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Two Sermons of St. Augustine of Hippo on Marriage

August 16, 2011

St. Augustine of Hippo’s sermon: Many Wives and Many Children; 

 ”So those holy godly men of yore, the Patriarchs, my dear Men and Women of God, sought children; yes, they wanted to raise children. To achieve that goal thhey were joined to women; for this purpose they had intercourse with women to procreate children. And so it was permitted to them to have a number of wives. If unbridled lust were a virtue pleasing to God at that moment in history, He would’ve permitted one woman to have many husbands; that’d give her parity with the man who could have many wives. Why didn’t all the chaste women have more than one husband? Could it be that many women had one husband because it had something to do with the numerosity of the race? If that’s the norm, then one woman with many men couldn’t increase the productivity of the race the way one man with many women can. Wherefore, my Brothers and Sisters, if our Patriarchs married women and serviced them for no other reason than siring children, then they would’ve been more than pleased, wouldn’t they? If they could’ve had the children without intercourse. What I mean to say is, they did what they did, no for the lust of it, but for the duty. All of which brings us back to Joseph. Wasn’t he still a father even if he got his son through a route other than concupiscene? Far be it that Christian chastity should have something to do with it! Certainly Jewish chastity had nothing to do with it at all! To conclude this point, love your wives, but love them chastely. Do the animal thing but only for the begetting of children. Because it’s the only way to do it, but wistfully, wishing there were a better way. Count it as a residue of our common father Adam. Now there’s no need to trumpet his punishment. He brought it upon himself when he sinned; and from that moment on his children were mortal. Unfortunately, this punishment is still in place; God hasn’t taken it away; He’s left it behind as a token of where His embrace-an embrace that hasn’t a whiff of corruption, a sniff of punishment about it.”

Maternity and Paternity

“Before the king of all the nations Himself was born, a woman’s virginity had no value among the Jews.  Maternity-that was a woman’s highest honor.  That is, until Mary the Mother of Our Lord came along.  She gave birth to a son and didn’t lose her virginity in the process.  Hers was a legal marriage, a marriage without intercourse, but not without hugs and kisses.

And so I put this question to you.  It’s about Mary’s chastity.  Why can’t her husband receive chastely the baby she brought into this world chastely?  Another question.

If she was chaste as a wife and he as a husband, why can’t they both be chaste as mother and father?

What are the Hecklers and Jecklers shouting now?

“Joseph shouldn’t be called father because he didn’t do the siring himself!” 

Well, that’s just the sort of crack that says it’s the lust, not the love, that counts in the begetting of a child.  In Joseph’s case, it was the other way round.  What one husband did for sexual excitement, Joseph did for spiritual fulfillment. 

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about here.  Those men who adopt children may be said to give birth to them chastely; that’s to say, in their hearts.  These very same children they couldn’t have begotten with their bodies.

Perhaps a look at the laws of adoption isn’t out of place here, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  Consider how a man becomes the son of someone who isn’t his real or natural father.  The stepfather acquires the rights once possessed by the father.  And so it was in Joseph’s case.  He had the rights to become a father, and with the adoption he acquired the earthly parental rights once exercised by His Heavenly Father.

In a parallel case, men generate children from women who aren’t their wives; these are called natural children.  Odd thing, though.  The mechanics of wives and mistresses during intercourse inside and outside of marriage are remarkably the same.  But where the wives take the cake is in their capacity for a sincerer, chaster love.

Looked at from the male point of view, the husband who could sire his children without intercourse and raise them up would be a happier man indeed, knowing that his wife didn’t need the sex to love him with her whole heart.” St. Augustine of Hippo; Church Father and Doctor of the Church.

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