August 21, 2019

Of Holy Virginity:…..#3

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. This book begins, etc.

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, be Not as one educated but Unlearned. CONT. from 2 paragragh#18

19. But lest any should think that of two works, the good and the better, the rewards will be equal, on this account it was necessary to treat against those, who have so interpreted that saying of the Apostle, But I think that this is good by reason of the present necessity, as to say that virginity is of use not in order to the kingdom of heaven, but in order to this present time: as though in that eternal life, they, who had chosen this better part, would have nothing more than the rest of men. And in this discussion when we came to that saying of the same Apostle, But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you; we fell in with other disputants, who so far from making marriage equal to perpetual virginity, altogether condemned it. For whereas both are errors, either to equal marriage to holy virginity, or to condemn it: by fleeing from one another to excess, these two errors come into open collision, in that they have been unwilling to hold the mean of truth: whereby, both by sure reason and authority of holy Scriptures, we both discover that marriage is not a sin, and yet equal it not to the good either of virginal or even of widowed chastity. Some forsooth by aiming at virginity, have thought marriage hateful even as adultery: but others, by defending marriage, would have the excellence of perpetual continence to deserve nothing more than married chastity; as though either the good of Susanna be the lowering of Mary: or the greater good of Mary ought to be the condemnation of Susanna.

St Genevieve, Virgin and Monastic

20. Far be it, therefore, that the Apostle so said, unto such as are married or are about to marry, But I spare you, as if he were unwilling to say what punishment is due to the married in another life. Far be it that she, whom Daniel set free from temporal judgment, be cast by Paul into hell! Far be it that her husband’s bed be unto her punishment before the judgment seat of Christ, keeping faith to which she chose, under false charge of adultery, to meet either danger, or death! To what effect that speech, It is better for me to fall into your hands, than to sin in the sight of God: if God had been about, not to set her free because she kept married chastity, but to condemn her because she had married? And now so often as married chastity is by truth of holy Scripture justified against such as bring calumnies and charges against marriage, so often is Susanna by the Holy Ghost defended against false witnesses, so often is she set free from a false charge, and with much greater ado. For then against one married woman, now against all; then of hidden and untrue adultery, now of true and open marriage, an accusation is laid. Then one woman, upon what the unjust elders said, now all husbands and wives, upon what the Apostle would not say, are accused. It was, forsooth, your condemnation, say they, that he was silent on, when he said, But I spare you. Who (says) this? Surely he, who had said above; And, if you shall have taken a wife, you have not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sins not. Why, therefore, wherein he has been silent through modesty, suspect ye a charge against marriage; and wherein he has spoken openly, recognize ye not a defense of marriage? What, does he condemn by his silence them whom he acquitted by his words? Is it not now a milder charge, to charge Susanna, not with marriage, but with adultery itself, than to charge the doctrine of the Apostle with falsehood? What in so great peril could we do, were it not as sure and plain that chaste marriage ought not to be condemned, as it is sure and plain that holy Scripture cannot lie?

21. Here some one will say, What has this to do with holy virginity, or perpetual continence, the setting forth of which was undertaken in this discourse? To whom I make answer in the first place, what I mentioned above, that the glory of that greater good is greater from the fact that, in order to obtain it, the good of married life is surmounted, not the sin of marriage shunned. Otherwise it would be enough for perpetual continence, not to be specially praised, but only not to be blamed: if it were maintained on this account, because it was a crime to wed. In the next place, because it is not by human judgment, but by authority of Divine Scripture, that men must be exhorted unto so excellent a gift, we must plead not in a common-place manner, or merely by the way, that divine scriptures itself seem not to any one in any matter to have lied. For they discourage rather than exhort holy virgins, who compel them to continue so by passing sentence on marriage. For whence can they feel sure that that is true, which is written, And he, who gives her not in marriage, does better: if they think that false, which yet is written close above, Both he, who gives his virgin, does well? But, if they shall without all doubt have believed Scripture speaking of the good of marriage, confirmed by the same most true authority of the divine oracle, they will hasten beyond unto their own better part with glowing and confident eagerness. Wherefore we have already spoken enough for the business which we have taken in hand, and, so far as we could, have shown, that neither that saying of the Apostle, But I think that this is good by reason of the present necessity, is so to be understood, as though in this life holy virgins are better than faithful woman married, but are equal in the kingdom of heaven, and in a future life: nor that other, where he says of such as wed, But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you; is to be so understood, as though he chose rather to be silent on, than to speak of, the sin and condemnation of marriage. Forsooth two errors, contrary the one to the other, have, through not understanding them, taken hold of each one of these two sentences. For that concerning the present necessity they interpret in their own favor, who contend to equal such as wed to such as wed not: but this, where it is said, But I spare you, they who presume to condemn such as wed. But we, according to the faith and sound doctrine of holy scriptures both say that marriage is no sin, and yet set its good not only below virginal, but also below widowed continence; and say that the present necessity of married persons is an hindrance to their desert, not indeed unto life eternal, but unto an excellent glory and honor, which is reserved for perpetual continence: and that at this time marriage is not expedient save for such as contain not; and that on the tribulation of the flesh, which comes from the affection of the flesh, without which marriages of incontinent persons cannot be, the Apostle neither wished to be silent, as forewarning what was true, nor to unfold more fully, as sparing man’s weakness.

