Chastity Protects the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality

The sexual encounter between man and woman is meant to express and strengthen their love.
       ... but ...                               
                      what is love?

 
"This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us."
(1 John 3:16)

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Jesus said, "This is my body given for you" (Luke 22:19). He showed us that love means making a complete gift of yourself to another.  This gift of self has four characteristics - the four F's:   Jesus Christ gave the gift of Himself freely (Jesus said, "I lay down my life... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own." John 10:17-18)He gave Himself fully (In the Eucharist, Jesus gives His Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity to His Bride the Church, that we may receive Him.  He holds nothing back); He continues to give Himself faithfully (Jesus gives Himself in the Eucharist every single day on altars throughout the world, and He will continue to do so until the end of time); and He gives Himself fruitfully ("The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" ... "if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation"  Romans 6:23 & 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The sexual encounter is meant to be an expression of this Christ-like love, and so it must belong in the context of marriage.  Sexual intercourse between husband and wife is the physical sign of the inward spiritual reality of complete, mutual self-giving.  They give themselves FREELY in love: At their wedding, the bride and groom must respond to the question, "Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?"  Husband and wife give themselves FULLY to the other person: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to His wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). They hold nothing back of themselves in body or soul.  Husband and wife give themselves FAITHFULLY to the other:  "I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.And, the gift of self given between husband and wife is FRUITFUL:  When God joined Adam and Eve together, He "blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply'" (Genesis 1:28). 
Therefore, each time a husband and wife embrace in the sexual act, they are expressing, strengthening, and renewing their marriage vows of free, full, faithful and fruitful love.


Unfortunately,
"as with the whole of a person's life, love is exposed to the fraility brought about by original sin. ... Our society has broken away from the full truth about man, from the truth about what man and woman really are as persons.  Thus it cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education.  " (Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 3 & 6)

 

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Outside of marriage, and sometimes even in marriage, the sexual encounter between man and woman leads them to lie to each other with their bodies - their bodies are saying that they give themselves freely, fully, faithfully and fruitfully to the other - but interiorly they are holding back parts of themselves, saying it is a gift that can be taken back at any time, and the gift is often not allowed to mature into the gift of fatherhood and motherhood.  Premarital sex, contraception, adultery, homosexual activity, pornography, and masturbation are all attacks on the the truth and meaning of human sexuality because they are not able to express love that is free, full, faithful and fruitful.  Ultimately, they are attacks on the human person who has the call to live self-giving love in communion with another, a call that is inscribed in our very nature as male and female persons made in the image and likeness of God who is love. 


Here's the Good News:
  When Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem mankind, He was redeeming us fully in our entirety as human persons.  He was not just redeeming our souls, but our bodies also...and our sexuality!  Before sin entered the world, God created Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and He said it was good! Sin damaged our sexuality, but Christ has won grace for us, so that through chastity, we can once again experience sexuality as a physical, emotional and spiritual good!  "The Lord's Redemption has made the positive practice of chastity into something that is really possible and a motive for joy, both for those who have the vocation to marriage (before, in the time of preperation, and afterwards, in the course of married life) as well as for those who have the gift of a special calling to the consecrated life."


So, What is Chastity?

 

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Chastity is a virtue aquired through human effort aided by God's grace.

It is more than just abstaining from sex before marriage.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that "chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom."
(CCC 2339)  It is a self-mastery that frees a person from being dominated by their passions and emotions, allowing them to make concious decisions to choose good over evil, love over selfishness.  Chastity protects the truth and meaning of human sexuality because self-mastery is essential for self-gift:  "One cannot give what one does not possess.  If the person is not master of self  through the virtues and, in a concrete way, through chastity he or she lacks that self-possession which makes self-giving posible. Chastity is the spiritual power which frees love from selfishness and agression.  To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is, satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer for self-giving." (Truth & Meaning, 16)


Therefore, Chastity may call for sexual abstinence at certain times in life, but it is so much more than that.  Self-mastery is necessary for self-gift, and so chastity is necessary for love.  Even married persons are called to love chastely - to love their spouse as persons, not as objects for use.  

This is why chastity education is much more effective than mere "just say no" abstinence campaigns, because chastity education forms virtue in the heart and informs the mind about the reasons behind abstinence.  Chastity education proclaims to young people the good news that has been passed on by the Pontifical Council for the Family:

 "Chastity is not to be understood as a repressive attitude.  On the contrary, chastity should be understood rather as the purity and temporary stewardship of a precious and rich gift of love...  Chastity is thus that 'spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards its full realization!' "  (Truth and Meaning, 4)


Resources:
* The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family  published by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

* The Catechism of the Catholic Church (especially paragraphs 2338-2345 )

*Humanae Vitae, an encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI (paragraph 9)

*The Rite of Catholic Marriage, http://catholicweddinghelp.com/topics/text-rite-of-marriage-mass.htm.