Monday, July 25, 2011

Ambrose (340AD-397):  Concerning Virgins.

This is a delightful little work.  I learned that Christians originally frowned upon dancing due to the antics of Herodias and her daughter, who through dancing enticed king Herod into beheading John The Baptist.  Moral:  If you want to keep your head on you shouldn't let women dance.  Modesty and temperance are the most important characteristics of the Christian woman along with keeping silence and only speaking as necessary.  He did, however, leave blogging as a legitimate outlet for their communication instincts.

There are many examples of martyrdom.  One is the case of a 12 year old girl who was executed for refusing to deny Christ.  Her hands and feet were too small to be bound in the fetters, but she held her head high and proceeded proudly to her death.  In many other cases the choice given the young Christian women was to deny Christ or be set to forced labor in a brothel.  Death was preferred.  Visiting some university campuses, I have a feeling we aren't too far from returning to this form of persecution.

Women are encouraged by Ambrose to take a life of chastity dedicated to Christ, while at the same time marriage is also honored.  A dilemma of this age was that young virgins were not their own, so that the choice of a nunnery or a husband was made by their parents.  Most arranged marriages fare better than modern love marriages, but what of the woman who is forced into a convent against her will?  Many a parent would be tempted to do this just to save the price of a dowry.  The enthusiasm of the age seems to have covered over the problems that would become more apparent a few generations later. In any case, the term virgin is used quite broadly to refer to those who live their life single, those who are not yet married, and of course the virgin Mary, who was married and produced brothers and sisters to Jesus.

As mentioned elsewhere, all the great fathers of the church were literate in the classical literature. The book describes other notions of virginhood such as the Vestal Virgins - pagan priestesses - who were only virgins for a fixed time.  Ambrose claims that Christianity alone had determined that there was a special merit to those women who never married for the sole purpose of piety.

3 comments:

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

"Modesty and temperance are the most important characteristics of the Christian woman along with keeping silence and only speaking as necessary."

I agree that Modesty and temperance are the most important characteristics of any woman (although this is not what happens in today's world. Since feminists burned those precious bras, modesty and temperance have been thrown out the window).
Now, about keeping silence: I wish some men would keep silence (the produce of their intellect can lead me to regurgitate).
About speaking as necessary: it goes both ways. Many men should only speak when absolutely necessary and the world would be a much more pleasant place to live in.

"He did, however, leave blogging as a legitimate outlet for their communication instincts."

ROFL ROFL ROFL ROFL...that was a good one!

Are you referring to St Barbara? She preferred to have her head chopped rather then denying God and Christ. In Portugal we call her St Catarina.

"In many other cases the choice given the young Christian women was to deny Christ or be set to forced labor in a brothel. Death was preferred."

My goodness! Looking at some young women today, I'd guess they'd prefer to labour in a brothel *nodding*. I have, once, heard a young woman saying that she had been born to be a harlot...wow...

"Many a parent would be tempted to do this just to save the price of a dowry."

Well, it sufficed to change the culture and do like the Jewish people and Africans: the man is the one paying to marry women. This would increase the value of women in the betrothal market.

"the virgin Mary, who was married and produced brothers and sisters to Jesus."

She did well.

I think the term "virginity" has been abused by most religions (even by those that do not advocate virginity, by encouraging promiscuity).

Excellent piece, Looney. It's great to be back!

Cheers

Looney said...

Max,

Nice to see you back. I hope you had a good time where ever you went.

Don't know much about Santa Barbara, although she is located a few hours drive down the coast. I mean Mission Santa Barbara and the city. Looks like some other saint to learn about.

And yes, I agree with you that there are plenty of men around who should shut up too!

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

"Nice to see you back. I hope you had a good time where ever you went."

Thank you, it is nice to be back :D. I took some time to meditate and do some spiritual cleansing (I do it every summer) and it was nice.

"Don't know much about Santa Barbara, although she is located a few hours drive down the coast. I mean Mission Santa Barbara and the city. Looks like some other saint to learn about."

LOL LOL I knew what you meant lol *nodding*. Indeed, I learned about her most recently...it is a very good life and faith story.

"And yes, I agree with you that there are plenty of men around who should shut up too!"

LOL....