Journal Epohi
“ST. CYRIL AND ST. METHODIUS” UNIVERSITY OF VELIKO TARNOVO - UNIVERSITY PRESS

About the Role of Sexual Relations in Marriage – Parallels Between the Mediaeval East and West


Authors:
Sashka Georgieva BAS, Bulgaria

Pages: 59-68

Abstract:

The article starts with the Christian idea that originally people were not created like sexual beings. According to most hagiographic works perfect Christians had oneand only aim in their lives – to fight against the flesh and the ensuing sins and take care for their souls. Many saints achieved that purpose surmounting their sexuality and thus elevating their souls. Both in the East and in the West theologians and preachers believed that sexual relations were evil but in the West appeared different idea about sexual relations. St Augustine thought they existed from the very beginning but were not connected with lust and passion. However, in spite of the differences clerics all over Christian Europe were convinced that life without sexual relations is the real stairway to Christian perfection. That is the reason why marital relations like those between Virgin Mary and her earthly husband Josef were the loftiest ideal of such relations. Both in the East and in the West the ideal marriage was the one which was not consummated. There were some theologians who believed that marital sex was good, but they were few. The dominating notion was that sex was desecrating even in marriage. However, no one denied the role of these relations for the reproduction of mankind, which was one of the purposes why people were encouraged to get married if, of course, they were not able to restrain themselves. The article tries to define mediaeval Christian notion about the connection between love and sexual attraction, about the meaning of love between spouses. The author outlines differences in the attitude of Eastern and Western canonists towards the role of sexual relations in constituting the marital institution, and towards sexual pleasure, which was never a matter of discussions in the East. Despite the differences revealed the author derives the conclusion that during the Middle Ages both in the East and in the West dominated the conception that sex between spouses was accepted only if it was a result of pious intentions like creating children, or protecting the other spouse against fornication and adultery. Clerics advised married couples to be moderate and restrained in their physical contacts and not to strive for pleasure.

Keywords:


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