THE VIRTUES OF CHASTITY AND VIRGINITY

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE VIRTUES OF CHASTITY AND VIRGINITY

According to Saint John Climacus, "To be chaste is to put on the nature of an incorporeal being." Furthermore, "Purity is the longed-fore house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart." Saint John adds, "A chaste man is someone who has driven out bodily love by means of divine love, who has used heavenly fire to quench the fires of the flesh (σάρκα)."

For those who are concerned with spiritual matters, there are three virtues referred to as the "monastic virtues": virginity, poverty, and obedience. Virtues which one strives to attain throughout one’s life. It is a spiritual goal that the believer struggles for it is through them that the Orthodox Christian finds healing, "the transformation of his inner world and his experience of communion with God." According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, "these three virtues correspond to the three GREAT PASSIONS that torment us from our birth: LOVE OF SENSUAL PLEASURE, LOVE OF MONEY AND POSSESIONS, AND LOVE OF PRAISE."

The Orthodox Christian must retain his true identity and guided by the Holy Spirit must adhere to the commandments of His Creator God and retain God’s image pure and pristine. The Holy Apostle Paul reminds us, "Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For YOU WERE BOUGHT AT A PRICE; THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY AND IN YOUR SPIRIT, WHICH ARE GOD’S" (1 Corinthians 6:13-20).

The genuine believer understands that everything is relevant to the spiritual life of the good Christian, therefore, dealing with sin means controlling and restraining the passions of our bodies. When the Holy Apostle Paul reminds us that our bodies are "MEMBERS OF CHRIST" he reminds us OF OUR UNION WITH JESUS CHRIST IN BAPTISM ( see Romans 6:3-10). Fornication is, therefore, a sin to be fled with horror, for it joins Christ with prostitutes. Our Holy Father Saint John Chrysostom writes, "We have many improper desires, but we must repress them, for we can." The word "temple" here refers to the individual Christian as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul’s preference is for celibacy, but he understands that this is a "gift from God" Himself and that is not given to everyone.

Orthodox Christians are called to live a life of holiness, purity, chastity, virginity, a life pleasing to our Savior Jesus Christ, married or celibate. Living the authentic and true spiritual life takes strong faith and resolve from the follower of Christ. Christians are invited to conform to the Divine teachings of the Lord and to adhere to His commandments. Saint John Climacus encourages all to live a life of chastity when he writes: "The beginning of chastity is the refusal to consent to evil thoughts (logismoi) and occasional dreamless emissions…completion of chastity comes when mortified thoughts are followed by a mortified body…The chaste man is not someone with a body undefiled but rather a person whose members are in complete subjection to the soul, for a man is great who is free from passion…". (Ladder of Divine Ascent).

Saint Cyprian writes: "For what is chastity but a virtuous mind added to watchfulness over the body?" It is up to the individual Orthodox Christian who practices his/her Christian faith daily to keep vigilant and alert over the actions and behavior of his/her body. If the body has certain unholy appetites and desires one must have the strength and commitment to resist them. Knowing how very powerful these carnal passions are we must be invited and supplicate our Savior for help and by His grace, we can succeed to live a life of chastity. Saint John the Ascetic says or purity of heart, should be the underlying goal for everything we do. "Everything we do, our every objective, must be undertaken for the sake of purity of heart…" He also advises all that "we must practice the reading of the Holy Scripture, together with all the other virtuous activities…to hold our hearts free of the damage done by the deleterious passions…".

Our contemporary secular society not only condones all immorality but it encourages it and facilitates it. An Orthodox hierarch has defined chastity as "an inner harmony of body, mind, and soul. Again Saint Cyprian says, "For what is chastity but a virtuous mind added to watchfulness over the body… Chastity promotes the freedom of relationships that comes with innocence, and the beauty of modesty." Just as the sin of gluttony damages and deforms the body so does unchastity distorts and pollutes one’s mind and soul. The unchaste person finds no inner peace or harmony of soul and body but instead becomes a slave of his/her sinful passions.

Saint Justin Popovich wrote, "The sign of purity is to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep; to be in pain with the sick and in anguish with the sinners; to rejoice with the repentant and to participate in the agony of those who suffer…"’. And Saint John Climacus states: "Purity means that we put on the Angelic nature. Purity is the longed-for-house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart. Purity is a supernatural denial of nature, which means that a mortal and corruptible body is rivaling the celestial spirits in a truly marvelous way."

The Orthodox Christian must reject all evil indoctrination by the Gentile or pagan society and instead be obedient and adhere to the Divine Teachings of the One Who sacrificed His life to save us from sin and death. Listen to the One Who said to the adulterous woman, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Our compassionate and merciful Savior Jesus Christ forgives and does not condemn the repentant sinner. But true repentance includes striving to "sin no more". Saint Methodius writes: "Indeed, who was ever able to grasp Christ or His Spirit perfectly without first purifying himself? Chastity is the exercise which from childhood prepares the soul for glory by making attractive and lovable, and with ease brings this adornment for her to the next world untried…". Saint John Climacus writes, "Offer to the Lord the weakness of your nature, fully acknowledging your own powerlessness, and imperceptibly you will receive the gift of chastity."

Virginity is scoffed and ridiculed by the secular and faithless generation but it does not diminish this indispensable virtue at all. Young men and women are afraid to reveal that they are chaste simply because they will be immediately ostracized by their peers. The pressure from this hostile world against young people to retain their purity and chastity is enormous. The unbelieving, corrupt, and sexually perverted world hates anyone who is moral,honest, righteous and one who pursues virtue. However, the Christian is reminded: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctifiction and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God…for God did not call us to uncleanness but in holiness." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Holiness includes sexual purity (vv. 3-8).

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

–Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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