Of Holy Virginity

Db but for eternity. But I judge that the Lord willed to make Oinv- mention of three differences of fruitfulness, the rest He left Tatb. to such as understand. For also another Evangelist hath 8- at" 3' made mention only of the hundred-fold: we are not, thereLuke 8, fore, are we, to think that he either rejected, or knew not of, the other two, but rather that he left them to be understood? 47. But, as I had begun to say, whether the fruit an hundred-fold be virginity dedicated to God, or whether we are to understand that interval of fruitfulness in some other way, either such as we have made mention of, or such as we have not made mention of; yet no one, as I suppose, will have dared to prefer virginity to martyrdom, and no one will have doubted that this latter gift is hidden, if trial to test it xlvii. be wanting. A virgin, therefore, hath a subject for thought, such as may be of profit to her for the keeping of humility, that she violate not that charity, which is above all gifts, without which assuredly whatever other gifts she shall have had, whether few or many, whether great or small, she is nothing. She hath, I say, a subject for thought, that she be not puffed up, that she rival not; forsooth that she so make profession that the virginal good is much greater and better than the married good, as that yet she know not whether this or that married woman be not already able to suffer for Christ, but herself as yet unable, and she herein spared, that t Cor. her weakness is not put to the question by trial. For God, 10'13- saith the Apostle, is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tried above what ye are able; but will make with the trial a way out, that ye may be able to bear it. Perhaps, therefore, those men or women keeping a way of married life praiseworthy in its kind, are already able, against an enemy forcing to unrighteousness, to contend even by tearing in pieces of bowels, and shedding of blood; but these men or women, continent from childhood, and making themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, still are not as yet able to endure such, either for righteousness, or for chastity itself. For it is one thing, for truth and an holy purpose, not to consent unto one who would persuade and flatter, but another thing not to yield even to one who tortures and strikes. These lie hid in the powers and strength of souls, by trial they are unfolded, by actual essay All sinners, since all taught to ask forgiveness. 347

they come forth. In order, therefore, that each be not Db puffed up by reason of that, which he sees clearly that he g^t. can do, let hirn humbly consider that he knows not that there tAtEis perchance something more excellent which he cannot do, but that some, who neither have nor profess that of which he is lawfully self-conscious, are able to do this, which he himself cannot do. Thus will be kept, not by feigned but by true humility, In honour preventing one another, and,Rom.l2, esteeming each the other higher than himself. p^H 2

48. What now shall I say concerning the very carefulness 3and watchfulness against sin? Who shall boast that he hath x'vuia chaste heart? or who shall boast that he is clean from 20,9. sin? Holy virginity is indeed inviolate from the mother's womb; but no one, saith he, is clean in Thy sight, not even

the infant whose life is of one day upon the earth. There Job 25, is kept also in faith inviolate a certain virginal chastity,4" whereby the Church is joined as a chaste virgin unto One Husband: but That Oue Husband hath taught, not only the faithful who are virgin in mind and body, but all Christians altogether, from spiritual even unto carnal, from Apostles even unto the last penitents, as though from the height of Mat.24, heaven even unto the bounds of it, to pray, and in the prayer itself hath admonished them to say, And forgive us our debts, Matt. 6, even as we also forgive our debtors: where, by this which we' seek, He shews what also we should remember that we are. For neither on behalf of those debts, which for our whole past life we trust have been forgiven unto us in Baptism through His peace, hath He charged us to pray, saying, And forgive us our debts, even as we also forgive our debtors: otherwise this were a prayer which Catechumens rather ought to pray up to the time of Baptism; but whereas it is what baptized persons pray, rulers and people, pastors and flocks; it is sufficiently shewn that in this life, the whole of which is Job7,1. a trial, no one ought to boast himself as though free from all sins.

49. Wherefore also the virgins of God without blame xlix. indeed,/o//0M» the Lamb whithersoever He shall have gone, both the cleansing of sins being perfected, and virginity being kept, which, were it lost, could not return: but, because that same Apocalypse itself, wherein such unto one such were

348 Such sin as all probably have, in whom easily pardoned

Db revealed, in this also praises them, that in their mouth there

ami- was n°t found a lie: let them remember in this also to be

tAtE- true, that they dare not say that they have not sin. Forsooth

f"'14'tne same John, who saw that, hath said this, 1/we shall have

J Joimi, said that we have not sin, we deceive our own selves, and

~ ' the truth is not in us; but \f we shall have confessed our

faults, He is faithful and just, so as to forgive us our sins,

and to cleanse us from atl unrighteousness. But if we shall

have said that we have not sinned, we shall make Him a

liar, and His word shall not be in us. This surely is not

said unto these or those, but unto all Christians, wherein

virgins also ought to recognise themselves. For thus they

shall be without a lie, such as in the Apocalypse they

appeared. And by this means so long as there is not as yet

perfection in heavenly height, confession in lowliness maketh

them without blame.

