Vow

The previous essay by Ricardo Bottino and the current essay by Ivan Dadic pretend to be nothing else but a warm exchange of thoughts between two friends who are seeking for truth. Thus they were written in a contemplative manner, rather than a mere accumulation of research and information.


In this essay I assert a view that if a person wishes to live an honorable and good life, a life towards sainthood, it is of absolute necessity that that person regards some words and deeds irrevocable; it's necessary to have a vow. In that matter, I bring nothing particularly new, but only repeat old wisdom of Christianity slightly spiced with personal experience. The existence of God and his love towards his creation I take here as a pure reality. And in light of that reality, I claim that a person finds full happiness and meaning purely in a vow of marriage or vow of chastity. From the two, since they are the highest and noblest of vows, principles can be drawn for lower kind of vows. They alone are the most important ones, because they tame and direct certain passions which would otherwise devour a man, scatter his energy and leave him miserable. True happiness is to be found only in those complete commitments; everything else in between leads to lust and pride. I will not explore these two vows as subjects, but only take some psychological and spiritual principles in a general sense.

For a vow to be valid and durable it is necessary that it is bound by something which exceeds a man who is taking it. He must be bound by something which is not so changeable as he is. It can be anything but himself, anything but a mere word, even if he is the most honorable man. He may base it on nature or human laws as the pagans did. He may say that his vows will not change as some holy stone does not change or that he will stand firm in his words as some sacred mountain firmly stands or as a divine star stands fixed in the sky. Even though the rain melts the stone through eons, even though mountains can sink back into the ground, even though all the stars can be quenched by the darkness of the universe, they all at least have the appearance of something everlasting, something beyond man. One could say that those things are pointers towards true eternity. Following them we may come to God, for entire nature is a mysterious poem to His glory. Therefore, all our vows should be fixed on Him who never changes, who is truly eternal. A man's word is useless if it is not bound by the Word.

 Now, having that direction and stand into which we pour and base our words, we can talk about some advantages that come when a man decides to promise himself entirely to something. When a man says yes to a certain thing, he says no to some other certain things. When he says yes to chastity he says no to promiscuity. When he says yes to one woman he says no to every other woman in the world. And one great advantage comes with that; since he is no longer in between all things, but focused on one goal, his energy is focused. He can pour all his strength into his marriage or his spiritual vocation. For if he wished to be everything on every side, if he wished to sit on two chairs, his energy and vigor will soon disperse and he will not become or achieve anything. But if he wishes to be something in particular, he will get somewhere. Nothing can be done with a lukewarm man who always sways as the wind blows and never makes a stand; only a man who is hot or cold can do something, only a man who directs his passions and will. At last, having the power we can do something, and for one thing, it was essential to have it. To endure in good one must fight, and now, there is power to fight sin and to resist temptations. Just as a general can repel an attack on his fortress by organizing its defenders so can we finally take up control and place our forces in the right position at a right time using them in full potential. With that single command and with the absence of bewilderment the fortress of our soul can withstand any attack. From that comes happiness and peace which can only exist in our center if our borders are well protected. But to fully express the happiness achieved we must take one more analogy. We can compare our soul with a tree and uncontrolled passions and evil temptations as a wild wind. If we were to bend whenever the wind of our passions is blowing we would soon break and fall. After the storm, we must root ourselves deeper into our vows just as the tree roots itself deeper into the ground. If we remain passive and do not use our finally achieved power to root and our finally chosen vow to root into, then it is only matter of time before we yield and get uprooted by foul winds. But if we do grow roots, then twofold bliss comes. One side is that not only are we peaceful in our center because our borders are well defended as we said in previous analogy but also because of one very important fact; we are taking full control of the center. We are no longer passive, we are no longer slaves to the passions which tossed us about. We are commanding our passions and they are not commanding us. Second bliss is the sense of accomplishment. As one root he literally grows, expands. If he were to move perpetually from one place to another, never choosing his final place to take root, never taking a vow, he would never develop or grow; and in order to be happy, a man needs some notion that he is developing, that he is growing mentally and spiritually.

 Finally, a vow is a proof of love. Whether we give ourselves in marriage to serve our family or we give ourselves in celibacy to serve mankind it is a proof of our love towards God. A vow breaks pride; with it, we stop placing ourselves before or above others. With it, we are no longer being served but we start to serve. One cannot say that he loves unless he has that humility. And not only do we make our own lives better, but things we build with a vow through humility is legacy both on earth and heaven. It is an adventurous, dangerous and hard life. It is adventurous because it is dangerous and hard. All adventure ceases when we stop fighting and choose easier paths. But when we fight the fight itself purifies us.

To conclude I will take one profound poem:

Vow and averted head and high refusal
Clean as the chasm where dawn burns white,
Where shall they go that have delight in honor
When all men honor nothing but delight?

Where indeed shall they go? Once a man takes upon himself that hard life many things go against him that are not only from his own nature. I will not say that this modern age is particularly bad because every age has its heresies and faults, but this age is specific because the main attack is on family and sexual morality. It can get very hard, sometimes almost unbearable for a man who strives to keep a vow to live in a world where everything is against his beliefs, where everyone is telling him only to seek pleasure and feed his lusts no matter the cost and where everything is relative only to that. It can be a torment to live in that culture and a man can easily get scared, give up and slip into comfort and ease. But we are not made for comfort, we are made for greatness. We are made and called to fight, to rebel against evils; and today against this specific evil we are called for a crusade of purity and chastity in all vocations. Alas, in all good things and good fights comes a time when a man wants to give up. Then, when it gets hard and when a man is on the edge when he feels alone and forsaken on his path, I would point him in one direction, to one person. I would point him to one who said yes to God and no to everything else, whose fiat was the doorway for the liberation of the entire world. To one who remained faithful to her yes through all the bitterness and suffering. I would point to the Queen of Vows, to the Mother of family and chastity. If a person who delights in honor has nowhere to go or look while he struggles to follow Christ to the end, I say, look in no...

...other face for understanding,
But hers who bore the Child that brought the Sword,
Hang in no other house, trophy and tribute,
The broken heart and the unbroken word.

 

Note: The poem is a part of G. K. Chesterton's poem „In October“ from „The Queen of Seven Swords“ collection. I have altered one small part at the end of the poem to suit the grammar in the essay, but the general meaning is intact.

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