St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Exhortation to Virginity, One Book (393 A.D.)

Chapter 1

Ambrose, arriving at Bologna, relates that he brought presents to those who invited him, namely, the relics of the martyrs Agricola and Vitalis. Although one of these has been master, the other a slave, yet a comparison is made; and as he preceded him to martyrdom, it is known that with Christ slavery is no impediment. Then the struggle of both is described; which the Saint illustrates from the name of both. Then the burial-places which they had received in the graves of the Jews, he relates with how much joy they were discovered and brought out.

1. Those who are invited to a great banquet are wont to bring back presents for themselves. I was invited to the banquet in Bologna, where the translation of the holy martyr was celebrated, and I reserved presents for you full of holiness and grace. Presents, however, are wont to have the triumphs of princes; and these presents are triumphal, for the triumphs of Christ our prince are the palms of the martyrs. Nor, indeed, did I direct my journey hither; but, as I have been requested by you, I was obliged to convey to me the things which were being planned by others, that I should not come to you less; so that what is less in me than was anticipated, more might be found in the martyr.

2. The martyr's name is Agricola, who before was a slave of Vitalis, now a partner and colleague of the martyr. The servant preceded to provide the place; the master followed, assured that he was already prepared by the faith of the servant. We do not praise others; for the passion of the master's servant is discipline. What the one instituted, the other fulfilled. Nothing is stripped of him. For how can what Christ has given be diminished? By serving a noble man, he learned how to please Christ; yet he gained a double praise, in him for his teaching, and in him for his martyrdom. They strove among themselves, however, for their favors, after they had deserved to be equal. The latter sent him before to martyrdom, the former sent for him.

3. Therefore, the condition of man brings no impediment to his commendation; nor does the dignity of the family bring merit, but faith. Whether we are slave or free, we are all one in Christ.And whatsoever good thing any man shall do, the same shall he receive from the Lord (Eph. 6:8). Nor does slavery detract from it, nor does freedom help. Look at that thing that is important in any condition. Wast thou called, he said, being a bondman? Care not for it. … for he that is called in the Lord, being a bondman, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bondman of Christ (1 Cor. 7:21-22). See, I say, the power of the Apostle. He is thought to have given more to him who was a slave than to him who was called free; for from a slave he becomes a freeman of Christ, a slave from a freeman. But he gave more to neither, dividing them both in equal measure. For with Christ slavery and liberty are weighed on an equal scale, and the merits of good service and liberty are not divided by any distinction, because there is no greater dignity than to serve Christ. Finally, Paul is the servant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1); for this service is glorious, in which the Apostle also glories. Is it not the highest glory, when we are valued at such a price, that we be redeemed by the blood of the Lord? But let us now proceed to the rest.

4. And when St. Vitalis was compelled by his persecutors to deny Christ, and he further confessed the Lord Jesus Christ, exercising all kinds of torments against him, that there should be no place in his body without a wound, he prayed to the Lord, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, my Saviour. and my God, command my spirit to be taken up; because I long to receive the crown which your holy angel has revealed to me.” And his speech finished, he gave up the ghost.

5. St. Agricola was considered milder in character, so he was loved even by his enemies. Thus, they delayed his passion. But this honor of the persecutors was more bitter than any savagery, because he envied martyrdom. Finally, when the holy Agricola listened not, he was crucified; so, we notice that their flattery was not sincere but deceitful. In punishment, the slaves wanted to scare their master. Christ turned this into a grace, so that the slave master imitated the martyrdom.

6. The name of both was apt for martyrdom, so that they might appear to be designated by the very names of martyrdom. The former is called Vitalis, as if by contempt of this life he had acquired for himself that true eternal life; the latter, Agricola, who sowed the good fruits of spiritual grace, and by the shedding of sacred blood, watered the plants of his merits and all the virtues.

7. And they were buried in the land of the Jews, among their sepulchres. The Jews sought to share the burial place with the servants, of whom they denied the Lord. Thus Balaam also once said: Let my soul die the death of the just (Num. 23:10); however, he shared not in their works, while he was alive, in whose minds he desired to die. And those whom they persecuted while alive honored the dead. Therefore, we looked for the remains of the martyr there, as if picking a rose among thorns.

8. We were surrounded by Jews, when the sacred relics might be raised; the people of the Church were present with applause and joy. The Jews said: Flowers have appeared in the land (Cant. 2:12), when they saw the martyrs. The Christians said: The time of pruning is come (Ibid.). Now he that reapeth receives wages (John 4:36). Others sow, and we reap the fruit of the martyrs. Again the Jews, hearing the voices of the applauding Church, said among themselves: The voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land (Cant. 2:23). Whence it is well read: Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge. (Psal. 18:3), Christian to Christian: night by night, Jew to Jew. The Jews therefore declared that they had the knowledge of the martyrs, but not the knowledge of the Word; that is, not according to that knowledge of good alone, and knowledge of truth alone: ​​For they, not knowing the justice of God and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God. (Rom. 10:3).

Chapter 2

First he amplifies the value of the relics, and then he asserts that the widow Juliana, who was to be given to them, is worthy; for she was to be honored by the Apostle, and to be proclaimed so that he grieved more for the loss of the Church than for his own.

9. I have therefore brought to you the gifts which I collected with my hands, that is, the trophy of the cross, whose grace in works you acknowledge. Certainly, the demons also confess. Let others build their gold and silver, and deliver them from the hidden veins; let them collect precious garlands of jewels; that is a temporary treasure, and often dangerous to those who have it: we read of the martyr's nails, and indeed that there were more wounds than limbs. You should say that the martyr cried out to the Jewish people, when we were gathering his nails: bring hither the hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing. (John 20:27). We gather the triumphal blood and the wood of the cross.

10. We could not deny this request of the holy widow. Therefore, receive the gifts of salvation which are now stored up under the sacred altars. That widow, therefore, is holy Juliana, who prepared and offered this temple to the Lord, which we dedicate today: worthy of such an offer, which in her offspring she has already consecrated temples to the Lord of chastity and integrity. While I wish to say Juliana, I said Judea. The tongue erred not but explained, for Judea is the soul which confesses Christ. Finally, In Judea God is known (Psal. 75:2); that is, where it was acknowledged, not where it was denied. Thus, the greater portion and more genuine understanding are in the spirit of Judaea, For salvation is of the Jews. (John 4:23). The error of the tongue, therefore, finds evidence of holiness.

11. Let us therefore honor this widow, because it is written: Honor widows that are widows indeed. (1 Tim. 5:3). Although she does not solicit the honor of our words, which attained the commandment of the Apostle, having a testimony in good works, she who educated her children well did better.

12. Who did not lament that she was desolate and miserable when she lost her husband? But she groaned more for that minister snatched from the sacred altars than for her spouse or father of her children. For even if the widow had the protection and comfort of a husband, in her pious mind the cause of the Church took precedence.

Chapter 3

Juliana's exhortation to the children. There in the beginning she warns him not to be rashly called Lawrence, but that he was conceived by the patronage of the martyr's surname, and was promised to him. Therefore, let him fulfill his parents' wishes. Nothing for him would be delayed; since the divine service is more excellent than the rest, and the life of men is most miserable: yet seek to withdraw from its evils, by way of choosing chastity, to which the bondage of marriage is here opposed.

