There are concepts in the Church, the meaning of which is often not fully known even to church people. One of them is chastity.
“Foma” asked Archpriest Fyodor Borodin, the rector of the Moscow church of the holy unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian on Maroseyka, to help us understand what chastity is, why it is needed and how to live chastely.
Photo by Anna Galperina
Is Chastity About Sex Life?
Chastity is about a healthy spiritual, mental and physical state, about an integral personality who knows how to live with God, who knows how to love. Yes, in everyday consciousness this word is often associated only with questions of physical intimacy, but in fact it is a much broader church concept.
The Church recognizes that the state in which we were born and live is a state of sin, of the deepest distortion, inherited from the fallen Adam. We can get rid of it only through the desire to get closer to God - to the ideal that Christianity offers us. Thus, the apostle Paul says: For the same feelings must be in you as in Christ Jesus (Phil 2: 5). He means that a person should be like Jesus Christ - contain the reflection of all His qualities. The Church defined such virtues with the word chastity.
In doing so, we need to remember that the union of all virtues is love. That is, chastity is ultimately the ability to love.
What is the basis of this ability?
The first is mental and physical purity.
The second is integrity. The Fall turned everything upside down in a person: he ceased to understand God, and the components of his soul was scattered to shreds.
If before the knowledge of sin the spirit reigned in him, then after - the flesh. The feeling of anger before the Fall was a good feeling - a kind of immunity against sin, and after that it turned to the neighbor.
The destruction of this natural hierarchy for a person led to the fact that his feelings, will and reason were separated. The most piercing, most bitter words about this are in the epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans: The good that I want, I do not do, but the evil that I do not want, I do (Rom. 7:19).
Achieving integrity is in the ability to subordinate the carnal to the spiritual. To be chaste in this sense means to put yourself together again, to cultivate the will - to have the strength to fight against sin.
How Is the Violation of This Integrity Manifested in Everyday Life?
Each of us, for example, is faced with the fact that he does not find time and energy for prayer, and most importantly, he does not spiritually participate in it. Human consciousness has become clip-like, that is, it is not able to perceive long texts. We are constantly distracted by calls, messages, notifications and we cannot concentrate, to bring at least one thing to completion.
Living in such a state, modern man is very weak in collecting his consciousness. How long can he keep his attention on the words of the prayer? If he can for a minute, that's a feat. Again, chastity is about focusing on what really matters. About gathering yourself around one's inner core.
But the Word "Chastity" Is Often Used in Conversations Not About Prayer, but About Inter-Sex Relations. Why?
Because in them our inability to control our feelings, will and reason affects our daily life most painfully.
How Exactly Is This Painfulness Manifested?
The Church opposes licentiousness and debauchery with chastity. "Libertine", "fornication" means that a person has lost his way, turned from the path. These expressions, through which we speak about bodily impurity, about the fact that a person has lost the way to God - neglected the available ways of dealing with sin. This cannot but affect the inner, mental state of a person.
Firstly, a dissolute person will never become an established strong personality. Being destroyed by his own mistakes, not knowing how to use will, reason and wisdom, not combining these scattered pieces of Adam in himself and not even striving for this, being in a situation where the body does not obey the spirit, he cannot find what we call the inner core.
Secondly, my little experience of observing the life of many people I know - including from school - shows that most of those who began to lead a promiscuous lifestyle early on did not experience happiness in marriage.
Due to the constant switching from one partner to another, as they say now, the integrity of a person is destroyed, and he is no longer able to love with all his heart. He constantly compares his current relationship with previous ones and cannot give all of himself to love alone, because part of his nature remained in past relationships.
We know the words of the Apostle Paul: "he who joins himself with a harlot becomes one body with her" (1 Cor. 6:16). That is, this connection, like a scar, remains with him forever. By doing this, by leading a dissolute life, you split your knowledge of God, the world and your loved one into endless fragments.
Thirdly, an unchaste person, himself not being a whole person, does not perceive his spouse as an integral person, loves not the whole person, but only his bodily component, partly mental, there is no question of the spiritual. He only knows how to own and use, even if he presents it very beautifully and romantically.
Fourthly, such a person, naturally, is not capable of love as service, because he is aimed solely at receiving, possessing and appropriating things to himself. This is the love that ends: as soon as what a person is used to receiving dries up - the spouse has grown old, got sick, his earlier imperceptible shortcomings are revealed - his love also dries up, and he looks for a replacement.
Therefore, it is assumed that a Christian family can be created with only one person. The Christian keeps himself bodily clean before marriage for the future spouse. The Church believes: everything that a man needs to know in a woman is in his wife. And all that a woman needs to know in a man is in her husband.
By violating his chastity, a person destroys the integrity of his soul, which should be sacrificed, dedicated to his spouse. It is natural for a Christian not to enter into premarital relationships - for him it is a loss. It is the loss of the opportunity for the love that he wants to reach.
