The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 38.

If God in His Wisdom chose, in one woman, to unite Virginity and Motherhood, it must be that one is destined to illumine the other. Virginity illumines the homes of the married, as marriage pays back its debt with the oblation of virgins. Again, if marriage is ever to realize its dreams, it must proceed from the impulsion of instinct to those lofty ideals of love which virginity maintains. Married love that begins with the flesh guiding the spirit, under the inspiration of virginity, is elevated to a point at which the spirit guides the body. Carnal love, which by its nature implies no inner purification, would never mount above exhaustion and disgust, were there not that sacrificial oblation which virgins keep fresh in the world. And even when people do not live up to such ideals, they love to know that there are some who do. Though many married people tear up the photographs of what married love should be, it is a consolation to know that the sacrificial virgins are keeping the blueprints.

As sex-love centers in the ego, there is hope for happiness as long as virgins still center their love in God. While fools love what is only an image of their own desire, the redeemers of humanity are loving Him, of Whom all love ought to be an image. When the sated hits bottom, and believes there is nothing more in the world worth loving, it is encouraging to know that Madonna-love can point to them and say: "You have hit only the bottom of your own egotism, but not the bottom of real love."

The Virgin-love of Christianity teaches the disillusioned lovers that, instead of trying to make the infinite out of a succession of finite loves, they should take the one finite love they have and, by selflessness and charity, capture the Infinite already hidden within it. Promiscuity may be regarded as a misguided search for the Infinite, which is God. As the avaricious soul wants "more and more," hoping that by adding zeroes he can make the Infinite, so the carnal man wants another wife or another husband, vainly believing that what one lacks the other will supply. In vain does one change violins to prove the melody; in vain does one think that the infinity of desire with which all love begins is anything but God, with Whose love the virgin started and ended.

No human being can live without dreams. He who dreams only of the human and the carnal must one day he prepared either to see his dream die, or else he must die to the dream. Nothing is more pitiable than to see the thrice-divorced read romances, hoping to discover on a printed page what they know they never found in life itself. The virgin dies to all dreams but one, and as time goes on her dream comes more and more true, until finally she wakes up to find herself in the arms of the Beloved. It has been said of Mary that she dreamed of Christ before she conceived Him in her body. When Christianity called Him the "Word made flesh," it meant that He was the Dream come true, Love becoming the Beloved. In a noble married love, one must love the other as the messenger of a transcendent love, that is, as a dream and an ideal. The child that is born of that love is looked upon as the messenger from another world. But all this is a reflection of that virgin-love, modeled in Mary, which surrenders all earthly loves, until the Messenger is One sent by the Father, Whose name is Christ. This is not barrenness but fecundity - not the absence of love, but its very ecstasy - not disappointment in love, but its sweet ecstasy. And from that hour, when a Virgin held Love Itself in her arms, all lovers will instinctively peer through stable doors to catch a glance of what all virgins envy most: falling in love with a First Love that is the Alpha and the Omega - Christ, the Son of the Living God.

As breathing requires atmosphere, so love requires a Christosphere and a Mariasphere. That ideal love we see beyond all creature love, and to which we instinctively turn when flesh-love fails, is the same ideal that God had in His Heart from all eternity - the Lady Whom He would call our Blessed "Mother." She is the one every man loves when he loves a woman - whether he knows it or not. She is what every woman wants to be, when she looks at herself. She is the woman every man marries in his ideal; she is hidden as an ideal in the discontent of every woman with the carnal aggressiveness of man; she is the secret desire every woman has to be honored and fostered. To know a woman in the hour of possession, a man must first have loved her in the exquisite hour of a dream. To be loved by man in the hour of possession, a woman must first want to be loved, fostered, and honored as an ideal. Beyond all human love is another love; that "other" is the image of the possible. It is that "possible" that every man and woman love when they love one another. That "possible" becomes real in the blueprint Love of Him God loved before the world was made, and in that other love which we all love because she brings Christ to us and brings us to Christ: Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of God.