Barbarian invaders had violated many consecrated virgins in Rome. Was their chastity destroyed? No, says St. Augustine: the purity of the body depends on the purity of the soul, not on the violence of the unpredictable outside world.
The sanctity of the body does not depend on the integrity of its members, or on their being untouched. After all, they are subject to various accidents that hurt them and wound them, and the surgeons who bring relief often perform operations that sicken the spectator.
As long as the soul keeps that firmness of purpose that sanctifies the body itself, the violence done by another’s lust makes no impression on this bodily sanctity, which is preserved intact by one’s own determined self-control.
Suppose a virgin violates the oath she has sworn to God, and goes to meet her seducer, planning to give in to him. Should we say that, as she goes to him, she still has her bodily sanctity, when she has already lost and destroyed that very sanctity of soul that sanctifies the body?
Far be it from us to misapply words that way. Let us instead conclude this way: that if the sanctity of the soul remains, the sanctity of the body is not lost even if the body is violated; and, on the other hand, the sanctity of the body is lost when the sanctity of the soul is violated, even if the body itself remains untouched.
–St. Augustine, City of God, 1.18IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
Do I keep my body pure by keeping my soul pure?
When I examine my inner thoughts, do I find offenses against chastity?
Lord, I pray for your peace for all who are passing their days in virginity, celibacy, and discipline, and for the holy monks and nuns wherever they labor.
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