Monastic Spirituality - Consecrated Chastity

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Monastic Spirituality Set 9 of 12




Okay, today we want to plow forward with our subject.
And just to review what we were doing last time, we started the subject of the vow of chastity by trying to go back and find the theological foundation for chastity or for celibacy.
We'll get into the terminology in a few minutes.
And so we looked at a kind of Trinitarian archetype for sexuality, actually.
And then one on the level of Christology, John the Baptist, Mary and Jesus being kind of the integration of an astral plane.
And then finally that notion of the union of God with man, the union of God with creation, so that marriage becomes a kind of paradigm or pattern for the whole of the history of salvation, for the whole of God's plan.
as we find in scripture, explicitly sometimes between God and Israel, implicitly as far as the whole creation is concerned, the sort of wedding of spirit and body.
And then we have to think about how Celibacy fits into this whole scheme, and Luke helps us with that, as he distinguishes that inner integration, the presence of the two, both the masculine and feminine poles within the human person,
the inner integration that takes place in the absence of the external, man or woman, and how through this inner integration we relate to God, and through our relation with God the inner integration takes place, so that the person is supposed to be able to find a deeper fulfillment in the celibate life.
This is a very controversial point.
It used to be said with a kind of arrogance that celibacy leads you to
you know, a greater capacity for love, greater human integration, greater fulfilment, but it's very much disputed nowadays on the grounds of experience.
It's something that needs to be thought about carefully.
And it's one of these areas where the criticism, say, from psychology, or just from the experience of people with religious, helps us actually to find out
in which ways we need to redirect our life in order to find what celibacy is supposed to bring us to, or what our vocation is supposed to bring us to.
It's not enough just to draw from theology, we have to draw also from human experience, as I think people did in the past time.
Okay, today we want to get back to Roberts and just follow him for a little while.
Before we do that, I finally located this document which he refers to as PH, repeatedly, Persona Humana, which is the Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.
from the Holy See, from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1975.
This is it, and I'll put it on the shelf over there.
Some of you saw at least part of this, I'm sure, in the Catholic papers when it came out, and then the discussion was following.
This treating of the state of sexuality at present and some things that the Church has been worried about, the official Church,
And some matters on which there's been a good deal of confusion, three of them being, especially mentioned, was premarital sex or extramarital sex, homosexuality, and masturbation.
The question of whether these things are a matter for sin or whether the Church's doctrine should be reconsidered.
And of course, the document simply confirms the traditional doctrine with a kind of pastoral breadth which hasn't been bound so often up to them.
But there are no basic changes in the doctrine.
Roberts refers to it occasionally.
Okay, any questions or remarks or anything before we... Okay, we're in Roberts, the beginning of Chapter 3, on page 46, and first of all, St.
Benedict doesn't talk about a promise of chastity.
Remember, we thought that that was rather surprising.
He says more about poverty than he does about chastity.
He only mentions chastity sort of in passing, where he says that we should love chastity.
But that's among the instruments of the works of which there are 72, so it's not exactly something that sticks out.
And then he says the brothers should love one another.
They chased love.
And then we're going to see here another place in chapter 33 where he mentions it.
Why is it that he doesn't mention it?
Simply because it was presupposed.
It was taken for granted.
It didn't even need to be said that chastity or celibacy or virginity, in the broad sense, was an element of the monastic code.
Everybody knew it.
And Roberts contends that it's included in the direct conversion of life.
Then he uses a kind of striking image here.
Just as it's hard to think of a blind man driving a truck in the center of a modern city, so also would it be very difficult to imagine monastic life without a promise of chastity.
Now, why does he pick that image?
Has anybody got any ideas?
You puzzled me.
Well, he's not a merman.
He admits it.
This is the beginning of his book.
He says, I do not have the powers of expression of what it is.
There must be some reason why it shows that image.
It's in page 46 there.
Why does he compare the blind truck driver in the center of the city with the one who doesn't have a positive test?
I think that the thing must be this force, the sexual force, which, if it's undirected, is going to lead you to disaster.
So only a promise of chastity can sort of anchor that force and direct it so that the person can travel in the monastic life, so that he can make the monastic journey.
The image is somewhat lacking in beauty.
Martin would have been better.
He either would have been more beautiful about it, or he would have been more sarcastic, so that it was funny, one of the two.
Then he quotes chapter 33 of the rule.
Now this is on poverty.
Let no one presume to give or receive anything without permission of the other, nor have anyone, since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills at their own disposal.
You see, he said you don't have your body at your own disposal.
That presupposes some kind of commitment of the body, either through obedience or implicitly through chastity.
And it seems to reflect the passage of Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.
A wife does not belong to herself but to her husband.
In the same way, the husband does not belong to himself but to his wife.
I thought that there was an explicit reference to the body, mention of the body in that passage of St.
Paul, but there's not.
I think there is, isn't there?
First Corinthians 7.
