Exhortation not to Masturbate
Below follows an edifying letter to one of our parishioners,
which we thought would be of profit to you all.
Greetings in Christ our Saviour from Dormition Skete.
Thank you for your history. It is grievous that you have been through so much. You must be very hurt and you probably hurt a lot of people in the process of being hurt yourself.
Your affliction of masturbation is a very serious problem, as you know. It could weaken you to such an extent that you could be susceptible to many diseases of the body. I don’t have to mention that it has affected your soul also.
The Fathers say that one drop of semen is equivalent to sixty equal drops of blood. This is a very serious problem. If a baptized Orthodox Christian masturbated once, he would be barred from holy communion for forty days. This is according to the canons of the Church. I am not referring to wet dreams at night. These happen beyond our control, and they only prevent a man from not receiving communion the next day. Masturbation, on the other hand, is something that we are responsible for, therefore the penalty.
Now I know that you have been doing this for a long time, and therefore you feel that you are not in control of yourself. This is understandable. This is how sin works. First, we're convinced to do something demonic, and when we persist in doing such sins, we loose our freedom to resist. And then it becomes like we are uncontrollable. Your advantage, though, is that you are young. You still have the means and the strength to overcome this. Just imagine if you were fifty or sixty years old, doing this all your life. God help us.
Thank God that you have found the Church, and I believe that through your devotion to Orthodoxy, with the help of God, you can overcome this very soul destroying disease. First of all, you have to have a change of mind, a change in your attitude, in understanding this sin. Realize that this is not a natural act for a man to be engaged in. The first person in history that was recorded to have done a sexual act and then let his seed fall on the ground was Onan. This is recorded in the Old Testament and God killed him, or let us say, his life was ended. I say this to impress upon your mind that you must think this act to be very abhorrent and I want you to hate it. If you can get to hate it, then you may despise it and do violence against your will to be engaging in such things.
I understand that there are many temptations that present themselves to you, from the T.V. to magazines, and anything else which shows or portrays women as sex objects only. Remember our Saviour said: “He who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart.” This may seem very hard to you, but it is attainable for everybody. We live in a society, though, that is very paganistic and perverted Jewish morality, that revolves around sexual activity and immorality is everyplace. Learn also, to resist this. For it also says in the Scriptures that the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, is not from God. What is from God is everlasting, and sex is not everlasting. If one thinks so, then he is a Moslem, and he will eventually find out that he is absolutely wrong. So, you must watch your eyes and be very vigilant over your desire. If you see your desire is to do such a thing, you must divert your desire to something else. Now the best thing to divert it to is a godly desire: to read a book, to read the Scriptures, to do prayers or prostrations. Sometimes this is difficult, so the next thing to do is to start some other mundane activity, such as wash clothes, clean house, (room), pushups, etc, etc...All of these things are not sins. They will not hurt you. Therefore, use them to replace the desire that will hurt you, and will weaken you mentally, physically, and spiritually.
The next part in this program to overcome this habit is the hardest. You must with great effort resist committing this act. Whatever you have to do to stop yourself, you must do, short of castrating yourself, WHICH IS OUT OF THE QUESTION. Resist to the utmost, with the greatest pain and anguish, if need be. But do not fall into it. The devil is warring against you in the most vicious way. If you do not understand this, you have two strikes against you. He wants to beat you and beat you, so that you have no will to resist, so that you will despair, and then ultimately, he will say, “______ ______ belongs to me.” He will say, “He has done my will for so many years. I am going to torment him forever.” “Christ, His Church, and help that comes from them, is meaningless to ______”, the devil will say. Do not let him be the victor. Christ is the Victor, and with His help, you can overcome. You should understand: you have to engage in this battle, and you have to know that since you have been a willing participant for so many years, that the battle may continue for some time. Big deal. It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you resist and have a mindset and a heart so to do.
Now if you happen to fall once, God forbid, that is no reason to despair. Take up the battle again. The war is won not necessarily by winning all the battles, but that would be good.
I pray that God will free you from this really stupid sickness and that you come to understand and participate in the great mystery of being part of Christ’s Church.
In the love of Christ,
By Archbishop Gregory, Dormition Skete, Buena Vista, Colorado.
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
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