Augustin on Widowhood


A SELECT LIBRARY
OF THE
NICENE AND
POST-NICENE FATHERS
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THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
EDITED BY
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VOLUME III
SAINT AUGUSTIN:



Volume III


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On the Good of Widowhood

[De Bono Viduitatis.]

Translated by Ap C. L. Cornish, M.a., of Exeter College, Oxford.


This work is not mentioned in the Retractatians, probably because it is a letter, and as such it is reckoned by Possidius, cap. 7. It is also marked as St. Augustin痴 by its references to his other works, De Bono Conjugali, etc. cap. 15. Ep. to Proba, cap. 23. The date is marked by the recent consecration of Demetrias, which was in 413. The admonition for which he is thanked by Juliana, Ep. 188, may be that against Pelagianism.

An objection has been raised from its disagreement with the fourth Council of Carthage, an. 398. can. 104, which excommunicates widows who marry again after consecration, and pronounces them guilty of adultery, whereas in cap. 10 and 11, the opinion that such marriages are no marriages, and that they ought to return to continence, is refuted. The two, however, are not wholly irreconcileable, as there may be a guilt similar to that of adultery incurred, and it may be visited with a censure in the form of excommunication, and yet the marriage may remain valid. The 16th Canon of Chalcedon imposes such a penalty, with power to the Bishop to relax it.Abridged fromthe Benedictine Edition.

Augustin the Bishop, servant of Christ, and of the servants of Christ, unto the religious handmaiden of God, Juliana, in the: Lord of lords health.

1001 Not any longer to be in debt of my promise to your request and love in Christ, I have seized the occasion as I could, amid other my very pressing engagements, to write to you somewhat concerning the profession of holy widowhood, forasmuch as, when I was present, you laded me with entreaty, and, when I had not been able to deny you this, you often by letters demanded my promise. And in this work of ours, when you shall find in reading that some things pertain not at all I unto your own person, or unto the person of you, who are living together in Christ, nor are strictly necessary to give counsel unto your life, it will be your duty not on this account to judge them superfluous. Forsooth this letter, although it be addressed to you, was not to be written for you alone; but certainly it was a matter for us not to neglect, that it should profit others also through your means. Whatsoever, therefore, you shall find here, such as either hath been at no time necessary for you, or is not so now, and which yet you shall perceive to be necessary for others, grieve not either to possess or to lend to read; that your charity also may be the profit of others.

1002 2. Whereas, therefore, in every question, which relates to life and conduct, not only teaching, but exhortation also is necessary; in order that by teaching wemay know what is to be done, and by exhortation may be incited not to think it irksome to do what we already know is to be done; what more can I teach you, than what we read in the Apostle? For holy Scripture setteth a rule to ourteaching, that we dare not 澱e wise more than it behoveth to be wise;1 but be wise, as himself saith, 砥nto soberness, according as unto each God hath allotted the measure of faith.2 Be it not therefore for me to teach you any other thing, save to expound to you the words of the Teacher, and to treat of them as the Lord shall have given to me.

1003 3. Therefore (thus) saith the Apostle, the teacher of the Gentiles, the vessel of election, 釘ut I say unto the unmarried and the widows, that it is good for them, if they shall have so continued, even as I also.3 These words are to be so understood, as that we think not that widows ought not to be called unmarried, in that they seem to have made trial of marriage: for by the name of unmarried women he means those, who are not now Bound by marriage, whether they have been, or whether they have not been so. And this in another place he opens, where he says, 泥ivided is a woman unmarried and a virgin.4 Assuredly when he adds a virgin also, what would he have understood by an unmarried woman, but a widow? Whence also, in what follows, under the one term 砥nmarried he embraces both professions, saying, 鉄he who is unmarried is careful of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord: but she who is married is careful of the things of the world, how to please her husband.5 Certainly by the unmarried he would have understood, not only her who hath never married, but her also, who, being by widowhood set free from the bond of marriage, hath ceased to be married; for on this account also he calleth not married, save her, who hath an husband; not her also, who hath had, and hath not. Wherefore every widow is unmarried; but, because not every unmarried woman is a widow, for there are virgins also; therefore he hath here set both, where he says, 釘ut I say unto the unmarried and the widows; as if he Should say, What I say unto the unmarried, I say not unto them alone, who are virgins, but unto them also who are widows; 鍍hat it is good for them, if they shall have so continued, even as also I.6

