Session 7: “Glorify God in Your Body and Spirit”: Chastity and Celibacy
Aim: To offer teens the opportunity to make a commitment to live the life God wants for them in regards to their relationships and sexuality.
Objectives: By the end of this session participants should be able to . . .
Distinguish between celibacy and chastity.
Make a commitment to healthy sexual choices in their daily life.
Identify their own personal boundaries and develop them.
Useful Texts (Scriptural, Canonical, Liturgical, Lives of Saints, etc.)
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Marriage as a Path to Holiness by David and Mary Ford
I. Opening Prayer
II. Check-In and Review
III. Activity #1: The Chaste Marriage
IV. Activity #2: Crossing Boundaries
V. Activity #3: Making a Commitment
VII. Closing Prayer
I. Opening Prayer
II. Check-In: Ask everyone how they are doing!Review:
What is the position of the Orthodox Church on birth control? [Birth Control that does not harm a foetus already conceived is acceptable. Abortion and techniques which harm a foetus are unacceptable.]
What do we need to have a healthy sexual relationship? [Marriage, consent, respect, humility, love, etc.]
III. Activity #1: The Chaste MarriageTime: 15 minutes.
Purpose: Most people do not realize that there is any difference between chastity and celibacy. However, there is and this is an important basis for the Church’s ordination of married priests. It is important for young people to know that not only is marriage blessed, but that marriage can be a path to holiness.
“In the Orthodox service of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony we pray that the married couple will ‘keep their bed chaste and undefiled.’ St. Paul says in Hebrews 13:4, ‘Let marriage be held in honor, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.’ Is there a contradiction here? We just spent the past session talking about sexual intercourse belonging only in marriage. Now we hear that we are supposed to stay chaste when we get married. Isn’t that a contradiction? Why or why not?” [Get responsese)
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Church’s teaching on marriage, sex, and sexuality is that chastity means celibacy. What do these terms actually mean?
Hand out a few different dictionaries. Have a few participants look up the words celibate and celibacy. If any of the definitions provide further difficult terms, have them look them up also. Here’s an example:
Celibacy: (noun) state of not being married, abstention from sexual intercourse, abstention by vow from marriage.
Chaste: (adj.)free from all taint of what is lewd or salacious, refraining from acts or even thoughts or desires that are not virginal or not sanctioned by marriage vows.
Abstinence: (noun) voluntary forbearance especially from indulgence of an appetite or craving.
Lewd: (adj.) Evil, wicked, unchaste, vulgar, licentious.
Salacious: (adj.) Lascivious, lecherous, lustful — The key idea is lustful. Refer back to session 3 “Is it love?” for a definition of lust.
“Based on your findings, can a person be chaste but not celibate? How?” [Yes, by a marriage with Christ as its foundation.]
“Can a person lust after their husband or wife? Is that wrong, and if so, why?” [Lusting after a person, even if they are a spouse, is putting one’s sexual desires ahead of a loving relationship, and demeans the spouse into a sexual object. One popular myth about rape is that a wife cannot be raped by her husband— but it is a primary example of what can go wrong when lust and other passions replace love.]
“How can a husband and wife have sex and remain chaste then?” [By avoiding lust and approaching sex as an expression of committed and intimate love in which both partner’s needs and feelings are considered.]
“Can a person be celibate and not chaste? How?” [Yes, by conduct, intention, thought, etc.]
“Previously we made a comparison between Sex and Sexuality. What would be the difference in your own words between celibacy and chastity?” [Celibacy is about action: not having sex. Chastity is about identity, conduct, and intention: keeping a spiritually healthy and pure sexuality.]
“We should also remember that not all people are called to marriage or find that special someone. In that case, they still can live a life of chastity. How?” [Celibacy, monasticism, marriage to Christ.] You may want to ask a celibate priest, monk, or nun to discuss the positive aspects of living unmarried. This is especially important for those participants who might because of their sexual experiences and sense of orientation feel unable to find fulfillment in married life.
“What are some reasons a person might not marry?” [No interest, call to monasticism, cannot find the right person, don’t want to be tied down, etc.]
IV. Activity #2: Crossing BoundariesTime: 15 minutes.
Purpose: Individuals who have a healthy sense of their own personal boundaries are much less likely to find themselves in compromising positions in which their sexual boundaries are challenged. This activity tries to provide methods for participants to identify their boundaries and to reinforce them in times of temptation. By experiencing this in bodily terms, they can be better equipped in times of sexual temptation, when they will need to be able to define their physical boundaries. They need to realize that they can be empowered to make their own sexual decisions, and that the source of this empowerment is God.
