CHOICE OF A STATE
[continued from yesterday]
How is it that nearly the whole of the creative literature of the world has been made to center round the young girl?
How is it that love stories about married people, widows, and widowers, have such a prosaic savor and so often tend towards degeneracy?
It is because there is something mysterious in virginity. There is a power hidden in the virgin mind which can change the destinies of men, of nations, of the race. Shall this power be divided, ministering to the procreation of body and education of soul? Or shall it renounce the carnal part and be devoted exclusively to the care of the spirit?
These questions are very old, perhaps as old as the human race itself; for there is some reason to believe that the sins of our first parents had something to do with the vow of virginity.
At any rate we know that in the earliest Roman times the problem faced the maidens of the family. Vesta was the goddess of the hearth. But family worship was not enough. A special sanctuary was needed where all the citizens of the State could worship as one great family. The goddess was there represented by an eternal fire burning on her hearth or altar. And virgins were set aside to keep alive this fire.
The goddess was chaste and pure, as the fire symbolized. The virginity of the priestesses both figured and realized that purity. Thus, even in natural religion virginity was regarded as a higher type of spirit life.
When God became incarnate He added a higher sanctity to virginity by choosing to be born of a Virgin. By the same act too he raised the dignity of motherhood. Both states of life were needed for the perfection of His plans. Some would be called to one state, others to the other.
Christ Himself declared that renunciation of marriage was more blessed than fruition, provided it was done for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Not every one could receive that word, but he who could, let him.
St. Paul applied this doctrine when he said:
"He that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well, and he that giveth her not doeth better."In biblical language the term "virgin" includes men as well as women. Thus St. John in the Apocalypse says:
"These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins."In modern language we speak of the men as celibates. The Council of Trent uses both words in defining that single blessedness is the higher gift.
"If anyone says that the married state is to be placed before that of virginity or celibacy, and that it is not a better and more blessed thing to remain in virginity or celibacy than to be joined in matrimony, let him be anathema."The virginity or celibacy here spoken of is not necessarily that of the ecclesiastical or religious life....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.