50. But, again, lest by occasion of this sentence, any one should sin with deadly security, and should allow himself to be carried away, as though his sins were soon by easy con

Uohn2,fession to be blotted out, he straightway added, My little children, these things have I written unto you, that ye sin not; and, if one shall have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and Himself is a propitiation of our sins. Let no one therefore depart from sin as though about to return to it, nor bind himself as it were by compact of alliance of this kind with unrighteousness, 1. so as to take delight rather to confess it than to shun it. But, forasmuch as even upon such as are busy and on the watch not to sin, there creep by stealth, in a certain way, from human weakness, sins, however small, however few, yet not none; these same themselves become great and grievous, in case pride shall have added to them increase and weight: but by the Priest, Whom we have in the heavens, if by pious humility they be destroyed, they are with all ease cleansed.

51. But I contend not with those, who assert that a man can in this life live without any sin: I contend not, I gainsay not. For perhaps we take measure of the great from out

2 Cor. our own misery, and, comparing ourselves with ourselves,

''understand not. One thing I know, that those great ones,

such as we are not, such as we have not as yet made proof Humility most needful to those who would follow Christ. 349

of, by how much they are great, by so much humble them- De selves in all things, that they may find grace before God. J,^"" For, let them be how great soever they will, there is no Tate. servant greater than his Lord, nor disciple greater than his ^b°l3) master. And assuredly He is the Lord, Who saith, ^4//Mat.ii, things have been delivered unto Me of My Father; and He 27,28is the Master, Who saith, Come unto Me, all ye who labour, and learn of Me; and yet what learn we? In that lam meek, saith He, and lowly of heart.

52. Here some one will say, This is now not to write of li. virginity, but of humility. As though truly it were any kind of virginity, and not that which is after God, which we had undertaken to set forth. And this good, by how much I see it to be great, by so much I fear for it, lest it be lost, the thief pride. Therefore there is none that guardeth the virginal good, save God Himself Who gave it: and God is Charity, l John The Guardian therefore of virginity is Charity: but the place *'s' of this Guardian is humility. There forsooth He dwelleth, Who said, that on the lowly and quiet, and that trembleth atis.60,2. His words, His Spirit resteth. What, therefore, have I done foreign from my purpose, if wishing the good, which I have praised, to be more securely guarded, 1 have taken care also to prepare a place for the Guardian? For I speak with confidence, nor have I any fear lest they be angry with me, whom I admonish with care to fear for themselves together with me. More easily do follow the Lamb, although not whithersoever He shall have gone, yet so far as they shall have had power, married persons who are humble, than virgins who are proud. For how doth one follow Him, unto Whom one wills not to approach? or how doth one approach Him, unto Whom one comes not to learn, in that I am meek and lowly of heart? Wherefore those the Lamb leadeth following whithersoever He shall have gone, in whom first Himself shall have found where to lay His Head. For also a certain proud and crafty person had said to Him, Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt AawMatt.P, gone; to whom He made answer, Foxes have dens, and fowls of heaven nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head. By the term of foxes He reproved wily craftiness, and by the name of birds puffed-up arrogance,

350 Encouragement and caution for pious Virgins.

DE wherein He found not pious humility to rest in. And by niNi- this no where at all did he follow the Lord, who had promised

tAtE- that he would follow Him, not unto a certain point of progress, but altogether whithersoever He should have gone, lii, 53. Wherefore this do ye, virgins of God, this do ye: follow ye the Lamb, whithersoever He shall have gone. But first come unto Him, Whom ye are to follow, and learn, in that He is meek and lowly of heart. Come ye in lowly wise unto the Lowly, if ye love: and depart not from Him, lest ye fall. For whoso fears to depart from Him asks and says,

Ps. 36, Let there not come to me foot of pride. Go on in the way of loftiness with the foot of lowliness; Himself lifteth up such as follow in lowly wise, Who thought it not a trouble to come down unto such as lay low. Commit ye His gifts unto Him

