a cave there while waiting for her Son to return from preaching in Sidon. Jesus’ work in Sidon is referenced in many places in the new Testament (Matthew 11:21-22, Mark 3:8 and 7:31, and Luke 6:17) with even Matthew 15:21 referencing the city as a place of refuge for Jesus.
It took the convincing of St. Helena in the 4th Century by the devoted town folk for the empire to issue an icon of the Theotokos, reportedly painted by St. Luke, to the cave/Byzantine chapel: the Virgin of Mantara (the Waiting) or Virgin of Magdouche.
In the 8th Century, the cave was buried and hidden by locals to escape the detection of the local Moslem governors. Unlike the Caliph Omar who spared Jerusalem, they feared the cave would be destroyed by those leaders. Many of the region then dispersed into the higher mountains or converted to Islam. The Crusaders of the Latin Rite in Sidon of the 12th and 13th Centuries never suspected the chapel’s existence even with their own castle and chapel a stone’s throw from the hidden cave.
The cave’s legend lingered however.
Under the rule of the benevolent Druze Prince Fakhriddin II in the early 17th Century, peace and religious freedom was granted to the region. Byzantine Archbishop Euthymios Michael Saifi of Sidon (1682 – 1723) offered recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Around that time, the grotto was rediscovered when a goat-herder boy went after a goat who had fallen into the cave. The boy, we can call him Indiana Jones Jr., noticed the icon as the goat ran back into his arms. He piled rocks to escape with his beloved goat, alerting the townsfolk of his accidental excavation. The pilgrimages restarted.
So the worship of Astarte was replaced with love and devotion, now restarted, to the chaste and virgin Mother of God, the Living Ark of the Covenant. Her chaste and virgin Son was also wronged and betrayed, becoming a source of grace offered for all people, infinitely more than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. Lest anyone think that this is not related to the Potiphar story or that God’s hand does not sign scripture, read the evangelist Mark’s stunning account of what happened immediately after Jesus was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane:
Mark 14:51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fulcrum as follows:
1. The support about which a lever turns
2. One that supplies capability for action
This post expands on a prior, The Evangelization of Celibacy, to expound on what has developed into dogma in the apostolic churches. On celibacy, chastity, and marriage. Even contraception. The word dogma has acquired bad connotations in our current age, causing some people, even clergy, to question dogma and think that it somehow needs to evolve, and keep up with the times. They think that dogma is somehow arbitrary and without any objective truth at its roots. But dogma is developed for our protections and for actualizing the work of God, as a manual or handbook is written for the operation of a tool or device. Some people can expand on their knowledge on how something is designed to work and develop a working knowledge of how to use a tool or device without the use of a manual. But this is generally not a good practice.
Jesus says in John 10: 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works…
More about works in Hebrews 4: 3…And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world.
These passages remind that God’s purpose will be done. He simply asks for humans to witness to them. The emphasis is for humans, flesh and soul. The exquisite model of this is how God used the Virgin to transfer the throne of David:
Luke 1: 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, 33 and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.
God then is the force behind the works. The Virgin, flesh and soul, is the fulcrum, or vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”.
There are of course other works of the flesh that constitute the fulcrum for God’s eternal Kingdom. The central acts of the Kingdom are the crucifixion and resurrection, but here we discuss our role as sexual beings, men and women with procreative potential.
God’s use of a Virgin as the fulcrum of the Kingdom is an act that captures runaway sexuality. God uses His original design to implement His Kingdom. There is no redesign. The sexual physiology of our bodies is for procreation, a scientific fact. The baptized then are changed to recognize their bodies as manifestations of the Kingdom through a number of ways that include chastity of the single, fidelity of the married, and celibacy for the religious. The chastity and celibacy for a couple using natural family planning combines all of these. Avoiding the morbidity of drugs. Sexual expression has been recaptured by our will, the means to beautify the soul. Our bodies become the fulcrum for the Kingdom.
God is not outdone in generosity. The religious that sacrifices their sexual propensity to procreate, are rewarded with the procreation of members for the Kingdom, becoming the vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”. This is the explanation of the urgency in the Apostle Paul’s writing about not recommending marriage over celibacy. He was not a homosexual and did not hate women. Now we can see that Paul’s writings are a sample of how God taught the early Church to bestow the title of Father on a priest.
See also another example of how the Kingdom passes on through the celibate (eunuch): Acts 8:26-40.
So we humans become the fulcrum of the Kingdom if we accept the force at work. Hence we have a working definition of the True Faith. If we do not accept the Faith, God will simply find others about whom the lever may turn and who can supply the capability of action.
“It is for God to grant His grace, your task is to accept that grace and guard it.”
God is triune, three Persons in One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A glimpse of this mystery can be facilitated by looking at who any one of us are. God made man in His image. So there must be a clue in us about God.
Any one of us must be a son or daughter of someone. We can espouse and become a spouse. We can procreate or adopt and become father or mother. So each one of us can mirror the three persons in one, although we are each only one person. Even those that do not marry or do not have children, still have that three-in-one reminder of God in their very being. We exist for the glory of God. The triune character of man or woman, has an inherent potential to be faithful, like a spouse, or care for another, like a mother or father would. The Holy Virgin has a triune character: Crowned Daughter, faithful Spouse, and Virgin Mother. Meet the new Eve, the Realm of God’s Love. Her triune character is all for the glory of God.
In the capacity or actuality of the three-in-one character in us, there is then the mark or reminder of the Divine. Note that this state is not contingent on having sexual relations; rather it is a primordial and eternal state of the soul. A characteristic of the Divine substance. The teaching and notion of the Holy Virgin embodies this truth. This leaves the sexual act in its proper place: the creation of new life. And this teaches male-female relationships without sexuality.
