Procession of virgin martyrs bearing both martyr's palms and wreaths as the crown of a virgin (master of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, 6th century)
Procession of virgin martyrs bearing both martyr's palms and wreaths as the crown of a virgin (master of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, 6th century)

The title Virgin (Latin Virgo, Greek Παρθένος) is an honorific bestowed on female saints and blesseds in some Christian traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

Chastity is one of the seven virtues in Christian tradition, listed by Pope Gregory I at the end of the 6th century. In 1 Corinthians, Saint Paul suggests a special role for virgins or unmarried women (ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος ἡ ἄγαμος) as more suitable for "the things of the Lord" (μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου).[1] In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul alludes to the metaphor of the Church as Bride of Christ by addressing the congregation "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ".

In the theology of the Church Fathers, the prototype of the sacred virgin is Mary, the mother of Jesus, consecrated by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation.[2] Although not stated in the gospels, the perpetual virginity of Mary was widely upheld as a dogma by the Church Fathers from the 4th century.

Virgin martyrs

Saint Euphemia with the crown of a virgin, a white lily and the martyr's palm (Andrea Mantegna, 1454)
Saint Euphemia with the crown of a virgin, a white lily and the martyr's palm (Andrea Mantegna, 1454)

In the hagiography of Christian martyrs of the late 1st to early 4th centuries, virgin martyrs (Latin virgo et martyr (Greek παρθένος-μάρτυρας, Russian дева-мученица) were often persecuted for their refusal to enter a worldly marriage after having vowed to keep their virginity for the sake of heaven. Other virgin martyrs lost their lives in defensum castitatis ("in defense of chastity").[3] A group of virgin martyrs of the early church, namely Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Margaret of Antioch, Barbara of Nicomedia and Dorothea of Caesarea, is called "the four capital virgins", three of them belong to the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

In the Roman Missal and the Book of Hours, virgins and virgin martyrs have their own common. Different martyrologies (for example the Martyrologium Romanum or the Martyrologium Hieronymianum) list early virgin martyrs, some of which are also named in the Canon of the Mass.

Consecrated virgins

Main article: Consecrated virgin

The tradition of the rite of the Consecratio virginum (consecration of a virgin) dates back to the 4th century, the form of life to apostolic times. The first known formal consecration is that of Saint Marcellina, dated AD 353, mentioned in De Virginibus by her brother, Saint Ambrose. Another early consecrated virgin is Saint Genevieve (c. 422 – c. 512).

According to Raymond of Capua, Saint Catherine of Siena (c. 1347–1380) at the age of twenty-one (c. 1368) experienced what she described in her letters as a Mystical marriage with Jesus Christ, later a popular subject in art as the Mystic marriage of Saint Catherine.

Canon 922 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "From apostolic times Christian virgins, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church's approval to live in a state of virginity 'for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven'."

Virgins are consecrated for the church as a bride of Christ both in the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic church. While in the latter one the consecration has been bestowed for centuries only for nuns living in cloistered monasteries, the bestowal for women living in the world has been reintroduced under Pope Paul VI in 1970.[5] The number of consecrated virgins ranges in the thousands. Estimates derived from the diocesan records range at around 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide as of 2018.[6]

See also

References

  1. ^ 1 Corinthians 7:34 "There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (KJV).
  2. ^ "To participants in the International Congress of the Ordo Virginum (May 15, 2008) | BENEDICT XVI". w2.vatican.va. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  3. ^ "CatholicSaints.Info » Died in Slovakia".
  4. ^ "St. Melitina - Saints & Angels".
  5. ^ Ordo Consecrationis Virginum (31 May 1970), AAS 62 (1970) 650 = EDIL 2082-2092 = DOL 294 no. 3352. English translation: The Rites of the Catholic Church 2 (n. 29, p. 81), 132-164, DOL 395 nos. 3253-3262.
  6. ^ Bernadette Mary Reis, "Church reproposes Order of Virgins 50 years after its restoration", Vatican News, 4 July 2018.