Not that it's that important, but... We can examine another phrase.
Yeah, here it is.
Here it is, in 1 Corinthians 7, earlier on.
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does.
Likewise, the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does.
That's earlier in 1 Corinthians 7.
It's not the passage that we read.
No, it's the same passage, but somehow his translation skips the word body.
But that's where the point is, you see, that's where the point of the correspondence would seem better.
Anyway, that seems to, chastity seems to be implied there.
We'll get to that later.
Some of the interesting questions you raise about early monastic literature is why don't they talk about the things they don't talk about?
The man wrote a book on the Will of St.
Benedict and said, well, he doesn't mention the Blessed Virgin, he doesn't mention the Eucharist, and many of the extremely important things in our faith he doesn't mention.
And it's good to ask ourselves why.
And often it's because they were so taken for granted, as it is with the Eucharist, of course.
The Desert Fathers are even more stubborn than the things that they speak.
is one of the real experts on the Desert Fathers.
When he sets out to make his introduction to the sayings of the Fathers, he has a long section on the silences of the Fathers, why they don't speak about the things they don't speak about.
And one thing is that they don't even quote the scriptures very much.
And he explains that.
And then all of the things, he lists all of the things that we don't speak about, which is so fundamental for the monastic life.
And if you set out to write a theory of the monastic life, you're going to mention those things first of all.
But the first things we jump on today are exactly the things they don't talk about, really.
Really surprising.
And it's because largely the Desert Fathers are leading this apophatic life, this apophatic life which does rather than saying, and which sort of
indicates often by turning away from something and by hiding itself.
I'm saying that in a too quick and crude way, but I'll let it be the key of this.
What we think about, they did.
Eliot once said,
I forget how he put it.
It's as if somebody had said, well, we know so much more than the Fathers.
We know so much more than the earlier writings.
He's talking about literature now, right?
A nice decision.
And then the reply is, yes, but they are what we know.
And that means several things at once.
They are what we know, and that we know the tradition, and they are the tradition.
But it means more than that.
It means that what we have in our heads
as an object of thought, they realized.
In other words, their lives realized what you talk about.
It's that kind of thing.
So we've got a beautiful, explicit theology.
And sometimes, as they say, it can be like painting an oasis on the wall.
You can't drink it.
They have a big book on church.
Yeah, because it was a struggle.
And so they have a lot on fornication.
That's what they live with.
And the funny thing is, if you look through those titles of the sayings of the fathers, they're all positive, I think, except that one point.
If they don't talk about chastity, they talk about fornication.
Cassian on the other hand talks about chastity.
And for them, it's the disorder.
main adversary in the spiritual struggle, in that particular reading of Peter's thought.
And so there's a large collection of Saint Benedict.
Saint Benedict, why doesn't he give it that much attention?
Largely, I think, because, for one thing, he's not so interested in
evil thoughts as they were, and therefore I'm characterizing those particular things.
And the other thing is that I suppose the discipline of this inaugural has a lot to do with working that out, defending the economy, the attacks, and so on.
But I don't know.
It can be, but the notion that you get when you read the Desert Proverbs is that this is not only for the advanced.
These falls are pretty crude.
A lot of these monks that fall into fornication, they're pretty obviously beginners, or at least they're not masters.
So, St.
Benedict's silence on it remains a little mysterious to me, especially when you compare it to the Desert Proverbs.
That's it.
We can take longer.
You might expect St.
Benedict to say more about it.
Now, we're still talking about St.
Benedict's allusion to St.
Uncertainty, maybe.
The thought seems to be that the monk has entered into a marital relation, not only with God, but also with the community of which he is a member.
That surprises us.
It surprises us, but in a way it's true.
The community becomes your family, and if your body, your will, and so on, is not at your own disposal, it's for service, right?
It's for the service of your brother.
You can't very easily think of
If you think of the marriage relationship extended to a community, extended to an old group of people, it's much more easy to consider just a one-to-one relationship with God or with Christ, as it is biblical.
A bishop, however, is said to be married to the church, and as a ring is supposed to symbolize that.
Church is the bride of Christ.
You can't say the same about the relationship between a monk and his wife.
He doesn't have that pastoral responsibility for it.
He says there was one attitude which was common in the first centuries of Christianity but got lost in the Middle Ages somewhere and now is reappearing.
And it's expressed in a way that the three ordinary religious fellows are listed usually.
It used to be poverty, chastity and obedience for a long while.
Now this was not the first period, this is the medieval period, this is since the time of the scholastics especially.
Sacrifice of exterior material goods by poverty.
Those are the things that are least close to you and least important to you.
And you would sacrifice those when you come into the monastery.
Sacrifice of the goods of one's own body by chastity.
We may object to that a little because
goods of one's own body.
It seems to put chastity, sexuality, interpersonal relationships on too exclusively physical a level.
