De virginitate [ St Augustine: From the Retractions 2:23: After I had written ‘on the Good of Marriage,’ it was expected that I should write on Holy Virginity; and I did not delay to do so: and that it is God’s gift, and how great a gift, and with what humility to be guarded, so far as I was able I set forth in one volume.
Holy Virgins have been a “mark” of this Catholic Church from the beginning Jesus, Mary and St Joseph, “her most Chaste spouse” are our Holy Family for imitation. The City brings St Augustine time lasted, “Of Holy Virgins” from his theological and philosophical mind describing this holy dignity. He leaves the “spiritual” senses to the Mystics. The Church has many writers and lives to read and learn...CityofGod.blog.
9. Wherefore neither are we to believe that their fruitfulness of the flesh, who at this time seek in marriage nothing else save children, to make over unto Christ, can be set against the loss of virginity. Forsooth, in former times, unto Christ about to come after the flesh, the race itself of the flesh was needful, in a certain large and prophetic nation: but now, when from out every race of men, and from out all nations, members of Christ may be gathered unto the People of God, and City of the kingdom of heaven, whoever can receive sacred virginity, let him receive it; and let her only, who contains not, be married. For what, if any rich women were to expend much money on this good work, and to buy, from out different nations, slaves to make Christians, will she not provide for the giving birth to members of Christ in a manner more rich, and more numerous, than by any, how great soever, fruitfulness of the womb? And yet she will not therefore dare to compare her money to the offering of holy virginity. But if for the sake of making such as shall be born Christians, fruitfulness of the flesh shall with just reason be set against the loss of chastity, this matter will be more fruitful, if virginity be lost at a great price of money, whereby many more children may be purchased to be made Christians, than could be born from the womb, however fruitful, of a single person. But, if it be extreme folly to say this, let the faithful women that are married possess their own good, of which we have treated, so far as seemed fit, in another volume; and let them more highly honor, even as they are most rightly used to do, in the sacred virgins, their better good, of which we are treating in our present discourse.
10. For not even herein ought such as are married to compare themselves with the deserts of the continent, in that of them virgins are born: for this is not a good of marriage, but of nature: which was so ordered of God, as that of every sexual intercourse whatever of the two sexes of human kind, whether in due order and honest, or base and unlawful, there is born no female save a virgin, yet is none born a sacred virgin: so it is brought to pass that a virgin is born even of fornication, but a sacred virgin not even of marriage.
11. Nor do we ourselves set forth this in virgins that they are virgins; but that they are virgins dedicated unto God by pious continence. For it is not at a venture that I may say, a married woman seems to me happier than a virgin about to be married: for the one has what the other as yet desires, especially if she be not yet even the betrothed of any one. The one studies to please one, unto whom she has been given; the other many, in doubt unto whom she is to be given: by this one thing she guards modesty of thought from the crowd, that she is seeking, not an adulterer, but a husband, in the crowd. Therefore that virgin is with good reason set before a married woman, who neither sets herself forth for the multitude to love, whereas she seeks from out the multitude the love of one; nor, having now found him, orders herself for one, taking thought of the things of the world, how to please her husband; but has so loved Him of fair beauty above the sons of men, as that, because she could not, even as Mary, conceive Him in her flesh, she has kept her flesh also virgin for Him conceived in her heart. This kind of virgins no fruitfulness of the body has given birth to: this is no progeny of flesh and blood. If of these the mother be sought for, it is the Church. None bears sacred virgins save a sacred virgin, she who has been espoused to be presented chaste unto one Husband, Christ. Of her, not altogether in body, but altogether in spirit virgin, are born holy virgins both in body and in spirit.
12. Let marriages possess their own good, not that they beget sons, but that honestly, that lawfully, that modestly, that in a spirit of fellowship they beget them, and educate them, after they have been begotten, with cooperation, with wholesome teaching, and earnest purpose: in that they keep the faith of the couch one with another; in that they violate not the sacrament of wedlock. All these, however, are offices of human duty: but virginal chastity and freedom through pious continence from all sexual intercourse is the portion of Angels, and a practice, in corruptible flesh, of perpetual incorruption. To this let all fruitfulness of the flesh yield, all chastity of married life; the one is not in (man’s) power, the other is not in eternity; free choice has not fruitfulness of the flesh, heaven has not chastity of married life. Assuredly they will have something great beyond others in that common immortality, who have something already not of the flesh in the flesh.