1004 4. Lo, there is your good compared to that good, which the Apostle calls his own, if faith be present: yea, rather, because faith is present. Short is this teaching, yet not on this account to be despised, because it is short; but on this account to be retained the more easily and the more dearly, in that in shortness it is not cheap. For it is not every kind of good soever, which the Apostle would here set forth, which he hath unambiguously placed above the faith of married women. But how great good the faith of married women, that is, of Christian and religious women joined in marriage, hath, may be understood from this, that, when he was giving charge for the avoiding of fornication, wherein assuredly he was addressing married persons also, he saith, 適now ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?7 So great then is the good of faithful marriage, that even the very members are (members) of Christ. But, forasmuch as the good of widowed continence is better than this good, the purpose of this profession is, not that a catholic widow be any thing more than a member of Christ, but that she have a better place, than a married woman, among the members of Christ. Forsooth the same Apostle says, 擢or, as in one body we have many members, but all members have not the same course of action; so being many we are one body in Christ, and each members one of another: having gifts diverse according unto the grace, which hath been given unto us.8

1005 5. Wherefore also when he was advising married persons not to defraud one another of tile due of carnal intercourse; lest, by this means, the one of them, (the due of marriage being denied to him,) being through his own Incontinence tempted of Satan, should fall away into fornication, he saith, 釘ut this I say of leave, not of command; but I would that all men were as I myself; but each one hath his own proper gift from God; but one in this way, and another in that.9 You see that wedded chastity also, and the marriage faith of the Christian bed, is a 堵ift, and this of God; so that, when as carnal lust exceeds somewhat the measure of sensual intercourse, beyond what is necessary for the begetting of children, this evil is not of marriage, but venial by reason of the good of marriage. For not concerning marriage, which is contracted for the begetting of children, and the faith of wedded chastity, and the sacrament (indissoluble, so long as both live) of matrimony, all which are good; but concerning that immoderate use of the flesh, which is recognized in the weakness of married persons, and is pardoned by the intervention of the good of marriage, the Apostle saith, 的 speak of leave, not of command. Also, when he says, 典he woman is bound, so long as her husband lives: but, in case her husband shall have died, she is set free: let her be married to whom she will, only in the Lord: but she shall be more blessed, if she: shall have so continued, according to my counsel;10 he shows sufficiently that a faithful woman is blessed in the Lord, even when she marries a second time after the (death of her husband, but that a widow is more blessed in the same Lord; that is, to speak not only in the words, but by instances also, of the Scriptures, that Rt is blessed, but that Anna is more blessed.


1006 6. Wherefore this in the first place you ought to know, that by the good, which you have chosen, second marriages are not condemned, but are set in lower honor. For, even as the good of holy virginity, which thy daughter hath chosen, doth not condemn thy one marriage; so neither doth thy widowhood the second marriage of any. For hence, specially, the heresies of the Cataphryges and of the Novatians swelled, which Tertullian also, inflated with cheeks full of sound not of wisdom, whilst with railing tooth he attacks11 second marriages, as though unlawful, which the Apostle with sober mind allows12 to be altogether lawful. From this soundness of doctrine let no man痴 reasoning, be he unlearned, or be he learned, move thee; nor do thou so extol thy own good, as to charge as evil that of another痴 which is not evil; but do thou rejoice so much the more of thy own good, the more thou seest, that, by it, not only are evils shunned, but some goods too surpassed. For adultery and fornication are evils. But from these unlawful things she is very far removed, who hath bound herself by liberty of vow, and, not by command of law, but by counsel of charity, hath brought to pass that even things lawful should not be lawful to her. And marriage chastity is a good, but widowed continence is a better good. Therefore this better good is honored by the submission of that other, not that other condemned by the praise of this that is better.

