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Chapter IV.—Christ Alone Taught Virginity, Openly Preaching the Kingdom of Heaven; The Likeness of God to Be Attained in the Light of the Divine Virtues.

We have already spoken of the periods of the human race, and how, beginning with the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, it went on to continence; and we have now left for us the subject of virginity. Let us then endeavour to speak of this as well as we can. And first let us inquire for what reason it was that no one of the many patriarchs and prophets and righteous men, who taught and did many noble things, either praised or chose the state of virginity. Because it was reserved for the Lord alone to be the first to teach this doctrine, since He alone, coming down to us, taught man to draw near to God; for it was fitting that He who was first and chief of priests, of prophets, and of angels, should also be saluted as first and chief of virgins.25222522    [This seems to me admirable. Our times are too little willing to see all that Scripture teaches in this matter.] For in old times man was not yet perfect, and for this reason was unable to receive perfection, which is virginity. For, being made in the Image of God, he needed to receive that which was according to His Likeness;25232523    A distinction common among the Fathers. which the Word being sent down into the world to perfect, He first took upon Him our form, disfigured as it was by many sins, in order that we, for whose sake He bore it, might be able again to receive the divine form. For it is then that we are truly fashioned in the likeness of God, when we represent His features in a human life, like skilful painters, stamping them upon ourselves as upon tablets, learning the path which He showed us. And for this reason He, being God, was pleased to put on human flesh, so that we, beholding as on a tablet the divine Pattern of our life, should also be able to imitate Him who painted it. For He was not one who, thinking one thing, did another; nor, while He considered one thing to be right, taught another. But whatever things were truly useful and right, these He both taught and did.


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