“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”—Matt. 5:8
No one knows the value of chastity better than God Himself. Now God says: “No price is worthy of a continent soul.” (Ecclus. 26:20). All that man prizes and esteems, riches, pleasures, honors, bear no comparison to a continent soul. St. Ephrem calls chastity “the life of the spirit.” St. Peter Damian styles it “the queen of virtues,” and St. Cyprian says by means of chastity we celebrate the most glorious triumphs. He who conquers the vice opposed to this virtue will easily triumph over the rest. On the contrary, he who permits himself to be ruled by incontinency falls an easy prey to the other vices such as hatred, injustice, etc. Chastity, says St. Ephrem, renders us in a certain sense like angels. This comparison is altogether justified, for the life of angels is far from being a life of carnal gratifications. Angels are pure by nature; chaste souls are pure by reason of virtue. “On account of the merit of this virtue,” says Cassian, “human beings are placed on a level with the angels.” “Of course there is a difference,” says St. Bernard, “between the chaste man and the angel, but it is not a difference of virtue; it is only one of happiness. If the chastity of the angels is more blessed, the chastity of man is more courageous.”
St. Basil tells us that “chastity makes man very similar to God Himself, who is a pure spirit.” On this account Our Lord chose a virgin for His Mother, a virgin for His foster father, St. Joseph, a virgin for His precursor, St. John the Baptist. St. Jerome says that Our Lord loved St. John the Apostle more than the rest on account of this virtue. To the virgin disciple He entrusted His Immaculate Mother, just as He now confides His Holy Church and His Sacred Presence in the Holy Eucharist to the care of the celibate priest. “O holy purity,” says St. Athanasius, “thou art the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, the life of angels and the crown of saints.” How great, therefore, is the value of chastity! But how frightful the war that the flesh wages to rob us of this precious pearl!
Our body is the most powerful weapon the devil possesses to make us his slaves. On this account it is seldom that a man comes forth victorious from this conflict. “The struggle for chastity,” says St. Augustine, “is the most violent of all; the battle is renewed every day, and victory is rare.” “How many unfortunate persons there are,” says St. Lawrence Justinian, “who having spent long years in solitude amid prayer, fasting and mortification, yielded at last to sensuality, gave up their holy life, and with the loss of chastity suffered the loss of God.” Continue reading