On Holy Virginity and Holy Matrimony

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Marriage could but bring forth men, — virginity alone was worthy of giving birth to the God-Man… if you wish to learn from the Lord Himself the angelic dignity of virginity, listen to His own word: “for in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven” (Mat. 22:30); or as another Evangelist paraphrases the same thing, “for they are equal unto the angels.” (Lk. 20:36) The state in which they neither marry nor are given in marriage, consequently, that of perpetual virginity, is then called by the Lord equal unto that of angels.

…[A]m I not speaking too much of a subject, which many may think, does not concern them? Indeed the Lord Himself has forewarned us, that not all are able to be virgins, saying: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it was given.” (Mat. 19:11) He Himself has called unto virginity not all men, but only those who are able, to whom it is given: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Mat. 19:12)  And as virginity is not for all, therefore you may even ask, why then do I speak of it at all? I accept this question. It will lead me to the aim and end of my discourse. We speak of virginity to all, because among all there are those “that are able to receive it”; and my word is seeking out from amongst all those whom God calls to hear and fulfill it, and who are often unknown to men.

We speak to all men of virginity that those who are married might know that there is a state higher than marriage; and that honoring virginity in others, and thinking humbly of marriage, they might obtain for marriage a blessing near to the blessing of appointed virginity.

We speak of true virginity unto all men, that, knowing it, they may guard themselves from mistaken ways of the foolish virgins, who with the unlit lamps of their minds, wanting the oil of love, are roaming far from the heavenly abode, and, instead of love for the Bridegroom, they are but breeding hate against the holy state of marriage. For, already, since the time of the Apostles, “the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry. (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Finally, we speak of virginity to all men, that they who are married as well as they who are not, may vigilantly and carefully distinguish the bright beauty of virginity, the comeliness of pure and honorable marriage, from the state of those who have neither been faithful in the use of the golden talent of virginity, nor of the silver talent of marriage, entered upon by the will of the Lord of all talents and gifts. Virginity and marriage are not for all men, but chastity is for all men: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12) What does it mean to live soberly? It means either in the purity of virginity or in the honorableness of marriage, in both cases, “in the abstinence from worldly lusts,” and above all, “from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11) They alone who live thus in this present world, may “look for that blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13) to come. Amen. (Sermon XX, On Holy Virginity)

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