In creating man, God meant that no gift be not subject to the will. Contraception. like an illicit drug, effectively makes a decision for you and in direct opposition to the triune character. It is replacing your will, a component of the soul, so the will weakens. In the case of the contraceptive drug, the effect can also weaken the male’s will, who has to interact with the female in everyday life. Contraception produces a subtle distortion in the soul made for the glory of the Triune God, leading to the soul’s dysfunction. Male and female. Meet the curse of the modern age.
Now man in the image of God is created body and soul. Intimately intertwined. The body then manifests the soul, along the principle that form follows function. The bodily change that results from contraception contradicts the function. With this understanding, such an alteration of the body might be expected to result in ill-effects on the physical health of the person. And it does. These effects of contraception have been documented in the medical literature but have been effectively swept under the rug by the main-stream culture:
Blood clots in the extremities and pulmonary emboli. In recent decades, there was the not infrequent puzzle of explaining chest pain in women with normal chest x-rays. With the current use (and abuse) of CT scans, small pulmonary emboli are now known to be the cause. Small and insignificant, is the the current cultural rationalization to carry on.
The cyclical nature of contraceptive drugs is designed to trick the body into recognizing a pregnancy that is not there. The ovulation is thwarted. The uterus also looses the natural cycle, now capable of denying the implantation of breakthrough fertilization. If these organs are to be so fooled on a monthly basis for most of the adult life of a person, then how can we not expect the rest of our organs and tissues to be not fooled? Month after month. What about the cumulative effects? This background is the scientific explanation of the statistically proven dysplasia in breast tissue from contraceptives that increases the risk of cancer. It is called biological plausibility, the long lost spouse of biostatistics. A doctor should be able to explain things to patients in terms they understand.
Not to be left undone, the male has his equivalent. There is the emerging realization of the link between vasectomies and aggressive prostate cancer.
And what about other tissues? The brain for example. If it is well known that pregnancy causes psychological effects, then why not monthly phony pregnancies?
The analogy of mind-altering drug use is appropriate: Illicit drugs block the intellect, will, and memory, components of the soul, and produce adverse health-effects on the body.
But can we stop with contraception? If the person develops habits that deny the triune nature of the soul then might we not develop yet unstudied effects on the body from other inventions like barrier methods to avoid pregnancy, or even masturbation or pornography? What is the effect of the soul, our will and intellect, by these habits? Our productivity? Our peace of mind? Do we become like deer during rut season, except all year round and for all our lives?
Dysfunctional souls are easy prey for predators. Without even mentioning the devil and his goals, the dysfunctional soul becomes fodder for the proponents of population control that deny the freedom, will, and the means available to humans. They believe in animal husbandry. You are a cow in a herd. You have no control over your facilities. They propose contraception while encouraging seduction, the continual hum of the culture. Just like the medical industry creates pathology for treatment and the war industry, conflict for hardware.
James 4: 1, From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members?
We are created in the image of God with sexual identity. What does this mean? This has infinite meaning in God’s plan for us but for the sake of this discussion let us talk about the meaning of celibacy in the realm of evangelization. So ordered with sexual identity, we are endowed with the ability to procreate through marriage. This is part of the Creative Nature of God manifest in His image, His creatures. It is part of His identifying mark on us. This identity cannot leave us. It is part of us.
Obvious in marriage and obviously compromised in sexual activity out of marriage, what then happens to this identity in a celibate person. The identity remains obviously, but does it become dormant? A review of the incessant temptations of the celibate person can easily remind us that it is still present and wanting. The celibate person however gives over his sexuality to God and so consecrated, he/they has the potential to become even more procreative than we can imagine. When a priest , religious, or even nonreligious does this, he or she in fact enacts the dual nature God bestows on us in the sacraments, divine and human, in a procreative capacity. A faithful priest generates a much larger family than he could ever physically, in his parish or other. Similarly with a consecrated religious female. Or consecrated nonreligious. God’s Nature does not sleep:
Mark 1029 “Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. ”
This is why the Roman Catholic Church has proliferated so much more than the Eastern Rite, the latter not requiring celibacy except for bishops. A matter of historical record. It is why the Eastern Rite churches are often tempted to nationalistic identities. It is how the Church can stay united across national borders, which are the extended physical families of man. It is a Trinitarian Unity. It is in fact the only “familial” unity that can exist across borders, despite what the proponents of borderless humanity preach.
Note the proliferation of homosexuality “advocates” in the church is a sinister imitation of this plan that undermines the Church. The devil always presents a fraud. A Roman Catholic priest with “homosexual inclination” has to be celibate as one with heterosexual attraction. But who is sacrificing the more for God? The one who is giving up illicit sexuality or the one who is giving up illicit sexuality or licit sexuality with progeny? In recent times there has been the proposal that the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh (Corinthians 2: 12:7-10) was homosexual inclination. As if heterosexuality is not vulnerable to temptation?
If one wants to insist that homosexuality is an innate and natural state, then one has to seriously consider that it is incompatible with the priesthood. If you are not physically disposed to progeny, then you have no business becoming a father. That is the WHOLE point of God’s plan. To increase His family. At least with a married Orthodox priest with children, you know that he is disposed to fatherhood, albeit potentially distracted from his flock.
In God’s grace the eastern churches, the other lung of the Church, those with married priests, serve as a a reminder for us against globalization that is the fraudulent version of the Universal Church. A reminder of the fractal organization of family, community, and country.