NOTE: The following is from a thread on an Orthodox Christian forum:
Posted 06 February 2015 – 09:53 PM
Recently, after observing the moral decay in society (i.e., gender roles, sexual immorality) I could not help but notice a peculiar trend. Testosterone levels among men have dropped a statistically significant degree each decade following the 1950’s. A commensurate change in estrogen changes has also been observed among females since the same decade.
In short, men are losing their masculinity and becoming more effeminate whereas women are becoming more masculine. I asked Elder Ephraim of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona about this during a recent conversation I had with him. He mentioned that this trend — men becoming more like women and women becoming more like men — is indeed real. For this reason, he is often misunderstood and cast as out of touch with respect to any advice he gives concerning marital relations. He is known to have said that men should not engage in oral sex with their wives. Moreover, he has said that some men and women should even live as brother and sister within the marital context.
These indications are not intended to destroy the ability of a man to enjoy his wife as God originally intended — that is to say that a man cannot enjoy sexual relations with his wife but for procreation. Rather, Elder Ephraim wants to help us, God’s children, understand that God is trying to protect men from further emasculation because of the current ethos which allows for men to explore their “femininity” and women to explore “more masculine roles.” Elder Ephraim’s suggestions, if not followed by many of those who come to him for help, would redound in a further decay of the gender identity of both the man and the woman and further collapse the strength of the marriage.
Elder Ephraim, is, in effect, trying to stem the gender role reversals perpetuated by the devil in today’s society. God loves us, His children. We should aim to do that which we can so that Christ can restore us men to the image he intended for men and women to the image he intended for women — free of the ugly demonic imprint of the past 60 years.
After this post, someone replies, “I did not about the testosterone thing. There was an ancient tradition in the Church that the second coming is near when women become like men and men like women.” Then many replies follow which drift into social commentary and science around estrogen, birth control pills and the feminization of men. Then the original poster, Anthony T., posts the following plea to have his thread deleted as he posted it without a blessing:
Posted 11 February 2015 – 05:38 AM
Hello, I am the author of this thread.
Can you please delete this post as I did not have Geronda Ephraim’s blessing to post it.
As you might imagine I am terribly embarrassed and ashamed that I proceeded to post the thread without receiving a blessing. I didn’t think twice about it. It was my fault. Forgive me. Please delete the thread, nonetheless.
I apologize if my actions have caused any one of you, my brothers and/or sisters to be upset. Again, forgive me. I made a mistake.
Poster Name: Anthony T.
Then Michael asks a question that is never answered: “Why would you need a blessing?” The thread turns into a heated debate about the role of women in the Orthodox Church and the thread is closed.
NOTE: Anthony T. does not retract what Geronda Ephraim says, nor states that he made a mistake about what Geronda Ephraim said, he simply did not have a blessing to repeat what Geronda Ephraim said and was censured for it.
So, why does one need a blessing to repeat things that are told them at one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries?
In the monasteries, it is taught that Confession is a Mystery and it is also confidential and private. Just as a priest cannot repeat what he has heard from the individual’s confession, so too the penitent cannot repeat what they heard in Confession. An analogy is also given that what is medicine for one can be harmful for another, thus advice shouldn’t be circulated as it is tailored to the individual to whom it was given.
This is also a way to keep busy bodies and gossips in check. Certain things that are said should not be made public knowledge “because the enemies of the monasteries can try and use it against them.”
But one of the main reasons for blessings needed to repeat things said by Geronda and his monastics: the monasteries are very private. They enjoy their privacy. They do not like outsiders prying into their business, nor knowing about their business. They do not like the happenings in the monasteries to become common knowledge—which also takes away from the illusion of the mystique and unearthly side of things. This also extends to the monastics—generally when monastics visit other monasteries for feast days, they are not really allowed to divulge the things that go on in their own monastery other than the basics: the schedule, what the monastery does for income, new projects, etc. However, because some of the monastics were friends before the monastic life, or they were in the same monastery before being transferred elsewhere, then these reunions many times evolve into conversations and idle talk which are not blessed—though this is more an issue with the monks than the nuns.
The biggest fear for the monasteries is for certain things to get back to priests or bishops—the perpetual “accusers and attackers of the monasteries”—which may incite temptations or problems for the monasteries. It’s not uncommon for spiritual children to call the monastery they go to and inform the abbess or abbot that a certain lay person is telling other lay people about something in the monastery that he/she shouldn’t be repeating. It’s also not uncommon for the abbot or abbess to call that person directly—or have one of their subordinates call—and ask them, or command them, to stop repeating what they have been saying. It’s also not uncommon for that individual to receive a penance, depending on the severity or sensitivity of the information that was leaked—this could be anything from an extra 33-knot prayer rope each night, or 50 extra prostrations or no communion the following Sunday or up to a month. This is to teach the individual to be more careful with their tongue the next time.
It should be noted that every wise Abbot and Abbess have trusted “ears and eyes” planted in the community who report back to them the things they see and hear in the Greek parishes. These confidants also have the obedience not to tell even their friends about this work they do for the monastery. As the Abbots and Abbesses don’t reveal where the information was leaked from when confronting individuals, it sometimes plays into the illusion that “they’re readers of hearts,” “they know hidden things,” “they see everything,” etc.
It should also be noted that the bind on the priest’s lips in the monasteries is almost non-existent. Anyone who has been a monk or nun in one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries know quite well that an abbess or abbot will freely reveal things as he or she chooses: in the case of revealing a monastic’s secrets in front of others as a “therapeutic method” to help humble the individual and instill fear not to repeat the actions, or at the very least, to instill fear in the others. When an abbess or abbot reveals to their monastics the sins or things told them in confidentiality by lay people, this is usually for their “edification” or to “help” them realize how grateful they should be that they’re not in the “hell” which is the outside world. Other times, in special cases, the monastics could be called together and informed, “So and so is coming to our monastery today.” And then their personal problems will be revealed. “So, show this person love, don’t scandalize them, etc.” If they’re going to be sent to a diakonimata to help, the individual monastics in charge will also be advised to give the lay person extra special attention, etc. Many times, in these situations, the lay person will start conversing with the monastic who may or may not have a blessing to talk about the individual’s life nor give them counsel. As the monastic knows very private and intimate details about the lay person’s life—which only the abbess, abbot or priestmonk should know—they cannot reveal to the individual that they know all about their secrets. In some cases, the abbot or abbess may have revealed to their monastics in the homily what they plan to advise the lay person. So now, in the conversation, the monastic is armed with knowing the individual’s secrets, plus knowing the superior’s fronima in how to deal with their problems. So in the conversation, the monastic can hint at many things without letting the lay person know that everyone in the monastery knows about them, and thus give the illusion that they have discernment and a deep spiritual understanding of things. It’s a classic tactic, though some monastics have been given big canonas for doing this when it stems from vainglory and they’re trying to pass themselves off as “readers of hearts and secret thoughts.”
At the end of the day, after a large group leaves, many times the superior, second-in-command and sometimes some of the trusted monastics get together and rehash about the day, share information that they heard (personal stories, sins, incomes, what’s going on in the parish that these people were from-priests, parish council, bishops, individuals, etc.)