1007 7. But whereas the Apostle, when commending the fruit of unmarried men and women, in that they have thought of the things of the Lord, how to please God, added and saith, 釘ut this I say for your profit, not to cast a snare on you13 that is, not to force you; 澱ut in order to that which is honorable; we ought not, because he saith that the good of the unmarried is honorable, therefore to think that the bond of marriage is base; otherwise we shall condemn first marriages also, which neither Cataphryges, nor Novatians, nor their most learned upholder Tertullian dared to call base. But as, when he says, 釘ut I say unto the unmarried and widows, that it is good for them if they shall have so continued;14 assuredly he set down 堵ood for 澱etter, since every thing, which, when compared with a good, is called better, this also without doubt is a good; for what else is it that it is so called better, save that it is more good? and yet we do not on this account suppose him by consequence to have thought that it was an evil, in case they married, in that he said, 妬t is good for them, if they shall have so continued; so also, when he says, 澱ut in order to that which is honest, he hath not shown that marriage is base, but that which was honester than (another thing also) honest, he hath commended by the name of honest in general. Because what is honester, save what is more honest? But what is more honest is certainly honest. Forsooth he plainly showed that this is better than that other that is good, where he says, 展hoso giveth to marry, doeth well; but whoso giveth not to marry, doeth better.15 And this more blessed than that other that is blessed, where he saith, 釘ut she shall be more blessed, if she shall have so continued.16 As, therefore, there is than good a better, and than blessed a more blessed, so is there than honest an honester, which he chose to call honest. For far be it that that be base, of which the Apostle Peter speaking saith, 滴usbands, unto your wives, as unto the weaker and subject vessel, give honor, as unto co-heirs of grace; and addressing the wives, he exhorts them, by the pattern of Sarah, to be subject unto their husbands; 擢or so, saith he, 田ertain holy women, who hoped in God, adorned themselves, obeying their own husbands; even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters ye are made, well-doing, and not fearing any disturbance.17

1008 8. Whence, also, what the Apostle Paul said of the unmarried woman, 鍍hat she may be holy both in body and spirit;18 we are not so to understand, as though a faithful l woman being married and chaste, and according to the Scriptures subject unto her bus band, be not holy in body, but only in spirit. For it cannot come to pass, that when the spirit is sanctified, the body also be not holy, of which the sanctified spirit maketh use: but, that we seem not to any to argue rather than to prove this by divine saying; since the Apostle Peter, making mention of Sarah, saith only 塗oly women, and saith not, 殿nd in body; let us consider that saying of the same Paul, where forbidding fornication he saith, 適now ye not, that your bodies are members of Christ? Taking, therefore, members of Christ, shall I make them members of an harlot? Far be it.19 Therefore let any one dare to say that the members of Christ are not holy; or let him not dare to separate from the members of Christ the bodies of the faithful that are married. Whence, also, a little after he saith, 添our body is the temple within you of the Holy Spirit, Whom ye have from God; and ye are not your own; for ye have been bought with a great price.20 He saith that the body of the faithful is both members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, wherein assuredly the faithful of both sexes are understood. There therefore are married women, there unmarried women also; but distinct in their deserts, and as members preferred to members, whilst yet neither are separated from the body. Whereas, therefore, he saith, speaking of an unmarried woman, 鍍hat she may be holy both in body and spirit, he would have understood a fuller sanctification both in body and in spirit, and hath not deprived the body of married women of all sanctification.

