The Annunciation by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)
One thing that has become more obvious as I’ve gotten older is that I do not like my identity as a person to be dependent on whether or not I have had sex. When I was younger and marriage was still halfway on the table, I thought of my virginity as more of preparation for a wife and family. I was waiting on “that girl,” whoever she was. And it seems like that’s the only definition society has ever had for it – the period of time before a person gets married and starts a sexual relationship. But as time has gone on, it has become obvious to me that long term celibate chastity actually has little to do with saying no to sex and preparing for marriage – but it has everything to do with saying yes to Christ’s concerns and preparation for heaven. It has everything to do with acknowledging God as the creator of our bodies and the sacredness of marriage and sexual relationships. The world may ask us “why are you afraid of women?” and “what do you have against marriage?” What more respect can I show women than not breaking and entering into their temples? I’ve never understood why the Christian community has so much empathy for thieves and bank robbers, but so little support for the guards. So the irony of it is that those who have chosen the celibate life are actually respecting women and honoring marriage more than most married people themselves. But yet we are called adolescents and banned from leadership roles in churches. Would you have given Mary or Joseph leadership roles in your church before Christ was born? If you answered yes, why is that? How would you know Mary if you saw her? Would she have a big “virgin” tattooed on her forehead? I don’t think so. Outside of the homosexuality scandals, churches today don’t even know what celibacy is. That’s so true for Protestants. They repented from slavery. There’s a lot more they are going to have to repent from.
Why was it necessary for Mary, the mother of Christ, to be a virgin in the first place? Was it to ensure she would have a great sex life with Joseph? Was it to ensure her marriage to him would not end in divorce? Was it because she had to be perfect? I don’t think so. I think one of the main reasons was to proclaim to the world the divine nature of Christ as both God and human in the same body. To serve as evidence of his supernatural existence and that his birth did not come about by ordinary means. Christ himself walking on this earth represented both the sacred world of eternity in heaven and the physical world of human life on earth, a balance that only he could represent. If the church is supposed to become more Christ-like, shouldn’t it strive for this spiritual/physical balance? It seems to me that our conversations lately regarding marriage and family and sexual ethics have completely missed the mark. It’s not possible for us to point to this behavior or that and say it is ungodly without focusing first on God himself. The church will never have a proper respect for marriage without a proper respect for celibacy. That’s true for Catholics, Protestants, and all Christians. When we put virginity in perspective and take it out of the sexualized world of 21st century America, only then can we realize it’s true significance.