13. And so she girt the bowels of her mind, and beholding herself surrounded by the number of three daughters, and one son, by whom the others are wont to be frightened, the latter becoming stronger, she fittingly addresses such children: Children, you have lost your father; you have your mother. That exchange would have been better if the father were alive, and the mother lacking. However, although weak and desolate, I show you, if you want to follow me, how you may think that your father has not departed from you; for you have a better parent from heaven. He is the one who supported these fathers. For what else now remains of hope? Your father was rich in grace, not in money, wealthy in ministry, not in patrimony; whose inheritance is faith, rich in God, but poor in the world. He left you rich enough, if you follow his plan. Faith alone, the value of men and dowry of virgins, is indistinguishable in both sexes.

14. And you, son, a little nearer to your father, acknowledge what you owe to your mother, because you give the name to the house. Age excuses you, but inheritance calls you. Let thy father and mother, son, be joyful in thee (Prov. 23:25). Despise not your mother as imprudent. The king's admonition, he says, wherewith his mother instructed him. What is the son who keeps the words of God? First-born, I say to you, son: What is the son of my womb? who was born of my prayers? Give not your honesty to a woman (Prov. 31:1 ff.). Hear what the wise man says, what Scripture asserts.

15. Consider who helped you to be born: you are a son of my vows more than of my pains. Consider what duty your father has designated you by such a name, who he called Lorenzo. There we deposited our vows, from where we assumed the name. Following the vows, render to the martyr what you owe to the martyr. He entreated you for us, restore what we promised of you calling you this name.

16. And what else is there, son, that you think you must choose, but the God of your fathers? For he himself makes the poor and the rich, the lowly and the lofty; he raises the poor from the earth, and raises the needy from the dunghill, and makes him sit with the powerful in the seat of honor and inheritance. He gives a vow to the one who prays, and blesses the years of the just. Is this, son, more excellent? or what is the life of a man on this earth but a swift runner? Lo, we passed, and we saw nothing. And would that we imitate this runner (Job. 9:25), that we might see nothing, and bear no burdens! but what is more important, the course is empty and the burdens void. They are vain indeed, but not trifling, nor void of offense; because the profit of sin is grave. Whence the holy Job exclaims: Is not the life of man on earth a temptation, or his daily life like to a hireling? And like a servant who fears his master, who finds a shadow, and like an hireling waiting for his reward; so I waited in vain, but nights of sorrows were given to me. If I sleep, I say: When is the day? When I shall get up, again: When is evening? I am full of pain from evening to morning. But my life is lighter than ashes. But he perished in vain hope (Job. 7:1 ff.). Manan is nothing, then, without you, Lord; turn your attention to him and visit him until morning, and lead him into rest. If a tree is cut down, it will reappear and bloom by the odor of water; when a man is killed, he is nothing, and sorrows befall him.

17. Therefore, if you want, children, to avoid this temptation of such great needs, the integrity of the body is to be sought for you (32, q. 1, c. Integrity): which I recommend as a counsel, not command. For only virginity can be persuaded; it cannot be commanded. It is a matter of a vow rather than of a precept. For what is of grace is not commanded, but desired; it is more of choice than of service. Whence also the Apostle says: concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:25). For he had read that the Lord had said to the eunuchs: Whosoever shall keep my commandments, and shall choose the things which I will, and will embrace my covenant; I will give them in my house and on my wall a name, better than sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, and they shall not fail (Isa. 56:4-5). He says, “I will give you a better place,” he says to the eunuchs; i.e., to those who cut off the genital parts. They are, therefore, those who have in heaven rewards more excellent than the others.

18. The Son of God preaches these in his Gospel, for those who say to the Apostles: If the case of a man with his wife be so, except it be for fornication, it is not expedient to marry; the Lord answered: All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given. (Matt. 19:10-11), that is: The weakness of the human condition does not understand this, that it be open for all; that they be able to castrate themselves in order to acquire the kingdom of heaven.

Chapter 4

She briefly explains the dignity of integrity which will return to her daughters by forgoing marriage; and in order to encourage them to shun marriages, she brings forward the opinion and example of the Apostle. Hence, after mentioning both those whom she bore in marriage and the miseries she was to suffer in widowhood, she affirms that it would be so that all of them would be restored to their virginity, and that she herself would henceforth need no protection.

19. You have heard, children, how great is the reward of integrity. The kingdom is acquired, and the heavenly kingdom presents the life of the angels. This I recommend to you, in which nothing is more beautiful; so that among men you may be angels, who are not bound by any wedding bond (Matt. 22:30). Because those who do not marry are like angels on earth; so that they may not experience the tribulation of the flesh, they may be ignorant of servitude; so that, as if stripped of the infirmity of the body, they should think not of the things of man, but of the things of God.

20. Consider, daughters, if you are willing to get married, how much is lacking to you, in whom the father is missing. This rich dowry is missing; which, however, if you had increased, you would buy slavery at a great price. But now who will not despise his destitute father? Whither will you flee? Whence will you ask for help against the injuries of men? How great are the disadvantages in marriages themselves! How grave insults are they generally! What great bonds!

21. First of all, marriage itself is a bond by which the woman is tied to a man and bound to him in subjection. It is indeed a good bond of charity, but yet a bond, from which, when he wishes to get rid of the married woman, he cannot, nor does he have free will. Finally, the Apostle says: The wife hath not power of her own body: but the husband (1 Cor. 7:4). And what a wonderful thing of woman; since the husband does not have power over his own body, but the woman? If he who is stronger has no power over himself, how much less is he weaker! The common bondage, therefore, does not absolve the woman, but binds her more severely.

22. Take heed therefore what the Scripture says, what the Apostle suggests. Who can give you better advice than that vessel of the Lord's choice? Pay close attention to what he says: I would that all men were even as myself. (1 Cor. 7:7). And again he says of the unmarried and widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I (Ibid., 8). I want you to be imitators of so many apostles, that you should follow the life of him who shrinks from the bond of marriage in order to be a bondman of Jesus Christ. He would not have been able to attain such apostolic grace if he had been bound by the slavery of marriage.

23. But if he who was both excellent in teaching, and had only the gift of Christ, judged that it was so important that he should abstain from the use of conjugal union: and so to remain, that it was not always lawful to attend to prayer, nor ever attend to the divine commandments, which the care of marriage bring back, that it might be necessary to please a wife; which of course you must choose, to whom virginity alone can give you freedom; since a woman who marries is sold to slavery for her own money? Slaves are acquired in a better condition than marriages: in the former the merit of slavery is bought, in the latter the price is added to the servitude. The bride is weighed down with gold for sale, and is valued as gold.

24. I have experienced, children, the labors of the union, the indignity of marriage, and under the conjugal good, yet I was not free under a good husband: I served the husband, and I labored to please him. The Lord had compassion, and made a minister of the altar, and was immediately taken up both from me and you; and perhaps, by the Lord's mercy, that he might not be called a husband.

25. You see, children, your mother's long-lived pains, and the yet untimely wages of widowhood. You see all the lost protection and decoration. I have neither the help of a man nor the grace of virginity. And a slight concern for me: I grieve, I consider you. The burdens of marriage remained for me, and the helps were gone. How much more I would prefer never to have used them!

26. Can you, however, excuse your father, get rid of your mother? If what in us was lost, it is represented in you. We will not repent of this marriage alone, if our labor has progressed to you. I will consider my neighbor to be the mother of virgins, as if I should hold her virginity. Consider, children, whom the Lord Jesus chose as his mother when he came into these lands. He came to give salvation to the world through a virgin, and the fall of a woman dissolves after the birth of a virgin; your integrity also dissolves my errors.