1009 9. Learn, therefore, that thy good, yea, rather, remember what thou hast learned, that thy good is more praised, because there is another good than which this is better, than if this could not on any other condition be a good, unless that were an evil, or altogether were not. The eyes have great honor in the body, but they would have less, if they were alone, and there were not other members of less honor. In heaven itself the sun by its light surpasses, not chides, the moon; and star from star differs in glory,21 not is atvariance through pride. Therefore, 敵od made all things, and, lo, very good;22 not only 堵ood, but also 砺ery; for no other reason, than because 殿ll. For of each several work throughout it was also said, 敵od saw that it is good. But, when 殿ll were named, 砺ery was added; and it was said, 敵od saw all things which He made, and, lo, very good. For certain several things were better than other several, but all together better than any several. Therefore, may the sound doctrine of Christ make thee in His Body sound through His Grace, that, what thou hast better than others in body and spirit, the self-same thy spirit, which ruleth the body, may neither extol with insolence, nor distinguish with lack of knowledge.

1 (So V *).
2 (
Rm 12,3,


1010 10. Nor, because I called Rt blessed, Anna more blessed, in that the former married twice, the latter, being soon widowed of her one husband, so lived long, do you straightway also think that you are better than Ruth. Forsooth different in the times of the Prophets was the dispensation of holy females, whom obedience, not lust, forced to marry, for the propagation of the people of God,23 that in them Prophets of Christ might be sent beforehand; whereas the People itself also, by those things which in figure happened among them, whether in the case of those who knew, or in the case of those who knew not those things, was nothing else than a Prophet of Christ, of whom should be born the Flesh also of Christ. In order therefore for the propagation of that people, he was accounted accursed by sentence of the Law, whoso raised not up seed in Israel.24 Whence also holy women were kindled, not by lust of sensual intercourse, but by piety of bearing; so that we most rightly believe of them that they would not have sought sensual intercourse, in case a family could have come by any other means. And to the husbands was allowed the use of several wives living; and that the cause of this was not lust of the flesh, but forethought of begetting, is shown by the fact, that, as it was lawful for holy men to have several wives living, it was riot likewise lawful for holy women to have intercourse with several husbands living; in that they would be by so much the baser, by how much the more they sought what would not add to their fruitfulness. Wherefore holy Ruth, not having seed such as at that time was necessary in Israel, on the death of her husband sought another of whom to have it. Therefore than this one twice married, Anna once married a widow was on this account more blessed, in that she attained also to be a prophetess of Christ; concerning whom we are to believe, that, although she had no sons, (which indeed Scripture by keeping silence hath left uncertain,) yet, had she by that Spirit foreseen that Christ would immediately come of a virgin, by Which she was enabled to recognize Him even as a child: whence, with good reason, even without sons, (that is, assuming she had none,) she refused a second marriage: in that she knew that now was the time wherein Christ were better served, not by duty of bearing, but by zeal of containing: not by fruitfulness of married womb, but by chastity of widowed conduct. But if Ruth also was aware that by her flesh was propagated a seed, whereof Christ should hereafter have flesh, and by marrying set forth her ministering to this knowledge, I dare not any longer say that the widowhood of Anna was more blessed than her fruitfulness.

3 toi`", tai`":
1Co 7,8.
4 hJ gunh; kai; hJ parqevno".

