What the Bible says about sexual immorality:
"Do you not realise that people who do evil will never inherit the kingdom of God? Make no mistake-the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites, thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9
"Keep away from sexual immorality. All other sins that people may commit are done outside the body; but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God? You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
"You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut if off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell." Matthew 5:27-30
"Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God." Matthew 5:8
"Shun lewd conduct. Every other sin a man commits is outside his body, but the fornicator sins against his own body." 1 Corinthians 6:18
"Can you not realize that the unholy will not fall heir to the kingdom of God? Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, drunkards, no drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God's kingdom." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
"Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids." Proverbs 6:25
"Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Hebrews 13:4
|Lust and its different forms defined by St. Thomas Aquinas from the Book: Tour of the Summa by Msgr. Paul J. Glenn. Questions 153 and 154. A Summation of St. Thomas's teaching on lust.|
|Saint Thomas Aquinas's Teaching on sins of lust
(SummaTheologica)(external link) The complete teaching of
St. Thomas Aquinas on the sins of lust from the Summa Theologica.
QUESTION 153 AND QUESTION 154
|Resisting Temptation. Teaching from Thomas a Kempis.|
|PURITY OF HEART: Teaching from The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus De Liguori|
|How Saint Chrysanthus overcame strong sexual temptations.|
|How to avoid sexual sins.|
|Wisdom of the saints on the sins of lust.|
The following is from the works of St. Thomas Aquinas from the book: A Tour of the Summa, Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, published by TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, Used with permission. Summa Theologia-[IIa IIae], Questions 153 & 154:
Question 153. LUST
1. Lust is the vice of indulging in unlawful sexual pleasures.
2. The use of sex is not always lustful or sinful. There is a good and virtuous use of sex in marriage, when husband and wife perform their normal and natural function of sex without any inordinateness (that is, without anything that is in conflict with reason) and, therefore, without employing any unnatural or artificial means of thwarting the natural effect of their action. The only lawful and chaste use of sex is its lawful use in marriage.
3. Lust consists in disregarding the order and mode dictated by reason for the use of sex. Therefore, lust conflicts with reason, and is a sin. The habit of lust is a vice.
4. Lust is listed with the capital sins because many other sins flow from it as from their source.
5. St. Gregory (Moral. XXXI) enumerates "the daughters of
lust" as follows: blindness of mind; thoughtlessness; rashness; inconstancy; love of
self; hatred for God; worldliness; dread of a future life.
154. THE PARTS OF LUST
1. The parts of lust are the species or types of lustful sins. These parts are six: fornication, adultery, incest, seduction, rape, unnatural vice.
2. Fornication is the normal, but unlawful, use of sex by an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. Fornication is a mortal sin, for it is a great inordinateness in the parties who are guilty of it; is opposed to the good of offspring (for only marriage establishes the home which children require, and to which they have a right), and it is plainly against the common welfare both in physical and moral effects.
3. Fornication is a grave sin of the flesh. It is not the greatest of all sins, for sins of the spirit, sins of malice, are more grievous than any carnal sin.
4. Kisses and touches that are lustful are also mortal sins.
5. Whatever occurs in sleep cannot be sinful in itself. Yet it may be sinful in its cause. If, before sleeping, a person is guilty of thoughts, desires, or deeds that are lustful, he is at least partly responsible for impurities that subsequently occur during sleep.
6. Seduction is the violation of a virgin. It is a species of lust, and is therefore a grievous sin.
7. Rape is a species of lust-and gravely sinful-in which force is employed in committing a lustful action.
8. Adultery is the normal, but unlawful, use of sex by a married and a single person, or by two married persons, who, however, are not married to each other. This grievous sin is far worse than fornication, for it violates not only chastity, but it is a gross violation of justice (committed against the true spouse of the married party, or against both spouses of the married parties). Besides, it is a more damaging offense against the common good than fornication is.
9. Incest is the use of sex by man and woman who are related by ties of blood, or by affinity, that is, by relationship arising out of a marriage. It has all the grievous character of lust, plus the violation of justice (if either party is married), and the violation of the virtue of piety.
10. Lust becomes sacrilege when it involves sacred or consecrated persons, things, or places.
11. Unnatural vice is any lustful perversion of normal and natural processes for procuring sex pleasures.
12. Unnatural vice is the worst of all sins of lust, for it is most gravely shameful as acting against the ordinance of nature. Yet all willful sins of lust are mortal sins.
HOW TO AVOID SEXUAL SINS IN A WORLD FULL OF TEMPTATION/ CHASTITY:
1. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, "Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". Without God's Help it is completely impossible to avoid committing sin. We must pray daily and ask God for His Grace. With God's Divine Help we can avoid sin.
2. Go to church every Sunday or every day if possible and read the Bible regularly. God will give you great strength to help you say no to sin.
