159. Virginity is a form of love. As a sign, it speaks to us of the coming of the Kingdom and the need for complete devotion to the cause of the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 7:32). It is also a reflection of the fullness of heaven, where “they neither marry not are given in marriage” (Mt 22:30). Saint Paul recommended virginity because he expected Jesus’ imminent return and he wanted everyone to concentrate only on spreading the Gospel: “the appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor 7:29). Nonetheless, he made it clear that this was his personal opinion and preference (cf. 1 Cor 7:6-9), not something demanded by Christ: “I have no command in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:25). All the same, he recognized the value of the different callings: “Each has his or her own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Cor 7:7).
How much is this witness yoked to the prospect of the Lord’s coming? While we know that the imminent resturn of Jesus has not occurred, how does this eschatological view continue to influence our thinking? And what of the “postponed” second coming? Is there not room for a certain mindset that points us to something beyond the current state of affairs in the world?
Theology of the Body does not tout either virginity or celibacy as superior to the other:
Reflecting on this, Saint John Paul II noted that the biblical texts “give no reason to assert the ‘inferiority’ of marriage, nor the ‘superiority’ of virginity or celibacy”(Catechesis (14 April 1982), 1) based on sexual abstinence. Rather than speak absolutely of the superiority of virginity, it should be enough to point out that the different states of life complement one another, and consequently that some can be more perfect in one way and others in another. Alexander of Hales, for example, stated that in one sense marriage may be considered superior to the other sacraments, inasmuch as it symbolizes the great reality of “Christ’s union with the Church, or the union of his divine and human natures”.(Glossa in quatuor libros sententiarum Petri Lombardi, IV, XXVI, 2 (Quaracchi, 1957, 446).)
Perhaps another approach would be to see that persons living out virginity and marriage are well-discerned in each of these ways to witness. For some individuals, one may well be “better” than the other. This could be a matter of God-given personality and temperament. It might also be connected to the work individuals have chosen for themselves.
Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.