They did, it is true, give their reason: It was probably because this mediating value of continence was overlooked, that in recent times the formula unius uxoris vir dropped out of discussions on celibacy. With St Augustine we take a step forward. To the first, it can be objected: But let it be said forthwith: Let us carefully read the text over again. He reminds the clergy that monogamy is not only an ecclesiastical discipline but also a precept of the Apostle. But first let us briefly investigate whether, in the history of exegesis and canonical legislation, there may not be elements that can lead us to a deeper understanding of the Pauline stipulation.
So here we have a special requirement for the exercise of the ministerial priesthood as such. Yet even here it no longer refers as often in the past to the Old Testament, and only quotes two passages from the New: With St Augustine we take a step forward. The other reason why these texts are especially important from the strictly biblical point of view lies in the fact that they are the only passages in the New Testament where an identical norm is laid down for the three groups of ordained ministers, and only for them. We find it well summed up by St Thomas in his commentary on 1 Timothy 3: Another detail confirms this interpretation: Ecclesiastical legislation from the fourth century onwards Scholars generally agree that the obligation of celibacy, or at least of continence, became canon law from the fourth century onwards. This is the point that still needs to be cleared up. Indeed, since it contains a direct reference to the covenant, that is to say, to the marriage relationship between Christ and the Church, it invites us to attach much greater importance today than in the past to the fact that the minister of the Church represents Christ the bridegroom to the Church his bride. This explains why, in speaking of the ministers of the Church, the formula unius uxoris vir came to be used. First we need to clear up the problem of where this mysterious form comes from, with its undeniably fixed, technical, stereotyped nature. Further, it should also be observed that the complementary formula unius viri uxor 1 Tim 5: Enunciated several times in the Pastoral Letters, this principle is uniquely important in our case for two reasons. Let us carefully read the text over again. Such reasoning can only make sense if there is a middle term between the two extremes marriage of ministers and celibacy: One further word on the canonical legislation of the Middle Ages. Now Christ, the bridegroom, gave himself up for the Church, so as to make her his glorious, holy and spotless bride cf vv. But it becomes clearer still in the Tradition that for a minister of the Church, united once in matrimony with a woman, acceptance of the ministry brought with it the consequence that he had to live in continence thereafter. Three pieces of evidence are significant here. To the first, it can be objected: Pope Siricius and many others after him interpreted the Pauline stipulation as the obligation to continence for the married clergy. For the Church of Corinth where obviously the great majority of Christians were married , it was an immediate question of what St Augustine calls virginitas fidei, virginitas cordis, unblemished faith,32 well described also by St Leo the Great: Here certain incontrovertible texts are quoted repeatedly: Stickler also insists in his preface,2 and H. But the other solution raises problems too: In the ancient Church, many priests were married. Marital love between Christ the bridegroom and his bride the Church is ever a virginal love.
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