3. Be aware that there are demons (fallen angels) trying to drag your souls into hell for all eternity. They hate God and they hate you. They will tempt you through people, television, radio, movies and books and in many other ways. Often it is better to give up watching certain movies and shows rather than expose yourself to the temptation. It's like walking with white clothes into a coal mine; when you walk out of the mine there will be some black smudges on your clothes, some of which you may not be aware of. There was one saint who completely gave up looking into a mirrow to avoid the sin of vanity. Many Christians have given up many worldy influences in order to avoid temptation and falling into sin. Christians have given up watching television, going to the beach, going to the swimming pool, going to bars, reading worldly books and magazines, watching videos from their local video store, and spending too much time at shopping malls. By avoiding these places many temptations and many sins can be avoided. Every sin will be punished, here and in hell or purgatory. Guard your eyes from looking at anything or anyone that looks impure or else you will pay a price. Ask God to give you His strength to resist the devil's temptations.
4. Don't associate with people who are living sexually immoral lives because these people will influence you to sin. This does not mean that you reject these people, but to be careful that their wicked ways do not influence you. The following Bible quote is from 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13, "In my letter, I wrote to you that you should have nothing to do with people living immoral lives. I was not including everybody in this present world who is sexually immoral, or everybody who is greedy, or dishonest or worships false gods-that would mean you would have to cut yourselves off completely from the world. In fact what I meant was that you were not to have anything to do with anyone going by the name of brother who is sexually immoral, or is greedy, or worships false gods, or is a slanderer or a drunkard or dishonest; never even have a meal with anybody of that kind. It is no concern of mine to judge outsiders. It is for you to judge those who are inside, is it not? But outsiders are for God to judge. You must banish this evil-doer from among you."
5. Dress only in a decent fashion, avoiding all indecent type of clothing. Many men are pulled into a temptation as a result of looking upon women who are dressed indecently and after being pulled into a temptation there is a price these men will have to pay.
FROM THE BOOK: THE GLORIES OF MARY
by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
PURITY OF HEART
THE VIRGIN MARY
AVOIDING SEXUAL SINS
St. Ambrose says, that "whoever has preserved chastity is an angel, and that he who has lost it is a devil." Our Lord assures us that those who are chaste become angels, "They shall be as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30 ). But the impure, becomes as devils, hateful in the sight of God. St. Remigius used to say that the greater part of adults are lost by this vice. Seldom, as we have already said with St. Augustine, is a victory gained over this vice. But why? It is because the means by which it may be gained are seldom made use of.
These means are three, according to Belarmine and the masters of a spiritual life: fasting, the avoidance of dangerous occasions, and prayer.
1. By fasting, is to be understood especially mortification of the eyes and of the appetite. Although our Blessed Lady was full of divine grace, yet she was so mortified in her eyes, that, according to St. Epiphanius and St. John Damascene, she always kept them cast down, and never fixed them on any one; and they say that from her very childhood her modesty was such, that it filled every one who saw her with astonishment. Hence St. Luke remarks, that, in going to visit St. Elizabeth, she went with haste, (Luke 1:39) that she might be less seen in public. Philibert relates, that, as to her food, it was, revealed to a hermit named Felix, that when a baby she only took milk once a day. St. Gregory of Tours affirms that throughout her life she fasted ; and St. Bonaventure adds, that Mary would never have found so much grace, had she not been most moderate in her food; for grace and gluttony cannot subsist together." In fine, Mary was mortified in all, so that of her it was said my hands dropped with myrrh (Canticle 5:5).
2. The second means is to fly the occasions of sin: He that is aware of the snares shall be secure (Proverbs 11:15). Hence St. Philip Neri says, that, "in the war of the senses, cowards conquer:" that is to say those who fly from dangerous occasions. Mary fled as much as possible from the sight of men and therefore St. Luke remarks, that in going to visit St. Elizabeth, she went with haste into the lull country. An author observes, that the Blessed Virgin left St. Elizabeth before St. John was born, as we learn from the same Gospel, where it is said, that Mary abode with her about three months, and she returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth's full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son (Luke 1:56). And why did she not wait for this event? It was that she .might avoid the conversations and visits which would accompany it.
3. The third means is prayer. And as I knew, said the wise man, that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it . . . I went to the Lord and besought Him (Wisdom 8:21). The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that she acquired no virtue is without effort and continual prayer. St. John Damascene says, that Mary "is pure. a lover of purity." Hence she cannot endure those who are unchaste. But whoever has recourse to will certainly be delivered from this vice, if he only pronounces her name with confidence. The Venerable John d'Avila used to say, "that many have conquered more temptations by only having devotion to her Immaculate Conception."O Mary, O most pure dove, how many are now in hell on account of this vice! Sovereign Lady, obtain us the grace always to have recourse to thee in our temptations, and always to invoke thee, saying, "Mary, Mary, help us." Amen.
DIFFICULT TEMPTATIONS AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
There are times when God will allow very difficult temptations to come our way. God in His perfect wisdom allows these temptations to come our way to test us, to strengthen us, to humble us, to prepare us for future trials and to make us holy. People who are involved in the religious life(priests, ministers, nuns, deacons, etc.) can be subject to these types of temptations more than lay people because it is the job of religious people to bring souls to Christ and the devil will focuse in on religious people to thwart their efforts to save souls. Overcoming difficult temptations may take a major effort for the indiviudual who is undergoing them. The following excerpt is from Butler's Lives of Saints on the life of Saint John Climacus:
"God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac, was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John, who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said: "My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer." They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac in peace."