But this whole business is difficult to deal with, because we're talking about the body and at the same time we're talking about the whole of the personality.
This comes out later.
Sacrifice of the good of one's own will by obedience.
You may remember that B. Griffiths in his book expresses his view of God in this way, and it's a beautiful way of expressing it.
It's got its own logic to it.
that as you get closer to your inner self, as he calls it, closer to that total gift of self, which is the handing over of your inner self to God, or the realization of your inner self, or whatever, you move closer to your center.
From things that are not you, to something that is you,
And yet, in a way, it's not completely to the self.
And he says, you've come closest to handing over the self to God, the total self, to obedience.
Now, obedience can comprehend those other two commitments, of course.
Obedience can do that.
You can extend any one of the three to seem to include the other two.
At times, the order was inverted, starting with obedience because of its more universal influence in the organized religious life.
Obedience can order everything else, including poverty and chastity.
Then came poverty, and finally chastity is the least influential until we die.
Nevertheless, in point of fact, the most radical vow is that of chastity, or consecrated virginity.
So Vatican II treats chastity before poverty and obedience.
And then he gives a quote from Roman Gentium in which it singles out virginity or celibacy first.
Now what does he mean by most radical?
He's going to say later on that from the commitment of chastity or celibacy, all of the other elements of the monastic profession spring.
Now, I'm going to propose that to you as sort of a puzzle or an open question, is why chastity or virginity or celibacy should be that important, that radical.
I don't claim to understand it.
We can sort of walk around it and look for the reason.
It has something to do with the heart, of course, and the place where body and spirit fit together, the place where body and spirit come together.
And the fact that in some way, in chastity, we make a turn here, a decisive turn, and orient our whole person, including the body, and symbolize by the gift of the body towards God, towards the spirit, rather than in the other direction.
Which isn't to say that by the choice of marriage somebody orients himself towards the earth, merely towards the flesh.
It's not as simple as that.
That would be stupid to say that.
Because that too is a way to God.
So the Church returned to an approach shown by the Gospels and Saint Paul, he says, because he says that when Jesus wants to talk about committing himself to the Kingdom, he talks especially in terms of chastity.
I don't know if you can say that.
I think if you compare chastity with the other two vows, you can probably say it.
I think he talks just as much of the cross and renunciation of self, and kind of death to self in general.
Certainly more about that than he does about chastity.
It sticks out more from the past.
And then he quotes a couple of passages, one from Matthew and one from Luke.
Not everyone can accept this teaching.
Now, the teaching has been on... Remember the context in Matthew 19?
There's been a question of divorce.
And somebody asked Jesus if it's legitimate for a man to divorce his wife for any reason.
And he says, no, except for unchastity, except for adultery.
And the disciples say to him, well, if that's the way it is, then it's better not to marry.
And he says, well, not everybody can take this, but only to those to whom it's given.
So the item under discussion is changing there, and he's saying that not everybody can choose not to marry.
It has to be given to you.
And St.
Paul says everybody has his own gift, one in one way, one in another way, suggesting that the vocation to marriage is a gift of God, just as the vocation to celibacy is a gift of God.
And yet he's urging people to choose celibacy.
The interaction between grace and free will comes out once again there with all of its
Not everybody can accept this teaching, only those to whom it's given to do so.
There are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
But anyone except this who can.
So it's a gift and it's something you have to grasp at the same time.
It's making oneself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Sounds pretty grim.
And it's not until we read about the kingdom in other places that we realize the glory of it.
The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those judged worthy of a place in the world to come in the resurrection do not.
They become like angels and are no longer subject to death.
Sons of resurrection, they are sons of God.
Now, if you look in the context, you find out that he's not talking about this life directly.
He's talking about the next life.
Because it's that argument about the woman who married seven brothers, remember?
And whose wife is she going to be in the next life?
No, they don't do that.
That's what he says.
It would have been possible.
Maybe it would be a Mohammedan affair with all seven.
Jesus rose that possibility.
He rose the possibility to be married to one of them because they don't marry nor take wives in the next life.
So he's not directly talking about this life.
And yet he's indicating that the life of celibacy will have
a continuity into the next life, since the next life is what we call celibacy, singleness.
And then Saint Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, which is a very important passage for the whole matter of chastity, brings us back to this life.
He says, I want you to be free from worry.
The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, whereas the married man is occupied with pleasing his wife and
busy with the world's demands, there's an immense amount of insight in those who work.
I mean, he cuts clean through the whole business and grasps the core of it.
that marriage unites you with the world and unites you with a woman.
And the two, somehow, are connected.
He says the same thing on the side of the woman, that marriage unites you with a man and unites you with the world.
Because you have, in some way, to be connected with the world and to serve the world and use the world and be rooted in it in order to please your partner, in order to please your wife or your husband.
So when somebody gets married, he marries a wife and he marries the world, in some way.
And Saint Paul says that divides you.
You can't be totally occupied with the world.