1011 11. But thou who both hast sons, and livest in that end of the world, wherein now is the time not of casting stones, but of gathering; not of embracing, but of abstaining from embracing;25 when the Apostle cries out, 釘ut this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remains, that both they who have wives be as not having;26 assuredly if thou hadst sought a second marriage, it would have been no obedience of prophecy or law, no carnal desire even of family, but a mark of incontinence alone. For you would have done what the Apostle says, after he had said, 的t is good for them, if they shall have so continued, even as I;27 forsooth he straightway added, 釘ut if they contain not themselves, let them marry; for I had rather that they marry than be burned. For this he said, in order that the evil of unbridled desire might not be carried headlong into criminal baseness, being taken up by the honest estate of marriage. But thanks be to the Lord, in that thou hast given birth to what thou wouldest not be, and the virginity of thy child hath compensated for the loss of thy virginity. For Christian doctrine, having diligent question made of it, makes answer, that a first marriage also now at this time is to be despised, unless incontinence stand in the way. For he, who said, 的f they contain not themselves, let them marry, could have said, 的f they have not sons, let them marry, if, when now after theResurrection and Preaching of Christ, thereis unto all nations so great and abundant supply of sons to be spiritually begotten, it were any such duty to beget sons after the flesh as it was in the first times. And, whereas in another place he saith, 釘ut I will that the younger marry, bear children, be mothers of families,28 he commends with apostolic sobriety and authority the good of marriage, but doth not impose the duty of bearing, as though in order to obey the law, even on those who 途eceive the good of continence. Lastly, why he had said this, he unfolds, when he adds and says, 典o give no occasion of speaking evil to the adversary; for already certain have turned back after Satan: that by these words of his we may understand, that those, whom he would have marry, could have done better to contain than marry; but better to marry than to go back after Satan, that is, to fall away from that excellent purpose of virginal or widowed chastity, by looking back to things that are behind, and perish. Wherefore, such as contain not themselves, let them marry before they make profession of continence, before they vow unto God, what, if they pay not, they are justly condemned. Forsooth in another place he saith of such, 擢or when they have lived in delights in Christ, they wish to marry: having condemnation, in that they have made of none effect their first faith;29 that is, they have turned aside their will from the purpose of continence unto marriage. Forsooth they have made of none effect the faith, whereby they formerly vowed what they were unwilling by perseverance to fulfill. Therefore the good of marriage is indeed ever a good: but in the people of God it was at one time an act of obedience unto the law; now it is a remedy for weakness, but in certain a solace of human nature. Forsooth to be engaged in thegetting of children, not after the fashion of dogs by promiscuous use of females, but by honest order of marriage, is not an affection such as we are to blame in a man; yet this affection itself the Christian mind, having thoughts of heavenly things, in a more praiseworthy manner surpasses and overcomes.

5 (
1Co 7,34,
6 (1Co 7,8,
7 (1Co 6,15,
8 (Rm 12,4-6.
9 (1Co 7,6-7).
10 (1Co 7,39-40).
11 Concidit..
12 Concedit..
13 (1Co 7,35
14 (1Co 7,8,
15 (1Co 7,38,
16 ver. 40.
17 (1P 3,5-7). [See R.V.].
18 (1Co 7,34).
19 (1Co 6,15). [See R.V.]
20 (1Co 6,19-20.
21 (1Co 15,41,
22 (Gn 1,31,
23 1Co 10,11.
24 (Dt 25,5-10).
25 (Qo 3,5).
26 (1Co 7,29). [See R.V.].
27 (1Co 7,8-9.
28 (1Tm 5,14-15.
29 (1Tm 5,11-12). [See R.V.].


1012 12. But since, as the Lord saith, 哲ot all receive this word;30 therefore let her who can receive it, receive it; and let her, who containeth not, marry; let her, who hath not begun, deliberate; let her, who hath undertaken it, persevere; let there be no occasion given unto the adversary, let there be no oblation withdrawn from Christ. Forsooth in the marriage bond if chastity be preserved, condemnation is not feared; but in widowed and virginal continence, the excellence of a greater gift31 is sought for: and, when this has been sought, and chosen, and by debt of vow offered, from this time not only to enter upon marriage, but, although one be not married, to wish to marry is matter of condemnation. For, in order to show this, the Apostle saith not, 展hen they shall have lived in delights, in Christ they marry;32 but 鍍hey wish to marry; having, saith he, 田ondemnation, in that they have made of none effect their first faith, although not by marrying, yet by wishing; not that the marriages even of such are judged matter of condemnation; but there is condemned a wrong done to purpose, there is condemned a broken faith of vow, there is condemned not a relief by lower good, but a fall from higher good: lastly, such are condemned, not because they have entered upon marriage faith afterwards, but because they have made of none effect the first faith of continence. And in order to suggest this in few words, the Apostle would not say, that they have condemnation, who after purpose of greater sanctity marry, (not because they are not condemned, but lest in them marriage itself should be thought to be condemned:) but, after he had said, 鍍hey wish to marry, he straightway added, 塗aving condemnation. And he stated the reason, 妬n that they have made of none effect their former faith, in order that it may appear that it is the will which fell away from its purpose, which is condemned, whether marriage follow, or fail to follow.