From this example we can deduce the importance of having a good spiritual director. A good spiritual director can pull souls that are afflicted with various temptations to spiritual safety. In this case the monk, Isaac, was very fortuate to have a great saint as his spiritual advisor. Spiritual advisors like Saint John Climacus are a rarity. A poor spiritual advisor can lead a soul in the wrong direction---away from God. Whenever a soul finds himself or herself afflicted with very difficult temptations they should immediately seek professional spiritual direction from a holy spiritual director; and if they don't they may find themselves being brought into sin by the devil and their own weakness. They should attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily as well as pray the rosary daily. We must always strive to keep our focus on Christ 24 hours a day.
What the Bible says about Homosexuality:
"That is why God abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices of dishonouring their own bodies - because they exchanged God's truth for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
That is why God abandoned them to degrading passions: why their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural practices; and the men, in a similar fashion, too, giving up normal relations with women, are consumed with passion for each other, men doing shameful things with men and receiving in themselves due reward for their perversion." Romans 1:24-27
"Do you not realise that people who do evil will never
inherit the kingdom of God? Make no mistake - the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers,
the self-indulgent, sodomites, thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none
of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you used to be of that kind: but you
have been washed clean, you have been sanctified, and you have been justified in the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
"A woman must not dress like a man, nor a man like a woman; anyone who does this is detestable to Yahweh your God." Deuteronomy 22:5
"The man who has intercourse with a man in the same way as
with a woman: they have done a hateful thing together; they will be put to death; their
blood will be on their own heads."
"The man who has intercourse with an animal will be put to death; you will kill the animal too."
"The woman who approaches any animal to have intercourse with it: you will kill the woman and the animal. They will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Leviticus 20:16
Commentary on Homosexuality:
The above verses declare that homosexuality is an evil act, an act which God hates. We know from St. Thomas Aquinas that God never moves an individual to commit an evil act and that God never created a single man or woman to be inclined toward evil behavior (Summa Theologica Ia. The First Part, Question 49). This means that people who are homosexuals have voluntarily turned toward this sin and in so doing have turned away from God. Man has free will. St. John Damascene says, "God does not will evil, nor does He compel virtue."
Homosexuals who have converted away from their homosexual behavior and have accepted Christ have acknowledged the truth, that they deliberately chose the evil behavior of homosexuality. They were not born that way. They had no genetic disposition to be that way. Like a fornicator or a adulterer, they chose to turn away from God so that they could live in sin.
And God can forgive the sins of homosexuality, adultery and fornication if the persons involved in this sin repent and totally give up the sin. "If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live." Ezekiel 18:21
The following is from the book: The Bible and Birth Control, by Charles D. Provan , on the topics of Homosexuality and Birth Control.
REASON NUMBER FIVE
DEATH PENALTIES FOR SEXUAL OFFENSES
(Leviticus 20:13, 15, 16, 18 / Genesis 38:8-10)
"13. If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
"15. If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal."
"16. If there is a woman wh approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
"18. If there is a man who lies with a menstruous woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her flow, and she has exposed the flow of her blood; thus both of them shall be cut off from among their people."
"8. Then Judah said to Onan, 'Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.' 9. And Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so it came about that when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, in order not to give offspring to his brother. 10. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also."
The Old Testament mentions about twenty or so death penalty offenses. The New Testament says that these examples are in the Old Testament to help Christians find out what pleases and displeases God (1 Corinthians 10:1-10; verse 6 says, "Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved."). Many of these offenses are related to sexual matters. These forbidden sexual relations may be divided into two categories: a) sexual offenses forbidden because of who the potential or actual sexual partner is (for example, adultery, incest, etc.) And, b) offenses which are forbidden because of the act itself.
It is this second group on which we intend to focus. These offenses are evil no matter with whom they are committed. They are perversions, evil in themselves. A listing of these offenses is as follows:
1) Male homosexual intercourse (Lev. 20:13)
2) Male/Animal bestiality (Lev. 20:15)
3) Female/Animal bestiality (Lev. 20:16)
4) Intercourse with a menstrous woman (Lev. 20:18)
5) Withdrawal (Wasting Seed) (Gen. 38:8-10)
These sexual offenses are always wrong if done intentionally. (We say this because #4 and #5 may occur accidentally, as the Bible says - Lev. 15:24 and Deu. 23:10-11.)
In any case let us get to the point of this section, which is this: What is common to all these five sins? The answer is: they are all sterile forms of sexual intercourse. Children cannot be produced from male homosexual activity or bestiality, even though seed is emitted. Menstruous intercourse is the most easily identified sterile time of the woman's monthly cycle. (Witness the important place menstruation plays in the "rhythm method".) Withdrawal is meant to be sterile, and is, most of the time. In all these cases the seed is wasted.
So we can see that the reason that these sins are condemned by God is because they are almost 100% sterile, and oppose the command of God to "be fruitful and multiply." We are not finished however, because further examination will be useful. Let us now compare some unusual cases of Old Testament jurisprudence.