13. Whence they are marvelously void of wisdom, who think that the good of this continence is not necessary for the sake of the kingdom of heaven but for the sake of the present world: in that, forsooth, married persons are strained different ways by earthly cares more and more straitened, from which trouble virgins and continent persons are free: as though on this account only it were better not to be married, that the straits of this present time may be escaped, not that it is of any profit unto a future life. And, that they may not seem to have put forth this vain opinion from out the vanity of their own heart, they take the Apostle to witness, where he says, But concerning virgins not command of the Lord, but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy from God to be faithful. Therefore I think that this is good on account of the present necessity, because it is good for a man so to be. Lo, say they, where the Apostle shows that this is good on account of the present necessity, not on account of the future eternity. As though the Apostle would have regard for the present necessity, otherwise than as providing and consulting for the future; whereas all his dealing calls not save unto life eternal.
14. It is, therefore, the present necessity that we are to avoid, but yet such as is a hindrance to somewhat of the good things to come; by which necessity the married life is forced to have thought of the things of the world, how to please, the husband the wife or the wife the husband. Not that these separate from the kingdom of God, as there are sins, which are restrained by command, not by counsel, on this account, because it is matter of condemnation not to obey the Lord when He commands: but that, which, within the kingdom of God itself, might be more largely possessed, if there were larger thoughts how they were to please God, will assuredly be less, when as this very thing is less thought of by necessity of marriage. Therefore he says, Concerning virgins, I have not command of the Lord. For whosoever obeys not a command, is guilty and liable for punishment. Wherefore, because it is not sin to marry a wife or to be married, (but if it were a sin, it would be forbidden by a Command,) on this account there is no Command of the Lord concerning virgins. But since, after we have shunned or had forgiveness of sins, we must approach eternal life, wherein is a certain or more excellent glory, to be assigned not unto all who shall live for ever, but unto certain there; in order to obtain which it is not enough to have been set free from sins, unless there be vowed unto Him, Who sets us free, something, which it is no matter of fault not to have vowed, but matter of praise to have vowed and performed; he says, I give counsel, as having obtained mercy from God that I should be faithful. For neither ought I to grudge faithful counsel, who not by my own merits, but by the mercy of God, am faithful. I think therefore that this is good, by reason of the present necessity. This, says he, on which I have not command of the Lord, but give counsel, that is concerning virgins, I think to be good by reason of the present necessity. For I know what the necessity of the present time, unto which marriages serve, compels, that the things of God be less thought of than is enough for the obtaining that glory, which shall not be of all, although they abide in eternal life and salvation: For star differs from star in brightness; so also the Resurrection of the dead. It is, therefore, good for a man so to be.
15. After that the same Apostle adds, and says, “You are bound to a wife, seek not loosening: you are loosed from a wife, seek not a wife.”(1Cor7:27). Of these two, that, which be set first, pertains unto command, against which it is not lawful to do. For it is not lawful to put away a wife, save because of fornication, as the Lord Himself says in the Gospel. But that, which he added, You are loosed from a wife, seek not a wife, is a sentence of counsel, not of command; therefore it is lawful to do, but it is better not to do. Lastly, he added straightway, Both if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not. But, after that former saying of his, You are bound to a wife, seek not loosening, he added not, did he, And if you shall have loosed, you have not sinned? For he had already said above, But to these, who are in marriage, I command, not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from her husband: but, if she shall have departed, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled unto her own husband; for it may come to pass that she depart, not through any fault of her own, but of her husband. Then he says, And let not the man put away his wife, which, nevertheless, he set down of command of the Lord: nor did he then add, And, if he shall have put her away, he sins not. For this is a command, not to obey which is sin: not a counsel, which if you shall be unwilling to use, you will obtain less good, not do any ill. On this account, after he had said, You are loosed from a wife, seek not a wife; because he was not giving command, in order that there be not evil done, but was giving counsel, in order that there be done what is better: straightway he added, Both, if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not.
