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persecution or of tranquillity, of decaying or advancing civilisation, of barbarous violence or the quiet peace of social wealth and strength, here a portion of this people is found on whom the example of its Lord and His Mother acts as a magnet, drawing them to itself, severing them from the world, giving them supernatural instead of natural aims, heavenly instead of earthly affections. Before our Lord's Incarnation* no race on earth, whatever its natural gifts, had produced such a phenomenon. After it even the weakest of Asiatic races can exhibit these choosers of a selfdenying life, these affianced lovers of an unseen beauty; and the strongest offspring of the North, the men whose wills have gained kingdoms, and founded the freest and most self-relying polities, have bent no small portion of their sinew, and rendered up the very flower of their beauty to this humble following of a Crucified Love. Norman nobles, the stoutest of the earth, and Annamite youths the weakest, heirs of Roman greatness, the long-descended line of Scipio, whose possessions were provinces, whose halls crowded with busts of consular ancestors, and the daughters of Syrian mothers, who wept “in amorous ditties all a summer day” for “Thammuz yearly wounded;" the chancellors and ministers of wise and politic kings, who each in their day thought to make the Church their vassal, and the slaves of Roman matrons, who made a pastime of human suffering; all these, and every variety of earthly race and station, will be found hereafter in that mystical number of twelve times twelve thousand, who represent these special attendants, because they have been special imitators of a God made Man.
* This does not exclude such rare types of our Lord amid the Jewish Prophets as Elias, Daniel, Jeremiah, and others. I imagine that the precepts of the Essenes were derived from a study of the lives of these prophets by a sort of anticipation of Christian feeling. At any rate, they did not continue, nor propagate themselves. Upon the Oriental Virgin and Child, and certain Buddhist institutions, we require further information, as to the time of their arising, and as to what the institutions in practice really are. There is every reason to believe that the Christian religion was once widely spread in these regions. I know not whether it can be proved, but certainly it may be surmised, unless contradictory proof be alleged, that these appearances were posterior to our Lord's advent,
II. We have seen how the natural propagation of the race was put under the guard and shadow of the Incarnation in the original marriage which was its image. For the words of Adam describing his union with his wife, “ This now is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she has been taken from
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh”—are interpret by St. Paul* to indicate a great mystery, that is, the whole work of the Incarnation, and the union of Christ with His Church. By this interpretation of the Apostle the following principles are laid down.
The Incarnation is a remaking of the very same Adam, or human nature, spoilt at the Fall,
* Ephes. v. 25-32
the flesh assumed being that identical flesh which the Creator moulded from the clay, and animated with His breath.
The ecstasy of Christ in His passion is the truth of which Adam's ecstasy when Eve was formed is the shadow.
The formation of the Church from the side of Christ sleeping on the Cross is the truth of which Eve's formation from Adam sleeping is the shadow.
The spiritual generation of Christ's members from the Church is the truth of which Adam's words to Eve represent the shadow.
The man who shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to the wife is Christ.
The manner of the joining is that virginal espousal by which the soul is first made the bride of Christ, and then bears to Him other souls as the fruit of that espousal.
And, lastly, in the spiritual generation Virginity corresponds to marriage in the natural. It is as much the means of propagating the spiritual race as marriage is of propagating the natural.*
Thus, on the one hand, marriage was consecrated from the very first as being an image of the Incarnation. But, on the other hand, the Incarnation itself was to be achieved by Virginity. And so this was a special imitation of our Lord's life and of His Mother's. And further, in accordance with its origin, and with this imitation, a special work is assigned to it, the propagation of the supernatural life and of its peculiar works. Virginity, with the virtue of continence, subordinate to it, is found to be the condition of the Church's fecundity. The prophecy of the Gospel times is, “The Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son," which is true first in our Lord's Person, and then in His mystical Body
* The principles of interpretation here laid down may be found in S. Methodius, Convivium decem Virginum, Thalia, 8. Gallandi, tom. iii, 688, 689.
Let us proceed here as before to interrogate the witness of history, and to see whether it accords with the dogmatic basis just laid down.
For not only is the virginal life beautiful and admirable in itself, whether we consider it as a peculiar imitation of our Lord and His Mother, or as a dedication of the whole creature to God, or as a continual sacrifice offered to Him, or as an espousal of the heavenly Bridegroom, or as an anticipation of the angelic life, and that in a body beset by earthly desires, or not as a command, but as the freest of free choices; but it seems to be likewise the almost necessary preliminary condition of other things which are not commands but counsels, not enjoined on the whole multitude, but reserved for the most devoted and loving. Without it how can either the possession of worldly goods be disregarded, or voluntary obedience of the will practised? The portion of marriage, as I have already said, is worldly cares, the pursuit of riches, the conflict for the material prizes of life. The very best of men, so involved, become in spite of themselves slaves of the outward world, unwilling and murmuring slaves it may be, but still slaves. The spring of their actions is their advancement in temporal goods, a motive coloured by them with the love of wife and children, but which is in itself a proscription of all liberty and independence. Poverty of spirit and desire of prosperity are the negations of each other. The family life becomes a sort of closed and sacred circle, within which the strongest affections of the human mind are nurtured and developed, for which men and women live, while all else is exterior to them, and almost indifferent, except as an object to be gained and used for the former's sake.
Over and against such a life the Virginal Estate, looking to God alone, and content with Him for its portion, stands in the strongest contrast. If it be not itself a perfect self-sacrifice, it is at least alone compatible with it. If it be not itself an exercise of the highest freedom of the will, of the most complete independence of external things, it alone makes its possessor capable of such freedom and independence. If it be not itself the completest form of voluntary obedience, it alone makes such an obedience possible. All great works undertaken for the supernatural life, and its propagation in the world, such as the government of souls, the conversion of the heathen, the reformation of great evils, demand the sacrifice to them of the