Friday, December 29, 2006

Hurrah for books! and marriage! and books about marriage!

Observant readers (there are 80 of you so far...from as far afield as Europe and South America no less!) might have noticed the ever increasing list of books to the right hand side of the screen. Go ahead, look, I'll wait.

OK, now that you've had a chance to peruse the list of books I'm reading, have recently read, and my own sad, egotistical attempt to put together a list of books about Orthodox Christianity, let me mention something about a few of the books. Since elementary school (at South Davis), I have recognized in myself a penchant for reading. During my second grade year (in addition to wetting my pants while waiting to use the restroom in our class room...aren't elementary school teachers saints? aren't I glad that I lived literally next door to the school?) I read something on the order of 120 books to receive a certificate that required only forty or so. My mom tells me that my teacher disbelieved my reports until she quizzed me and I was able to give a plot synopsis for every book when asked. Anyhow, since then, I've loathed the book report (and it's grown-up cousin, the book review) mainly because I have a hard time getting past the whole work to provide a condensed version. If you're so interested, why don't you read the book yourself! *grin*

So, I'm not likely to give regular reviews on the books I'm reading (though I will be more than happy to discuss them if you ask...hopefully with specific questions), I wanted to take the opportunity the happy occasion of Shauna and Tony's marriage (and my current seclusion in a hotel room in east Texas) to mention the books on my list that deal with marriage.

Fr. John Meyendorff's book Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective is a wonderful exposition on how the vocation of marriage can and should be a reflection of Trinitarian theology.

Fr. Thomas Hopko's book Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction also deals with the theology of correct human marital relations, as well as providing a Patristic, nuanced, and thoughtful guide to how to lovingly deal with the marred expressions of our created intent for completing each other.

Dawn Eden's book The Thrill of the Chaste is unique in this collection in that it is written from the perspective of someone outside of the Orthodox Church. I was first alerted to Dawn Eden's blog and writing through the blog Orthodixie, written by a Houston-area Orthodox priest. Ms. Eden's book, like the other two mentioned above, provides a clear exposition of principles with which I had wrestled previously to express in internet conversations (e.g. here) and in email exchange.

The basic tenet shared in all three books is that marriage is an ascetic vocation (like monasticism) in which the selfish individual will is transformed by submitting to grace into a person in communion with God and the person's intended husband or wife. A point that I've made in personal conversation is that marriage was revealed to humanity before any other sacrament, and is thus, I believe, a natural that is yearned for despite what ecclesiological, sociological and/or political structures might guide the expression of such a union. And since marriage is a sacrament, and sacraments are the participation of the material with the divine, we can look to what we know about God to describe marriage in its intended state. Fr. Meyendorff and Fr. Hopko's books accomplish this exposition explicitly through Orthodox teaching. Ms. Eden does so by faith-fully communicating the lessons she has learned through trial and error. And that is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that your religious/philosophical tenets need to provide a satisfactory explanatory framework for existence.


Jonathan Kotinek said...

An excellent meditation on the role of sexuality in human growth from Fr. Lawrence Farley:

Jonathan Kotinek said...

An excellent meditation on the role of sexuality in human growth from Fr. Lawrence Farley: