C) Chastity Gives Freedom to Conjugal Love

C) Chastity Gives Freedom to Conjugal Love
In our present condition, concupiscence (or the over-absorbing desires of the flesh) ranges itself easily against the "spirit," which also means against love and the desires of love. This is the case before marriage, and remains so in marriage. Scripture insists on this, and so it is a truth that every Christian needs to ponder. At the start of our study we noted how the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2525) identifies concupiscence with the caro adversus spiritum of the Letter to the Galatians: "the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh" (Gal 5:17). Pope John Paul II opens part 2 of his Theology of the Body with detailed consideration of this Pauline passage.
According to the pope, Paul refers here to "the tension existing within man, precisely in his heart ... [which] presupposes that disposition of forces formed in man with original sin, in which every historical man participates. In this disposition, formed within man, the body opposes the spirit and easily prevails over it" (Theology of the Body, 191). If we let the body prevail in this battle, we lose our freedom and hence our very ability to love, for freedom is not true freedom unless it is at the service of love (cf. ibid., 197). Only so, by using freedom truly and well (and guarding against its false use), can the battle against concupiscence be gradually won. Only so can we fulfill our vocation to love in all freedom - in that freedom for which Christ has set us free.
To understand the vocation to freedom in this way ("You were called to freedom, brethren" - Gal 5:13), means giving a form to the ethos in which life "according to the Spirit" is realized. The danger of wrongly understanding freedom also exists. Paul clearly points this out, writing in the same context: "Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another" (Gal 5:13). In other words, Paul warns us of the possibility of making a bad use of freedom. Such a use is in opposition to the liberation of the human spirit carried out by Christ and contradicts that freedom with which "Christ set us free." ... The antithesis and, in a way, the negation of this use of freedom takes place when it becomes a pretext to live according to the flesh. Freedom then ... becomes "an opportunity for the flesh," a source (or instrument) of a specific yoke on the part of pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Anyone who lives in this way according to the flesh, that is, submits ... to the three forms of lust, especially to the lust of the flesh, ceases to be capable of that freedom for which "Christ set us free." He also ceases to be suitable for the real gift of himself, which is the fruit and expression of this freedom. Moreover, he ceases to be capable of that gift which is organically connected with the nuptial meaning of the human body (Theology of the Body, 197-98)
John Paul II's warning here about "good" and "bad" uses of freedom brings back to mind St. Augustine's distinction regarding the use of the body. In one of his sermons, Augustine too invokes Galatians 5:17 in particular relation to chastity: "Listen well to these words, all you faithful who are fighting. I speak to those who struggle. Only those who struggle will understand the truth of what I say. I will not be understood by whoever does not struggle... What does the chaste person wish? That no force should arise in his body resisting chastity. He would like to experience peace, but does not have it yet"[93].
Augustine's words are directed to the married as much as to the unmarried. Both, he is convinced, will understand the truth he expresses if they are prepared to fight the constant warfare of Christian life. The Church has not changed her doctrine about this fight. "[A] monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace" (Gaudium et spes 37).