Friday, May 27, 2005

Chastity is for Lovers

A few weeks ago, our very own Sierra (who's listed as a contributor on this blog but who has actually never posted anything...) asked me if I wanted to go to California with her in August. "For what?" I asked. "For an abstinence conference," she said. "But not abstinence for married people, right?" I asked. "Because it wouldn't be good if married people are abstinent."

That conversation, along with Thomas' post at CT about sex ed got me thinking about the words "abstinence" and "chastity." If we are to embrace the full meaning of our human sexuality, we must not be abstinent - we must be chaste. Chastity encompasses every vocation in the life of the Church and it gives meaning and proper order to each vocation. Abstinence does not do the same. One can be abstinent without being chaste (i.e. impure thoughts), and one can be chaste without being abstinent (i.e. engaging in the marriage act with their spouse). We must strive for chastity; it is the higher calling. Abstinence means nothing else than that we do not have sex. But if that is the scope of our understanding about sex and sexuality, then that understanding is poor indeed. To be chaste means to understand and accept your sexuality as a gift from God and give glory to Him through it by exercising it appropriately according to your vocation.

Abstinence is an Old Testament word;chastity is a New Testament Word. Abstinence is like the Ten Commandments; chastity like the Beatitudes. Abstinence is a habit; chastity is a way of life. Abstinence is a denial of one's self; chastity is an embracing of one's self.