- “What does this mean?” Cross yourself. You may want to do it a few times, illustrating the various ways in which it can be done (with and without prostrations, etc.) “What am I saying when I do this?” [I take the cross upon myself; This body, this person is for the Lord; God protect me; etc.]
- “What are some of the possible times when we or people we know make the sign of the cross?” [Praying, when someone says “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” when we want a blessing, before driving, eating, etc.]
- “The Truth is, crossing oneself is a simple gesture with a great deal of meaning. When we do this, we are saying something about ourselves and about God. We are saying without words but with our bodies that we want the Lord to be a part of our lives. We may not know it, but we are also setting boundaries for ourselves.”
- “What does setting boundaries mean, anyway?” [Setting a protective defense, setting a limit on behavior— on what we will or will not do or what we let be done to us, defining personal space.]
“There is another way we can experience boundaries. First of all, everyone pick a partner, preferably someone you do not know very well already. When you find a partner, stand facing each other.”
Give them time to find a partner and settle into a spot. Notice how close each person stands to their partner. Are the distances between partners relatively the same across the room? Is there a difference when there are partners of the opposite sex? You may want to make sure there are a couple partners who are. Do people who know each other already (if you can identify) stand closer? If there is a pattern, point this out and ask them the above questions. Do partners stand a certain way? How is there posture? Is it comfortable, defensive, shy, awkward?
“The position you have set yourself in facing your partner probably came to you with little thought. Each society has its own set of standards for what is considered the right amount of space between two people talking in public. This is one of the first ways in which we generally unconsciously set our boundaries.”
- “Why might two people facing each other stand farther apart?” [They don’t like each other, don’t trust each other, don’t know each other.]
- “Take a few steps back from each other, but stay facing each other. How has your relationship changed? That is, how have your boundaries been affected?” [More open, less intimate, distant, unfriendly, more casual, etc.]
- “Now step back into the position you were in first. Now that you are paying closer attention to the differences in space, what has changed? How does it feel different?”
Have all pairs spread out from each other so that no one is pair is closer to another than the distance between partners, preferably at least several feet apart from each other.
- “Now, step in closer to each other, as if you were going to whisper to each other. Have your sense of boundaries changed? Has your posture changed? How is this different?” [Tighter, more constricted, more intimate, awkward, more familiar, etc.]
- “Why would two people stand this close together even though they have plenty of room around them?” [To be secretive; they are close friends; family; they don’t want to be overheard.]
- “Now, face each other face to face as close to each other as possible without touching. Don’t talk. How is this any different?” [Awkward, unusual, uncomfortable, too close, feeling very self-conscious, etc.] Notice how they react to each other. Are they nervous, tending to giggle and not look at each other? Do they look more tense or do they relax? Point out noticeable patterns and reactions.
- “Your not touching each other, so why should this be any different than standing three feet apart or even 8 feet apart?” [You are not used to being this close; it is not typical behavior; You feel more vulnerable, etc.]
- “Turn away from each other but stay just as close — almost back to back. You can’t see your partner right? Can you still feel your boundaries? What’s different?” [Can feel like someone is behind them, feels more relaxed, feels less intimate.]
- “Now everyone should pack in together as if they were on a crowded dance floor. How does having a lot of people very close to each other change your sense of having boundaries?” [More anonymous, not just one person, more protected, more common, etc.]
“Okay relax and find yourself a comfortable amount of space to stand in. The fact is, we all have our own set of personal boundaries, which can change according to the situation we are in. The more we recognize what our own personal boundaries are, the more we can understand what is going on in our relationships with other people.”
“When feeling our physical boundaries, we may find it hard to put into words what is happening. We can say it begins with a ‘gut’ feeling. Our ‘gut instincts’ are really very useful. If we find ourselves in a potentially sexual situation, we should also listen to our ‘gut feelings’ if we want to avoid making a mistake or putting ourselves in a risky situation (such as in danger of date-rape.) But if our ‘gut’ doesn’t warn us away, it doesn’t mean that what we are doing is alright — we still have to evaluate our choices based on what is spiritually right.”
