To an objection that the state of widowhood might indeed be endurable if circumstances were pleasant, St. Ambrose replies that pleasant surroundings are more dangerous than even trouble; and goes to show by examples taken from holy Scripture, that widows may find much happiness in their children and their sons-in-law. They should have recourse to the Apostles, who are able to help us, and should entreat for the intercessions of angels and martyrs. He touches then on certain complaints respecting loneliness, and care of property, and ends by pointing out the unseemliness of a widow marrying who has daughters either married already or of marriageable age.
52. You have learnt, then, you who are widows, that you are not destitute of the help of nature, and that you can maintain sound counsel. Nor, again, are you devoid of protection at home, who are able to claim even the highest point of public power.
53. But perhaps some one may say that widowhood is more endurable for her who enjoys prosperity, but that widows are soon broken down by adversity, and easily succumb. On which point not only are we taught by experience that enjoyment is more perilous for widows than difficulties, but by the examples in the Scriptures that even in weakness widows are not usually without aid,57 1 Tim. v. 16. and that divine and human support is furnished more readily to them than to others, if they have brought up children and chosen sons-in-law well. And, finally, when Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with violent fever, Peter and Andrew besought the Lord for her: “And He stood over her and commanded the fever and it left her, and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.”58 S. Luke iv. 39.
54. “She was taken,” it is said, “with a great fever, and they besought him for her.”59 S. Luke iv. 38. You too have those near you to entreat for you. You have the Apostles near, you have the Martyrs near; if associated with the Martyrs in devotion, you draw near them also by works of mercy. Do you show mercy and you will be close to Peter. It is not relationship by blood but affinity of virtue which makes near, for we walk not in the flesh but in the Spirit. Cherish, then, the nearness of Peter and the affinity of Andrew, that they may pray for you and your lusts give way. Touched by the word of God you, who lay on the earth, will then forthwith rise up to minister to Christ. “For our conversation is in heaven, whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”60 Phil. iii. 20. For no one lying down can minister to Christ. Minister to the poor and you have ministered to Christ. “For what ye have done unto one of these,” He says, “ye have done unto Me.”61 S. Matt. xxv. 40. You, widows, have then assistance, if you choose such sons-in-law for yourselves, such patrons and friends for your posterity.
55. So Peter and Andrew prayed for the widow. Would that there were some one who could so quickly pray for us, or better still, they who prayed for the mother-in-law, Peter and Andrew his brother. Then they could pray for one related to them, now they are able to pray for us and for all. For you see that one bound by great sin is less fit to pray for herself, certainly less likely to obtain for herself. Let her then make use of others to pray for her to the physician. For the sick, unless the physician be called to them by the prayers of others, cannot pray for themselves. The flesh is weak, the soul is sick and hindered by the chains of sins, and cannot direct its feeble steps to the throne of that physician. The angels must be entreated for us, who have been to us as guards; the martyrs must be entreated, whose patronage we seem to claim for ourselves by the pledge as it were of their bodily remains. They can entreat for our sins, who, if they had any sins, washed them in their own blood; for they are the martyrs of God, our leaders, the beholders of our life and of our actions. Let us not be ashamed to take them as intercessors for our weakness, for they themselves knew the weaknesses of the body, even when they overcame.
56. So, then, Peter’s mother-in-law found some to pray for her. And you, O widow, find those who will pray for you, if as a true widow and desolate you hope in God, continue instant in supplications, persist in prayers,62 1 Tim. v. 5. treat your body as dying daily, that by dying you may live again; avoid pleasures, that you, too, being sick, may be healed. “For she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”63 1 Tim. v. 6.
57. You have no longer any reason for marrying, you have some to intercede for you. Say not, “I am desolate.” This is the complaint of one who wishes to marry. Say not, “I am alone.” Chastity seeks solitude: the modest seek privacy, the immodest company. But you have necessary business; you have also one to plead for you. You are afraid of your adversary; the Lord Himself will intervene with the judge and say: “Judge for the fatherless, and justify the widow.”64 Isa. i. 17.
58. But you wish to take care of your inheritance. The inheritance of modesty is greater, and this a widow can guard better than one married. A slave has done wrong. Forgive him, for it is better that you should bear with another’s fault than expose it. But you wish to marry. Be it so. The simple desire is no crime. I do not ask the reason, why is one invented? If you think it good, say so; if unsuitable, be silent. Do not blame God, do not blame your relatives, saying that protection fails you. Would that the wish did not fail! And say not that you are consulting the interests of your children, whom you are depriving of their mother.
59. There are some things permissible in the abstract, but not permissible on account of age. Why is the bridal of the mother being prepared at the same time with that of the daughters, and often even afterwards? Why does the grown-up daughter learn to blush in the presence of her mother’s betrothed rather than her own? I confess that I advised you to change your dress, but not to put on a bridal veil; to go away from the tomb, not to prepare a bridal couch. What is the meaning of a newly-married woman who already has sons-in-law? How unseemly it is to have children younger than one’s grand-children!
Earum quae dictitarent, sibi melius fore si laetis successibus abundarent, objectioni occurrit, ostendens e sacris litteris subsidia viduis in filiis generisque 0250B suppetere: quod postquam exemplo socrus Simonis confirmatum est, eos hortatur ut ad Apostolos tamquam ad proximos atque affines confugiant; ubi pulcherrime de sanctorum invocatione disserit. Postea querimoniis quibusdam de solitudine ac patrimonii conservandi necessitate refutatis, indecentissimum esse demonstrat viduam cui filiae jam nubiles aut jam nuptae sint, adhuc nubere.
