Concerning Widows.

 Chapter I.

 Chapter II.

 Chapter III.

 Chapter IV.

 Chapter V.

 Chapter VI.

 Chapter VII.

 Chapter VIII.

 Chapter IX.

 Chapter X.

 Chapter XI.

 Chapter XII.

 Chapter XIII.

 Chapter XIV.

 Chapter XV.

Chapter XV.

St. Ambrose meets the objection of those who make the desire of having children an excuse for second marriage, and especially in the case of those who have children of their former marriage; and points out the consequent troubles of disagreements amongst the children, and even between the married persons, and gives a warning against a wrong use of Scripture instances in this matter.

86. Perhaps, however, it may seem good to some that marriage should again be entered upon for the sake of having children. But if the desire of children be a reason for marrying, certainly where there are children, the reason does not exist. And is it wise to wish to have a second trial of that fruitfulness which has already been tried in vain, or to submit to the solitude which you have already borne? This is the case of those who have no children.

87. Then, too, she who has borne children, and has lost them (for she who has a hope of bearing children will have an intenser longing), does not she, I say, seem to herself to be covering over the deaths of her lost children by the celebration of a second marriage? Will she not again suffer what she is again seeking? and does she not shrink at the graves of her hopes, the memories of the bereavements she has suffered, the voices of the mourners? Or, when the torches are lit and night is coming on, does she not think rather that funeral rites are being prepared than a bridal chamber? Why, then, my daughter, do you seek again those sorrows which you dread, more than you look for children whom you no longer hope for? If sorrow is so grievous, one should rather avoid than seek that which causes it.

88. And what advice shall I give to you who have children? What reason have you for marrying? Perhaps foolish light-mindedness, or the habit of incontinence, or the consciousness of a wounded spirit is urging you on. But counsel is given to the sober, not to the drunken, and so my words are addressed to the free conscience which is whole in each respect. She that is wounded has a remedy, she that is upright a counsel. What do you intend to do then, my daughter? Why do you seek for heirs from without when you have your own? You are not desiring of children, for you have them, but servitude from which you are free. For this true servitude, in which love is exhausted, which no longer the charm of virginity, and early youth, full of holy modesty and grace, excites; when offences are more felt, and rudeness is more suspected, and agreement less common, which is not bound fast by love deeply rooted by time, or by beauty in its prime of youth. Duty to a husband is burdensome, so that you are afraid to love your children and blush to look at them; and a cause of disagreement arises from that which ordinarily causes mutual love to increase the tender affections of parents. You wish to give birth to offspring who will be not the brothers but the adversaries of your children. For what is to bring forth other children other than to rob the children which you have, who are deprived alike of the offices of affection and of the profit of their possessions.

89. The divine law has bound together husband and wife by its authority, and yet mutual love remains a difficult matter. For God took a rib from the man, and formed the woman so as to join them one to the other, and said: “They shall be one flesh.”103    Gen. ii. 24. He said this not of a second marriage but of the first, for neither did Eve take a second husband, nor does holy Church recognize a second bridegroom. “For that is a great mystery in Christ and in the Church.104    Eph. v. 32. Neither, again, did Isaac know another wife besides Rebecca,105    Gen. xxiv. 67. nor bury his father, Abraham, with any wife but Sarah.”106    Gen. xxv. 10.

90. But in holy Rachel107    Gen. xxix. 28 ff. there was rather the figure of a mystery than a true order of marriage. Notwithstanding, in her, also, we have something which we can refer to the grace of the first marriage, since he loved her best whom he had first betrothed, and deceit did not shut out his intention, nor the intervening marriage destroy his love for his betrothed. And so the holy patriarch has taught us, how highly we ought to esteem a first marriage, since he himself esteemed his first betrothal so highly. Take care, then, my daughter, lest you be both unable to hold fast the grace of marriage, and also increase your own troubles.