You have to be concerned about this world.
And then we remember that marriage, of course, is something that's consummated in the flesh, and the flesh is part of this world.
And it's as if you have a choice as to whether to unite yourself to the world in that way, to marry the world as you marry a person, or to reach out towards God and try to have this union with Him, which tends to draw you out of the world.
Even though you remain a creature in the world, you remain a creature in the body, in the flesh.
Paul says that he who joins himself to the Lord becomes one with the Lord as one spirit.
So he's urging his people to remain unmarried.
There's a parallel but it's a tricky and a dangerous one.
Just as before, Roberts went so far as to say that your monastic profession in some way marries you to the community.
That's a striking statement of his.
So if you become a hermit, then in some way you're moving out of that bond.
It's tricky because it automatically tends to put the aromatical light, even as an external thing, above the centripetal light and to make it seem more spiritual.
And the big danger is of course that we get married to our own self and we just go off into isolation and we go around in that little orbit of self-centeredness.
by not having responsibilities towards others.
We tend to think of these things in terms of fulfillment, in terms of pleasure, in terms of love and so on, but they're responsibility, they're commitment, too.
They're service, too.
And this is especially true in a community.
It's hard to say whether a community sort of gives you more support or whether it asks more from you.
Who knows?
But anyway, it's not just that one story.
So that thing about the paramedical life is
True, but very tricky, as all of those inferences about the relative order of cenobitical life and hermetic life are very tricky.
So you tend to end up too easily with a hierarchy of the married people down here, then the cenobites, and then the hermits.
And the hermits are practically in heaven.
At least, down to the neck, they must be already in the next world.
But it ain't true.
There may be a bunch of neurotics.
No, there shouldn't be.
But you can have them.
That automatic thing about a state in life putting you somewhere, that's the danger.
Now I have to say something good about your medical life.
It's a great honor to be a child of God.
I choose this moment as an opportunity to learn about the current of God's people.
First of all, it's a situation we have.
We have a lot of people going through the same thing as children, children of religion.
We have to deal with it.
We have to stay inside ourselves.
I don't know.
It's more inescapable than monastic life, that is, the demand to grow, as well as being more natural.
It is the natural way of growth.
And so monastic life has to
strain itself, though, in order to be as effective of a growth as normal.
And often it hasn't.
It hasn't done it, in many cases.
Because what do we do with that freedom that St.
Paul says that we have from the world?
Well, that freedom can too easily be turned just to self-satisfaction.
It can be just allowed to evaporate in raisins.
Or, simply, people can withdraw from marriage and come right out of field, and therefore not really grow because they never get pulled out of that field.
Monastic life, in other times, had more bite to it, and so it would force you in a certain direction.
It would prod you in a certain direction because it was hard.
The work, the obedience, and the austerities of the life were sufficient so that you had to move along.
to a certain extent.
You can never generalize that, because you can never force anybody into sanctity by external means.
But just as marriage had that tendency and gave that external effort, so did the monastic life, but it's not so true nowadays.
And so it falls back more on the individual, you see, to find his source of motivation within him and to move.
But we certainly don't want to look at marriage as if it were sort of a second best or
just where people decide not to go anymore, because it's a long way to go.
No, it's a long way to go.
And there's been such an unbalanced doctrine on this, when theology and... These things are written about only by monks and only by celibates, only by priests.
Now, the counter... The revolution on the other side has come now, so that celibacy has to defend itself.
And so marriage seems to...
to have all the value in it.
It can become just a conspiracy to become... I haven't seen a whole lot of happy marriages.
I haven't seen a whole lot of marriages in which people
gotten a lesson that they should have gotten out of it, on which they've really grown.
And if it happens on one side, then maybe it won't happen on the other side.
Maybe one partner will grow to a great degree of love and self-giving, and the other partner stays right there.
There is something good in here.
This is a thing by the English Benedictine Foundation called Consider Your Call.
There's a very good section on celibacy.
I thought that this would be a more or less routine document and I worked up to you more.
But it's a good job, it's beautiful.
Consider your call.
There was something good here about the wrong way of Helio.
We can talk about the ideal of marriage and the ideal of celibacy, but married people experience the difficulties of marriage and celibates the difficulties of celibacy.
If comparisons are made, it must not be between the ideal of the one and the experience difficulties of the other.
See, so it's hard for a monk really to talk about the nine lives, since he hasn't experienced it.
He may have the ideal in his head, and of course he may not start knocking down his own life in comparison to everybody.
He hasn't lived it, so it's a long story.
A lonely or discouraged celibate can deceive himself by dreaming about an ideal of marriage, just as he can present a false case for celibacy if he compares the problems and frustrations of marriage with the ideal of his own vocation.
He's talking about difficulties and problems.
He could also be talking about successes and unsuccesses and the unfulfilled, frustrated, undeveloped people of marriage.
Neither one has an answer.
