Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Cult of Virginity"

Reading the online news this morning, I saw the phrase "cult of virginity" applied to the Catholic Church. And lo, a quote from Chesterton's Ball and the Cross came to mind:

That is just the funny part of it. The human race has always admired the Catholic virtues, however little it can practise them; and oddly enough it has admired most those of them that the modern world most sharply disputes. You complain of Catholicism for setting up an ideal of virginity; it did nothing of the kind. The whole human race set up an ideal of virginity; the Greeks in Athene, the Romans in the Vestal fire, set up an ideal of virginity. What then is your real quarrel with Catholicism? Your quarrel can only be, your quarrel really only is, that Catholicism has achieved an ideal of virginity; that it is no longer a mere piece of floating poetry. But if you, and a few feverish men, in top hats, running about in a street in London, choose to differ as to the ideal itself, not only from the Church, but from the Parthenon whose name means virginity, from the Roman Empire which went outwards from the virgin flame, from the whole legend and tradition of Europe, from the lion who will not touch virgins, from the unicorn who respects them, and who make up together the bearers of your own national shield, from the most living and lawless of your own poets, from Massinger, who wrote the Virgin Martyr, from Shakespeare, who wrote Measure for Measure--if you in Fleet Street differ from all this human experience, does it never strike you that it may be Fleet Street that is wrong? (p. 66-67 in Dover edition)
And now, another quote from Jacques Maritain, which I don't believe I've shared yet(despite the fact that sharing is special):
Look for him, Thomas, the son of Landulf and Theodora, where is he? Effaced, lost in the light. A sign so pure that it disappears before that which it makes known-in looking at him, you see only the object that he points out, and the splendor of the visage of God. (40 St. Thomas Aquinas)

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