27. Consider what good virginity is. It is certain that I was destitute, and in need of protection: but if you will remain thus, I will seek no man's help, the crown of your integrity will abound to me for every help. Who will not say I am happy, whom they now think am miserable? Who will not honor the mother of so many virgins? Who will not venerate the court of chastity?

Chapter 5

In both covenants the palm of public salvation was bestowed upon virgins, and the various praises of the mystic virgins were celebrated: as well as the virginity designated by the figure of the garden and vineyard, unlike herbs for marriage; whence she admonishes her children, having rejected Ahab and Jezebel as spiritual, they may embrace the truth that Naboth was accused and slain on our behalf. Wherefore he was foretold to come upon a light cloud, and why did he even commend his mother to John? How is he, as the mystic of Levi had nothing, said to have received her in his own?

28. Divine Scripture has brought many women to light, yet it has given virgins alone the palm of public salvation. In the Old Testament, a virgin led by foot the Hebrew people, enclosed by land and sea, toward the sea (Exod. 15:20: in the Gospel a virgin begot the author and redeemer of the world (Luke 1:27). The virgin is the Church (2 Cor. 11:2), which chaste virgin the Apostle strove to assign to Christ; the virgin is the daughter of Sion (Isa. 37:22); that city Jerusalem is a virgin (Apoc. 21:27) who is in heaven, into which nothing common and unclean enters; she is also a virgin whom Jesus calls, to whom he said: Come here from Lebanon, Bride, you are here from Lebanon; you will pass and pass through from the beginning of faith (Cant. 4:8). The virgin not only passed by, but also passed through; she who hastens to the Bridegroom passes through the world, passes to Christ; or because she who devotes herself to Christ, by passing on to the heavenly, shall pass through the earthly things. For the Bridegroom himself comes to his Bride in such a way that he jumps over the mountains, leaps over the hills (Cant. 2:8).

29. He adds further to the praise of virginity: My sister, my Spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. (Cant. 4:12); in order that the enclosures of virginity may bring forth more fruit than the cloister of chastity, in which the seals of chastity remain untouched. Keep this garden for your soul, this fountain of fluid pure, so that no one in you may disturb it, no one may describe it, which the genital origin has signed in you. Let no one take away your vines and sow vile herbs. For a vine is a virginal fruit: marriages are like plants of herbs, in which there is frequent frost; and therefore as the plants of herbs fall and wither quickly, unless old age imposes an end, or continence may reach to perfection.

30. Let not therefore Ahab come among you, who desires to destroy and extinguish your vineyard, nor let Jezabel, that vain and secular flux, come among you; for this is signified by the phrase “vain and empty excess”: but let Naboth come, who comes from the father, as the interpretation of his name indicates, to protect the vineyard with his own blood and offer his death for it. This is he who was stoned to death for us, died for us, accused by false testimonies for us: who came here poor, when he was rich, that we might be enriched by his poverty (3 Kings 12:2 ff.). This is the vine, which has filled the whole world with the fruitful fruits of its grace. May he remain here deep in your breasts, fixed in the root; that your fruits may also be exuberant and the fires of the vapor of the body be tempered with the liquid of spiritual grace.

31. This is he who came in a swift cloud, as the prophet said: Behold the Lord will ascend upon a swift cloud, and will enter into Egypt (Isa. 19:1); signifying that into Egypt, that is, into the affliction of this world, he came upon the virgin. He said therefore that Mary was a cloud, because she bore flesh; swift, because she was a virgin, burdened by no obligations of marriage. She is the rod that springs forth a flower, because virginity is pure and directed by a free heart to the Lord, which is reflected in this world of anxieties by no digressions (Num. 17:8).

32. Therefore the Lord delivered her from the cross to His most beloved disciple, St. John (John 19:27), who said to his father and mother: I do not know you (Deut. 33:9). Finally, being called by Christ, he left his father (Matt. 4:21), followed the word. To him is handed a virgin who does not know his own; to him is handed a virgin who draws wisdom from the breast of Christ; to him is handed a virgin who knew not his brothers, and knew not his sons. And therefore the Law blesses him: Give his true Levi, give Levi his lots (Deut. 33:8).

33. Whence also he received the mother of the Lord; for we have it written that from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. (John 19:27). What is his own, when he left father and mother and followed Christ? Or how to his own, when the apostles themselves said: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee (Matt. 19:27)? What had John of his own, who had not worldly and secular things, who also was not of the world? What then did he have of his own, but those things which he received from Christ? He is a good possessor of the word and wisdom, a good receiver of grace. Hear what the apostles had received from Christ: Receive, he says, the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:22-23). For the mother of the Lord Jesus departed not except to the possessor of grace, where Christ had the dwelling-place.

Chapter 6

She adapts the above words to the children, and teaches by what means the clouds themselves can be light through virginity; and to give her true children to Levi, if they continue in such a manner as were the first parents before sin. She compares the sons of those who were begotten ejected from Paradise; and on the occasion of the former she exhorts her children that they should not seek worldly possessions which the daughters of Salphaad had craved. What is signified by this, and what lots are we commanded to give to Levi? What is the difference betwen the Lord's lot and the Mosaic lot? One of these is signified by marriage, the other by virginity, which follows the liberty of the ministers of Christ.

34. Give therefore you also, my children, to the true Levi his true children. Be clouds, but light. You will surely be, if virginity relieves the burdens of her condition and enlightens the darkness of this miry flesh. Therefore she says: I am black and beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem (Cant. 1:4); black by flesh, beautiful by virginity. There are therefore clouds, and heavy clouds, which they may marry; for I think that the verb “to marry” (nubere) derives from “clouds” (nubes). Finally, they are covered as clouds when they receive the marriage veils. And truly heavy clouds that bear the burden of marriage. For they are also said to be weighed down by the womb when they receive the seeds of conception.

35. Give therefore to Levi his true children. What is so true as undefiled virginity, which by birth guards the seal of chastity and the cloister of integrity? On the other hand, when a girl is deflowered by the use of marriage, she loses what is her own, when she mingles with another man. For what we are born into is true, not into that which we are changed: what we received from the Creator, not what we have assumed in companionship. Give, then, to Levi, to that high priest, and to Aaron and Melchisedech, his children that he founded, not of what the uses of this world produce; that he may recognize his work among you and that genital seal inviolate and whole.

36. Give to him, present him Adam before sin, Eve before she drew the slick serpent's poison, before his ambuscades were supplanted, when they had not whither to be ashamed? For indeed now, although marriage is good, the spouses still have something to blush about among themselves. Be such, therefore, children, as Adam and Eve were in paradise (Gen. 4:2). Of whom it is written, that after Adam was cast out of paradise, he knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore a son, whom he called Cain; and again she conceived and bore a son, whose name was Abel. Therefore, better than the second fruit; for the latter is undefiled, the former is spotted. The one clinging to God, and entirely from the Lord, the other a worldly and earthly possession. Finally, in this world the redemption of the world is announced, and from him the destruction of the world is announced. In this the sacrifice of Christ, in the other the murder of the devil. There is nothing then for you, children, since you think that you have inherited the possession of the world, and do not think that any one should be avenged by you of earthly and Jewish possession.