In the life of those who follow the call of Christ leave everything in order to devote themselves entirely to the Lord.
Then he's got a paragraph there which we can skip.
Thus, from the primitive Church until the 12th century, consecrated virginity was fully accepted as an official state of life which is independent of the profession of poverty or obedience.
We have consecrated virgins who are not madams, who are not monks.
Both by its inner demands and through its social structure of non-marriage, consecrated virginity continues to be the element which most tangibly separates the religious from the bonds of this world.
For a monk, we can say that all the other elements of his profession spring from this one.
Now, that's the thing I want to leave as a kind of koan.
Is that true?
And if it's true, why is it true?
Is celibacy really that basic to the monastic way?
And if so, how do you explain it?
And if so, then it must say a lot about what the monastic life is, must it not?
If it's really that radical, if it's a root of the monastic commitment in itself, then it must tell you a lot about monasticism.
It seems to me why they may be saying this.
It seems that chastity is a thing that you can cling to for the longest, or is the most easily hidden.
You're clinging to it to be most easily hidden.
So that because it's able to be hidden, it's more easily protected.
Therefore, it's the most precious.
It's the most precious.
That's why I think they're saying it's the root of the most
He uses the word root.
Here he says all the other elements of his profession spring from this one.
On a page before he said, the most radical vow is that of chastity.
I think it's because it's the most precious.
Radical comes from root, and radix in Latin is root.
I think it's because chastity would be the most precious vow, as opposed to poverty
What about obedience, though, because that pertains to your will and everything.
It does.
It refers to your will on another side.
The commitment of yourself, in some way, is expressed... Chastity catches the totality of it in some way, because your body and your spirit are both involved, and the will is in the middle.
If you're able to give up the most precious element of yourself, then that would be leading
I think you're very close to the answer.
You're giving up one use of it.
And he gets to that later on.
You don't give up sexuality.
You don't give up sex.
You can't because it's built into you, but you redirect it.
You give up the most ordinary and most obvious.
and immediately most attractive use or exercise for the sake of something else.
It makes you directly conscious of your need, of your poverty.
From that point of view also it's poverty.
It's the first element of solitude, really, because the first thing about being alone for an adult is being without a husband or wife, is being unfulfilled sexually.
When we say sexually, we don't just mean on a physical level.
Somehow it hits man in the middle, I think that's the reason.
It catches him in the middle and therefore catches the whole of him.
That means it catches his heart.
But we're going to look further as we go on.
It seems like that's more deeper than it's more concrete.
It's more concrete for one thing.
That's right.
That's right.
Well, it depends on what you're asked to do.
The thing about chastity is that it's concrete, whereas obedience is very general, you see.
Because obedience, well, it sounds okay because you don't know what you're going to be asked to do.
Whereas chastity is right there in the flesh, it's very concrete.
Especially when it concerns a particular person that one is related to, or attracted to, but also just because it's written into his own body in a way that obedience is not.
Obedience for Jesus, for instance, in the end meant Gethsemane and the cross, didn't it?
So that got awful physical too.
But there's a relationship between that obedience of Jesus, which led to the cross and the crucifixion,
celibacy and sexuality and the vow of chastity.
There's a relationship between those two.
Between the cross, which is kind of the consummation of a certain marriage between God and man, and this whole matter of consecrated chastity.
I don't know, let's just sort of... It seems that Jesus' chastity allowed him to say yes.
His obedience allowed him to perform the action.
and see what's at the root, is being able to say that, yes.
His chastity made him free, in other words you say, and made him able to obey, because he wasn't tied to woman, wasn't tied to the earth.
And also like the purity of heart.
Because chastity extends to purity of heart if you carry it inside with yourself.
Chastity is already a kind of a death to the body in a way, which is consummated in death finally, especially on the cross with Jesus.
It's a separation of spirit and body.
And they used to relate chastity to martyrdom, of course.
There's consecrated chastity and martyrdom, which seem to be on one line.
But anyway, he says that all the other elements of his profession spring from this commitment to chastity.
Let's go back on page 16 and look at those main commitments of the profession, the elements of the profession.
You put them in several levels on the increasing page.
Poverty and chastity.
Then the basic observances of our order.
He's got five of those.
First of all, withdrawal from society.
Okay, now the first element, the first level of withdrawal from society is not having a wife.
This is verified at least in the language in Syriac, where one of the words for monk was the single one, the unmarried one.
We don't have that in the West.
Monarchist doesn't necessarily come out, you know, immediately come out as unmarried.
Secondly, the life of prayer.
What's the relationship there?
Well, St.
Paul says, you only separate from your wife in order to pray.
He says, remain unmarried in order so that you can be undivided to turn yourself to God.
You see, that's the relationship somehow.
Celibacy frees you from that other attachment, from that attachment to the world and thereby enables you to move towards God in prayer.