Comparison Number One:
Male homosexuality vs. female homosexuality
"13. If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
The reader will note that we have included no verse on the execution of female homosexuals. This is because there is no penalty prescribed for lesbian activities in the Old Testament. This of course does not mean that lesbianism is OK with God - it just means that there is no civil penalty. (Similar cases would be coveting or lusting, which are forbidden by God but have no civil penalty.) So we see that male homosexuals are to be executed, but female homosexuals are spared.
Some attempt the explanation that, "Well, God is just nicer to girls." We would reply that God in the Old Testament has nothing against executing female evildoers, as is evident from the fact that God has decreed the death penalty for: female murderers (Gen. 9:6), female sorcerers (Lev. 20:27), female idolators (Deu. 13:6-9), females guilty of bestiality (Lev.20:16), female adulterers (Lev.20:10), etc. In fact, we are not aware of any sin for which God kills guilty males but spares guilty females, except in the case of homosexual activity.
Is this a mistake? Is the Bible inconsistent? The answer, of course, is "No." The New Testament states that the Old Testament death penalties are just in the eyes of God. Hebrews 2:2 states that in the Mosaic Law, "...every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense..." The Bible prescribes death of the male homosexual and life for the female because only the male homosexual wastes seed. Which once again shows that wasting seed is an awful thing in the eyes of God.
Comparison Number Two:
Female/animal intercourse vs. female homosexuality
"16. If there is a woman who approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
Here we have another comparison of different sexual sins similar to the previous example. Women who mate with animals are to be killed, while women homosexuals are to be allowed to live. And what can account for the difference? Again we see that the only explanation of the above law is that the difference is in wasting seed. In female bestiality, the animal's seed is wasted. In female homosexuality, while sin is indeed committed, no seed is wasted.
So ends our examination of Old Testament perversions and their penalties. We may observe that all sterile sexual acts are forbidden, unless (as we have said) they happen accidentally. Therefore, since the very purpose of all methods of birth control is to make the sexual act sterile, they are forbidden too.
Comparison Number Three:
Male Homosexuality vs. Male Companionship and Sex Outside of Marriage.
Let us move into another area of comparison, and ask the question: "Exactly what is it about male homosexuality which makes it worthy of death?"
First, it can't be because of the mere fact that male homosexuals like to be in the company of men rather than women, for David said of Jonathan: "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women." (2 Samuel 1:26)
Second, the death penalty can't be because of the mere fact of men being physically affectionate to other men; for John says "There was reclining on Jesus' breast one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23) And Paul says "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss." (1 Thess. 5:26) (By the way, let us make it crystal clear that we repudiate the blasphemous suggestions of present and past homosexuals that Jesus and David were latent or active homosexuals. May such evil talk perish from the earth!)
Third, male homosexuals can't be executed because of the fact that sexual intercourse takes place outside the bonds of marriage, because according to the Bible there is no civil punishment for sexual relations between a single man and a single girl. (Deut. 22:28-29)
What then is left as a reason? Only this: male homosexuals are worthy of death because they emit semen outside the proper receptical contrary to nature as created by God. Thus they negate the purpose for which semen was created and "poured out" by God (Job 10:10): procreation. Birth control does the very same thing, and so is likewise under the curse of God.
HOW SAINT CHRYSANTHUS OVERCAME STRONG SEXUAL TEMPTATIONS
(From the Book: THE MARTYRS OF THE COLISEUM, by Father A.J. O'Reilly, D.D., TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC., 1987.)
CHRYSANTHUS was the son of a senator from Alexandria named Polemius, who went to Rome during the reign of Numerian (A.D. 282), and was immediately enrolled in the senatorial body of the imperial city. The father and son were pagans, but that inscrutable Providence, which St. Paul compares to the potter, who destines some vessels for honour and some for dishonour, cast the light of faith into the heart of Chrysanthus, and made him not only a Christian, but a noble martyr of the Church of God. He was a young man, of ardent temperament, and whilst gifted with a powerful mind, was passionately fond of study. He went through all the systems of philosophy known in those days, studied eloquence under the first masters, and ere yet he stood on the threshold of manhood, his mind was developed by science and erudition. These pursuits were incompatible with the indulgence of the baser passions of nature, and Chrysanthus was virtuous without his knowing it. Almighty God looked on him with complacency, and by His divine grace brought him to the knowledge of the Christian faith. The means employed for his conversion were such as are common even in our days.
In his ardent thirst for knowledge, he read every book that came in his way. He had heard of the Christians. The wonderful things related of that persecuted sect roused his curiosity to the highest pitch. Their virtue and patience in suffering, and their extraordinary love for each other, struck the intelligent mind of the noble youth with amazement and delight. In a short time a few books of the Christians, and a copy of the sacred Scriptures, were put into his hands. He read them with avidity. Light was beaming from every page; an unaccountable feeling of peace calmed his troubled heart. Night, noon and morning, he was wrapt in the study of that true philosophy which emanated from Eternal Wisdom itself. He wondered he had lived so long without knowing it---so sublime, so simple, so perfect, so beautiful, so terrible; like the child's first vision of the ocean, no language could tell all he felt.