37. We read, indeed, that Moses, that is, the Law, decided that the lands won by war and slaughter be distributed by lot to the Hebrew people (Num. 26:53), whose possessions the daughters of Salpha demanded for themselves, because of the daughter of Salpha (Num. 27:1 ff.). However, the same Moses divided not the land among the Levites (Deut. 18:1 ff.), of whom he was not earthly, but a superior sojourner; but to them without earthly labor he assigned the salaries of the sacred ministry. And the daughters of Salpha, what are they that seek the earth, but, as interpretation teaches, the shadow of the mouth? Which of course is in those who have no word in their mouth, nor truth in their speech (Ps. 5:10); as among the people of the Jews, who refuse to confess Jesus Christ as God the Son of God. Such, therefore, seek the land, and they demand to possess such, in which they sweat all the age of their life, and reap thorns of worries and sollicitudes for their fruits.

38. Flee, then, daughters, the shadow of your mouth, you who believe in the eternal light, which enlightens every man, and confess not Christ in darkness but in light. Light is risen to the people that walked in darkness (Is. 9:2). We were then in the shadow, but now we are no longer those who confess Christ. And would it have also been possible for me to say that we profess Christ! And yet let us profess, I widowhood, you virginity. Let us confess salvation by our mouths.

39. Give therefore to Levi our savior his lot. His lot is Levitical, his lot is virginity, his lot is widowhood; because not only the virgin, but also the unmarried woman thinks of the things of the Lord. Wherefore the Apostle also said: In whom we also are called by lot (Eph. 1:11). For as in the Old Testament the earth was divided by lot (Joshua 18:10), so in the Gospel we are counted to the Lord by a certain lot. Whence also it is written of the evangelists: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots (John 19:24). And the apostles, since he was chosen as the twelfth apostle in the place of Judas, thought that the gift of the apostolate should be carried out by lot. Therefore, when a prayer was made, that the Lord might choose among the two, the lot fell to Matthias (Acts 1:26).

40. The former, then, is the old earthly lot, the latter is the spiritual. In the former is the assessment of the material world, in the latter the personal responsibility: there is possession of care, here division of grace: there we possess fields full of labor and sadness; Whence also St. David says: thou hast possessed my reins (Ps. 138:13). Here, children, possess your reins, so that the seeds of chastity and the incentives of the virtues may remain in them. Therefore speak yourselves to Christ, and confess to him, that you may say: The Lord is my portion (Psal. 118:57). The married cannot say this, but the unmarried; for the married woman seeks to please her husband, but the unmarried, Christ. The former is the possession of the world, the latter, of Christ.

41. The possession of Christ is light, who claims nothing of earthly things. He who seeks a wife cannot say: The Lord is my portion: Finally, what does the minister of Christ say? Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. (Acts 3:6); for he received this because he desired not gold. Finally he was sent without a stick, without a bag, without money (Luke 9:3). And therefore he gloried, because he had not what he had not received; for he was not ashamed in the poverty which the poor redeemed. And therefore he said: Arise and walk, because he had read: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him (Ps. 33:7).

Chapter 7

The sterility of virgins is more important than the fertility of others, since it imitates the abundant births of the Church, which are produced by lot, that is, by grace and not by works. Lots are therefore to be given to Christ, who pays a reward on labor; giving also truth, i.e., virginity. With how many temptations is it challenged! But when we have learned from the Apostle that chastity is good, the holy Widow indicates that we must go back to the cure: which means that the beautiful allegory of that old Mary was situated in the mortification of the flesh and the merit of the Lord's Passion, by which we are brought to victory. Afterwards we must seek wisdom in the heavens, and be drawn into the innermost parts, so that we may live.

42. Therefore let the Lord be your portion, the Lord who makes the barren and the child-bearing. He does both: but one gives birth in sadness, the other rejoices in barrenness, to which it is said: Give praise, O thou barren, that bearest not: sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise, thou that didst not travail with child (Is. 54:1). For she has children without pain. Whence it is said of the Church: Who has heard, if the earth has travailed in one day, and a nation was born at the same time (Isa. 66:8)? But in one day the earth does not travail, but grace gives birth. Easter is the day when the sacraments of baptism are celebrated throughout the world, and the sacred virgins are veiled. In one day, therefore, the Church is wont to give birth to many sons and daughters without any pain. And therefore it is beautifully said: And a nation was born together, of a consecrated people.

43. You see the mysteries, you see the grace of Christ, the grace of the Holy Ghost, bestowed as it were by a certain lot; because not every man is justified by works, but by faith. For just as the event of a lot is not in our power, but the event which it brought about; so the grace of the Lord is bestowed not as if from the merit of reward, but as from the will. Whence also the Apostle speaks of the divisions of graces, which are bestowed on the servants of God differently: But all these things, one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will. As he wills, he says, not as he is due (1 Cor. 12:11). Finally, the Lord also says that they had received a richer reward for those who demanded and complained that they had received equal to those who came later: Is thy eye evil, because I am good? (Matt. 20:15).

44. Therefore, children, give your lots to him who is wont to give a recompense to his laborers beyond the merit of their labors. Give truth itself to the holy man (Deut. 33:8), that is, integrity; for it is the integrity of him who arrives without blemish. So virginity is truth; corruption is a lie. Stand therefore in your heart, as a good vine in its seed.

45. There are many temptations; therefore, Scripture says: They tempted him with temptation, and they cursed him over the water of contradiction, Cades (Deut. 32:51). Virginity is tempted by most candidates; and when a virgin wishes to persevere, there are those who oppose it. The claimant contradicts, and he curses when refuted. The unmarried, virgin, or widow seems to be in disgrace. For Cades is unmarried, who is holy in body and spirit, and she, who left her parents, dedicated herself to the Lord and does not do the will of those who are wont to say, “You owe us, daughter, grandchildren.” Cades is she who does not know children. But if she prefers the reproach of Christ to the riches of the world, which she who seeks to please Christ must undergo; how much more do you, whose father appeals to integrity and mother exhorts you to follow what is fitting!

46. Therefore virginity is good. Finally, He who hath judged, he says, in his heart to keep his virgin, doth well. Therefore both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well: and he that giveth her not doth better (1 Cor. 7:37-38). The former does well for the sake of a snare, the latter does better for the sake of profit. The former for a remedy, the latter for a reward. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel. And I think that I also have the spirit of God. (Ibid., 40). Follow, then, children, the Apostle's advice, the gift of the Holy Ghost.

47. Take, then, also—as Mary, the sister of Moses and Aaron, took—a timbrel in your hands, and go out, saying: Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously honored, the horse and his rider he hath thrown into the sea. (Exod. 15:21). Mortify your members by the way of the timbrel: in them no wantonness of the flesh will burn, and all the senses of the body may be buried. In them the spirit alone rejoices amidst the dull yearnings of the flesh. For if you die to sin, you will live to God; but you will live if no concupiscence reigns in your dead body.

48. Hold in your hands the cross of the Lord Jesus, and lifting it up in your works, tread down the depths of this world, and pass through it. Let it, like a horse neighing in lust, find no place among you; and whoever pursuing you wants to understand, let him be submerged. There is to your right and left a wall of water around you, that the vapor of the whole body may be tempered; until the divine condescension guide you to those twelve intelligible fountains and the seventy palm trees, to that great rest of the Sabbath, and deign to plant them on the mountain of their heritage, where holy Mary leads the choirs.

