Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Lucy, a 4th century virgin and martyr. Her name means ‘light’, ‘luce‘. Today seems like a good day to discuss the beauty of chastity, and the great need for such sober and chaste living in our society today.
Clearly, we live in a highly secularized and ‘sexulazied’ culture today. With so much focus on personal rights, individual preference, relative morality, people are lulled into a false understanding that any and all things are acceptable; that pursuing passions and pleasure will lead to ultimate fulfillment, thus no one should try to limit another’s pursuit of such.
The Christian understanding of the human person holds a different vision for fulfillment and freedom. We believe that each person is capable of discovering such freedom, and that it lies deeply in the reality of being formed in the image and likeness of God. The proper understanding of ones’ self is discovered in relationship with God. Our human fulfillment and truest freedom is discovered in this relationship.
Blessed Pope John Paul II taught: “[human] freedom is not unlimited; it must halt before the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” for it is called to accept the moral law given by God. In fact, human freedom finds its authentic and complete fulfillment precisely in the acceptance of that law. God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the commandments.” (The Splendor of Truth #35)
With so much attention in our culture today on issues regarding sexuality, it seems helpful to take a step back, and to place all of these discussions in a broader context, namely a proper understanding of the human person. The beauty of the human person is found in his or her relationship with Christ.
Despite the physical implications of virginity and chastity, what is mostly at the heart of such living is Christ. The Christian is one who is called by Christ into an intimate relationship of love. We are called to accompany Christ in our daily life; to be his disciples.
“Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2233) Thus, in order for us to find our way in all of these cultural issues which revolve around our human sexuality, we must first be resolved to follow Christ. We must be committed to truly seek the Divine will and live it with every fiber of our being and with all fidelity.
“Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person…” (CCC #2337) In other words, the ‘person’ comes first, and sexuality is one of many complex components which is to be fully integrated in the life and identity of each person. This understanding of the human person keeps us from wrongly associating ‘love’ with ‘sex’. Every human person is called to and created for love, but love does not require genital expression. Such physical expressions of love are reserved to the marital relations of husband and wife. This necessarily means that all single people are called to live a life of celibate love.
“The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him (or her). This integrity ensures the unity of the person;” (CCC 2238) In other words, chaste relationships lead to greater fulfillment of life. Likewise, a lack of chastity leads to an interior brokenness, incoherence, confusion.
Human sexuality is at the same time a powerful force, particularly at certain stages of one’s life and development. This is a part of the beauty of being made in the image and likeness of God; part of the beauty of the human person. It also means that “chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” (CCC #2239)
Here is a pearl of great wisdom, our need for self-mastery. In order for us to discover true happiness, we must learn the way of self-discipline. The human person must be in control of his or her passions and appetites, lest they be in control (which means lack of freedom!) This is a critical component of forming healthy human beings, which is fundamental for getting the answers right to all the other social issues of our time.
To be chaste is to be able to have many loving relationships in life. Husbands and wives are not restricted in to one loving relationship, but are to be exclusive in their love for each other. Clearly if they were restricted to one loving relationship, there would not be the possibility to love their children. All single people are called to many loving friendships. Too many people today believe it is not possible to live a celibate life, but clearly it is possible. Perfect examples of such joyful lives are priests and religious men and women who have given their lives to Christ. It is possible to live a celibate life. It is possible to be the master of one’s sexuality.
When we walk humbly with Christ, and grow in intimacy with Him, we shall discover the truth of the psalmist who knew such infinite love by expressing: “My soul shall be filled as with a banquet” (Psalm 63) Our love for Christ will always lead us to fulfillment. Christ’s love for us will always lead us to discover the Divine will, which will lead us to true love in this life, and eternal love in the life to come.