Virginity of Heart
by St. Peter Julian Eymard

Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1940

Sicut lilium inter spinas, sic amica mea inter filias.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

(Cant. 2:2.)

LOVE reigns in virginity of heart. The lily which stands out among the flowers of the field as their queen is the symbol of this reign. Love is one. Divided, shared, it is unfaithful. True union is an exchange of hearts; it takes place in the heart, and to symbolize this union the bride is arrayed in white.

Jesus Christ also claims our whole heart absolutely; His will is to reign in it alone; He cannot suffer us to divide it between Himself and creatures.

He is the God of perfect purity. He loves above all else the purity of virgins; to them belong His special favors; theirs is the canticle of the Lamb; they are His court of favorites and follow Him wherever He goes.

Jesus unites only with a heart that is pure. The special characteristic of union with Him is that it engenders purity, guards it, and brings it to perfection. For love by its very nature makes for identity of life and agreement of affections between lovers.

Love studies to please and to avoid giving displeasure. And as sin is what most offends Jesus Christ, love recoils from sin with horror, strives mightily against it, and joyfully dies rather than commit it.

This is the story of all the Saints and Martyrs and Virgins. It is the attitude required of every Christian. We must all be ready to die rather than to offend God.

Nothing is so delicate as the whiteness of a lily. The least dust, the lightest breath will dim its splendor. The same is true of the purity of love. Love is jealous by nature.

The title God loves above all others, and the sweetest to us to say, is, Deus cordis mei;
1 ---- "God of my heart." Ah, the heart rules us, directs our life! It is the key position. For this reason all the temptations of the world make assault against it and try to take it. Once the heart is won over, all is won.

 Therefore Divine Wisdom gives warning: "With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it."
---- Omni custodia serva cor tuum, quia ex ipso vita procedit. 2

Jesus reigns absolutely in a soul only when love is pure.

But there are two kinds of purity in our love of Jesus Christ.

The first is the virginal purity which is the natural fruit of love for Jesus. The soul smitten by this love, influenced by this attraction, desires to devote itself wholly to the Divine Spouse; everything is for Him. Ut sit sancta corpore et spiritu. 3
---- "That she may be holy both in body and in spirit." This soul is a lily, and Jesus delights to be among the lilies.

He reigns in this soul's calm and pure mind, whose only light is His truth. He reigns in its heart, in which He is like a king on his throne. He reigns in its body, all of whose members are consecrated to Him and offered as a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God. Ut exhibeatis corpora vestro hostiam viventem, sanctam, Deo placentem. 4
---- "That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God."

This purity is the soul's strength. Before a virginal soul the devil trembles; by a virgin the world was vanquished.

Are there many virginal hearts which have never loved anyone but our Lord?

There ought to be a great many, considering what Jesus Christ is.
---- What man, what king can compare with Him? Who is greater, holier, more loving? Beyond question, the royalty of this world cannot equal the virginal kingship of Jesus Christ!

There were many such souls during the ages of persecution, many in the centuries of faith, when the honor of giving one's heart only to the King of Heaven, of belonging to Him alone, was appreciated. There are still many in our own day despite the war made against them by the world and their kindred. They are angels in the midst of the world and martyrs to their fidelity. Terrible and treacherous are the assaults made against them by the world and by their families, who try in every imaginable way to snatch from them the royal crown they have received from the hands of their Spouse, Jesus Christ.

Our Lord rewards the faithfulness of these souls by making His union with them more and more intimate. Himself the essence of purity, He ceaselessly works at their purification till He has made of them a gold without dross.

They will have a unique recompense in Heaven. "And I beheld," says Saint John, the virgin Apostle, "and lo a Lamb stood upon Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty-four thousand, having His name, and the name of His Father, written on their foreheads. ... And they sang as it were a new canticle, before the throne, ... and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand, ... for they are Virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, ... for they are without spot before the throne of God." 5

For those who lack this crown of virginal purity, there remains purity of love through penance. This purity, won back by the most violent struggles, by such sacrifices as are most grievous to nature, is beautiful, strong, and noble. It strengthens the soul and gives it self-mastery. This purity is also the fruit of love for Jesus.

When Divine love takes possession of a repentant heart, its first effect is to rehabilitate it. It purifies and ennobles it and restores its honor.

Next, love aids the heart in the combats it must wage against its former masters, its evil habits.

Because of its struggles and its breaking of old bonds, penitent love gives a magnificent example; its virtue appears before the world.

Its victories are sublime, its greatest triumph being that it gives humility.
Let us, then, purchase, even at the cost of the greatest sacrifices, this gold tried in the fire of purity, in order that so enriched we may clothe ourselves in the white garments we must have to enter into Heaven. This is the warning of Saint John to the Bishop of Laodicea: Suadeo tibi emere a me aurum ignitum probatum, ut locuples fias, et vestimentis albis induaris. 6
---- "I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich; and mayest be clothed in white garments."

"Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? The innocent in hands, and clean of heart." 7

Thus the great task of the present life is to make ourselves pure. Nothing unclean shall enter into the kingdom of God's holiness. That we may see Him and contemplate the splendor of His glory, the eye of our soul must be wholly pure. Though we should have only a speck of dust on our wedding garment, we may not enter into Heaven until we have cleansed it in the Blood of the Lamb. For that word spoken by our Lord shall not pass away: "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment." 8

One must never cease to purify oneself. Rather than lose the treasure of purity, it would be better to flee into the desert, condemn oneself to a life of privation; it would be better to abandon all one's activities, however good and praiseworthy they might be. The salvation of all the souls in the world is not so important as your own salvation. What God wants from you first of all, and above all, is that without which all else is nothing: yourself!
Oh, if we have not all the sublime and heroic virtues of the Saints, let us at least be pure! And if we have been so unfortunate as to lose our baptismal innocence, let us clothe ourselves with the innocence of penance!

Without purity, there can be no life of love.

1. Ps. 72:26.
2. Prov. 4:23.
3. 1 Cor. 7:34.
4. Rom. 12:1.
5. Apoc. 14:1-5.
6. Apoc. 3:18.
7. Ps. 73:3-4.
8. Matt. 12:36.