On the Gracious Gifts of Virginity

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite 1749-1809

The gracious gifts and privileges of virginity are heavenly and beyond excellence and bear no comparison with marriage. For divine Chrysostom in his discourses on Virginity says: “Virginity is as far superior to marriage as heaven is away from the earth, and as Angels are from human beings.” St. Augustine in his discourse on virginity says: “Virginal conduct is angelic conduct; and in a perishable body a meditation of eternal imperishability.” St. Jerome (in his Book relating to Jovinian) says: “Virginity is a sacrifice of Christ, having an angelical imitation.” And in his Letter 22 he says: “When the Son of God descended upon the earth, he instituted angelic conduct, in order that the One adored by the Angels in heaven might have Angels on earth.” God-bearing Ignatios, in his letter to the Tarsians: “Christ called (female) virgins priestesses.” St. Ambrose in his commentary on the Psalms calls them (i.e., male virgins) martyrs. St. Cyprian in his discourse concerning virginity calls virginity “a flower and rose of the Church.” The same St. Athanasios himself in his discourse on virginity says: “Virginity is an inexhaustible source of wealth, an imperishable crown, a temple of God, a dwelling of the Holy Spirit, a precious pearl, a trophy against Hades and against death.” St. Gregory the Theologian in his Epics says that (male) virgins who are imitating the virginal Holy Trinity, are standing before the Lamb, and will follow Him wherever He may go, according to Chapter 14 of the Book of Revelation. Virginity is united with wisdom. Wherefore these, as two most beautiful women embraced this watchful Theologian in their arms. In fact, virginity is so good that without it marriage would be useless. For St. Paul says that those who have wives ought to have them with as much sobriety and virginity as though they did not have them at all. St. Isidore of Pelusium, too says: “With respect to a man may be like the Angels, but with respect to marriage he differs nowise from the wild beasts, to which animals coition is a necessity.” (Letter No. 1778.) Nevertheless, so invaluable is virginity that it ought to be kept with all one’s might and care. For if a man once lose it, he cannot ever regain it, according to St. Basil the Great, who says: “For repentance forgives sins, but it wails throughout life for the woman who has been defiled, because it is unable to make make her undefiled.” (Discourse on Virginity) (The Rudder: Footnotes to St. Athanasios the Great 26.)