The Life of Virtue – Virginity
Of course the physical side of virginity is very important – “virginity resides in the flesh“, as St. Augustine says – but the spiritual side is crucial. St. Thomas, in defining virginity, states that this spiritual side “stands in the position of form and complement, because the essence of morality is perfected in that which concerns the reason”. The material element is the integrity of the flesh but the important part is why we keep our virginity. As St. Augustine says, “we do not praise virgins for being virgins, but because their virginity is consecrated to God by holy continency.”
This purpose allows us, even if we are not physically virgins, to recover the virtue of virginity. St. Jerome says “other things God can do, but He cannot restore the virgin after her downfall”. This is true only of the material element of virginity. The formal element, the purpose of virginity, can be recovered. Whilst we may not be in the position to recover the material element, our minds and our souls can be so prepared that we have the purpose of safeguarding this same integrity of the flesh. By practicing the virtue of virginity we imitate our Lord and Mary, His Mother, Who both preserved both material and formal virginity. By practicing the special virtue of virginity, as St. Paul tells us, our focus is directed to contemplating and thinking on the “things of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).