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True Virginity

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You desire, then, to be a virgin? Do you know what hardship there is in true virginity that which stands constantly at all seasons before God, and does not withdraw from His service, and is anxious how it may please its Lord with a holy body, and with its spirit? Do you know what great glory pertains to virginity, and is it for this that you set yourself to practise it? Do you really know and understand what it is you are eager to do? Are you acquainted with the noble task of holy virginity? Do you know how, like a man, to enter lawfully upon this contest and strive, that, in the might of the Holy Spirit, you choose this for yourself, that you may be crowned with a crown of light, and that they may lead you about in triumph through the Jerusalem above?

If so be, then, that you long for all these things, conquer the body; conquer the appetites of the flesh; conquer the world in the Spirit of God; conquer these vain things of time, which pass away and grow old, and decay, and come to an end; conquer the dragon; (Revelation 12:7) conquer the lion; (1 Peter 5:8) conquer the serpent; (2 Corinthians 11:3) conquer Satan through Jesus Christ, who does strengthen you by the hearing of His words and the divine Eucharist. Take up your cross and follow (Matthew 16:24) Him who makes you clean, Jesus Christ your Lord. Strive to run straight forward and boldly, not with fear, but with courage, relying on the promise of your Lord, that you shall obtain the victor-crown of your calling on high through Jesus Christ. For whosoever walks perfect in faith, and not fearing, does in very deed receive the crown of virginity, which is great in its toil and great in its reward. Do you understand and know how honourable a thing is sanctity? Do you understand how great and exalted and excellent is the glory of virginity?

The womb of the holy virgin St Mary carried our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and the body which our Lord wore, and in which He carried on the conflict in this world, He put on from a holy virgin. From this, therefore, understand the greatness and dignity of virginity. Do you wish to be a Christian? Imitate Christ in everything. John, the ambassador, he who came before our Lord, he whom there was not a greater among those born of women, the holy messenger of our Lord, was a virgin. Imitate, therefore, the ambassador of our Lord, and be his follower in everything. That John, again, who reclined on the bosom of our Lord, and whom He greatly loved, he, too, was a holy person. For it was not without reason that our Lord loved him. Paul, also, and Barnabas, and Timothy, with all the others, whose names are written in the book of life, these, I say, all cherished and loved sanctity, and ran in the contest, and finished their course without blemish, as imitators of Christ, and as sons of the living God. Moreover, also, Elijah and Elisha, and many other holy men, we find to have lived a holy and spotless life. If, therefore, you desire to be like these, imitate them with all your power. For the Scripture has said: “The elders who are among you, honour; and, seeing their manner of life and conduct, imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) And again it says, “Imitate me, my brethren, as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Those, therefore, who imitate Christ, imitate Him earnestly. For those who have put on Christ in truth, express His likeness in their thoughts, and in their whole life, and in all their behaviour: in word, and in deeds, and in patience, and in fortitude, and in knowledge, and in chastity, and in long-suffering, and in a pure heart, and in faith, and in hope, and in full and perfect love towards God. No virgin, therefore, unless they be in everything as Christ, and as those who are Christs, can be saved. For every virgin who is in God is holy in her body and in her spirit, and is constant in the service of her Lord, not turning away from it any whither, but waiting upon Him always in purity and holiness in the Spirit of God, being solicitous how she may please her Lord, by living purely and without stain, and solicitous to be pleasing before Him in everything. She who is such does not withdraw from our Lord, but in spirit is ever with her Lord: as it is written, Be holy, as I am holy, says the Lord. For, if a man be only in name called holy, he is not holy; but he must be holy in everything: in his body and in his spirit. And those who are virgins rejoice at all times in becoming like God and His Christ, and are imitators of them. For in those that are such there is not the mind of the flesh. In those who are truly believers, and in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells in them the mind of the flesh cannot be.