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Ebur Castitatis

"In ancient times, ivory was a rare, costly import from far-off Africa or India... but metals rust, alloys tarnish, and wood rots. Ivory grows more beautiful with age... Here then is one of ivory's …More
"In ancient times, ivory was a rare, costly import from far-off Africa or India... but metals rust, alloys tarnish, and wood rots. Ivory grows more beautiful with age... Here then is one of ivory's greatest assets - its constancy or consistency, its ability to retain its shape. This ability to come into contact wth harsh reality without being thereby changed or destroyed is what makes ivory the perfect symbol for loyalty and fidelity. When men began to reconstruct Dominic's life they were struck by the fact that he enjoyed the company of women, especially of young women, and did so without ever sinning. Observers began to preceive how fine and noble and true a life he had led, and in the end expressed their admiration by calling him an 'ivory of chastity'. The combination of ivory and chastity requires a bit of explaining. If ivory belongs pretty much to the past, many today are of the opinion that chastity belongs there also. Many view with suspicion anyone who vows a life of chastity, which they interpret as hypocritical, impossible, selfish, or (especially) neurotic... Chastity is not running away from people, an insensitivity to love or to other human beings; it is rather a special loving way of giving oneself to God and to man, an unswerving gift of one's whole self.... those who vow chastity [celibacy, strictly speaking] commit themselves fully to the love of God and of other human beings in the single state. It is of this generous gift of self that ivory is the beautiful symbol." – Fr Richard Murphy OP This photo shows a 17th-century carving of St Dominic fashioned from a peice of ivory.

Source: Lawrence OP on Flickr