by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
After the fall of Adam, man's senses became rebellious to reason. As a consequence, chastity is the most difficult of all the virtues to practice. St. Augustine says: Of all inner conflicts, the most arduous are concerned with chastity. These battles are of daily occurrence, but victory is rare. May God be praised eternally, however, because in Mary He has given us such a shining example of this virtue. Mary is with good reason called the Virgin of virgins, says Saint Albert the Great, without the advice or example of others, She was the first to consecrate Her virginity to God. In this way She led to God all who imitated Her virginity, as David foretold: After Her shall virgins be brought ... into the temple of the King (Ps. 44:15). Without advice and without any example! St. Bernard says: O Virgin, who taught Thee to please God by Thy Virginity and to lead an angel's life on earth? St. Sophronius replies: God chose a pure Virgin for His Mother, that She might be an example of chastity to everybody.
He speaks here of those who appear anxious to win the battle against unchastity but are willing to use the means and flee the dangers.
That is why St. Ambrose calls Mary the standard-bearer of virginity. Because of Mary's purity the Holy Spirit declared that She is as beautiful as the turtle-dove: Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle-dove's (Cant. 1:9). A most pure turtle-dove is what Aponius calls Her. For the same reason Mary is also called a lily: As the lily among the thorns, so is My love among the daughters (Cant. 2:2). On this passage Denis the Carthusian remarks: Mary was compared to a lily among thorns because all other virgins were thorns, either to themselves or to others. She inspired everybody who looked at Her with chaste thoughts. St. Thomas confirms this when he says that the beauty of the Blessed Virgin incited to chastity all who looked at Her. St. Jerome maintains that St. Joseph remained a virgin as a result of living with Mary. Writing against the heretic Helvidius, who denied Mary's virginity, St. Jerome said: You say that Mary did not remain a virgin, I say that not only did She remain a virgin, but that even Joseph preserved his virginity through Mary.
St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the Blessed Virgin loved chastity so much, that to preserve it She would have been willing to renounce even the dignity of Mother of God. This seems evident from Her reply to the archangel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? (Lk. 1:34). And from the words She added then: Be it done to Me according to thy word (Lk. 1:38), signifying that She gave Her consent on the condition that, as the angel had assured Her, She should become a mother only by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
St. Ambrose says that anyone who preserves chastity is an angel; anyone who loses it is a devil. Our Lord assures us that those who are chaste become angels: They shall be as the angels of God in Heaven (Mt. 22:30). But the unchaste become hateful to God, like devils. St. Remigius used to say that the majority of adults are lost by this vice. We have quoted St. Augustine as saying that a victory is very seldom gained in this combat. Why is this? Because the means by which the victory may be gained are very seldom used. These means are threefold, according to St. Bellarmine and the masters of the spiritual life: fasting, the avoidance of dangerous occasions of sin, and prayer.
O Mary, most pure dove, how many are now in hell on account of impurity! Most gracious Lady, obtain for us the grace always to fly to Thee in our temptations, and always invoke Thy name, pleading: Mary, Mary, help us!