Earum quae liberorum obtendunt desiderium, tollit excusationem: sed praecipue moratur circa illas, quae ex priori conjugio filios habent; gravem enim earum servitutem, futuras inter liberos inimicitias, raram denique inter conjuges ipsos concordiam pulchre describit: postremo ne qua Scripturae exemplis hac in re abutatur, cavet.

0261C 86. Sed fortasse aliquibus propter suscipiendos liberos conjugia iteranda videantur. Quod si filiorum studium causa nubendi est, utique ubi est fructus filiorum, causa non suppetit. Quamquam cujusce consilii sit iterum experiri velle frustra tentatam fecunditatem, aut subire, quam pertuleris, orbitatem? Haec enim iterandi causa est filios non habentibus.

87. Ergo illa quae liberos suscepit et perdidit (cum ipsa enim major contentio, quae spem generandi habet), illa, inquam, nonne sibi videtur, inter ipsa repetitarum foedera nuptiarum, amissorum 210 praetexere funera filiorum? Nonne iterum passura quod repetit, et ad ipsos votorum tumulos, exceptarum orbitatum imagines, lamentorum strepitus perhorrescit? 0261D Vel cum accensis funalibus nox ducitur, nonne pompae funebris exsequias magis putat, quam thalamum praeparari? Cur igitur, filia, dolores magis quos times, repetis; quam filios quos jam non speras, 0262A requiris? Si gravis est dolor, subterfugienda causa ejus est, non petenda.

88. Nam tibi quid consilii tribuam, quae liberos habes? Quae tibi causa nubendi? Forte levitatis error, et intemperantiae usus, et saucii cogit pectoris conscientia. Sed consilium sobriis, non ebriis datur; et ideo apud liberam conscientiam mihi sermo est, cui utrumque integrum est. Habeat saucia remedium, honesta consilium. Tu, inquam, filia, quid moliris? Cur haeredes quaeris extraneos, cum habeas tuos? Non filios desideras, quos habes: sed servitutem, quam non habes. Haec est enim vera servitus, in qua infractior amor, quem non defloratae pignus virginitatis, et plena sancti pudoris et gratiae aetas prima commendat: ubi offensa gravior, suspectior 0262B insolentia, concordia infrequentior, quam non temporibus inolitus amor, non vigens annis forma conciliat. Molesta pietas, ut amare liberos metuas, aspicere liberos erubescas; atque inde oriatur causa discordiae, unde solet mutuus amor mulcere affectus parentum. Generare liberos vis, non fratres futuros tuorum, sed adversarios filiorum. Quid est ergo generare alios liberos, nisi spoliare quos habes liberos: quibus pariter auferuntur et pietatis officia, et compendia facultatum?

89. Lex divina coelesti inter se conjuges auctoritate constrinxit, et difficile manet mutuus amor. Tulit enim costam de viro, et formavit feminam; ut sibi eos invicem copularet, dicens: Et erunt duo in carne una (Gen. II, 24). Non hoc de secundis, sed 0262C primis nuptiis dixit; neque enim Eva secundum accepit virum, neque sancta Ecclesia secundum agnovit virum: Sacramentum enim illud magnum est, in Christo et in Ecclesia (Ephes. V, 32); et ideo custodiendum est. Sed neque Isaac aliam praeter Rebeccam scivit uxorem (Gen. XXIV, 67), neque Abraham patrem cum alia nisi Sara sepelivit uxore (Gen. XXV, 10).

90. Nam in sancta Rachel magis figura mysterii fuit, quam ordo conjugii (Gen. XXIX, 28 et seq.). Et tamen in ea quoque habemus, quod ad primi conjugii gratiam referre possimus; si quam primo sponsam habuit, plus amavit, nec fraus exclusit affectum, nec sponsae amorem conjugii interventus abolevit. Itaque sanctus patriarcha nos docuit, 0262D quantum deferre primis nuptiis debeamus, cum tantum primis sponsalibus ipse detulerit. Cavete igitur, filiae, ne et gratiam nuptiarum tenere nequeatis, et molestias augeatis.