- “What are some situations in which our ‘gut instincts’ can help us?” [When we are faced with choices of whether to go to a new level of intimacy, whether to go out or be alone with someone, whether or not to engage in certain activities that might lead to sexual compromise, such as drinking.]
“Our boundaries have more to do with just physical space, too. They react to what is going on in our space — what people are doing saying, and how they are relating to us. Boundaries do not have to be absolute but rather those limits which we have where we have to ask ourselves if we want something or someone to go any farther. ”
Get into small groups and discuss the questions on the “Crossing Boundaries” worksheet:
- “How did it feel to have someone in my personal space?”
- “What would it be like to have very strong, rigid boundaries? (Picture their boundary as a thick wall surrounding them.)” [Could not be friendly; wouldn’t let people in; insensitive to others; have difficulty in crowds.]
- “What would it be like to have no sense of personal boundaries, either of oneself or others?” [They would constantly bump into people, annoy people, hurt themselves; Could not relate well to people, be insensitive to themselves and others, etc.]
- “What kind of interaction would I definitely feel to be crossing my boundaries?” [Unwanted and uninvited touches, stares, getting in my face, tickling.]
- “Now that you know what it is like to have your physical space boundaries tested and pushed, what other ‘boundaries’ do you think people have? (Hint: what makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward when it is around you or to you but does not cross your physical boundaries)?”
People have many types of boundaries that help define how they act and react in situations. These include the following main types and possible ways of describing them.:
Social: conversational, intimate, stand-offish — often indicated by the boundaries discussed above. Also, how much a person is willing to share about themselves with another. Social boundaries are also defined by such factors as sex, race, ethnicity, class, etc.
Emotional: detached, reserved, manic, hot-blooded, melancholic — How much and what kind of emotions they are willing to show or feel comfortable with from other people. Some people do not cry in front of others, and some feel uncomfortable when others cry around them.
Sexual: chaste, libertine, bawdy, uptight, etc. — How far a person is willing and or mature enough to go, but also how comfortable a person feels with their own sexuality or other people’s sexuality. There are many sexual boundaries. When individuals are sexual abused, their sexual boundaries have been transgressed.
Behavioral: adventurous, irresponsible, well-behaved, law-abiding — What types of activities a person is comfortable with. When a person does not have a developed sense of boundaries or standards of behavior, they often run into the risks of immoral or self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse, gang-violence and crime.
Have participants describe their social, emotional, sexual, and behavioral boundaries using their own terms, ideas, and images. These should be recorded in the journal.
“The wonderful thing about boundaries is that once we recognize where they are, we can set them according to our needs. Having a boundary set is as simple as knowing that you have the right to say ‘no’ to something that you do not want. It is also having the right to say ‘yes’ when you are ready for it. The more you have defined your own boundaries the less likely you are of making a mistake or going farther than you really want to or should. You have the power to determine your own boundaries.”
- “How then can we apply this idea of boundaries to our sexuality?” [We can be clear with ourselves and with those we have relationships that we are only willing to do certain things. We can feel capable of saying no to pre-marital/ premature sex and choosing chastity. We don’t have to feel like it is up to someone else — our boyfriends/girlfriends, peers, or parents.]
- “We began by crossing ourselves. How is making the sign of the cross a way of defining boundaries, and how can we call upon the cross when we need help with our own boundaries?” [The Cross marks us and our bodies and hence our personal space as given to God. We become holy ground, so to speak. The Cross protects us from every assault of the enemy — temptations, passions, and pressures. The Cross reinforces our will to serve God and to make the right sexual choices.]
“The Bible says that ‘the Cross is foolishness to those that are perishing.’ There are those who think that Jesus Christ was just a wonderful man that was the helpless victim of a heinous crime. But as Orthodox Christians, we see the paradox of the Cross: though humbled to the lowest level, Christ ascended the Cross as the King of Glory, so that he could ‘trample down death by death.’ Making the choice for chastity, and until marriage, celibacy as well, seems to many today as a foolishness. Let us make this choice as we make the sign of the Cross, knowing that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done this Himself, opening the way for us for true fulfillment.”
V. Activity #3: Making a Commitment
Time: 15 minutes.
