Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You're Welcome!

Caution—The Subject is Chastity; Therefore This Post Mentions Sex
Three couples that are getting married soon are getting “the sex talk” during their premarital preparation tomorrow night. The talk I give now is a lot different from what it was even a year ago, since about that time I added some practical advice and counsel to the preparation and put a lot more depth into the matters of relationships, respect, and honor than I had done before. I made the change after talking to a certain bride a few days before her wedding night, and realized that there was a lot of nervousness alongside her eagerness. It occurred to me that this might be fairly common, and in subsequent discussions with various other newlyweds learned that this was so.

The first time I really set out to give serious counsel on the subject was last March when I gave “the talk” to a couple that got married three months later. As the great day drew near, I realized that I had misplaced the wedding invitation that had the information where the ceremony—and the rehearsal—were to be held. The solemnities were taking place at a church near the bride’s home rather than at Blessed Sacrament, and I needed to be at the rehearsal the next day and didn’t know how to get there. It was too late at night to call the bride and I wasn’t sure I could reach her or her fiancé the actual day of the rehearsal, so I did a search on the bride’s name: Rebecca Frassett. Up came her blog.

Searches on her blog under “wedding”, “church”, and “married” didn’t give me the information I needed. So I entered “Fr. David” into the search and this item appeared: http://florimell1919.blogspot.com/2006/03/thankyou-father.html I had no idea that she had posted this incredible bit of writing three months earlier! I now make it required reading for couples getting married at Blessed Sacrament. I suggest that you read her post before proceeding farther in this post.

(By the way, I did find out in time where the rehearsal was to be held.)

Since Rebecca put it on her blog, I suppose it’s okay if I refer to it in my own blog. (Actually, she gave me permission to use this link and said she’d be “honored”. The new Mrs. Hatcher is very cool. I plan not to use names on my blog unless people say it’s okay.)

Now, of course Rebecca’s post, and my teaching, assume that most of the people getting married are virgins on their wedding day. I suspect that, in many places, that assumption would cause people to laugh out loud.

Not so. The joke is on them. Who ever could have guessed that in the Episcopal Church there would be a congregation with dozens of young people dedicated to chastity. OH LORDY! Actually, maybe it’s not all that uncommon these days. There are signs of a return to chastity, at least in some circles. And about time, too.

I suspect that the notoriously “trendy” Episcopal Church is behind the times. Several times a member of the clergy in the leadership of the Episcopal Church has asked me what draws the college crowd to Blessed Sacrament, and they are staggered to learn that chastity is one of the appeals.

“I never ever expected just HOW AWESOME it would be to be good.” Oh Rebecca, you dear and admirable person!

And these Episcopal leaders are jaw-droppingly amazed that our high schoolers are so impressed with this example that they eagerly seek to follow it. It’s almost like the first Anglo-Catholic priests of the 1830s and ’40s, who were viciously accused of “practicing celibacy in the streets!” (Oh, those rascals!) But to the teens it seems to come naturally. Really, the Episcopal leaders I have talked to just don’t, can’t, or won’t understand the draw that chastity has. What I can’t understand is why they don’t. Perhaps I should make Rebecca’s blog required reading for all clergy who ask me what the “secret” is behind Blessed Sacrament’s ability to draw the college crowd, year after year.

I will readily admit the fact that most of the young people didn’t learn to value virginity from me or the Episcopal Church. They came to us that way. They had learned it in their evangelical backgrounds (maybe from people like Rebecca’s “old pruny pious ladies” and “church janitors”) and solid Christian families where they have been taught, convincingly, of the genuine vigor of chastity. However, these college students are teaching it to our younger folks—the junior highers and high schoolers. These teens are indeed learning chastity in their own Episcopal church, and several have asked for chastity rings—and been given them, too, and put them on after taking vows in the church on Sunday morning! OH LORDY!

Chastity is neither prudery nor fear of intimacy (though there may be elements of both in a misguided teaching about abstinence from sexual experience). Chastity is a true, genuine dedication to deep, Christian love. It does not come easily or automatically. The words “virgin”, “virility”, and “virtue” come from the same Latin word—vir—for “man”, with the implication of “strength”. This is why virgins were honored in the early Church in almost the same category as martyrs. Both states require courage and complete dedication to Jesus, and are held up for imitation.

At its best, rightly understood and pursued, chastity is a state of enormous power and freedom. It brings one into a place where there is deep respect for the opposite sex, the ability to shuffle off the culture’s leering jokes and immature preoccupation with tawdry sex, and where one can escape the tragic corruption and degradation in human relationships so widespread in our alleged civilization. And then one comes into a place where true love may be found. Note the responses to Rebecca’s post. These were not written by squeamish prudes, but by young people dedicated to the very powerful, demanding, and rewarding state of chastity.

“I never ever expected just HOW AWESOME it would be to be good.”

Of course, being dedicated to chastity or any other virtue does not mean that one has achieved it perfectly. Being a kind person does not mean that one is never mean. Being patient does not mean that one never gets angry. Being chaste does not mean that one is a complete stranger to lust. But it does mean that one rejects the false allure of sexual promiscuity pushed by our culture on everyone from children upward, and recognizes it as the toxic lie and lethal seduction that it is—and chooses instead, and pursues relentlessly in one’s heart, mind, and body, the way of True Love.

And with that, I think it is imperative that I publicly repeat and affirm my own personal and complete dedication to chastity. I have preached the subject in church, and concluded the sermon by laying my hand on a Bible and swearing before the congregation that I personally believe and follow my own teaching on the subject. I would not teach and exhort people to chastity, or any other virtue, if I were not dedicated to it. And I think I do pretty well, even if I do say so myself.

Note that this post follows the one on hugs and kisses. Coincidence? I don’t thi— Well, yeah, it probably is. But the two posts do make a nice pair.

So Rebecca—I’m truly gratified that you were blessed by my counsel, and thought enough to post “Thank you, Father” on your blog. You’re welcome! Glory to God.


Griefcoach@aol.com said...

Good Morning Father David,

Reading your blogs has now become one of the highlights of my day. Thank you for all that you are and do for others; thank you for your keen intellect, for your no-compromise-standards in your teaching and living and for your wonderful sense of humor.

Jon Cooper said...

Abstinance: it works every time it is tried. That is the awsome thing about God: whenever things are done His way it always works out.

Your post was so encouraging, David. You're absolutely right: obedience and trust in Jesus brings a kind of deep joy and enthusiasm that is greater than what you could find anywhere else. It's definitely the only way to go. I have never once regretted obeying my Lord - not once. I have regretted not obeying Him every single time.

Tim said...

Let me just add a thank you for the "sex talk" you gave me and Rachel too.