49. Put on, then, my children, the Lord Jesus; seek the true wisdom, of which Job says: But where is wisdom, the place of discipline, to be found? The depth saith: It is not in me: and the sea saith: It is not with me. (Job 28:12 ff.). Well said the abyss: It is not in me, because it has risen; for it does not have what it could not hold. Finally, you have in the Gospel that the angels said to the women who were coming to the sepulchre: you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he is risen (Matt. 28:5-6). What is He is not here? It is that he is not in the tomb, is not in hell, but is in the heavens. The sea also, that is, the world says here: He is not with me; because he is above the world, which the fall and allure of human life did not change; because he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth (1 Pet. 2:22). The deep, therefore, said: He is not in me; the sea said: He is not with me. But heaven did not say he is not in it, whose resurrection it received. Paradise did not say: He is not in me, whom it had discovered to reign in him, even when the robber was acquitted; as the Lord himself said: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

50. Draw, children, wisdom into the inner chambers of your heart, because it is more precious than all gold and silver, which death does not know; for the dead will not praise you, O Lord, but the living. And you, therefore, that you may live, praise the Lord, and praise him day and night. (Ps. 113:17-18). But you will praise him if no covetousness of marriage and the care of the world avert you from him, since those who receive a marriage are solicited by the affairs of this world.

Chapter 8

In order to press her offspring more vigorously on, who were already promised to God by their parents, she refers to the obedience of the daughter of Jephthe in fulfilling her father's vow; then turning to her son, she recalls to him what she obtained by prayers from God, which cannot be refused without fault. Having said this, the holy woman poured out in thanksgiving for the pious enthusiasm of her offspring, of whom Ambrose says in what manner she is wont to go to church, where she stands before her son the reader.

51. Consider, children, what you owe to the wishes of your parents. We have opened our mouths to God: the vow is the will of our parents. We rejoice, you fulfill. The daughter of Jephthe the Gileadite ought to teach you how great is the power in the vows of her parents, who, lest her father's vow remain unfulfilled, she offered even her own death. For when he, solicitous from the danger of war, vowed that if the outcome of the battle were more favorable he would sacrifice to God that which should first occur to him when he returns to his home; when he gained the victory, he met his daughter, who was more than happy with joy for the victory and filial piety. The father sighed, not remembering his affections, but remembering his vow. The daughter inquired the reason: he answered what he had promised to the Lord. Then she exhorted him to fulfill the duty promised to God. Accordingly, she paid the unwary offering of her father by her blood (Judges 11:31 ff.).

52. These things are common to you. But you, my son, whom Helcana is true to me (1 Kings 1:1 ff.), that is, the possession of God has given, my postulated, my requested (for from this he also received the name of Samuel); you, I say, have my request, and my vows, who somehow come into my womb, I do not know (for I had already despaired of the offspring of a male sex), whom my vows formed for me, not any secret gatherings: you, I say, my son, acknowledge by whom you have been given to me. He formed your mouths, he distinguished your limbs, he received my prayers, in whose temple I consecrated you before you were born. You were not born for your parents, not for yourself, but for God; of whom before you came forth from your mother's womb you began to be. And indeed we are all his, but yet you are specially promised, you shall pay to your Lord; because it is written: Vow ye, and pay to the Lord your God (Ps. 75:12). I wretched, I unworthy, and yet, as Anna, I have promised that you depart not from the sight of the Lord all the days and nights of your life: I have promised, you will perform it: the Lord will fulfill the gift of his sacrifice for him.

53. She is also another pious mother, who, after she saw the affection of her children becoming weaned from the breasts of spiritual grace, led them into the temple of the Lord, turned to prayer and said: My heart is confirmed in the Lord; my horn is exalted in my God. My mouth is enlarged over my enemies, let him rejoice in your salvation; for there is no other holy one like the Lord; and there is not a just one as our God, and there is no other holy one beside you (1 Kings 2:1-2).

54. The mother, therefore, spoke these things to her children, who at the same time brought home to her the titles of widowhood and of integrity among her children, as some feminine pre-eminencies. An excellent woman, who left nothing to herself, offered to God all that she had: whose life is the institution of discipline, and a certain form of chastity with a good purpose, and a better teaching. The example, then, of widowhood and virginity is the teaching.

55. She proceeds into the church, accompanied by the enclosures of the daughters of virgins, inveighing a domestic honor: and she finds in the Church what she says is her own son resounding with the oracles of sacred readings, so that the sisters, hearing their brother, seem to be learning at home. The mother also enjoys making progress in imitating the heavenly example of her son, and she entrusts all the words to the pious affection of the reader, and carefully preserves them in heart.

Chapter 9

In order that the holy Prelate may also add to his mother's exhortation, he arouses those virgins to seek Christ in the divine Scriptures. But when he is asked, by asserting that he is already present, he teaches that one must inquire where he remains in the midday, that is, in the light of the Father: to be asked also in the light of good works, and in the nightly prayers: but to where he passes, we must follow; when he is delighted, he is often asked to stir up grace, and wound the soul with charity: what kind of wounds indeed they are, he proves by the various examples of the saints.

56. But although nothing is missing from this mother's exhortations, I will also speak to you, my children, even in a few words. Seek the Lord Jesus, who advises us to seek the kingdom of God: And behond all these things, he says, will be in store for you (Matt. 6:33). But I prefer to bring you before merit, and thus exact a reward. A good reward, but a more divine dispenser of reward, and the creator of the gift. In the kingdom there is reward, in Christ the power of reward. Seek it in the divine Scriptures, where Christ is found, and say as she said: Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth (Cant. 1:6). But the synagogue also sought him whom it had lost; you seek him whom you do not lose. But why, Synagogue, do you say whom I loved, and you do not say whom I love? Therefore you do not hold fast, because you say that you have loved yourself: why do you not still love me, so that you may be able to hold fast?

57. But let us leave that alone. You, virgin, when you begin to search, are at hand; for it is not possible for him to be wanting to those who seek him, which has been made openly to those who do not seek, and is found to those who do not ask (Is. 65:1). While you are discussing and thinking about him, he is present. Learn to ask when he comes, where to feed, where to stay; as she said: Where do you feed, where do you stay at noon (Cant. 1:6)? For where does Christ remain, except where the midday of justice shines? And this is taught by the testimony of Sacred Scripture, which says: He hath set his tabernacle in the sun (Ps. 18:6). Whence the Prophet says the same thing elsewhere: in thy light we shall see light (Ps. 35:10). The Son is the Light, the Light and the Father who is seen in the Son; for the Son is the brightness of the glory of the Father, and the figure of his substance (Hebr. 1:3).

58 But even in your light, O virgin, seek Christ in good thoughts and good works, which may shine before your Father who is in heaven. Look out in the night, seek in your bedchamber; for he comes even by night and knocks at your door. He wants you to watch over every moment, he wants to find the door open for your mind. There is also that door which he wants to open, so that your mouth may be opened and resound with the praise of the Lord, the grace of the Bridegroom, the confession of the cross. When you review the symbol, you sing the psalms in your bedchamber. Therefore, when he comes, let him find you watching, that you may be ready. Let your flesh sleep, let faith watch: let the enticements of the body sleep, let the prudence of the heart watch; let your members smell the cross of Christ and the fragrance of your burial; so that no sleep pours heat into them, and no motions arouse. The soul itself opens itself up to Christ, which no vapors of the flesh torment.

59. When the Spouse finds these things, she will pass through: let your soul follow him, depart from its bedchamber, let it go forth in his word, as it is written: My soul went forth in your word (Cant. 5:6), that is, it sojourns in the body, so that it may be present with God; because when it is in the body, it sojourns in Christ. Whence also the Apostle says: But we are confident and have a good will to be absent rather from the body and to be present with the Lord. And therefore we labour, whether absent or present, to please him. For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. (2 Cor. 5:8 ff.). How quickly he has proved the cause by which the body will rise again! For it is necessary for the flesh to rise again, to obtain the reward of its deeds, that we may receive in the body what we have done in the body.