Purpose: Now that participants have developed a vision of healthy sexuality, they need to develop a plan of implementation. This activity is about setting some sexual boundaries and making a commitment to them as a plan of action or set of challenges. This activity also emphasizes that wherever you are, you can start over and start fresh. It asks the question, “Where in your life do you want to be when you experience each stage of sexual activity?” Providing participants with a sense of their own ability to make sexual decisions will help them make better decisions. They should also see then the true meaning of the “symphony” of wills — when we take steps of our own to meet God’s will for us, He steps towards us and lifts us further.
“We’ve looked at personal boundaries. It’s certainly good to know what your boundaries are and how to keep them when something unexpected comes along. But we can do more than that. We can do more than just react to temptations as they come along. We need to have some sense of where we are going and what our boundaries are helping us to grow into.”
“If our boundaries are going to help grow into better people, and not just be prisons that stunt our development as human beings, we need to set our boundaries in a planned way. We need to make a commitment to leading a life based on Christ and Christian values. But we also need to realize that such a life is a never-ending process of learning and growing in Christ, not an all or nothing affair. We fall, we get up, we fall, we get up; and God is with us all the way. We fall, we get up, and we start over.”
- “How can we get up after a sexual ‘fall’ — a mistake that slows, stops, or even hurts our progress spiritually?” [Go to confession; talk to a priest, parent, friend; repent and ask God for forgiveness; get up and start over by turning away from sin and asking God to help us make the right decisions.]
“Everyday is a new start. Today is a new start. We can each look the future with a clear view, even if the past has been cloudy. Our life is renewed, our relationships are renewed, our ability to start fresh is renewed.”
“We are going to set ourselves a time line. On this time line we can set for ourselves special boundaries. This time line will help us answer a question: ‘How far should I go?’” Pass out copies of the “Making a Commitment” worksheet. Here’s a small example:
Friends Dating Steady Engaged Marriage No Thanks!
“Now list for yourself all the different stages of sexual activity that you will encounter in your life. There are many different ways in which we can be sexual, ranging from looking at a person to having sexual intercourse. Considering the difference between chastity and celibacy, even looking can be more lustful than actually having sex. So we must consider each of the actions in between not only in terms of how much sexual contact is going on, but how we want to approach these actions in our heart.” [Possible answers range from looking, hugging, light kissing, affectionate kissing, french kissing, touching, foreplay, sex and sexual intercourse. Be prepared to demonstrate how to develop the time line. It is not our place to give them any new ideas or temptations, so try to express the contents of list modestly.]
“There are also some things we will not want to do at all that we might feel that it is important to define for ourselves now. Even if we do not want to do them, we can still be tempted. It is good to say no now and ask God to help you to keep this boundary with you. Included in this list might be things which serve lust and do not help us to love each other as Christians. Put these things under ‘No Thanks.’” [Possible entries in this area include those “alternative” sexual lifestyles which have not been discussed in this unit and which are not considered compatible with Christian life.]
“Keep thinking of these things as you encounter them and new dimensions of sexuality in your life. Ask yourself:
- ‘How far should I go?’
- ‘What kind of relationship do I want to be in when this happens?’
- ‘What kind of person am I becoming because of my sexual choices and boundaries?’”
VI. Session Conclusion
- What is the difference between chastity and celibacy?
- What is a personal boundary and what is it for?
“God has given us the ability to freely choose what we want to do with our life. This freedom is not a freedom from responsibility and morality, but a freedom for choosing Him in honest, genuine love. God loves us and wants the best for us.”
At the end of the session, have everyone write their name on a small piece of paper and put it in a bag or hat. Then pass the hat and have each person pick without looking a name which is not their own. Then each person has to come up with an affirmation for that person, in terms of how they see that person as a model of virtue and a source of inspiration — point out one good trait or change they have made in this course. It is important for teens to know that they are doing something right, especially when we are teaching them how to avoid doing wrong!
FINAL ACTIVITY: As a finale to this unit, plan one last session where the group goes over the Dear Abba letters (both the ones provided as well as the ones they created) in session two. Have them see how they would respond to these questions now that they have finished the unit. What would they change.
As the final activity have them write a letter to themselves in their journal explaining what they want their lives to be like in regards to their sexuality and relationships.
As they are writing their letters, provide the students with some form of token for them to remember what they discussed during the session: perhaps a Cross, since this was part of the last lesson.
Quietly say: Wearing a Cross serves as a constant bodily reminder to us of our connection to God. Use this cross as a reminder of the promise you are making to Him and to yourself today.
VII. Closing PrayerCrossing Boundaries Worksheet