by Fr. Pavel Gumerov
Because the preservation of a society is based on moral renewal, and our own societies are collapsing so quickly in this regard, the importance of addressing these issues from Orthodox Christian Tradition has never been more crucial. An English translation (slightly adapted) of Fr. Pavel Gumerov’s answer to the question: “How can you explain to a young man or woman that sexual relations before marriage are a sin? How can you show them the harm that comes from these relationships?”
One day I was conducting a talk with some high school students. Of course, the kids began to ask questions, and what interested them most was my personal life. They asked where people go to learn how to be a priest, what was my “pay,” and so on. The question was asked about what kind of person a priest’s wife should be. I answered that a matushka (the wife of a priest) should first of all be a pious Orthodox Christian; and, naturally, she should preserve her virginity before marriage, just as should the priest himself. These modern-day schoolchildren were very surprised.
“Where would you find such a girl? Do they really exist?”
For the contemporary teenager, the thought that one can and positively should preserve him or herself in purity before marriage seems ridiculous. As a matter of fact, there actually are, thank God, young men and women who observe chastity. Otherwise, there would not be such a large number of people wishing to enter theological seminaries, and no one to become their helpmates. From confessions I also know, that although the corrupting winds of the times are also blowing upon the church-going Orthodox young people, a large number of them are preserving their purity before their weddings.
It is very difficult to explain to modern secular young men and women why they should preserve their chastity. They think that the depravity that has become today’s norm has always been the norm. But I remember a time, when it was the norm for a girl to preserve herself for one man only: her husband.
Let us begin with an explanation of the word, chastity. In Russian, the word is tselomudrie, which means literally, “integrity of thought,” and consists not only in physical preservation (one can remain a virgin in body, but commit terrible acts of depravity in the mind; and to the contrary—one can live in a pious marriage and preserve his or her soul from sin), but also in a proper, wholesome, undisturbed view of the opposite sex, with purity of soul. Fleshly, intimate relationships between a man and a woman are not a sin in and of themselves, and they are even blessed by God, but only if they are carried out within lawful marriage. All fleshly relationships outside of marriage are fornication, and violate the Divine order; that means that the fornicators are going against God. Fornication is a sin, an iniquity, and a violation of the commandment that tells us that fornicators shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6: 9–10). That is, of course, if they do not repent and abstain from this sin.
A person who permits himself to have sexual relations before marriage violates his own spiritual nature, and greatly weakens his will, opening the door to sin. He has already given in, and it becomes very hard to resist temptations. Not having learned self-restraint before marriage, that person will not have self-restraint within marriage, and he will not be “reborn” somehow miraculously. If it is just as easy for a guy to sleep with a girl as it is to take her to a movie, then he will just as easily give himself permission to look immodestly at other women when he is married, and then move on to adultery.
The loss of one’s virginity before marriage is a great loss; one can no longer experience those joyful feelings of something new—the purity of feeling that is given to chaste people. Sexual relations always leave a trace, and people who have had a number of partners before marriage will bring it all into their families. This does great harm to them and their loved ones. Former relations and sexual experiences can leave the most dramatic impressions, and can greatly hinder the development of good, harmonious relations in the family. As one popular song goes:
“And when I hold her in my arms, I still remember you.”
It is very possible that when a young man “with experience” embraces and kisses his wife, he is thinking about a completely different woman.
The majority of men (with rare exceptions) want to marry a virgin and be the first man in the life of his beloved. No one wants to be the second, sixth, or fifteenth. Anyone would prefer the new, the untouched, the “unused.”