St. Glyceria, Virgin and Martyr – Byzantine hand painted art. Icon

22. And now by plainest witnesses of divine Scriptures, such as according to the small measure of our memory we shall be able to remember, let it more clearly appear, that, not on account of the present life of this world, but on account of that future life which is promised in the kingdom of heaven, we are to choose perpetual continence. But who but must observe this in that which the same Apostle says a little after, Whoever is without a wife has thought of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord: but whoever is joined in marriage has thought of the things of the world, how to please his wife. And a woman unmarried and a virgin is divided; she that is unmarried is careful about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit: but she that is married is careful about the things of the world, how to please her husband. Certainly he says not, has thought of the things of a state without care in this world, to pass her time without weightier troubles; nor does he say that a woman unmarried and a virgin is divided, that is, distinguished, and separated from her who is married, for this end, that the unmarried woman be without care in this life, in order to avoid temporal troubles, which the married woman is not free from: but, She has thought, says he, of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord; and is careful about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. Unless to such a degree, perchance, each be foolishly contentious, as to essay to assert, that it is not on account of the kingdom of heaven, but on account of this present world, that we wish to please the Lord, or that it is on account of this present life, not on account of life eternal, that they are holy both in body and spirit. To believe this, what else is it, than to be more miserable than all men? For so the Apostle says, “If in this life only we are hoping in Christ, we are more miserable than all men.” (1Cor15:19) What? Is he who breaks his bread to the hungry, if he do it only on account of this life, a fool; and shall he be prudent, who chastens his own body even unto continence, whereby he has no intercourse even in marriage, if it shall profit him nought in the kingdom of heaven?

23. Lastly, let us hear the Lord Himself delivering most plain judgment on this matter. For, upon His speaking after a divine and fearful manner concerning husband and wife not separating, save on account of fornication, His disciples said to Him, If the case be such with a wife, it is not good to marry. To whom He says, “Not all receive this saying. For there are eunuchs who were so born: but there are others who were made by men: and there are eunuchs, who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: whoever can receive, let him receive.” (Mt19:12) What could be said more true, what more clear? Christ says, the Truth says, the Power and Wisdom of God says, that they, who of pious purpose have contained from marrying a wife, make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: and against this, human vanity with impious rashness contends, that they, who do so, shun only the present necessity of the troubles of married life, but in the kingdom of heaven have no more than others.

24. But concerning what eunuchs speaks God by the prophet Isaiah, unto whom He says that “He will give in His house and in His wall a place by name, much better than of sons and daughters, save concerning these, who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven?(Is56:5) For for these, whose bodily organ is without strength, so that they cannot beget, (such as are the eunuchs of rich men and of kings,) it is surely enough, when they become Christians, and keep the commands of God, yet have this purpose, that, if they could, they would have wives, to be made equal to the rest of the faithful in the house of God, who are married, who bring up in the fear of God a family which they have lawfully and chastely gotten, teaching their sons to set their hope on God; but not to receive a better place than of sons and daughters. For it is not of virtue of the soul, but of necessity of the flesh, that they marry not wives. Let who will contend that the Prophet foretold this of those eunuchs who have suffered mutilation of body; that even also helps the cause which we have undertaken. For God has not preferred these eunuchs to such as have no place in His house, but assuredly to those who keep the desert of married life in begetting sons. For, when He says, I will give unto them a place much better; He shows that one is also given unto the married, but much inferior. Therefore, to allow that in the house of God there will be the eunuchs after the flesh spoken of above, who were not in the People of Israel: because we see that these also themselves, whereas they become not Jews, yet become Christians: and that the Prophet spoke not of them, who through purpose of continence seeking not marriage, make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: is any one so madly opposed to the truth as to believe that eunuchs made so in the flesh have a better place than married persons in the house of God, and to contend that persons being of pious purpose continent, chastening the body even unto contempt of marriage, making themselves eunuchs, not in the body, but in the very root of concupiscence, practicing an heavenly and angelic life in an earthly mortal state, are on a level with the deserts of the married; and, being a Christians, to gainsay Christ when He praises those who have made themselves eunuchs, not for the sake of this world, but for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, affirming that this is of use for the present life, not for a future? What else remains for these, save to assert that the kingdom of heaven itself pertains unto this temporal life, wherein we now are? For why should not blind presumption advance even to this madness? And what more full of phrensy than this assertion? For, although at times the Church, even that which is at this time, is called the kingdom of heaven; certainly it is so called for this end, because it is being gathered together for a future and eternal life. Although, therefore, it have the promise of the present, and of a future life, yet in all its good works it looks not to the things that are seen, but to what are not seen. For what are seen are temporal; but what are not seen, are eternal.

St Agatha, Virgin and martyr 251 AD., One the Church’s Incorruptibles

The incorrupt body of St Agatha was transferred to Constantinople in the 11th century, and then returned to Catania. The body is now preserved in different reliquaries. “The arms, legs, and breasts are preserved in a glass case in an incorrupt condition, although rather dried and dark after more than 17 centuries.

Quintianus then remanded the saint to prison, commanding that her wounds should be left undressed, in order that she might expire under the torture. But at midnight St. Peter appeared to her in a vision, perfectly cured her wounds, and freed her from all pain; during the entire of that night there appeared in the interior of the prison so resplendent a light that the guards fled in terror, leaving the door of her dungeon open… St Agatha replied: “God is my life and my salvation.(Ps87[86]:2) The governor then put her to the torture, which was executed with barbarous cruelty.

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