Chrysanthus became a Christian. He was led by the guidance of a supernatural power to an old hermit, named Carpophorus, and was instructed and baptized. After his baptism, his mind was filled with the light of heaven, and his heart glowed with the fire of zeal for the conversion of souls; he longed to impart to others the joy that filled his own soul. In eight days after his baptism, we find him preaching in the public piazzas, as fearless as the Apostles when they came forth from the Coenaculum of Jerusalem to commence the great work of the world's conversion. Numbers were converted by his powerful discourses; but it pleased God that he should glorify His Church by his sufferings.
His father learned with rage that he had embraced Christianity. Like all pagans, he thought nothing was more mad or impious than to preach that a crucified man was the true God. He seized Chrysanthus and locked him up in a room in his own house; and endeavoured, by harsh treatment, to force him to return to the worship of the gods. He allowed no one to see him, and only gave him food once in the day; but the young man was happy, and unflinching in his resolution; he treated his cruel father with respect and reverence. Some days passed in this way, when the evil spirit, finding he was immovable in his faith, laid a wicked and dangerous snare for his virtue.
A friend of the senator Polemius came one day to see him. He found him sad and afflicted on account of the failure of his efforts to overcome his son's resolution. Polemius opened his mind to his friend, and asked him advice. A more insidious, wicked counsellor he could not have found; the devil seemed to have employed him to plot the ruin of Chrysanthus.
"If you wish to change the resolution of your son," said the stranger, "try him with pleasures rather than privations; tempt him with youth and beauty; pleasure will make him forget he is a Christian: you must know these trials which you inflict on him are considered by the Christians more honourable than painful."
Polemius thought this good advice, and determined to act upon it. He prepared his triclinium with the most beautiful hangings, loaded the tables with costly viands, and selected a number of handsome females, whom he dressed in gorgeous style; and when he had prepared everything that could please the senses or gratify the passions, he introduced the holy youth, hoping first to destroy his virtue, and then find an easy victim in his faith. Chrysanthus entered the triclinium in surprise, for he did not know what his father intended. A thousand lights were reflected from crystal lustres, the walls were hung with priceless tapestry, and the odours of the most delicious viands mingled with the perfumes of the most beautiful flowers. Round the circular table were a number of females reclining; they were lewdly dressed, and represented the goddesses of pagan mythology; they were fanning themselves in luxurious ease, and seemed to be awaiting the arrival of the principal guest of the evening, who was Chrysanthus. When he entered, they all rose to pay him homage, the musicians played, and incense was burned. The holy youth looked round him in amazement; suspicion passed in a moment to conviction; he saw that a snare was laid for him. He had scarcely entered the room when his father slipped from behind him, left the room, and suddenly closed the door, fastening it with a heavy bolt.
Chrysanthus prayed in his heart for strength, for he knew he could not be continent unless the Lord assisted him. His prayer was heard, and all the allurements and temptations of the devil fell like spent arrows on the shield of his faith. The Almighty worked a strange miracle in his behalf. He was scarcely left alone in the room, and had breathed a short prayer to the Most High, when all the females fell into a sound sleep. He stood, as it were, in the midst of a solitude, and kneeling apart in the magnificent chamber, gave his soul to the sweet joy of communion with God.
His father and the attendants were surprised at the sudden silence that had come over the banquet- hall, not a whisper, not a move, all was still as death. At length, overcome with curiosity, Polemius stealthily opened the door, and looked in. He was struck with terror and amazement. The girls, musicians, and slaves, were lying on the benches or on the floor, as if dead, and Chrysanthus was kneeling, wrapt in prayer, in a corner of the room, with his arms crossed upon his breast. Was it a dream ? was it magic ? or was it a stratagem, organised by the cleverness of his Christian son, to trifle still further with his wishes and turn him to mockery ! He was thunderstruck, and stood in fear and doubt on the threshold of the triclinium. He called all his domestics and attendants to look at the strange scene. Some wept because they thought the girls were dead; others fled in terror and called all the friends of the family; the house became a scene of confusion, whilst all was as calm as a tomb in the triclinium.
At length, after a day and a night had passed, the friends of Polerains assured him that it was all produced by magic and the black arts, which Chrysanthus had learned from the Christians; and after much deliberation, they determined to enter the room, and remove the females. When they brought them outside of the triclinium they immediately awoke; they were unconscious of what had happened, and wished to return to the banquet which they had not yet touched. They returned in spite of all remonstrance, and had scarcely entered the door when they fell down asleep again. Whilst some were amused and others were terrified, the devil was preparing another trial to shake the virtue of Chrysanthus.
Amongst the friends of Polerains there was a venerable old man, much esteemed for his learning and prudence. Taking the senator aside, he said to him: "Polemius, I see through the dark arts of thy son; he has been an apt disciple of Christian magic, and now he finds it easy to exercise his skill on those simple and weak girls; but as these arts have no power over noble and educated minds, let us seek an intelligent, handsome person who can reason with him, and become his wife. I know one amongst the virgins of Minerva; she is young, beautiful, and intelligent. The beauty of her countenance and the powers of her mind will surely triumph over Chrysanthus."
