Friday, 23 December 2016

Brave New World (5)

Once upon at time, when there were knights and ladies, there was a thing called Courtly Love. A knight would be very much in love with a woman.  He would see his entire role as being one where he would honour the purity and sincerity of that love he had. If he only got one smile out of her once in his lifetime it would be enough, she may not even know he loved her. He would serve God and he would fight for his king in an honourable way, because not to do so would dishonour the purity of the love he had for his lady.  It was a sacrificial sort of love and rather beautiful in its own way in its chastity and chivalry.  Then they started to codify it and give it all sorts of rules and human nature being human nature it became cultish and lost its innocence.  It all came to a sorry end.

Moving on to more recent times, chastity was a given, and indeed very ordinary and mundane.  Read the novels of Anthony Trollope if you don't believe me.  It is chastity that allows two close male friends to walk down The Strand linked arms and holding hands. It is chastity that underpins the quiet heroism of some of his unsung greats like Lucy Robarts or Mary Thorne.  They risk losing everything for a point of honour, they love to the nth degree, but will quietly watch that love drift from them because they love so much.  (Though Trollope usually gives his readers a happy ending)

We have lost something and lost it quite recently and that is an organic understanding of chastity and its fundamental role in our being human. This is the narrative that we need to regain. This underlies all the parables of Tradition, indeed much of Holy Scripture and the witness of the early martyrs makes no sense unless viewed throug this lens. Sadly the recent theology of the Church has tended to underplay chastity, overplay and even sacramentalise sex and our sexual feelings.

Chastity does two important things. One: it acknowledges biological gender differences and clothes them in modesty. (note to white Trads: no need for Amish-chic, modesty is enough). Two: it cuts through the artificiality of masculine and feminine stereotypes, to look at the dynamics of relationships; a masculine interacting with a feminine.  This is remarkably fluid in its relationship with biological gender and everything to do with the wholeness inherent in the bond between a man and a woman. For example, men find their 'female softness and compassion', women their 'masculine fortitude and magnaminity'. Chastity stops you from worrying that you don't fit, that others are different from you, that you are in the wrong body. Wrong body and right body are irrelevant terms because you don't "use" your body when you are chaste.  If you are married, you give your body for procreation and for the protection and happiness of your spouse, is is not about use, it is about freely given sacrifice and detachment.  If you are single and chaste, you still give your body in your work for others, you are not using your body for your own ends.

Chastity allows you to see people as they really are and to reach into their souls and love them for who they are and in proportion to their needs of that love (we don't love everyone in the same way).  The game playing stops and the beauty is serious and serene. Chastity allows you to love creatively.  Chastity is a pure heart that is naturally generous and patient.  Many celibates are not chaste without ever even breaking their vow and are often quite miserable too.

Surprisingly you don't obtain chastity through rigorous self-denial and mortification. Chastity comes through 'putting on Christ' and when that is primary, then chastity comes to us through Him and in Him, just as He and His Blessed Mother and St Joseph were chaste. Chastity is the state we are supposed to be in.  It was the state of our first parents before the fall. Chastity comes through the liberality of God, not through our efforts, but we must desire it because we love Him and wish to honour Him.  We can not truly honour Him if we are not. [Mortification to strengthen chastity will come in due season if needed......]

And there is something beautiful in a chaste married couple; a man and a woman totally and completely comfortable with each other, totally in love yet without lust that will have anybody even remotely taken up with the zeitgeist saying "I want a bit of what they have".

Chastity is uncompromising, it demands you obey, but the letter of the Law killeth, chastity is not a set of regulations, just like there are no regulations as to how to breathe; we are meant to breathe, we are meant to be chaste. Chastity is gloriously simple. Chastity ought to be the focus of our narrative and our relationships with the world and all we need to do is 'come out' and be chaste.

And the Lover says to the Beloved: vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea sponsa.
(and you've been wounded by her (in a good way).... ever since she was removed from your rib) 

Without chastity we cannot even begin to be credible witnesses of the Beauty and Truth encapsualted in the picture shown above.

1 comment:

Ttony said...

I'm still thinking this through, so no comment as such. But don't think this has just been you banging fingers on keys: it is profoundly affecting at least one reader.