30 (
Mt 19,11,
31 Muneris..
32 (1Tm 5,11-12).

1013 13. Wherefore they who say that the marriages of such are not marriages, but rather adulteries, seem not to me to consider with sufficient acuteness and care what they say; forsooth they, are misled by a semblance of truth. For, whereas they, who of Christian sanctity marry not, are said to choose the marriage of Christ, hence certain argue saying, If she, who during the life of her husband is married to another, be an adulteress, even as the Lord Himself hath laid down in the Gospel; therefore, during the life of Christ, over Whom death hath no more dominion,33 if she who had chosen His marriage, be married to a man, she is an adulteress. They, who say this, are moved indeed with acuteness, but fail to observe, how great absurdity in fact follows on this reasoning. For whereas it is praiseworthy that, even during the life of her husband, by his consent, a female vow continence unto Christ, now, according to the reasoning of these persons, no one ought to do this, lest she make Christ Himself, what is impious to imagine, an adulterer, by being married to Him during the life of her husband. Next, whereas first marriages are of better desert than second, far be it that this be the thought of holy widows, that Christ seem unto them as a second husband. For Himself they used heretofore also to have, (when they were subject and did faithful service to their own husbands,) not after the flesh, but after the Spirit a Husband; unto Whom the Church herself, of which they are members, is the wife; who by soundness of faith, of hope, of charity, not in the virgins alone, but in widows also, and faithful married women, is altogether a virgin. Forsooth unto the universal Church, of which they all are members, the Apostle saith, 的 joined you unto one husband a chaste virgin to present unto Christ.34 But He knoweth how to make fruitful, without marring of chastity, a wife a virgin, Whom even in the flesh itself His Mother could without violation of chastity conceive. But there is brought to pass by means of this ill-considered notion, (whereby they think that the marriages of women who have fallen away from this holy purpose, in case they shall have married, are no marriages,) no small evil, that wives be separated from their husbands, as though they were adulteresses, not wives; and wishing to restore to continence the women thus separated, they make their husbands real adulterers, in that during the life of their wives they have married others.

33 (
Rm 6,9,
34 (2Co 11,2). [See R.V.]).

1014 14. Wherefore I cannot indeed say, of females who have fallen away from a better purpose, in case they shall have married, that they are adulteries, not marriages; but I plainly would not hesitate to say, that departures and fallings away from a holier chastity, which is vowed unto the Lord, are worse than adulteries. For if, what may no way be doubted, it pertains unto an offense against Christ, when a member of Him keepeth not faith to her husband; how much graver offense is it against Him, when unto Himself faith is not kept, in a matter which He requires when offered, Who had not required that it should be offered. For when each fails to render that which, not by force of command, but by advice of counsel, he vowed, by so much the more cloth he increase the unrighteousness of the wrong done to his vow, by how much the less necessity he had to vow. These matters I for this reason treat of, that you may not think either that second marriages are criminal, or that any marriages whatsoever, being marriages, are an evil. Therefore let this be your mind, not that you condemn them, but that you despise them. Therefore the good of widowed chastity is becoming after a brighter fashion, in that in order to make vow and profession of it, females may despise what is both pleasing and lawful. But after profession of vow made they must continue to rein in, and overcome, what is pleasing, because it is no longer lawful.

