Treasure Chastity

Treasure chastity. (RB 4:64)

This is the only instance in the Rule of Benedict that the word chastity appears. A similar reference can be found in Chapter 72:8 "Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters/brothers." With these two statements embedded in Benedict's writings one can see the influence of his predecessor John Cassian (c 360-435).

Chastity, according to Cassian, takes a long time to acquire, because its full beauty presupposes the presence of many other virtues. He wrote: "The more someone makes progress in gentleness and patience of heart, the further she/he will advance in bodily purity. The further she/he drives away the passion of anger so will she/he more acquire chastity." (Conferences 12:6)

Cassian believed that chastity could not be attained by unaided human effort; for him it was the work of grace: "Even though we continually work hard at monastic observances, we are instructed by the teaching of experience that pure chastity is the result of the generosity of divine grace." (Conferences 12:4, 16)

For the one who has arrived at such a high level of virtue, the road toward union with God and selfless service of the neighbor becomes possible. At the end of Chapter 7 Benedict sums up chastity, pure love, purity of heart: "Through this love, all that we once performed with dread, we will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue." (RB 7:68-69)