God speaks to us in unexpected ways. I was scrolling through Yik Yak (a seriously addictive app to waste your time on), and came across a post that said,
The first sentence of page 45 of the book closest to you describes your sex life.
I somehow missed the word sex, and thought it could be funny to see what it says. So I reached for the closest book to me, a small book of quotes called, ‘Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Dorothy Day`, and turning to page 45, found written no sentences at all, but only the chapter title, ‘The Way of Love’. The description of my sex life is at once, nothing at all and ‘The Way of Love’. When I saw that the post was talking about sex life rather than just life, I realised it was God telling me, chastity is the Way of Love.
So, what is chastity?
Chastity is when sexuality expresses, serves and strengthens love. It views people as people, and not as opportunities for our own pleasure. People are not considered for what they can do for us, but for what we can do for them, and what we can do together. Sex is exalted as something holy, in which both individuals go out from themselves, belonging to each other, placing their centre outside of themselves.
It further demands, that the couple go out of the couple, in openness to welcoming humanity in, in the form of a brand new human being. Sex doesn’t concern only the two people engaged, but humanity itself. Sexuality doesn’t only desire union with one other person, but union with all of humanity. Contraception, then, introduces division to what is an act of union. It refuses the life inherent in sexuality, and so separates from the rest of humanity, and in refusing each other’s power to give life, the partners too are rejected, and cut off from each other.
How are we meant to chastely not have sex?
That’s what chastity makes of sex. But another important part of our life of sexuality, is the way we don’t have sex. Biology tells us, sex is for life, and, in a manner, life is for sex (sex being considered in a wider sense). When sex is not for life, it becomes meaningless and destructive. When we pretend life is above sex, we reject humanity, we reject the flesh, and ultimately we reject life.
So how are we meant to chastely not have sex? Is it by completely desexualising everything but sex? No. It is by living in the awareness that each body, each person, is for love and not consumption. So when I notice how attractive a woman is, rather than trying to close my mind off from her, I am to centre my mind not on my desires, but on her beauty and loveliness as a living human being. Rather than desiring possession of her, I am to desire her fullness of life and love.
What about celibacy?
If “life is for sex” as I wrote, in any way, what are we to make of celibacy? Celibacy is not about merely removing intimacy, children and sex from a person’s life. Celibacy means, in giving up having children, loving all humanity as children. It means a non-particular love and intimacy with all the world, in order to help bring forth life for any and all. The bodily life and love of celibate people is put entirely at the service of all humanity, creation, and God.
My sex life: The Way of Love
Like most people today, chastity isn’t easy for me. I have to stay aware of myself, and keep myself in love. But honestly, chastity is much better than lust. When I’m being chaste, I can truly appreciate beauty, but when I’m lustful, I can only feel my own desire for what I don’t have, and that causes nothing but turmoil. Do I want to see bodies as alive or lifeless?
What helps me with chastity? Practising awareness/mindfulness is very helpful for learning self-control and understanding; meditating on the Body of Christ reveals to us how bodies are things of love and dignity; and the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us a perfect image of true beauty, love, and submission to God’s will.
It is when we are emptied that we are truly fulfilled.
God bless you!