Polemius consented. He was so deeply biassed against Christianity that, if even the meanest unfortunate from the low lupanars of the city could have succeeded in withdrawing his son from the practice of virtue, he would have received her into his family, and made her heiress to the title and wealth of his senatorial rank. There were only two crimes in the category of the old senator: they were Christianity and cowardice in battle.
We will leave for a moment Polemius and his aged friend devising the best means to ruin the noble Chrysanthus and invite the reader to a different scene in another part of the city.
Amongst the peculiarities of pagan worship, it was usual for females to dedicate themselves in a particular manner to some goddess. They had gods, both male and female, to express every tendency of the mind; every passion and every desire were personified in some divinity. Those things which are now-a-days the occupation of the leisure hours of the fair sex, such as music, poetry, needlework, &c., were in the days of the Roman Empire works of religious homage offered to an imaginary tute lary divinity. The votaries of the different goddesses assembled together from time to time in the vestibules of their respective temples. These gatherings always terminated with a splendid banquet, to which their friends of the male sex were invitcd. Amongst the virgins of Minerva, as they were called, there was one of those naturally virtuous, noble, generous souls, whom we must now introduce to the reader as the heroine of this interesting historical record.
Her name was Daria. She was just in the dawn of womanhood, and surpassed all her companions in beauty and grace. From her girlhood (she was probably at this time sixteen) she had enrolled herself among the lovers of Minerva, which was considered in those days an act of great merit and virtue. Noble and generous, she was beloved by all; and in the dramatic representations cornmon amongst children even in those remote times, she was invariably elected to take the part of Pallas Minerva.
One morning Daria went with her companions to the vestibule of the temple of Pallas Minerva. Antiquarians pretend to be able to point out the very spot. It was not far from the Coliseum. Perhaps the reader of these lines may have been to Rome, and may have remembered passing in the Via Alessandria (leading from the forum of Trajan to the Coliseum) the remains of a splendid portico of beautiful and rich carving, and the columns nearly buried in the earth. It is called by the people in the neighbourhood, Le Colonnacce. In Murray's "Guide to Rome," they are spoken of thus :--" These columns are more than half buried in the earth; their height is estimated at thirty-five feet, and their circumference at eleven. They stand in front of a wall of poperino, on which the capital of a pilaster is still visible. The frieze is richly ornamented with sculptures representing the arts patronised by Minerva. In the attic above the two columns is a full-length statue of that goddess, and among the figures on the frieze are females weaving, others weighing the thread or measuring the webs, others again carrying the calathus; and a sitting veiled figure of Pudicitia" (page 39).
Here it is most probable the young girls of the Minerva school were accustomed to meet, to assist each other in the study of the fine arts as represented on the beautiful frieze of the portico, the only existing remnant of the magnificent temple itself. Daria was gay and cheerful, and surrounded by a number of her companions, when the senator Polemina and his aged friend mounted the steps of the portico, and called her aside. Humble and unassuming in her thoughts, she was thunderstruck when she heard they had come to make her the spouse of Chrysanthus. She was not entitled to this position by birth or fortune, and she almost doubted the sincerity of the proposal; but finding Polemius was really in earnest, for he entreated her with tears in his eyes, she thanked Minerva for her good fortune, and calling a faithful slave who always accompanied her, she hurried away to the house of the senator, without even telling her companions of the strange freak of fortune that was about to raise her from her humble position to be mistress in one of the first families of Rome. Bright were the castles of future bliss she painted before her happy mind, as she tripped gaily along by the side of the aged men. Little she thought of the designs of an all-seeing and loving Providence, that was leading her from darkness to light and was preparing for her joys and delights more beautiful and lasting than even her vivid fancy could paint.
Arrived at the palace of Polemius, they found ths bustle and noise of the last few hours had subsided. Crysanthus had his copy of the Holy Scriptures brought to him in the triclinium, and was deeply engaged in study when his father returned. The girls endeavoured to dissuade Daria from going into the apartment, but she, apparently through confidence in her charms, but more truly led on by a supernatural influence, determined to discharge the commission given to her by his father, to offer herself to him as his bride. They dressed her out in the most gorgeous manner; jewels and diamonds of priceless worth sparkled on her snowy breast, and her beautiful hair was plaited with flowers and gold; the rouge of beauty and health on her cheeks required no artificial tint, for nature had given charms no art could imitate; the proud and wealthy Cleopatra, of Eastern fame, would have changed places with Daria. The senator embraced his old friend, and thanked him that he had recommended such a beautiful girl to become his daughter.
But Daria was made for heaven; a few hours will find her an angel. When she entered the triclinium, contrary to the expectation of all, she was not overcome with sleep; even Chrysanthus arose, received her kindly, and bade her be seated. He prayed for a moment in his heart, and then drawing near, he addressed her in these words: "Illustrious and beautiful virgin, if it be for the sake of a short-lived union with me, and to induce me, who am inflamed with the love of another, to abandon my resolution, that you have recourse to these costly ornaments and beautiful dresses, you are greatly deceived. Would you not rather seek the love of the Immortal Son of God ? Nor is such a task difficult if you wish it; for if you preserve your body and soul free from stain, then the angels of God will caress you, the Apostles and martyrs will be your friends, Christ Himself will be your spouse, and He who is all-powerful will prepare for you a chamber of unsullied gems in His everlasting kingdom, He will preserve immortal the flower of your youthful beauty, and will inscribe your name for a rich dowry in the book of life."
