On Virginity and Marriage

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

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 presence Jn. 2:1, and we know him who said, Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled Hebr. 13:4), 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 saying Mat. 19:11), 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 marriage on account of fornications, for it does away with these 1 Cor. 7:2, 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 judge Heb. 13:4. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.24)

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