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Chapter XXIV.—Concerning Virginity.
Carnal men abuse virginity26662666 Vide bk. ii. ch. 30., and the pleasure-loving bring forward the following verse in proof, Cursed be every one that raiseth not up seed in Israel26672667 Deut.. But we, made confident by God the Word that was made flesh of the Virgin, answer that virginity was implanted in man’s nature from above and in the beginning. For man was formed of virgin soil. From Adam alone was Eve created. In Paradise virginity held sway. Indeed, Divine Scripture tells that both Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed26682668 Gen. ii. 23.. But after their transgression they knew that they were naked, and in their shame they sewed aprons for themselves26692669 Ibid. iv. 7.. And when, after the transgression, Adam heard, dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return26702670 Ibid. 19., when death entered into the world by reason of the transgression, then Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare seed26712671 Gen. iv. 1.. So that to prevent the wearing out and destruction of the race by death, marriage was devised that the race of men may be preserved through the procreation of children26722672 Greg. Nyss., De opif., hom. 16..
But they will perhaps ask, what then is the meaning of “male and female26732673 Gen. i. 27.,” and “Be fruitful and multiply?” In answer we shall say that “Be fruitful and multiply26742674 Ibid. i. 28.” does not 97baltogether refer to the multiplying by the marriage connection. For God had power to multiply the race also in different ways, if they kept the precept unbroken26752675 Text, ἀπαραχάρακτον. Variant, ἀπαρεγχάρακτον, old trans. “in intransmutationem.” to the end26762676 Vid. supr., bk. ii. ch. 30.. But God, Who knoweth all things before they have existence, knowing in His foreknowledge that they would fall into transgression in the future and be condemned to death, anticipated this and made “male and female,” and bade them “be fruitful and multiply.” Let us, then, proceed on our way and see the glories26772677 Text αυξήυατα = increases. We have read αὐχήματα. of virginity: and this also includes chastity.
Noah when he was commanded to enter the ark and was entrusted with the preservation of the seed of the world received this command, Go in, saith the Lord, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives26782678 Gen. vi. 18; vii. 1.. He separated them from their wives26792679 Cf. Chrys., Hom. 28 on Genesis. in order that with purity they might escape the flood and that shipwreck of the whole world. After the cessation of the flood, however, He said, Go forth of the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives26802680 Gen. viii. 16.. Lo, again, marriage is granted for the sake of the multiplication of the race. Next, Elias, the fire-breathing charioteer and sojourner in heaven did not embrace celibacy, and yet was not his virtue attested by his super-human ascension26812681 2 Kings ii. 11.? Who closed the heavens? Who raised the dead26822682 Ibid. iv. 34.? Who divided Jordan26832683 Ibid. ii. 14.? Was it not the virginal Elias? And did not Elisha, his disciple, after he had given proof of equal virtue, ask and obtain as an inheritance a double portion of the grace of the Spirit26842684 Ibid. ii. 9.? What of the three youths? Did they not by practising virginity become mightier than fire, their bodies through virginity being made proof against the fire26852685 Dan. iii. 20.? And was it not Daniel’s body that was so hardened by virginity that the wild beasts’ teeth could not fasten in it26862686 Ibid. vi. 16.. Did not God, when He wished the Israelites to see Him, bid them purify the body26872687 Ex. xix. 15; Num. vi. 2.? Did not the priests purify themselves and so approach the temple’s shrine and offer victims? And did not the law call chastity the great vow?
The precept of the law, therefore, is to be taken in a more spiritual sense. For there is spiritual seed which is conceived through the love and fear of God in the spiritual womb, travailing and bringing forth the spirit of salvation. And in this sense must be understood this verse: Blessed is he who hath seed in Zion and posterity in Jerusalem. For does it mean that, although he be a whoremonger and a drunkard and an idolater, he is still blessed if only he hath seed in Sion and posterity in Jerusalem? No one in his senses will say this.
Virginity is the rule of life among the angels, the property of all incorporeal nature. This we say without speaking ill of marriage: God forbid! (for we know that the Lord blessed marriage by His presence26882688 St. John ii. 1., and we know him who said, Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled26892689 Heb. xiii. 4.), but knowing that virginity is better than marriage, however good. For among the virtues, equally as among the vices, there are higher and lower grades. We know that all mortals after the first parents of the race are the offspring of marriage. For the first parents were the work of virginity and not of marriage. But celibacy is, as we said, an imitation of the angels. Wherefore virginity is as much more honourable than marriage, as the angel is higher than man. But why do I say angel? Christ Himself is the glory of virginity, who was not only-begotten of the Father without beginning or emission or connection, but also became man in our image, being made flesh for our sakes of the Virgin without connection, and manifesting in Himself the true and perfect virginity. Wherefore, although He did not enjoin that on us by law (for as He said, all men cannot receive this saying26902690 St. Matt. xix. 11.), yet in actual fact He taught us that and gave us strength for it. For it is surely clear to every one that virginity now is flourishing among men.
Good indeed is the procreation of children enjoined by the law, and good is marriage26912691 Simeon Thess., De initiat., ch. 33. on account of fornications, for it does away with these26922692 1 Cor. vii. 2., and by lawful intercourse does not permit the madness of desire to be enflamed into unlawful acts. Good is marriage for those who have no continence: but that virginity is better which increases the fruitfulness of the soul and offers to God the seasonable fruit of prayer. Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge26932693 Heb. xiii. 4..
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