And if you read Luke's book,
Remember how he talks about the celibate through his freedom from woman, from war, whatever, having a greater power to direct himself to God, his prayer being having a higher dimension, through that inner thing that happens in him.
Three, austerity of life, what's that got to do with it?
Well, it's as if chastity were the central element in austerity of life, okay?
And most of the things we think of regarding austerity of life are physical things, aren't they?
Physical penances or deprivations and so on.
But the core of them is chastity.
The other ones protect chastity, and chastity is like the first expression of this saying no to the impulses of the body which turns into various kinds of austerities.
I'm putting this very quickly.
You see how all of these things can be strung on one thread, and that thread is chastity, that direction of sexuality.
Fourthly, the common life.
How do you make that happen?
Common life, first of all, as opposed to marriage.
On the social level, you see, you've got these two social structures, one of which is marriage and family.
And the other of which is, on the external level, is the renunciation of marriage for the sake of this other group, their common life, okay?
And putting all things in common and so on, even their body, in a sense.
And then the other thing is that if you forego this one-to-one relationship with marriage, that's supposed to develop into a capacity for these other relationships in the community.
in part, at least, takes the place of the other.
Not entirely.
Not entirely.
There's still a gap left.
There's a gap of solitude which can only be filled by God, if it ever gets further up.
And finally, monastic work.
This one puzzled me a bit.
Until you think about the sexuality business in terms of energy, as he does later on when he talks about chastity and eros, the energy which is
sort of spared by chastity, by the renunciation of sexuality, sexual activity, that energy gets redirected into work, channeled through work, sublimated into work.
We'll come back to that later on when he talks about Eros, because he considers Eros to be very largely a question of energy.
I haven't thought it out.
I don't think we have to find a special theology for them, but it seems to me that there's probably room for something on the margin of the two kinds of life.
Like where St.
Paul says, don't separate yourself from your partner except for this purpose of prayer.
For people like that on the boundary line where they're separating themselves, because they must live a life of relative
relative celibacy, I'd say, in a way.
They're certainly not totally into the sexual thing.
They must be partially celibate in order to orient themselves towards monasticism in that way, to assimilate monastic values in that way.
They can't be taking marriage as many people take it in the world with total abandon.
They must be getting close to what St.
Paul says, be married, have a wife as if you didn't have a wife, possess as if you didn't possess, and so on.
So St.
Paul talks to married people in those terms, and it seems to me that he's talking to people whom he's urging to be like those people probably are, the families of St.
They're probably a difficult boundary line to live on, you know?
But... Well, those are the people that we should compare more to the monks, because that's more of an authentic Christian... That's right, that's right.
I mean, you can't really say that marriage
That's right.
And it's not a Christian society.
It's not a Christian society and it's a society in which sex is a very exaggerated issue, a very sore and distorted issue.
So you're right about that.
As long as we don't have enough of these people, at least we don't know enough.
Yeah, I talked to my priest about that when he was on a trip.
Oh yeah, yeah.
I talked to him about it.
What's the problem?
Just the teaching of the church and the average Christian's life.
I'm not in the mood to come together with the children.
No, that certainly is not a law of ruling of the church, but it used to be somewhat exaggerated in that direction.
They talk a lot about the ends of marriage, there's been a lot of controversy about that.
Why do people get married?
Why do a man and a woman get together?
Is it only in order to propagate children?
Now, for a long while, a lot of theologians were pushing that, and that tended to be the quasi-official doctrine of the Church, that the only purpose of marriage is the beginning of children, that the only purpose of the sexual act is the beginning of children.
That puts a lot of people in a problem.
For instance, if the wife is incapable of having children, is it permissible to have a sexual intercourse or something like that?
A lot of other problems.
But nowadays, no.
There's been a realization that that is not the only purpose of marriage.
And the dispute as to whether it's even the principal purpose of marriage, or is it rather the
the good in itself of love between two human beings, and also of course the sacramental representation of the whole mystery of God which is involved in it.
So it's okay for two people who cannot have children to get married, for instance.
about the intent of having children.
Yes, that's right.
Although, deliberate exclusion of the possibility of having children through the use of contraceptives is still against the law of the church.
That big furore over homogenous was more important than that.
That hasn't changed.
OK, terminology.
We'll come back to that issue about the centrality of service.
It is important for understanding monasticism.
He wants to talk about three or four different words there.
Chastity, virginity and celibacy.
So we won't spend a lot of time on it.
Let's see what he says.
He likes the term consecrated virginity.
Virginity has a richer historical and biblical sense to it.
So he likes to use that.
even though the word chastity is more common.
Now, chastity has a broad meaning.
It refers not only to unmarried people, but to married people as well.
So there's a chastity which is the right use of marriage, which does not mean abstaining from sexual intercourse, but it means a temperate use of sexual intercourse.
So from the perspective of St.
Bernard, it could be Mr. Chase.
Sure, certainly.
I'm sure of it.
And they probably make some commitment to that.