Daria was much moved at these words. The shame of being considered a mere harlot roused the noblest feelings of her heart. The earnestness with which Chrysanthus spoke, and the sublime and mysterious promises of happiness without end, made her fling to the ground the mask of deceit and hypocrisy with which she thought to win his affections; her answer was noble and sincere.
"Believe me, Chrysanthus !" said she, excitedly, "it was not the allurements of a base passion that brought me before you. I was urged, by the tears of your father, to bring you back to your family and the worship of our gods."
"Well, then," said Chrysanthus, "if you have any arguments by which you can induce me to change my resolution, I will patiently listen to you; let us calmly weigh these things for our mutual advantage."
He drew nearer to her, and they commenced a very interesting and philosophical conversation, which we will give in an abbreviated form from the Acts, as in Sarius ( October 28).Nothing, said Daria, can be more useful or necessary to man than religion. When we neglect this primary duty of our existence, we should fear to excite the anger of the gods."
"And what worship, most wise virgin," asked Chrysanthus, should we give to
the gods ?"
"That worship," she answered, which will induce them to protect
"How can they protect us, whilst they themselves require the protection of a dog, lest they should be plundered by nocturnal thieves, and who have to be fastened to their pedestals by iron nails and lead, to prevent them falling and being broken to pieces ?"
"That is very true," replied Daria, but if the unlettered multitude of men could worship without images,
there would be no necessity for making them; now, indeed, they are made of marble and silver and bronze, that worshippers may see with their own eyes those whom they should love, venerate, and fear."
"But let us consider a moment," said Chrysanthus, "what is said of those images, that we may see if they are worthy of our adoration. Certainly, you would not consider that person or thing a god which does not show any external proof of glory or sanctity. What signs of probity has the sword-bearing Saturn, who killed his own children the moment they were born, and devoured them, as his own worshippers have written of him ! What reason have you to praise Jove himself, who has
committed crimes, homicides, and adulteries, equal in number to the days of his life; plotting the ruin of his father; the murderer of his children, the violator of matrons, the husband of his own sister, the usurper of kingdoms, and the inventor of magical arts ? Since writers accuse him of these and similar impieties, not fit to be mentioned, how can you call him, and believe in your heart that he is a god ? What more absurd, noble virgin, than to deify kings and generals, because they have been powerful and brave in deeds of war, whilst the very men who worship them saw them die like other mortals? What cause for divinity do you find in Mercury, whom poets and artists love to represent with the heads of pigs and monsters and outstretched wings; by whose magic arts the hidden treasures of the earth are discerned, and the poison of snakes destroyed, and yet he performs all his wonders by the power of demons, to whom he daily sacrifices a cow or a cock; are not such the fables told of him ? Where is the sanctity of Hercules, who, fatigued in saving others from fire, at length by his own divine inspiration cast himself into the flames, and miserably perished with his club and his skin ? In Apollo himself what virtue have you, either in his Dionysian sacrifices, or his intemperance and incontinency. It remains for us now to speak of the royal Juno, the stupid Pallas, and the lascivious Venus."
Daria started, for she had never heard her beloved Minerva called stupid before.
"Do we not find them," continued Chrysanthus,
firmly, "proudly disputing amongst themselves which is the handsomest ? Are not the
works of poets and historians full of the wars and miseries brought on the human race on
account of the slighted beauty of one of these vain goddesses ? Since, then, none of these
persons are worthy of divine honour, in whom will the human race, borne by the natural
impulse of nature to religion, place its confidence, to worship as its god ? Not surely in
the minor gods, for they are but the slaves of the others. Does it not come to this, then
noble virgin, if the greater
and more powerful gods are so miserable and so impious, much more so will those be who worship them."
It might be thought that the power and eloquence of this address would have immediately overcome all the prejudices and vain confidence that Daria hitherto felt in paganism, but she was gifted with an intelligent and brillant intellect, and her reply to the invectives of Chrysanthus was not only apt and beautiful, but rendered the debate extremely interesting, and henceforward deeply philosophical.
"But you are aware, Chrysanthus, that all these things are but the fictions of the poets, and not worthy of the consideration of serious minds. In the school of our philosophers, where prudent men treat of things as they really are, the gods are not clothed with the vices you mention; their power and providence are expressed by symbolic names, which have given origin to fancies of poetry. Thus, allegorically, time has been called Saturn; Jupiter is another term for heat and light, and the vivifying power of nature; Juno is interpreted to mean air; Venus, fire; Neptune, the sea; Ceres, the earth; and
so on with the rest. Do not these things serve us? are they not worthy of honour ?"
