Examples of Heathens Urged as Commendatory of Widowhood and Celibacy.
But if they who have (wives) are (thus) bound to consign to oblivion what they have, how much more are they who have not, prohibited from seeking a second time what they no longer have; so that she whose husband has departed from the world should thenceforward impose rest on her sex by abstinence from marriage -- abstinence which numbers of Gentile women devote to the memory of beloved husbands! When anything seems difficult, let us survey others who cope with still greater difficulties. How many are there who from the moment of their baptism set the seal (of virginity) upon their flesh? How many, again, who by equal mutual consent cancel the debt of matrimony -- voluntary eunuchs [403] for the sake of their desire after the celestial kingdom! But if, while the marriage-tie is still intact, abstinence is endured, how much more when it has been undone! For I believe it to be harder for what is intact to be quite forsaken, than for what has been lost not to be yearned after. A hard and arduous thing enough, surely, is the continence for God's sake of a holy woman after her husband's decease, when Gentiles, [404] in honour of their own Satan, endure sacerdotal offices which involve both virginity and widowhood! [405] At Rome, for instance, they who have to do with the type of that "inextinguishable fire," [406] keeping watch over the omens of their own (future) penalty, in company with the (old) dragon [407] himself, are appointed on the ground of virginity. To the Achæan Juno, at the town Ægium, a virgin is allotted; and the (priestesses) who rave at Delphi know not marriage. Moreover, we know that widows minister to the African Ceres; enticed away, indeed, from matrimony by a most stem oblivion: for not only do they withdraw from their still living husbands, but they even introduce other wives to them in their own room -- the husbands, of course, smiling on it -- all contact (with males), even as far as the kiss of their sons, being forbidden them; and yet, with enduring practice, they persevere in such a discipline of widowhood, which excludes the solace even of holy affection. [408] These precepts has the devil given to his servants, and he is heard! He challenges, forsooth, God's servants, by the continence of his own, as if on equal terms! Continent are even the priests of hell! [409] For he has found a way to ruin men even in good pursuits; and with him it makes no difference to slay some by voluptuousness, some by continence.


[403] Comp. de Pa., xiii., and Matthew 19:12. Comp. too, de Ex. Cast., c. i.

[404] i.e., Gentile women.

[405] Oehler marks this as a question.

[406] Matthew 3:12.

[407] Comp. Revelation 12:9, and de Bapt., 1.

[408] Pietatis.

[409] Gehennæ; comp. de Pæn., c. xii. ad init.

chapter v of the love of
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