16. Yet he added, “But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you:” (1Cor7:28) in this manner exhorting unto virginity, and continual continence, so as some little to alarm also from marriage, with all modesty, not as from a matter evil and unlawful, but as from one burdensome and troublesome. For it is one thing to incur dishonor of the flesh, and another to have tribulation of the flesh: the one is matter of crime to do, the other of labor to suffer, which for the most part men refuse not even for the most honorable duties. But for the having of marriage, now at this time, wherein there is no service done unto Christ about to come through descent of flesh by the begetting of the family itself, to take upon one to bear that tribulation of the flesh, which the Apostle foretells to such as shall be married, would be extremely foolish, did not incontinent persons fear, lest, through the temptation of Satan, they should fall into damnable sins. But whereas he says that he spares them, who he says will have tribulation of the flesh, there suggests itself to me in the mean while no sounder interpretation, than that he was unwilling to open, and unfold in words, this self-same tribulation of the flesh which he fore-announced to those who choose marriage, in suspicions of jealousy of married life, in the begetting and nurture of children, in fears and sorrows of childlessness. For how very few, after they have bound themselves with the bonds of marriage, are not drawn and driven to and fro by these feelings? And this we ought not to exaggerate, lest we spare not the very person, who the Apostle thought were to be spared.
17. Only by this, which I have briefly set down, the reader ought to be set on his guard against those, who, in this that is written, but such shall have tribulation of the flesh but I spare you, falsely charge marriage, as indirectly condemned by this sentence; as though he were unwilling to utter the condemnation itself, when he says, But I spare you; so that, forsooth, when he spares them, he spared not his own soul, as saying falsely, And, if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not. And this, whoever believe or would have believed concerning Scripture, they, as it were prepare for themselves a way for liberty of lying, or for defense of their own perverse opinion, in whatever case they hold other sentiments than what sound doctrine demands. For if there shall be alleged any plain statement from the divine books, whereby to refute their errors, this they have at hand as a shield, whereby defending themselves as it were against the truth, they lay themselves bare to be wounded by the devil: to say that the author of the book did not speak the truth in this instance, at one time in order to spare the weak, at another in order to alarm despisers: just as a case shall come to hand, wherein to defend their own perverse opinion: and thus, while they had rather defend than amend their own opinions, they essay to break the authority of holy Scripture, whereby alone all proud and hard necks are broken.
18. Wherefore I admonish both men and women who follow after perpetual continence and holy virginity, that they so set their own good before marriage, as that they judge not marriage an evil: and that they understand that it was in no way of deceit, but of plain truth that it was said by the Apostle, Whoever gives in marriage does well; and whoever gives not in marriage, does better; and, if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not; and a little after, But she will be more blessed, if she shall have continued so, according to my judgment. And, that the judgment should not be thought human, he adds, But I think I also have the spirit of God This is the doctrine of the Lord, this of the Apostles, this true, this sound, so to choose greater gifts, as that the lesser be not condemned. The truth of God, in the Scripture of God, is better than virginity of man in the mind or flesh of any. Let what is chaste be so loved, as that what is true be not denied. For what evil thought may they not have even concerning their own flesh, who believe that the tongue of the Apostle, in that very place, wherein he was commending virginity of body, was not virgin from corruption of lying. In the first place, therefore, and chiefly, let such as choose the good of virginity, hold most firmly that the holy Scriptures have in nothing spoken lies; and, thus, that that also is true which is said, And if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not. And let them not think that the so great good of virgin chastity is made less, if marriage shall not be an evil. Yea rather, let her hence feel confident, rather, that there is prepared for her a palm of greater glory, who feared not to be condemned, in case she were married, but desired to receive a more honorable crown, in that she was not married. Whoever therefore shall be willing to abide without marriage, let them not flee from marriage as a pitfall of sin; but let them surmount it as a hill of the lesser good, in order that they may rest in the mountain of the greater, continence. It is on this condition, forsooth, that this hill is dwelt on; that one leave it not when he will. For, a woman is bound, so long as her husband lives. However unto widowed continence one ascends from it as from a step: but for the sake of virgin continence, one must either turn aside from it by not consenting to suitors, or over leap it by anticipating suitors.
Source. Translated by C.L. Cornish. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1310.htm>.
[“Dominica said to Apollonius: “In no manner can you turn me away from my Faith. If you throw me into the fire, I have an example in the Three Youths [Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego]; if you throw me before wild beasts, I have an example in Daniel the Prophet; if you toss me into the sea, I have an example in Jonah the Prophet; if you give me over to the sword, I will remember the honorable Forerunner [John the Baptist]; life for me is to die for Christ.” Maybe Martin Luther, should have read of this Saints 4th Century heroic feats, miraculous visions, healings and protection from flames, before [proclaiming the Book of Daniel burning furnace as Apocrypha. (Martin Luther the Unlearned Augustinian Monk)