I don't know if they have a public commitment, but I'm sure it's part of their program.
Others will live chastity according to the dictates of Christian morality, either in marriage or as celibates, even though not in the religious state.
Perfect chastity is abstained from the sexual act.
Total contentment.
Now the vow of celibacy.
What does celibacy mean?
To be celibate is to be unmarried.
So a vow of celibacy is a vow to remain simple to the men of mind.
Virginity has a more precise meaning.
Now, virginity historically meant, of course, integral physical virginity, especially in the case of a woman, where the physical thing is more prominent, not having had sexual intercourse.
But it has to be taken in a broader sense.
In fact, that used to be a condition for entering some convents, when they had this right of the conservation of virginity.
I don't know, maybe it still exists in some convents.
In general, it's done away with.
And virginity is taken in a broader sense.
It's a commitment to abstinence from sexual activity in the future, regardless of the past.
Yeah, on the natural, the secular sense of virginity, that's what it means.
So this is a special sense that it gets used in afterwards, where it just refers to the commitment to the future.
Renouncement of marriage for love of Christ
That notion of virginity is much more prominent in the Gospels there, and so it's useful to keep the word.
And consecration, of course, implies that something is still intact.
This state has an element of mystery.
Not all understand it, nor will understand it.
It belongs to the world to come.
It causes us to enter, even now, into the liberty of a risen body.
It should.
It testifies to the definitive and eternal state of every Christian.
So it's an eschatological reality, if you'll pardon the word.
And the element of mystery, I think, is very important, which is connected with the element of faith.
In other words, you never sort of get
a proof or an explicit justification for this.
Once again, the British book is good on this.
He's got a long section on that, right?
A consecration of
It is no more possible to prove that a lifelong commitment to celibacy is valid than it is possible for someone in love to prove that his fiancée is the right person for them.
For most people, the choice of Christian celibacy is not the final stage in a rational argument, but part of an intuitive response involving the whole man, a personal response in faith.
Many people make the choice without analyzing the justification for it, because they've encountered celibacy as a beautiful fact in the lives of others and as something that seems to work.
Or again, they may have realized that celibacy is part of the lives of most of the peak human beings in Christian history.
Christ, Our Lady, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Paul, and so on.
And that carries not only for the individual choice of celibacy, but also for the mystery of celibacy as a whole.
It remains as a mystery, sort of shrouded in the clouds.
So the word virginity is more apt for expressing this content, which is not only spiritual, but also supernatural in the spirit world.
And once again we get back to that point that I was quoting Teilhard about, that the love of Christ is the motive for this.
And there is some kind of a marriage with Christ involved in this, which remains very interior, very hidden.
Some kind of a marriage with Christ involved in this commitment to divinity.
A lot of the parables in the Gospels and the things that Jesus said, of course, are related
We think of the church as being a bride of Christ, but actually it's each one of us as well.
It's a lot easier for women to come to terms with that than it is for men.
And it's traditional, as I pointed out in my spiritual theology.
So then he talks about the difference between material and natural virginity, and recovered virginity.
The promise of perpetual abstinence is the principal element in the spell of religion.
That which is consecrated by the vow of conversion of life is the present and the future, not the past.
So there's something in there about God's grace, God's gift, sort of the all-embracing character of God's grace.
And then you remember that some of the women in the Gospel who were not sinless, like Mary Magdalene was a very prominent place in the Gospel.
the adulterous woman and so on.
Especially Mary Magdalene.
She had seven devils thrown out of her.
We don't know whether she's the same as the sinful woman elsewhere in the Bible.
There's a confusion there.
In tradition, she was always regarded as having been the sinful woman.
And later on, she comes to play a central role after the resurrection in the spreading of the good news.
A central role, especially in the Gospel sometimes.
And that's not without reason.
So it's as if nothing were irrevocable in God's grace, including specialism.
OK, Christian virginity, consecrated virginity, signifies two things.
He's going to hang on to this term, consecrated virginity.
The state of perpetual abstinence from marriage.
I think you have to say, in addition from marriage, also from sexual activity, genital activity at least.
And the consecration or inner dedication of the state of Christ.
Basic requirements.
In this vow, more than in any other, the interior psychological and spiritual aspects receive principal attention.
Now this is touching on what Philip was saying before.
Somehow this vow gets further into you than the other ones do.
It gets into the place where your body and your spirit are joined.
It gets into the depths of your heart.
In fact, it's impossible to separate this interiority of Christian chastity from its more external dimensions.
Then he goes on to quote that document, Persona Manana.
It's a virtue which marks the whole personality, both interiorly and exteriorly.
You might quarrel with that.
You might say, well, doesn't obedience or doesn't poverty have a very interior reflection?
Doesn't it reach right into you?
Somehow, for me, it's a combination of the physical and the spiritual.
In Chastity, it makes it cut deeper.
It makes it so concrete.
make these distinctions with language for some reason.
