Virgin Topical Study

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According to the dictionary, a virgin (noun) is "a person who has never experienced sexual intercourse." In other words, a virgin is a person who is missing something. Some young people today (especially young men) seem embarrassed to admit that they are virgins. As depicted in the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin, to be a virgin is to be incomplete somehow, to have missed out on one of life's great experiences.

Points to Ponder

Virtuous or unhealthy? In earlier times, and in other cultures, female virginity is accorded great worth and is thought of as virtuous. But this too is not always healthy. It can derive from the view that sex is inherently sordid (as in early Christianity and into the Middle Ages), or that a woman is kept inviolate as the property of the family or clan.

Marriage Traditionally Christians believed it was God's will that people should remain virgins until marriage. This is not because sex is bad in itself, but being profoundly good, it is also vulnerable to abuse. It should therefore be surrounded by the protective boundaries of committed marriage. Today this boundary seems to be fading rapidly, even among Christians, as more and more young people cohabit before marriage.

Virgin Mary The Blessed Virgin Mary is the prime example of virginity in the Bible. Her virginity, however, has less to do with any negative attitude toward sex and more to do with the way in which the Son of God must enter human flesh. Humanity cannot save itself. St. Ambrose's fourth-century hymn puts it well: "Not by human power or seed, / did the woman's womb conceive; /only by the Spirit's breath / was the Word of God made flesh." Christians have also recognized that Mary's virginity has meaning for all of us. Thomas Merton writes of le point vierge, or the virgin place in our souls. It's a place at the center of our souls that belongs only to God and awakens only at his call. Kathleen Norris writes, "I treasure this story [of Mary] because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God's love breaks into my consciousness, do I run from it? Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a `yes' that will change me forever?"

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.