60. The Lord, therefore, wishes himself to be asked more often: he departs, and runs, to stir up the grace that he desires even you to stir up in yourself, as we have in the writing to Timothy: For which cause I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. (2 Tim. 1:6). But the one who raises up the grace becomes the wound of charity, as she said: Because I am wounded by charity, if you raise and stir up charity (Cant. 5:8). We will be able to understand what this is if we repeat that the arrow is the Lord Jesus, to whom the Father says: I have made you as a chosen arrow (Is. 49:2). And as he is charity itself, they are, of course, the arrows of charity, by which they seek to be wounded. In short, they follow him, also being bound with chains; because he binds whom he wounds. Therefore they are also bonds of charity, by which Paul is bound, who says: Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus (Philemon 1:1).

61. But Job teaches that the wounds are of charity, by which no one loved Christ more, who loved even in the tortures of his own body. Whence he said: For the arrows of the Lord are in me, the rage whereof drinketh up my spirit, and the terrors of the Lord war against me (Job 5:4). There are therefore wounds of charity, and good wounds: in short, Better are the wounds of a friend, than the deceitful kisses of an enemy (Prov. 27:6). Jeremiah also was burning, and could not bear the fire of charity by which he was inflamed for the duty of prophesying (Jer. 20:9). Finally, he was cast into the dungeon (Jer. 38:6); because he announced to the Jews their future destruction, and could not be silent. Stephen was stoned (Acts 8:58), and he received with pious affection those wounds for Christ, as they were wounds of charity. The apostles were beaten, and they rejoiced (Acts 5:41). How good is the Lord, for whom injuries are sweet and death is pleasing! And well pleasing, who acquires immortality for us.

Chapter 10

The passage of Ecclesiastes concerning clothing is applied to virginity, but what is added concerning bearing oil on one's head, this is to be understood both of humility of mind and of modest composition of body, since interior ornaments are required chiefly in us and the simplicity of innocence is the riches of the poor. How does the Synagogue say to the Church: Where do you feed, etc.? Let them receive those words of Christ: Unless you know yourself, etc.? From this it is signified that the divine image resides in our soul, and therefore that the greatest care is to be made of it. Wherefore he advises the young man to delight in the innocence of the heart; but virgins, that the eyes of men by Mary's example may shun, and turn aside every occasion of fables.

62. At all times, he says, let thy garments be white (Eccles. 9:3). What is whiter than virginity? What is whiter than the intact garment of chastity? Indeed, conjugal chastity and the chastity of widowhood are good: clean is all chastity, but perhaps not all white, or not white at all times (1 Cor. 7:4-5). Not white, when one has no power over his body, when speech is set aside for a time. Of virginity, therefore, it is beautifully said: At all times let thy garments be white, and let not oil depart from thy head (Eccle. 9:8); that your torches may always shine and not be extinguished when that heavenly Bridegroom begins to come (Matt. 25:6 ff.).

63. We will find the reason Ecclesiastes says in your head from the Proverbs; because The eyes of a man are in his head (Eccles. 2:14), that is, in the sense of your wisdom. Perhaps that is why the woman of the gospels is praised who wiped the feet of the Lord with her hair (Luke 8:38 ff.), that she humbled herself by faith; lest she should seem to have been raised up by the wisdom of the flesh, which the true interpreter of secrets Paul denied being subject to the Law (Rom. 8:7), because he was made subject to Christ.

64. And we can understand this beautifully even physically, since if in the prophetic writings the daughters of Sion are rebuked, that they would go on high with their necks, with the eyelids of their eyes, and by the way of their feet, dragging their tunics together, and playing with their feet (Isa. 3:16 ff.); and therefore the Lord says that he would take away the glory of their clothing and their ornaments, their hair and locks rightly did this woman toss her hair (Luke 7:38); so that discipline of the Gospels would break the severest of knots. Whence also the apostles said: Not by plaiting of the hair, as Peter taught (1 Pet. 3:3), nor with braided hair, or gold and pearls, or precious clothing, as Paul asserted (1 Tim. 2:9): but rather the ornaments of the interior man are to be sought for women; because the hidden man of the heart, who is poor in the world, is rich in God.

65. You have heard, children, who think you are poor. But who is a rich man, when he is in need of many, but he to whom there is no grave sin in conscience? Riches are good, he says, to him that hath no sin in his conscience (Eccl. 13:30). You have heard, I say, in what you may be wealthy with God; that there may be in you an incorruptible and modest spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). For the good are the riches of innocence and simplicity, to whom sin is not imputed, because in them there is no deceit and cunning; for every simple man does not know how to belittle, how to envy: he is content with his own, he does not seek another; even if he needs it, he seems to himself rich, if enough food is available. Finally, the Apostle Paul beautifully says: their very deep poverty hath abounded unto the riches of their simplicity (2 Cor. 8:2).

66. And because the Church was adorned with fitting ornaments, and the light received from Christ shone; that place may also be taken thus, because the Synagogue says to the Church: where thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday? Lest I begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions (Cant. 1:6). He desires to be a hireling, who previously claimed dominion over him. How harmful is unbelief!

67. But because they are unbelieving, merciless, and sacrilegious; therefore, Christ separates her from the flocks of his Church, saying: If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women (Ibid., 7), that is, first know yourself who you are, and then ask to come near to my flock. The Synagogue is well said to be beautiful among women, not among virgins; because it followed Eve the woman through whom the fall came; but the Church is beautiful among virgins, because she is a virgin without wrinkle.

68. He ought, therefore, to know, whether man or woman, that he is in the image and likeness of God; that he may follow the beauty of the soul, not of the body. For where are we? In the substance of the soul and the vigor of the mind. This is our whole share. Finally, David says: in God I have put my trust: I will not fear what flesh can do against me (Ps. 55:5). We are, therefore, not flesh, but spirit. But of the Jews it is said: My spirit shall not remain in man, because he is flesh (Gen. 6:3). We are not gold, nor money, nor abundance of wealth; for these are ours. And therefore Moses says to you: Take heed to thyself (Deut. 15:9), that is, of your soul; lest you perish, become carnal. Take heed to thyself, that is to the image which you received from Christ, to the likeness to which you were made. Observe the image which Christ painted in you in his works, as he himself says to Jerusalem, that is, to the peace-loving soul: Behold, I, Jerusalem, have painted your walls (Isa. 49:16).

69. Pay attention, then, especially you, son, take heed to thyself, so that you may rejoice in your youth; to whom the scripture says: Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth (Eccl. 11:9). And it does not mean the period of a single age. It is, as it were, the flower of life, and the age of good works, of which it is written: thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's (Ps. 102:5). And he said, Rejoice therefore, in thy youth, and let thy heart be in that which is good in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sign of thy eyes (Eccl. 11:9); in the spiritual aspect, not in the daring of the worldly. And know that over all these things God will bring you out into judgment. And put away anger from your heart, and remove wickedness from your flesh (Eccles. 12:14).

70. Take heed to thyself, virgin, and you, that you may press on in prayer, and your face may become pale by continual supplication. But before prayer prepare thy soul (Eccl. 18:23), so that you appear not to tempt God when you beseech him; that what you pray, your manners speak, your faith may help, your works commend. Take heed to thyself: I tell to you and to any virgin. For your pious teacher is not lacking in instruction.