1015 15. Men are wont to move a question concerning a third or fourth marriage, and even more numerous marriages than this. On which to make answer strictly, I dare neither to condemn any marriage, nor to take from these the shame of their great number. But, lest the brevity of this my answer may chance to displease any, I am prepared to listen to my reprover treating more fully. For perhaps he alleges some reason, why second marriages be not condemned, but third be condemned. For I, as in the beginning of this discourse I gave warning, dare not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise.35 For who am I, that I should think that that must be defined which I see that the Apostle hath not defined? For he saith, 鄭 woman is bound, so long as her husband liveth.36 He said not, her first; or, second; or, third; or, fourth;37 but, 鄭 woman, saith he, 妬s bound, so long as her husband liveth; but if her husband shall be dead, she is set free; let her be married to whom she will, only in the Lord: but she shall be more blessed, if she shall have so continued. I know not what can be added to, or taken from, this sentence, so far as relates to this matter. Next I hear Himself also, the Master and Lord of the Apostles and of us, answering the Sadducees, when they had proposed to Him a woman not once-married, or twice-married, but, if it can be said, seven-married,38 whose wife she should be in the resurrection? For rebuking them, He saith, 添e do err, not knowing. the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they shall neither be married,nor marry wives;39 for they shall not begin todie, but shall be equal to the Angels of God.40 Therefore He made mention of their resurrection, who shall rise again unto life, not who shall rise again unto punishment. Therefore He might have said, Ye do err, knowing not the Scriptures, nor the power of God: for in that resurrection it will not be possible that there be those that were wives of many; and then added, that neither doth any there marry. But neither, as we see, did He in this sentence show any sign of condemning her who was the wife of so many husbands. Wherefore neither dare I, contrary to the feeling of natural shame, say, that, when her husbands. are dead, a woman marry as often as she will; nor dare I, out of my own heart, beside the authority of holy Scripture, condemn any number of marriages whatever. But, what I say to a widow, who hath had one husband, this I say to every widow; you will be more blessed, if you shall have so continued.

35 (
Rm 12,3).
36 1Co 7,39-40.
37 Al. 登r any number..
38 Septiviram..
39 (Mt 22,29-30.
40 Lc 20,35-36.

1016 16. For that also is no foolish question which is wont to be proposed, that whoso can may say, which widow is to be preferred in desert; whether one who hath had one husband, who, after having lived a considerable time with her husband, being left a widow with sons born to her and alive, hath made profession of continence; or She who as a young woman having lost two husbands within two years, having no children left alive to console her, hath vowed to God continence, and in it hath grown old with most enduring sanctity. Herein let them exercise themselves, if they can, by discussing, and by showing some proof to us, who weigh the merits of widows by number of husbands, not by the strength itself of continence. For, if they shall have said, that she who hath had one husband is to be preferred to her who hath had two; unless they shall have alleged some special reason or authority, they will assuredly be found to set before excellence of soul, not greater excellence of soul, but good fortune of the flesh. Forsooth it pertained unto good fortune of the flesh, both to live a long time with her husband, and to conceive sons. But, if they prefer her not on this account, that she had sons; at any rate the very fact that she lived a long time with her husband, what else was it than good fortune of the flesh? Further, the desert of Anna herself is herein chiefly commended, in that, after she had so soon buried her husband, through her protracted life she long contended with the flesh, and overcame. For so it is written, 鄭nd there was Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in many days; and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow even unto eighty-four years, who used not to depart from the Temple, by fastings and prayers serving day and night.41 You see how the holy widow is not only commended in this, that she had had one husband, but also, that she had lived few years with a husband from her virginity, and had with so great service of piety continued her office of widowed chastity even unto so great age.

41 (
Lc 2,36-37).



Augustin on Widowhood