She Who Loved Much and Loved Well
If I am to propose a definition of ‘chastity’ I would say chastity is the eloquence of love. Our culture today in movies, songs, and images tend to glorify and abuse sexuality and equate it with love. This makes it difficult for us to understand the true meaning of chastity. Everywhere we look sex is screaming at us. This is the vision of sexual freedom the architects of popular culture has designed for the world today.
True freedom however is found not in the unbridled expression of love through sexual intimacy but in the practice of chastity. Chastity is the elegance of love. Love, for it to be true, is a personal decision to will the good of another and enter into communion towards unity with the beloved. Love is not just a feeling but is an act of the will. We choose to love. We choose to love by showering our beloved with all the goodness that makes their happiness more perfect; then their happiness becomes ours. We choose to love because we are enamored with our beloved that we wish for nothing else but to be united with them in heart, mind, body, and soul – in all that we are. This we call personal communion.
In a sense, love is also a language. It speaks in acts of goodness and tenderness so that its words may touch the heart of the beloved. As the lover and the beloved learns to speak the language of love to each other, it becomes a dialogue of two hearts. These two hearts become closer as each heart speaks to the other. In this dialogue and conversation, the speech of love must be eloquent.
Eloquence of Love
Eloquence of speech is what inspires, touches, attracts, and converts the listener. Not all speeches are made equal. Some speeches are so powerful they change opinions, worldviews, incites emotions, and calls to action. To be effective, a speech must be eloquent. And so it is with love.
The eloquence of love comes from its clarity of message. For love to be eloquent, the lover must be clear in his intentions. He must be clear in his words of love. He cannot say ‘I love you’ but do otherwise. There is a certain integrity and honesty to eloquent love. Clarity in love is like a sharpened tip of the arrow that pierces through the depths of the beloved’s heart. It allows the lover to love single-heartedly.
The eloquence of love also comes from the proper use of expressions. An eloquent speech cannot just use any set of words. Each word is chosen carefully to best express the mind and soul of the lover. It takes a certain feel to determine which expressions are best and proper in conveying love. Here we find that propriety is an essential element of love. Love expresses itself appropriately to the beloved. It does so in order to respect the good of the other. There is a sense of order in love.
Lastly, the eloquence of love requires purposefulness. Purposefulness is the thrust that cuts deep into the heart of the beloved. The speech of love is purposeful when all of its parts go together for one specific reason: the self-giving of the lover.
Chastity as Eloquence
These three characteristics make Chastity the eloquence of love. Chastity is not equivalent to modesty or, worse, aversion to sex. Chastity is the virtue that makes the expression of love clear, proper, and purposeful. It is practiced differently by people from different walks of life.
The religious and the consecrated do not marry and vow perfect continence because they want to make their love for Jesus clear, proper, and purposeful. All other loves, while remaining good, are subordinated to a greater and more radical expression of love for Jesus. These people love Jesus above all that they are willing to let go of all other loves. All married men and women practice chastity by remaining faithful and devoted to their spouses. Even Jesus would say that lustful thoughts of others apart from one’s spouse constitutes adultery. All those not married practice chastity by respecting love as it truly is and as it properly ordered to. This involves self-control and discipline of the body. For them, the body is the sacred instrument through which their vocation to love is expressed and fulfilled. So they give the body the respect and honor it deserves.
Chastity is not limited to the sexual dimension of the human person. Rather, it encompasses everything the person is. It focuses the love of the person proper to his vocation in life that it clarifies that love. It is the standard with which a person judges his actions that it gives beauty and order to that love. It is channels all the activities of the person for him to truly give himself to love with purpose.
Mary, the Model of Chastity
We call our Blessed Mother “most chaste” not because she surpasses God in chastity but that she perfectly practiced God’s chastity. From the moment she gave her ‘yes’ to the angel Gabriel, all her life were directed to Jesus, all her decisions were directed to Jesus, all her heart were directed to Jesus. She gave everything to her Son so much so that the sight of her Son on the cross completely crushed her heart and her being. Hers was a clear, appropriate, and purposeful love for Jesus.
In our society where we often equate love with sex, the virtue of Chastity is one that challenges world values. Chastity today does not subvert sexuality but orders that sexuality and harmonizes it with the person in all his dimensions. It harmonizes it so that it is not just sexuality that loves but the whole person, his total being. After all, true love is seen in the totality of generous self-giving.