Buried in Sunday’s Epistle reading from 2 Cor. 6 are two simple words, ways in which Christians are to commend themselves: “by purity”. Has purity been lost today? How do the following demonstrate or reject purity? Today’s fashion. Today’s movies. Today’s television. Today’s music.
Purity is a divine trait, a characteristic of holiness, to which every human being is called, especially Christians. We accept as willing servants of Christ to lay down our will and our sinful desires to be in communion with God.
Purity is a state of the heart. Purity is the deep desire to know nothing but God. To serve no one but Him. The pure inner state of heart is to be reflected outwardly in our dress, in our words, in our deeds—in every facet of our lives as a witness to the Purity of God.
To whom do the saints in the Icons point? To themselves? No icon of the Mother of God, or of any other saint, indicates, “look at me!” How much more are we who are living called not to point or draw attention to our selves, but rather to point to Christ? So, how do we dress? Do we call attention to ourselves? Are our clothes tight and revealing? Subtly or overtly seductive? On the other end of the spectrum, are they sloppy and torn? By our piercings and hairstyles are we trying to gain an image for ourselves? (These questions are for men and women alike!) Purity does not attract attention to itself. Consider even the words of the Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the coming Messiah, Jesus: “he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus didn’t come as some macho, super-buff sports star. He came as one we might (and do!) miss, if we weren’t looking for Him. The Mother of God was not a super-model, bone thin, in low-cut clothes, attracting attention to herself. Rather, she was humble, simple, unassuming and submitted to the Divine will in purity, chastity, and holiness. Should we be any different?
Garbage in, garbage out. Who are our models? Our Lord? His mother? The saints? More often than not, not these, but rather some stellar athlete, a diva, a supermodel or a Hollywood actor. When we fill our lives—our minds, our eyes and ears, our souls with secular media which promotes porneia (unchastity), adultery, gluttony, sloth, selfishness, lust, and pride, how can we expect to be made pure in an instant at the Chalice or at confession?
Purity is not a rejection of the body, or of sex, or of being in shape or of music or tv or movies in general. These all can be good. Rather, purity is the body, sex—life—rightly understood. It is the self—indeed the whole life—offered first in total innocence to God, and then, in measured ways to others. Measured both in quantity and type.
Where has purity gone? God grant is to recognize our rejection of it, and to turn and live in manners holy and pleasing to Him.