“Of all the combats in which we are engaged,” says St. Augustine, “the most severe are those of chastity: its battles are daily, but victory rare.” May God be ever praised, however, Who in Mary has given a great example of this virtue! And, O how powerful is the name of Mary in conquering all temptations against holy purity!
Ever since the fall of Adam, the senses being rebellious against reason, chastity is, of all virtues, the most difficult to practise. St. Augustine says: “Of all the combats in which we are engaged, the most severe are those of chastity; its battles are daily, but victory rare.” May God be ever praised, however, Who in Mary has given us a great example of this virtue!
“With reason,” says Blessed Albert the Great, “is Mary called the Virgin of virgins; for she, without the counselor example of others, was the first to offer her virginity to God.” Thus did she bring all virgins who ImItate her to God, as David had already foretold: After her shall virgins be brought … into the temple of the King-(Ps. xliv. 15) Without counsel and without example. Yes; for St. Bernard says: “0 Virgin, who taught thee to please God by virginity, and to lead an Angel’s life on earth?” “Ah,” replies St. Sophronius, ” God chose this most pure Virgin for His Mother, that she might be an example of chastity to all.” Therefore does St. Ambrose call Mary “the standard-bearer of virginity.”
By reason of her purity the Blessed Virgin was also declared by the Holy Ghost to be beautiful as the turtle dove: Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove’s -(Cant. i. 9). “Mary,” says Aponius, “was a most pure turtle-dove.” For the same reason she was also called a lily: As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters-(Cant. ii. 2). On this passage Denis the Carthusian remarks that “Mary was compared to a lily amongst thorns, because all other virgins were thorns, either to themselves or to others; but that the Blessed Virgin was so neither to herself nor to others”; for she inspired all who looked at her with chaste thoughts. This is confirmed by St. Thomas, who says that the beauty of the Blessed Virgin was an incentive to chastity in all who beheld her. St. Jerome declared that it was his opinion that St. Joseph remained a virgin by living with Mary; for, writing against the heretic Helvidius, who denied Mary’s virginity, he says: “Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a virgin. I say that not only she remained a virgin, but even that Joseph preserved his virginity through Mary.”
Blessed John of Avila says that “many who were tempted against purity preserved themselves chaste by devotion to our Blessed Lady.” Oh, how specially powerful is the name of Mary in conquering all temptations to impurity! O most pure Mary, deliver me from it. Grant that in all my temptations I may always have recourse to thee, and invoke thee as long as the temptation lasts.
St. Gregory of Nyssa says that so much did the Blessed Virgin love this virtue that, to preserve it, she would have been willing to renounce even the dignity of Mother of God. This we may conclude from her answer to the Archangel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?-and from the words she afterwards added: Be it done to me according to thy word-(Luke i. 34, 38), signifying that she gave her consent on the condition that, as the Angel had assured her, she would become a Mother only by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost.
Saint Ambrose says that whoever has preserved chastity is an Angel, and that he who has lost it is a devil. Our Lord assures us that those who are chaste become Angels: They shall be as the angels of God in heaven-(Matt. xxii. 30). But the impure become as devils, hateful in the sight of God. St. Remigius used to say that the greater part of adults are lost by this vice. Seldom, as we have already said with St. Augustine, is a victory gained over this vice. But why? It is because the means by which it may be gained are seldom made use of, namely, fasting, avoidance of the occasions of sin, and prayer. Ah, my Immaculate Queen, fair dove, and the beloved of God, disdain not to cast thine eyes on the many stains and wounds of my soul. Behold me, and pity me! God Who loves thee so much denies thee nothing; and thou knowest not how to refuse those who have recourse to thee. O Mary, to thee I have recourse. Pity me. Mother inviolate, pray for us!