My adoration for the theology of St. Augustine (354-431 A.D.) is an open secret, but even if his views of marriage and sexuality are read in context (which does not happen often enough, in my opinion), he still comes across as a bit of a pessimist on those subjects. Of course, this is the man who infamously prayed [paraphrased]: "Lord, make me chaste, but not just yet."

Unlike Augustine the philandering playboy-turned-celibate, St. John Chrysostom (347–407 A.D.) apparently did not undergo an epic struggle with continence, but was instead a monk renowned for his strict asceticism. However, his views of love, marriage, the body, and sexuality are nothing short of optimistic and uplifting, even by contemporary standards. In one sermon, John even goes so far as to rebuke his listeners for blushing and becoming uncomfortable about his frank and positive appraisal of intimacy within marriage. He tells them that their values are disordered if his preaching on the topic embarrasses them, while they are unashamed to spend exorbitant sums of money on weddings that rival pagan celebrations and devolve into drunken debauchery.

John's collected homilies on the topic of marriage and family life praise the beauty and holiness of this vocation, and offer irrefutable evidence against claims that the Fathers of the Church shared a universally dour outlook on the body and sex. It is a quick read, and worth the time of anyone interested in patristics or historical theology of marriage.

"Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers....If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks." (Homily 20)