Ps. 59, to keep, ' guard ye your strength unto Him.' Whatever of evil through His guardianship ye commit not, account as forgiven unto you by Him: lest, thinking that you have little forgiven unto you, ye love little, and with ruinous boasting despise the publicans beating their breasts. Concerning that strength of yours which hath been tried beware, that ye be not puffed up, because ye have been able to bear something: but concerning that which hath been untried, pray, that ye be not tempted above that ye are able to bear. Think that some are superior to you in secret, than whom ye are openly better. When the good things of others, haply unknown to you, are kindly believed by you, your own that are known to you are not lessened by comparison, but strengthened by love: and what haply as yet are wanting, are by so much the more easily given, by how much they are the more humbly desired. Let such among your number as persevere afford to you an example: but let such as fall increase your fear. Love the one that ye may imitate it; mourn over the other, that ye be not puffud up. Do not ye establish your own righteousness; submit yourselves unto God Who justifies you. Pardon the sins of others, pray for your own: future sins shun by watching, past sins blot out by confessing. liii. 54. Lo, already ye are such, as that in the rest of your conduct also ye correspond with the virginity which ye have professed and kept. Lo, already not only do ye abstain Holy Virgins must spend their love on Christ. 851

from murders, devilish sacrifices and abominations, thefts, »■ rapines, frauds, perjuries, drunkennesses, and all luxury and GINI. avarice, hatreds, emulations, impieties, cruelties; but even t*t%those things, which either are, or are thought, lighter, are not found nor arise among you: not bold face, not wandering eyes, not unbridled tongue, not petulant laugh, not scurrilous jest, not unbecoming mien, not swelling or loose gait; already ye render not evil for evil, nor curse for curse; 1 pet. already, lastly, ye fulfil that measure of love, that ye hiy^9" 3 down your lives for your brethren. Lo, already ye are such, 16. because also such ye ought to be. These, being added to virginity, 8et forth an angelic life unto men, and the ways of heaven unto the earth. But, by how much ye are great, whosoever of you are so great,' by so much humble yourselves in all things, that ye may find grace before God,' that He resist you not as proud, that He humble you not as lifting up yourselves, that He lead you not through straits as being puffed up: although anxiety be unnecessary, that, where Charity glows, humility be not wanting.

55. If, therefore, ye despise marriages of sons of men, from liv. which to beget sons of men, love ye with your whole heart Him, Who is fair of form above the sons of men; ye have leisure; your heart is free from marriage bonds. Gaze on

the Beauty of your Lover: think of Him equal to the Father, made subject also to His Mother: ruling even in the heavens, and serving upon the earth: creating all things, created among all things. That very thing, which in Him the proud mock at, gaze on, how fair it is: with inward eyes gaze on the wounds of Him hanging, the scars of Him rising again, the blood of Him dying, the price of him that believes, the gain of Him that redeems. Consider of how great value lv. these are, weigh them in the scales of Charity; and whatever of love ye had to expend upon your marriages, pay back to Him.

56. It is well that He seeks your beanty within, where He John i, hath given unto you power to become daughters of God: He seeks not of you a fair flesh, but fair conduct, whereby to bridle also the flesh. He is not one unto Whom any one

can lie concerning you, and make Him rage through jealousy. See with how great security ye love Him, Whom ye fear not 352 Christ the best Husband. Humility of Saints.

DE to offend by false suspicions. Husband and wife love each Oini- other, in that they see each other: and what they see not, —J-5l that they fear between themselves: nor have they sure delight in what is visible, whilst in what is concealed they usually suspect what is not. Ye in Him, Whom ye see not with the eyes, and behold by faith, neither have what is real to blame, nor fear lest haply ye offend Him by what is false. If therefore ye should owe great love to husbands, Him, for Whose sake ye would not have husbands, how greatly ought ye to love? Let Him be fixed in your whole heart, Who for you was fixed on the Cross: let Him possess in your soul all that, whatever it be, that ye would not have occupied by marriage. It is not lawful for you to love little Him, for Whose sake ye have not loved even what were lawful. So loving Him Who is meek and lowly of heart, I have no fear for you of pride, lvi. 57. Thus, after our small measure, we have spoken enough both of sanctity, whereby ye are properly called 'sanctimoniales,' and of humility, whereby whatever great name ye bear is kept. But more worthily let those Three Children, unto whom He, Whom they loved with full glow of heart, afforded refreshing in the fire, admonish you concerning this our little work, much more shortly indeed in number of words, but much more greatly in weight of authority, in the Hymn wherein God is honoured by them. For joining humility unto holiness in such as praise God, they have most plainly taught, that each, by how much he make any more holy profession, by so much do beware that he be not deceived by pride. Wherefore do ye also praise Him, Who grants unto you, that in the midst of the flames of this world, although ye be not joined in marriage, yet ye be not burned: and Song of praying also for us, Bless ye the Lord, ye holy and humble

Holy* men of heart; utler an hymn, and exalt Him above all for Chiidr. ever.

66.