52. Didicistis igitur, viduae, subsidio vos non egere naturae, et posse salubritatem tenere consilii: nec domestico indigere praesidio, quae etiam publicae potestis apicem potentiae vindicare.
53. Sed fortasse dicit aliqua, ei tolerabilem 200 viduitatem cui profluant res secundae: adversis 0250C vero viduas cito frangi, facile succumbere. De quo etsi, ipso doceamur usu, laeta viduis lubrica magis esse quam seria; tamen Scripturarum instruimur exemplis (I Tim. V, 16), infirmitatibus quoque viduarum non deesse solere subsidia: faciliusque quam caeteris divina atque humana suppetere, si bene filios instituant, generos legant. Denique cum socrus Simonis magnis febribus detineretur, Petrus et Andreas rogaverunt Deum pro ea: Et stans super illam, imperavit febri, et remisit illam, et continuo surgens ministrabat illis (Luc. IV, 38, 39).
54. Magnis, inquit, tenebatur febribus, et rogaverunt illum pro ea. Et tu habes proximos, qui pro te supplicent. Habes apostolos proximos, habes martyres proximos, si in ipsa martyribus devotionis 0250D societate, misericordiae quoque muneribus appropinques, proximus est enim qui misericordiam facit. Fac et tu misericordiam, et eris Petro proxima (Luc. X, 37). Non sanguinis necessitudo, sed virtutis cognatio facit proximos; quia non in carne ambulamus, 0251A sed in spiritu. Ama ergo propinquitatem Petri, affinitatem Andreae; ut pro te rogent, et recedant cupiditates tuae. Verbo Dei pulsata surges illico, quae in terris jacebas, ut Christo ministres. Nostra enim conversatio in coelis est, unde et Salvatorem exspectamus Dominum Jesum (Phil. III, 20). Nemo enim jacens Christo ministrat. Ministra pauperi, et ministrasti Christo: Quod enim uni horum fecistis, mihi, inquit, fecistis (Matth. XXV, 40). Habetis ergo, viduae, auxilium, si tales vobis generos, posteritati vestrae patronos, tales proximos eligatis.
55. Ergo rogaverunt pro vidua Petrus et Andreas. Utinam exsistat aliquis qui tam cito possit rogare pro nobis, vel certe isti qui pro socru rogant, Petrus, et Andreas frater ejus; tunc enim pro affine poterant, 0251B nunc jam possunt pro nobis, et pro omnibus impetrare. Videtis enim quod magno peccato obnoxia, minus idonea sit quae pro se precetur, certe quae pro se impetret. Adhibeat igitur ad medicum alios precatores. Aegri enim nisi ad eos aliorum precibus medicus fuerit invitatus, pro se rogare non possunt. Infirma est caro, mens aegra est, et peccatorum vinculis impedita, ad medici illius sedem debile non potest explicare vestigium. Obsecrandi sunt angeli pro nobis, qui nobis ad praesidium dati sunt: martyres obsecrandi, quorum videmur nobis quodam corporis pignore patrocinium vindicare. Possunt pro peccatis rogare nostris, qui proprio sanguine, etiam si qua habuerunt peccata, laverunt; isti enim sunt Dei martyres, nostri praesules, speculatores 0251C vitae actuumque nostrorum. Non erubescamus eos intercessores nostrae infirmitatis adhibere, quia ipsi infirmitates corporis, etiam cum vincerent, cognoverunt.
56. Invenit ergo Petri socrus qui pro se rogarent. Et tu, vidua, invenis qui pro te supplicent: 201 si quasi vere vidua et desolata in Deum speres, instes obsecrationibus, insistas orationibus, afficias corpus tuum quasi quotidie moriens, ut moriendo reviviscas: fugias delicias, ut etiam aegra saneris: Nam quae in deliciis est, vivens mortua est (I Tim. V, 5, 6).
57. Sublata est tibi causa nubendi, habes qui pro te intercedant; ne dixeris: Destituta sum. Querela nupturae est. Ne dixeris: Sola ego sum. Castitas 0251D solitudinem quaerit: pudica secretum, impudica conventum. Sed negotium habes: habes et intercessorem. Adversarium vereris: apud judicem pro te Dominus intervenit dicens: Judicate pupillo, et justificate viduam (Esai. I, 17).
0252A 58. Sed et patrimonium vis tueri. Majus pudoris est patrimonium, quod melius regit vidua quam nupta. Servus peccavit. Ignosce; melius est enim alterius culpam feras, quam tuam prodas. Sed vis nubere. Licet. Non habet crimen simplex voluntas. Causam non quaero: cur fingitur? Si honestam putas, fatere: si incongruam, sile. Ne accuses Deum, ne accuses propinquos, quod praesidia tibi desint; utinam non desit voluntas! Nec te consulere liberis dicas, quibus matrem eripis.
59. Est etiam quod facultate licet, et aetate non licet. Cur maternae parantur nuptiae inter nuptias filiarum, et plerumque post nuptias? Cur adulta filia discit prius sponsum matris quam suum crubescere? Suasimus, fateor, ut vestem mutares, non ut flammeum 0252B sumeres: ut a sepulcro recederes, non ut thalamum praeparares. Quid sibi vult nova nupta, post generos? Quam indecorum est juniores habere liberos, quam nepotes!