And to love, as to service, you can grow only in marriage, when a person throughout his life together with his beloved grows to the full disclosure of the personality of his spouse. Moreover, he loves even when he fully receives love in return, and when he stops receiving it, this is not an obstacle to love.
As a priest, I constantly see how an unchaste person, after becoming a Christian and deciding to change his life, often suffers bitter failures in his attempts to build a family according to the church model - he is hindered by his past life experience. It is much easier for a person who is chaste before marriage to become happy in family life, because all that part of his soul that was created by God to be combined with a spouse is given to a single person.
But Why Is Chastity Made Dependent on Formal Marriage Registration?
Love in a high sense becomes possible when a person takes full responsibility for his spouse. The brightest experiences - enthusiasm, falling in love, captivity - develop into true love only when a person says: “All yours are now mine - your youth and beauty, old age and illness, all your relatives and all the burdens of your character, all the difficulties of your fate and all possible difficulties in the future - it will all now be mine as well as yours. "
Only after this can a person accept the gift of love from God - real, deep. The key to this Christian love lies precisely in responsibility. That is why the Church does not crown unregistered marriages: the registration in the registry office is now evidence of the acceptance of this responsibility.
In the meantime, a person does not take responsibility for his beloved in the same way as for himself, as long as there is some kind of craftiness - he is not ready to accept the gift of Christian conjugal love, to become an integral person.
But Divorce and Remarriage Exist - What Does the Church Think About This?
Despite the fact that for a Christian there can be only one marriage, today the Church in some cases makes condescension to human weakness, permitting a second marriage. However, if you look at the succession about the second married - the rite of remarriage - then this is not a bright and joyful rite, this is an rite of repentance. Sometimes it is even somehow awkward for his priest to serve: on the one hand, a white dress, candles, guests, and on the other, a prayer of repentance, sorrow.
This also applies to a widowed person who wants to re-create a family: the Church blesses such a marriage, but out of condescension - after all, the departed spouse is waiting for you there! Blessing the remarriage of a widowed Christian, the Church excommunicated him a year earlier from Communion. Yes, for a while you are separated, but if a person has matured and grasped what true love is, then for him the waiting time for eternity will be bitter, but not infinite.
Perhaps all the rules that, according to the Church, every Christian should follow, apply to the fullest extent only to the families of clergy: a priest cannot divorce, and a widow cannot marry again.
And this is not because some special rules are applied to the clergy, it is just that the Church applies its expectations from marriage to their family completely. That is why the recent initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to allow priests to remarry is so rejected by us.
It Turns Out That Believers Can Maintain Chastity Either in Marriage or in a Monastery. But What About Single People?
It is a mistake to believe that chastity is attainable only in marriage or monasticism. There are many chaste people living outside marriage or a monastery: these are people who loved God so much that they do not use their legal right to married life, but spend all their time and energy on serving God and others. And there are people to whom God by His Providence did not give families, and they accepted it.
But in order to achieve chastity in the world outside of marriage, you need to acquire another virtue - humility, that is, the ability with humility to accept the will of God about your path and destiny.
photophilde/Flickr/СС BY 2.0
How Is Humility Combined With Finding an Inner Core? Doesn't This Core Imply Self-Confidence?
The Gospel of Mark says: Love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). The key thing in the context of our topic here is "strength" - that is, asceticism, will, albeit small, but asceticism. There was an episode in the life of the Monk Anthony the Great: one martyr was forced to have relations with a harlot - he bit off his tongue and spat it in her face. Using this example, you can imagine what it means to love God with “strength”.
Strength is the resistance to sin and the very inner core on which a person relies, which helps a person to live according to God's commandments. Such a core has nothing to do with self-confidence, because the inner strength comes primarily from humility - one of the main virtues.
But Is This Integrity Achievable in the Modern World, With the Multitasking Mindset, When Many Simply Do Not Have Time to Collect Themselves?
Metropolitan Pitirim (Nechaev) said: “The virtue of chastity, which is highly valued in the Church, is not so much the preservation of girlish purity or youthful freshness, it is precisely the purposefulness and integrity of the personality. A chaste person does not exchange himself for tinsel. What are the means for spiritual ascent? There are many means, but the meaning is the same - overcoming "pluralism". Our life is diverse: you do one thing, think another, answer the third. It is only for a few to be perfect in all spheres of activity. Therefore, a person who concentrates his strength in one direction achieves more. Integrity, concentration of internal efforts is very important ”.
Yes, today people's lives are often focused on multitasking in a time-limited environment, and at the same time we do not always choose what to do. Another question - can a person illuminate this list of things to do with prayer, serving God and neighbor? If in life God is in the first place, and everything else is in his own, there will be no inner fragmentation.
Interviewed by Anastasia Bavinova
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