Category: Chastity


Some Pauline Beatitudes

And when Paul entered into the house of Onesiphorus, there was great joy, and bowing of knees and breaking of bread, and the word of God concerning abstinence (or continence) and the resurrection; for Paul said:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are they that keep the flesh chaste, for they shall become the temple of God.

Blessed are they that abstain (or the continent), for unto them shall God speak.

Blessed are they that have renounced this world, for they shall be well-pleasing unto God.

Blessed are they that possess their wives as though they had them not, for they shall inherit God.

Blessed are they that have the fear of God, for they shall become angels [messengers?] of God.

Blessed are they that tremble at the oracles of God, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that receive the wisdom of Jesus Christ, for they shall be called sons of the Most High.

Blessed are they that have kept their baptism pure, for they shall rest with the Father and with the Son.

Blessed are they that have compassed the understanding of Jesus Christ, for they shall be in light.

Blessed are they that for love of God have departed from the fashion of this world, for they shall judge angels, and shall be blessed at the right hand of the Father.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy and shall not see the bitter day of judgement.

Blessed are the bodies of the virgins, for they shall be well-pleasing unto God and shall not lose the reward of their continence (chastity), for the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall have rest world without end.

~ Acts of Paul (and Thecla)

Today in the Orthodox Church we commemorate the holy virgin St. Thecla. The account of her meeting with St. Paul and how she miraculously escaped martyrdom several times comes right after these Pauline beatitudes in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a product of the era of the Apostolic Fathers of Christian literature or just after (a late first- or second-century text).

While, of course, one may question the details of the story, there seems to be strong evidence that there was indeed a St. Thecla of Iconium, and St. Paul did in fact travel there and preach there. But I’m not so concerned about historical curiosities as I am about the text itself: Whatever else they may be, writings like this were meant to be didactic, and so we need not be historians to learn something valuable from the text. Continue reading

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On Blind Bodyguards

Abba Poemen said: “As a bodyguard is always standing by to protect the Emperor, so the soul ought ever to be ready for the demon of lust.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 5.8

The fathers, even by many Christians today, are often derided for supposed sexual puritanism (no offense intended to any actual Puritans).

Personally, I’d rather have the fathers who erred on the side of celibacy than what many have today: clergy sexual abusers. Perhaps it has always been this bad—I hope not. Continue reading

Serenity: Mother of Chastity

An old man said: “Chastity is born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 5.25

Unchastity, and the lust from which it is born, is a problem that we do well to revisit often with an ear to the wisdom of the fathers. How many relationships, marriages, ministries, careers, and so on have been ruined by a person’s own lust? This unnamed old man offers an interesting insight to contemplate. If chastity is “born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation,” then logically unchastity thrives where there is no serenity, no silence, and no secret meditation. Continue reading

An archangel was sent from Heaven to say to the Theotokos: Rejoice! And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to Her such things as these:

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:

Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!

Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:

Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!

Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts:

Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!

Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:

Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all!

Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear:

Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!

Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:

Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!

Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

~ Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos

This excerpt is from the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (the Mother of God), a work of great beauty by Romanos the Melodist, a saint of the late fifth/early sixth centuries. It is so treasured by the Orthodox Church that we have multiple services during Great Lent to sing it. The present fast (of the Dormition) is another good time to revisit it as well. In particular, I’d like to focus on the refrain at the end: “Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!” Continue reading

Virginity Sells

Let no one think however that herein we depreciate marriage as an institution. We are well aware that it is not a stranger to God’s blessing. But since the common instincts of mankind can plead sufficiently on its behalf, instincts which prompt by a spontaneous bias to take the high road of marriage for the procreation of children, whereas Virginity in a way thwarts this natural impulse, it is a superfluous task to compose formally an Exhortation to marriage.

~ St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity 8

As it turns out, my most recent post, “Virginity: Not Just For the Single,” has by far already been my most viewed. I wrote it after a friend cynically recommended that I write about sex if I want my blog to get more views. So I wrote about virginity instead. As it turns out, it appears that virginity sells. Continue reading

The following severe saying is reported of St. Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea: “I know not woman and yet I am not a virgin.” By this he means that bodily purity consists not so much in foreswearing women but in integrity of heart. For it maintains a perpetual incorrupt holiness of heart whether from the fear of God or from love of purity.

St. John Cassian, Institutes 6.19

A little while back, I mentioned the three monastic virtues of poverty, virginity, and obedience. In that post, I wrote specifically about poverty. While I have written about virginity or chastity before, it is my conviction that such an important and unpopular subject really can’t be talked about enough today, and I was encouraged to revisit it through a recent conversation with a friend. While one could decry the evils of a secular culture that treats sex like candy, to do so would miss, to me, a much more severe problem: a Christian culture that treats sex like candy. Continue reading

A brother was goaded by lust and the lust was like a fire burning day and night in his heart. But he struggled on, not coming to meet his temptation nor consenting to it. And after a long time, the goad left him, annihilated by his perseverance. And at once light appeared in his heart.

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 5.12

Of all the sayings of the desert fathers, perhaps those on lust are the most relevant to our culture and world today. Our media has seized upon lust as a marketing tool, worsening the problem (though I doubt such a tool could be used in a different moral climate). I know people, indeed many Christians, myself included, who entered adolescence with little to no defense against such a vicious demon. Truth be told, many of us began the battle having already been defeated—it is a shame how early children become curious about sex. Even the strongest of soldiers can be defeated by sickness, sometimes much easier than any human enemy. In this case, all it takes is one older sibling or pseudo-role model to pass the disease on to those who do not yet even truly understand its draw, and a whole troop can be defeated even before entering basic training. Continue reading