71. Pay attention, I say, to the virgin of the sacred profession, and beware of any irreverent eyes. And if he has passed away for a time as a traveler, yet he opens his mouth, and will drink of all the water closest to it, so that he may make you drunk (Eccl. 26:14 ff.). May you not depart your home without your mother, who is the anxious guardian of chastity. May those at Church be also rarer for adolescents. Consider how great Mary was, and yet nowhere else, except it be found in a bedroom, when she is asked (Luke 1:28). She teaches you what to follow. She saw an angel in the form of a man, and was astonished at the sight. Whence the angel says to her: Fear not, Mary. Solitude teaches shame, and the exercise of chastity is secrecy.

72. For why do you need to visit your neighbor easily? The foot of a fool is soon in his neighbour's house: but a man of experience will be abashed (Eccl. 21:25). From this arise fables, of which you are beautifully admonished to beware, when a wise man says to you: Who will set a guard before my mouth, and a sure seal upon my lips, that I fall not by them, and that my tongue destroy me not (Eccl. 22:33). If the male sex is ordered to be silent before the elders (Eccl. 11:8), how unseemly it is for virgins to speak, and speak various words!

73. Be so that you can control your silence; can you rule over others whom you do not listen? A man can sometimes put a bridle on his mouth, and a balance for words: he cannot give it to the ears. For to speak is in us, to hear depends on the power of another; for we often hear what we do not want.

Chapter 11

He joins in new admonitions to the former, that they may avoid the ease of swearing, and prefer tears of joy: they should abstain from laughter, through which the synagogue has perished; let them temper their anger, if they be not able to completely extinguish it; lastly, if they did not have a just moderation there, let them be pricked.

74. Let us then consider what else Scripture admonishes us. Do not easily swear (Eccl. 23:9), because generally many misfortunes occur, so that we cannot fulfill what we have sworn. But he who does not swear, certainly does not commit perjury; but he who swears must at some point fall into perjury; for every man is a liar (Ps. 115:11). Do not then swear, lest you begin to perjure yourself.

75. It is not even fitting that joy itself should be more free in virgins. And if they have no reason to weep, let them weep for the world, let the fallen sinners weep; for whoever wept over the fall of others will beware of his own people. Let them weep at length even in that contemplation, so that those weeping here may receive consolation there; lest, like the rich man who has made a living here, he is declared to suffer there severe punishments by the oracle of the Lord, and you hear: Remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime (Luke 16:25 ff.). How much happier is Lazarus, who here wept and rejoices there: here he was hungry, and there he feasts! If, therefore, you also wish to follow good joy, the book of Ecclesiastes shows you what you ought to follow, which says: Go then, and eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with gladness: because thy works please God. (Eccles. 9:7).

76. But let us also consider what the same Ecclesiastes admonishes us about immoderate laughing. For as the crackling of thorns burning under a pot, he says, so is the laughter of a fool (Eccles. 7:7). Of course, when the thorns are burning, they resound, and are quickly burned out; so that there is no effect of heat. Whence also it is said of the Jews: They burned like fire among thorns (Ps. 117:12). For they were burned by their laughter, and burned in the passion of the Lord, when they were joking in the fire of their soul, saying: He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him (Ps. 21:9). And they laughed at him, and smote him on the head with a reed, and because they crowned him with thorns, and offered him vinegar to drink; that laughter enkindles the Synagogue forever (Mark 15:17 ff.). So then is the laughter of fools, which sounds without grace, and burns the pot of their body. Sara rightly denied that she had laughed (Gen. 18:15), lest she should appear to have doubted, by laughing, the effect of the promises of the heavenly; and yet that smile had been full of gravity and shame, which no other witness, except God alone, knew, whom secret things do not deceive.

77. And how beautiful it is! Be not quickly angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of a fool. (Eccl. 7:10), that is, although there is a cause to stir up indignation, let not revenge be hasty, lest the unbridled heat of fury boils. He cannot, therefore, take away what is a natural movement, but introduces a delay, so that the medicine of counsel may temper his anger. For thus David had already said before: Be ye angry, and sin not (Ps. 4:5); not because he commanded anger, but because he could not take away that which was of nature; and, as a good physician, gave a remedy, so that the anger itself did not injure him.

78. In short, even if a man has stumbled in his heart, since anger does not know how to maintain moderation, he persuades them to be pricked on their beds, and each one condemns his own error. For thus it is written: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds (Ibid.). He wished, therefore, that all men should be censors of their own faults; so that he who is not held by public testimony should be ashamed of himself as the judge who has secretly fallen, and by a certain sharpness of bitterness and embarrassment may restrain himself.

Chapter 12

He passes to parsimony, by which the body is worn out: he orders a good reputation to be prepared; but most of all he requires sobriety in a virgin; that is, abstinence from the wantonness and vain ornaments of the body, which he grieves affects even certain sacred virgins. To them is opposed the example of St. Sotheris, who did not cultivate her form so much that she willingly offered to defile her face with the beatings of executioners. A comparison of her with a young Etruscan man, whom they say had dishonored his face by wounds.

79. What will I speak of parsimony, when the wise man says: Take from me the greediness of the belly, and let not the lusts of the flesh take hold of me (Eccles. 23:6)? Nor do you dread weakness from fasting and abstinence; for a grave infirmity makes the soul sober.

80. Solomon's Proverbs also teach how we must study a good opinion by saying: A good name is better than great riches (Prov. 22:1)? For what is patrimony, without it governing those goods and operation? Whence holy Job says: The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I comforted the heart of the widow. I was an eye to the blind, and a foot to the lame. I was the father of the poor (Job. 29:13 ff.). If I have despised him that was perishing for want of clothing, and the poor man that had no covering: If his sides have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep: If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, even when I saw myself superior in the gate (Job. 31:19 ff.)? For to them a good name is prepared.

81. However, in a virgin the persuit of sobriety surpasses all else. I say soberness, not in abstinence from wine, but from bodily lasciviousness and worldly ostentation, by which we are inebriated more heavily than by wine; for it gives the cup of ruin, and the cup of wrath. Whence also the Lord says to Jerusalem: Arise, arise, stand up, […] which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath (Is. 51:17). But the Synagogue has emptied this chalice, and the daughters of the Church do not drink. For it is said of the Jews: Their daughters decked out, adorned round about after the similitude of a temple (Ps. 143:12): and you are the temple of God, the daughter of him who is not transfigured into an angel of light, but the true light who is of the true light. Therefore in you there is no likeness, but truth. For many when they profess a desire for chastity, strive for the aids of beauty; in order that they may appear more fit and brighter in countenance than behoves the sacred rites of the Lord, to such I reply with that apostolic discourse: If then you be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why do you yet decree as though living in the world? Touch not: he says, taste not: handle not. Which all are unto destruction (Col. 2:20 ff.).

82. But not holy Sotheris, to bring forward the example of a pious relative (for we have our priests, our nobility to be preferred to prefects and consulates; we have, I say, the dignities of the faith, which know not to perish); but he did not, as I have said, take care of the countenance of Sotheris; who, being of a very beautiful face, and a noble maiden of the family of our ancestors, of the consulship and prefectures of her parents, renounced by faith, and refused to obey the command to sacrifice; so that the tender virgin would give way to pain or to shame. But when she heard this voice, she opened her face to the sun, veiled and uncovered by martyrdom; so that the sacrifice of martyrdom might be made there, where there is wont to be an offering of chastity. For she rejoiced that at the cost of her beauty the danger to her integrity was taken away. But though they could indeed flog her countenance with wounds and bruises, they could by no means disfigure the face of her valor and her inward beauty.