There's a depth, a radicalness in chastity and the whole sexuality business, which is not in the other spheres.
And it's got to do with this whole bodily character of Christianity, which includes the resurrection, let me put it this way, the incarnation,
And first of all, the creation of man as body and spirit, and the fact that God breathed his spirit into earth to make man.
Secondly, the incarnation, the physical death of Jesus on the cross, which is very important.
It's not just symbolic, it's very important.
And the resurrection, and finally the Eucharist.
Now all of these things in some way are connected with this business of chastity that we're talking about, and the sexuality.
And the reason why chastity is so central,
I certainly think obedience cuts interiorly and exteriorly, but not to the depth that chastity does.
Chastity is your ability to appropriate somewhat your connection almost to immortality.
That's right.
Obedience doesn't get into that dimension as much.
No, it doesn't touch it very much.
That's another reason.
And that chastity touches directly on your relations to other people, more perhaps than obedience.
It touches on a lot of relationships, not necessarily a working relationship.
No, not a working relationship.
It's a deeper kind of relationship.
And also, it somehow relates to the whole energy of your life, on the level of energy.
If we use that word penetration, then we like it.
That's right.
That's right.
That's right.
And the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, which Kashin talks about, which St.
Paul talks about, of course, that's the principal battleground for it, the classical battleground.
I don't remember that.
Oh, he's a subtle one.
So what was he selling when he said that?
I mean, what was surpassing Obeah?
What's better?
My goodness.
But see how hard it is to express these things in language.
It's the kind of instinct that we have to work with, basically.
And keep the question open.
So we did our terminology.
The state of consecrated
involves the renunciation of any thought or desire of marriage, and then not only the renunciation of the pleasure which always comes from sexual activity, but any idea of marriage.
It sounds a little bit unrealistic for some people to say, I have a married life.
Religious, that's what he's talking about.
For a religious to think seriously in the deliberation about getting married,
Even without thinking of sexual acts of pleasure would be a real infidelity to Jesus if he were chastity, which is a pretty certain personality requirement.
The cultivation of chastity inherits hope by the monastic life.
Now he's got two different dimensions.
There's a negative dimension, the enunciation of any voluntary act directly related to sexual, that is, genital stimulation.
Often, we used to talk about sexual activity and so on.
We talk much more about genital activity nowadays.
It's a more precise word.
And it refers, of course, to activity of the genital organs.
Because sexual is too big a word.
You can't get away from sexuality, but you can restrain yourself from genitalia.
So you find that word often.
This negative obligation receives its weight from chastity's positive meaning.
The vow signifies, above all, that you assume responsibility of cultivating chastity positively.
And this means integrating your sexuality into the rest of your human, Christian, and monastic life.
So that's a big item, and something that hadn't been talked about sufficiently up to recent times.
See, the negative aspect of monadical recovery would not be a positive aspect as part of integration.
Abstinence is pretty hard to take.
Just the renunciation of a big piece of your nature and your personality is hard to take unless you can understand that you're really integrating.
That you're not really amputating anything.
You're reorienting.
Integrating means to bring into a larger whole.
So sexuality gets brought into a larger context.
Not only the larger context of human love, but the larger context of divine love.
Two general simultaneous phases.
First, becoming aware of your sexuality.
That sounds simple, as if you could say it in five words, but it's deeper than that.
That you are made to love and that you have an indelible mark on all levels of your human and Christian life, which is a sexual mark.
Then, the inner ordering of these levels of love, so that all the life energy which God has granted you can be expressed in a way which corresponds to your
So becoming aware and then ordering.
And I suppose we become aware very gradually as we're able to take it, and that as we successively become aware of these elements, then we have a responsibility of ordering, of integrating, of bringing them into line, which is a matter more of prayer than anything else, but also a bit of doing work.
This is the real work of chastity, a lifelong process.
Maybe surprising to hear him say a lifelong process, especially in that case of awareness.
I don't know to what extent that does, that increase in awareness does continue to be, but the order is written.
Which will really not be completed until your entire being is glorified on the day of the final resurrection.
The ultimate transformation is in the resurrection, but the transformation begins already due to the inner virtue of chastity.
It's hard for us to think of virtues in substantial terms as being like a force infused by the Holy Spirit.
As Scholastics used to talk about them as virtues were separate things that served and received entities.
It's hard for us to think of them in those terms now.
if everything turns substance, independent existence to them.
And yet, we do have the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
We tend to think of these things more, I think, in a general sense now, as being modalities of that love which is given us, or simply of the outflows of the Holy Spirit living in us and gradually bringing everything under the
under the rule of Christ, the Lord God Almighty, rather than a specific gift.
So chastity is not just exterior with marriage, we should purify the heart.
And then he quotes the saying of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, to look with desire on a woman, to look with, I think it's lust on a woman who's already committed adultery,
unless you're just exceeding what I've described previously.