"If these things be gods," said Chrysanthus, earnestly, "why then do you make images of them, and worship the representations of things you have always present? The earth is never absent, fire is always at hand, the air surrounds us everywhere and always. How strange you should adore the images of those things, and not the things themselves ! What king or ruler would order his people to despise himself, but to honour and adore his statue ! Weigh for a moment the folly of this theory. Those who worship the earth, because of their veneration for its divinity, should endearour to show in their manner respect and honour due to the goddess. Should they tear her to pieces by ploughs and spades, and trample her ignominiously under foot? There are others who deny she is a goddess at all, and lacerate her sides with ploughs and harrows and show contempt rather than respect; yet, to which of these does she open her bosom with the abundance of her harvests and delicious fruits ! To him, indeed, who blasphemes and outrages her great divinity. If she were really a goddess, would this be so? Thus the fisherman, who goes to sea to catch fish, despising its divinity, prospers better than the fool who stands on the beach to adore Neptune in the roaring billows. So with the other elements. They are directed by the divine providence of one great God, who created them for the benefit of man. They form but the parts of one great work, and are dependent on one another. The earth brings forth its harvests and its fruits; but take away the light of the sun, the moistening rains, and the refreshing dews, and it becomes barren and worthless. The sea rolls its mighty tide from shore to shore, and bears on its bosom the commerce of nations; it obeys fixed laws, and proclaims the power and glory of its Creator. He, then, who created the sun, the earth, the sea, the air, and animates all nature with the vitality of reproduction, is alone worthy of honour, reverence, and worship. The scholar does not reverence the letters or books of the preceptor, but the preceptor himself. The sick man does not praise the material drugs that cure him, but the genius and skill of the physician. Thus, noble virgin, since those things which you mention as divine are inanimate and dependent, there must be another power to act on them, and animate them--that power is God !"
Daria was converted. Chrysanthus had scarcely finished his last sublime argument, when she threw herself at his feet, and begged to be instructed in the knowledge of the true God. While he was speaking, her heart was the battlefield of contending powers; vanity and self-love had built their castles in her mind, and a deep seated prejudice seemed to have closed all the avenues of conviction; but the Almighty, who influences, but does not force, the free-will, sent to her aid the powerful agents of reason and grace. The eloquence of Chrysanthus, far more skilled in knowledge than the young girl who ventured to reason with him, and the sweet, invisible promptings of divine grace, made her a willing captive to the gospel of love.
Almighty God, having brought these two souls to the knowledge of the truth, destined them to be vessels of election to proclaim His glory, and procure the salvation of many souls. When Daria declared her willingness to become a Christian, Chrysanthus and herself entered into a holy alliance; they adopted a pious stratagem for their mutual benefit and the salvation of others. It was agreed they should pass as man and wife before men, vowing their chastity at the same time to God. By this stratagem, Daria was allowed to go to her own house to prepare for baptism, and Chrysanthus was set free by his father.
THE WISDOM OF THE SAINTS
(Excerpts from a book entitled: THE WISDOM OF THE SAINTS, by Jill Haak Adels)
LUST AND FORNICATION
John Climacus notes that people who commit other kinds of sin are said TO HAVE "SLIPPED," BUT IN FORNICATION THEY "FALL." All cultures are respectful and fearful of sexual desire because of the unique strength of this passion and because of the emotional and biological powers it unleashes, and all societies struggle to channel and control it. Our own society seems to be experimenting to determine the absolute minimum level of taboo and control we can retain and still survive.
The Church recognizes a distinction between sexual desire, which is natural and therefore morally neutral, and lust, which is, in effect, the idolization of sex, an inordinate desire for sexual or carnal pleasure. Chastity is the virtue opposed to lust and applies to all states of life, including marriage. The attitude of the Church toward sexuality is perhaps more dependent on the mores of society in general and subject to the Zeitgeist than are other major areas of doctrine.
Christ much preferred fornicators to Pharisees and told the chief priests and the elders that the harlots would go into the kingdom of God before them (Matthew 21:31).
Illicit desire for carnal indulgence or for the favor and flattery of others is called Lust. Annonymous, (The Cloud of Unknowing)
Out of a forward will lust had sprung; and lust pampered had become custom; and custom indulged had become necessity. These were the links of the chain; this is the bondage in which I was bound. (Augustine of Hippo)
For the sins of thy hands and arms, with which thou hast done much wickedness in embraces, touches, and other evil deeds, My hands were driven into the wood of the Cross by large nails and torn through bearing the weight of My body in Mine agony. (A message from Christ to Blessed Angela of Foligno)
Inordinate love of the flesh is cruelty, because under the appearance of pleasing the body we kill the soul. (Bernard of Clairvaux)
Our relentless enemy, the teacher of fornication, whispers that God is lenient and particularly merciful to this passion, since it is so very natural. Yet if we watch the wiles of the demons we will observe that after we have actually sinned they will affirm that God is a just and inexorable judge. They say one thing to lead us into sin, another thing to overwhelm us in despair. (John Climacus)
Doubtless the state of virginity and continence is more perfect, but this does not prevent marriage from being holy, upright, and perfect in its degree, nor does it prevent those who live in marriage with true fear and love of God from being perfect, upright, and holy. (Anthony Mary Claret)
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