Virginity and the Stages of Love: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


Those who live by what Our Lord calls the "spirit of the world" are radically incapable of understanding anything done by others out of the spirit of Christ, Who said, "I have taken you out of the world, therefore the world will hate you." (John 15: 19) When the world hears of a young girl entering the convent, it asks, "Was she disappointed in love?" the best answer to that inanity is, "Yes! But it was not a man's love that disappointed her, it was the world's love." Actually, a young girl enters the convent because she has fallen in love with Love itself, which is God. The world can understand why one should love the sparks, but it cannot understand why one should love the Flame. It is comprehensible that one should love the flesh that fades and dies, but incomprehensible that one should love with "passionless passion and wild tranquility" the love which is Eternal.

Anyone who knows the real philosophy of love should not be confused at such noble loving. There are three stages of love, and few there are who ever arrive at the third stage. The first love is digestive love, the second is democratic love, and the third is sacrificial love. Digestive love enters in the person whom one loves. It assimilates in persons, as the stomach assimilates food, using them as a means of to either its own pleasure or utility. Mere physical or sex love is digestive; it flatters the other person for his possession, as the farmer fattens livestock for the market. Its proffered gifts are only "baits" used as Trojan horses to win the other person over at the moment of its devouring. Those marriages which last only a few years, and end in divorce and remarriage, are founded on a love which is purely organic and glandular... "We are no longer married, but we're still good friends."

Above digestive love is democratic love, in which there is a reciprocal devotion founded on natural honor, justice, common likes and a sense of decency. Here the other person is treated with becoming respect and dignity. This stage deserves the name of love, which the first does not.

Over and above this is what might be called sacral or sacrificial love, in which the lover sacrifices himself for the object of his love, and desires even to immolate self that the other might be glorified. Gustave Thibon beautifully describes these three loves. he calls them Indifference, Attachment, and Detachment.

Indifference.
As far as I'm concerned, you do not exist.
Attachment. You exist, but this existence is based on our reciprocal relations. You exist in the measure I possess you, and the moment I dispossess you, you no longer exist.
Detachment. You exist for me absolutely, quite independent of my personal relations with you, and beyond anything you could do for me. I adore you as a reflection of the Divinity which can never be taken from me. And I have no need to possess in order that you have existence for me.

Consecrated virginity is the highest form of sacral or sacrificial love; it seeks nothing for itself, but only the will of the beloved. Pagans reverenced virginity, but they regarded it as almost the exclusive power of the of woman, for purity was seen only in its mechanical and physical effects. Christianity, on the contrary, looks upon virginity as a surrender of sex and human love for God.

The world makes the mistake of assuming that virginity is opposed to love, as a university education is related to a grammar school education. Virginity is the mountain peak of love, as marriage is its hill.
~ Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Excerpted from The World's First Love

Comments

  1. Once again, Sheen’s words direct me to the beautiful truth which is such a relief after I stumble about in the clutter and obfuscation of this world. Thanks so much for posting this. Take care and may the peace of Christ be with you always. God bless!

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