83. The old legends say that a young Etruscan, when he burned women into love on account of the admirable beauty of his own mouth, pricked his face with wounds so that she could not love him. I shall see whether his mind was chaste; an affection, however, not innocent, on account of which he himself observed in himself. He, however, only received his wounds, lest he should injure: these he brought back the scars of his triumphal martyrdom, in order that he might reserve the image of God which he had received.

Chapter 13

He admonishes virgins to be preserved in the divine image; so that those who are learned by God himself should not fear the scourge of another tongue. This is how and to what extent it is not to be feared; and by what reason should one take precautions against one's own tongue? In this place are related the examples of Susanna, Joseph, Daniel, and Job.

84. Keep this image too, daughters, observe the precepts of the divine Scripture; that every mouth, he says, may be stopped (Rom. 3:19). For it is written: Blessed is the man whom thou shalt instruct, O Lord: and shalt teach him out of thy law (Ps. 93:12). The good Lord instructs and teaches, and often reproves; but also he makes those he reproves happy; for blessed is the man whom the Lord rebukes (Ps. 93:12). And therefore do not shrink from his reproof, because they belong to charity and grace; for he himself strikes, and because he is a good physician, he heals by his own hands (Deut. 32:39). Seven times he delivers you from distress, but in the seventh, no evil will happen to you. In famine he rescues you from death, but in battle he strips you from the hand of iron; he hides you from the scourge of the tongue.(Job 5:19 ff.). For if you deem it as nothing, you will not be afraid of the scourges of another tongue.

85. He expresses wonderfully the words of slanderers by saying they are the scourge of the tongue, whose sound is reflected far and wide. The Apostle Peter, desiring to separate us from it, warns us not to render evil for evil, and curse for railing (1 Pet. 3:9): but rather when he is cursed by us, let us return the grace of blessing. And therefore he says: Keep thy tongue from evil (Ps. 33:14), like the scourge of the tongue; nor do you fear the sound of words, if your conscience is clean. It is good indeed to give no place, if possible, to detractions; but because most people derogate not from vices but from virtues, let them censure what is of praise, let them not find what is of error.

86. But what is worse, we are not only scourged by another tongue but also by our own. And these are the more grievous lashes, when we incur sin through much talk. And therefore, O virgin, guard your ways; that you sin not with thy tongue (Ps. 38:2). And speaking good things is usually a crime for a girl. But why do you wonder about a virgin, when a woman is commanded to learn in silence (1 Tim. 2:11)? Shame which silence commends is good.

87. Susanna was in danger, and was silent (Dan. 13:35); that she might speak better with silent shame. Finally, modesty finds a defender, that it may defend chastity. Of which it is well said that the Lord hid from the scourge of the tongue.

88. What do we say about women? Joseph remained silent when accused (Gen. 39:20), so that innocence would better defend him than the tongue. Daniel, wiser than all, held his peace and closed the mouths of the lions (Dan. 14:29 ff.). Whence St. David says beautifully: I have set, he says, a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me (Ps. 38:2).

89. What do you want to talk about? You are afraid lest, while you say nothing, objections are believed. But do you hear the good master holy Job saying: Behold, I laugh at reproaches, and I do not speak: I will cry, and there is never a judgment (Job 19:7), that is, a detractor who casts some reproaches? You have something to laugh at if your conscience does not recognize the crime. How do you compare words to words? There is not yet judgment: and if you cry, it draws nigh. Many strifes in this world are due to you.

90. Holy Job had overcome the pain of loss: he had overcome, indeed he had excluded the bitterness of mourning in the loss of his children, he had overcome the roughness of the wounds: bruises of the body are used as tests for a woman, and she was not aware. The chidings of his friends are still reserved for him in the final contest. He had struggled with his ancestral affection (Job 1:18), he had struggled with physical pain and sickness (Job 2:7); it was necessary for him to undergo even the temptations of words.

Chapter 14

From the disadvantages of the world we ought not to judge of any man's merit, since this is the place of battle, not of the crown. That Paul had asserted that this was reserved for him and for those who love the coming of Christ; but to be numbered with them, that widow, whoconsecrated to God all her children, offered the twin sacrifice of her widowhood and the virginity of her children. For them Ambrose places a coronis with a pious prayer.

91. Therefore, when you see that the widow is suffering from some losses, or the inconvenience of her children; or that she is just in death, or afflicted in injuries; do not weigh her merits with the disadvantages of this age, or be surprised that she be forsaken by the Lord. Here we struggle indeed, but elsewhere we are crowned. I have spoken not only of myself, but of all men in general. For whence do I merit so much, for whom my crown is indulgence? Here is wrestling, there is the prize: here is warfare, there is the pay. Therefore while I am in this world, I still struggle, I still decree, I am still impelled to fall down; but the Lord is powerful, who receives the impulse, to set the slipping upright, to raise up the swaying. Why therefore do you wonder that someone labors? As long as one is in this life, struggle will not be lacking, there will not be a crown. No one is proven, but he who perseveres to the end; that he who has striven lawfully may afterwards be crowned.

92. Who is stronger than Paul, who is happier? That vessel of election of the Lord, however, did not claim the crown before he could complete the whole contest. And therefore he says: I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice (2 Tim. 4:7-8); which he says, that the coming of the Lord must be rendered not only to him, but also to all who love him. He said beautifully, to those who love the coming of Christ; for no one hastens to judgment, except he who is secure from innocence, or who presumes on labor, whom either the grace of the Lord or the pious struggles for Christ's sake support.

93. What prerogative, indeed, will that widow who reared her children well have, and she will rejoice in her children, and most of all she has given to the Lord all whom she has accepted. Whence also that widow of the Gospels is preferred to rich men (Luke 21:3-4); for not only because she had all that he she sent for the livelihood of the poor; but also that she brought two brass mites, praised by the Lord, that is, a full faith. Finally, for the health of the man, the Samaritan also gave two brass mites to the host, with which to cure his wounds inflicted by the robbers (Luke 10:35). Therefore because even according to the Old Testament the virginity of Mary the sister of Aaron (Exod. 15:20), and according to the New Testament the integrity of holy Mary the mother of the Lord (Matt. 1:23) will be imitated in her offspring, the reward of faith will be obtained by divine judgment; she reserved nothing to herself for worldly support, but devoted the whole gift to the Lord of pious offspring.

94. Now, O Lord, I beseech you to be above this house, above these altars which are dedicated today, above these spiritual stones, on which the sensible is consecrated to you in every temple; daily, O prelate, pay attention to the prayers of your servants, which are laid out in this place, and receive them in your divine mercy. Let every sacrifice which is offered in this temple, with pious diligence, be made to you as a fragrance of holiness. And when you look to that wholesome sacrifice by which the sin of this world is abolished; regard also these pious sacrifices of chastity, and take care of them by your long-continued help; that it may become acceptable to you as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, pleasing to the Lord Christ, and that you may vouchsafe to keep their spirit, soul, and body blameless until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ your son.

translation by Caterino Tommaso, T.O.P., in public domain 🅮

original Latin: Exhortatio Virginitatis, Patrologia Latina 16 col. 351-380

biblical translations from or compared with Douay-Rheims-Challoner version

In some places the Latin was compared to the Italian translation of M. Salvati.