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On The Good Of Widowhood by St. Augustine

Section 25. The past day returns not hereafter, and after yesterday proceeds to-dayà

25. The past day returns not hereafter, and after yesterday proceeds to-day, and after to-day will proceed to-morrow; and, lo, all times and the things of time pass away, that there may come the promise that shall abide; and |whoso shall have persevered even unto the end, this one shall be saved.| If the world is now perishing, the married woman, for whom beareth she? Or in heart about to bear, and in flesh not about to bear, why doth she marry? But if the world is still about to last, why is not He more loved, by Whom the world was made? If already enticements of this life are failing, there is not any thing for a Christian soul with desire to seek after; but if they shall yet remain, there is what with holiness he may despise. For the one of these two there is no hope of lust, in the other greater glory of charity. How many or how long are the very years, in which the flower of carnal age seems to flourish? Some females having thoughts of marriage, and with ardor wishing it, whilst they are being despised or put off, on a sudden have grown old, so as that now they would feel shame, rather than desire, to marry. But many having married, their husbands having set out into distant countries very soon after their union, have grown aged expecting their return, and, as though soon left widows, at times have not even attained so as at least as old women to receive their old men on their return. If therefore, when betrothed bridegrooms despised or delayed, or when husbands were abroad, carnal desire could be restrained from commission of fornication or adultery, why cannot it be restrained from commission of sacrilege? If it hath been repressed, when being deferred it was glowing, why is it not put down, when having been cut off it had grown cold? For they in greater measure endure glowing of desire, who despair not of the pleasure of the same desire. But whoso of unmarried persons vow chastity to God, withdraw that very hope, which is the fuel of love. Hence with more ease is desire bridled, which is kindled by no expectation; and yet, unless against this prayer be made, in order to overcome it, itself as unlawful is the more ardently wished for.

Footnotes:

Matt. x.22 c26. Therefore let spiritual delights succeed to the place of carnal delights in holy chastity; reading, prayer, psalm, good thought, frequency in good works, hope of the world to come, and a heart upward; and for all these giving of thanks unto the Father of lights, from Whom, without any doubt, every good gift, and every perfect gift, as Scripture bears witness, cometh down. For when, in stead of the delights of married women, which they have in the flesh of their husbands, the use of other carnal delights is taken, as it were to solace them, why should I speak of the evils which follow, when the Apostle hath said in short, that the widow, who lives in delights, living is dead. But far be it from you, that ye be taken with lust of riches instead of lust of marriage, or that in your hearts money succeed to the place of love of a husband. For looking into men's conversation, we have often found by experience, that in certain persons, when wantonness hath been restrained, avarice hath increased. For, as, in the senses themselves of the body, they who see not hear more keenly, and discern many things by touch, nor have such as have the use of their eyes so great life in their touch; and in this instance it is understood that, when the exertion of the power of attention hath been restrained in one approach, that is, of the eyes, it puts itself forth into other senses, more ready with keenness to distinguish, as though it essayed to supply from the one what was denied in the other; thus also often carnal lust, being restrained from pleasure of sensual intercourse, with greater strength reaches itself forth to desire money, and when turned away from the one, turns itself with more glow of passion to the other. But in you let the love of riches grow cold together with the love of marriage, and let a pious use of what property you possess be directed to spiritual delights, that your liberality wax warm rather in helping such as are in want than in enriching covetous persons. Forsooth into the heavenly treasury are sent not gifts to the covetous, but alms to the needy, which above measure help the prayers of widows. Fastings, also, and watchings, so far as they disturb not health, if they be spent in praying, singing psalms, reading, and meditating in the Law of God, even the very things which seem laborious are turned into spiritual delights. For no way burdensome are the labors of such as love, but even of themselves delight, as of such as hunt, fowl, fish, gather grapes, traffic, delight themselves with some game. It matters therefore what be loved. For, in the case of what is loved, either there is no labor, or the labor also is loved. And consider how it should be matter for shame and grief, if there be pleasure in labor, to take a wild beast, to fill cask and purse, to cast a ball, and there be no pleasure in labors to win God!

Footnotes:

James i.17 1 Tim. v.6

Intentione

Cupa et sacculus

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