This is the second in a series of articles on the Evangelical Counsels or vows that a monastic takes upon entering the monastery. I last wrote on poverty and a reader left me a question about why we call these the Evangelical Counsels. The simple answer is because we get these ideas from the Gospels themselves hence the term evangelical. I think we sometimes confuse this term with the Evangelical Church and we need to recall the original meaning of the terms as one that made reference to the Gospels. I hope that answered the question.
Chastity is another one of these things that often gets confused. Christians of all walks of life are called to the position of chastity. If you are single you are called to a chaste life meaning no sex outside of marriage. If you are married you are called to the chaste state in your married life, in other words the sexual relationship belongs in the marriage bed and only the marriage bed.
This applies to the monastic as well. Called to live in the state of chastity. We also have live in the state of celibacy. And there lies the difference. Again all Christians are called to live in the state of chastity but the monk is called to celibacy as well. Celibacy is not having a family. Actually the more accurate statement would be to not have a biological family as the monastery becomes the monk’s family.
Chastity, like the other counsels, helps us to reach that state of perfection that we are desire to obtain. Whatever our state in life this should be our goal to better follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The monk leaves behind family and the hope of a family to be better able to serve the Lord “fulltime” if you will. The monk will be free from a divided loyalty to the family and to the Church. The monastic will be able to devote the hours necessary for prayer and work, not that family life is not work, but free from the obligations of the family. Free to dedicate their life to God.