The Challenge of Chastity

Over at Sandro Magister’s blog there is a review of Cardinal Biffi’s Pecore e pastori, including a translation of the chapter The Challenge of Chastity from which I excerpt a bit below:

This culture, unheard of in Greco-Roman society, did not arise from excessive spiritualism: here there is no mistrust of what is material and corporal, which insinuated itself within the ideologies of Platonic origin (but was unknown to the Hebrew mentality).

On the contrary, it is fostered and expresses itself with respect toward the body, which in the Christian perspective is held to be a sacred reality and an instrument of sanctification:

“Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

There is, according to Paul, something like a “liturgical dimension” to chastity:

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

It can be understood how the Church reacted immediately to the Gnostic disdain toward marriage, a disdain that in Gnosticism arrived at prohibition (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3), and defended its dignity:

“Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers” (Hebrews 13:4).

The new humanity of the baptized is also revealed in his speech, which must avoid obscenity or even coarse expressions, because in the “saints” (as Christians are called in the apostolic letters), attention to chastity is all-encompassing, and must shine forth in every manifestation of the “new man,” including his general demeanor and his words:

“But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language (aischrologhìan) out of your mouths.” (Colossians 3:8).

“Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

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