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Cretan painter. The Annunciation, Prado Museum. Garden statue Francisco de Goya y Lucientes Spanish painter. Annunciation, Private Collection. The Virgin and Child with a Monkey, c. Date: ca. On the left Saint Anna, next to her Mary with the Christ child.

Joachim and Joseph stand behind them. The disciples play in front of the altar, as children, Simon, James and John. Detail of Archangel Saint Gabriel.


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The name alone, indeed, without works, does not introduce into the kingdom of heaven; but, if a man be truly a believer, such an one can be saved. For, if a person be only called a believer in name, whilst he is not such in works, he cannot possibly be a believer. For our Lord called such virginity as that "foolish," as He said in the Gospel; 15 and because it had neither oil nor light, it was left outside of the kingdom of heaven, and was shut out from the joy of the bridegroom, and was reckoned with His enemies.

For such persons as these "have the appearance only of the fear of God, but the power of it they deny. But let every one constantly try 17 his works," 18 and know himself; for empty worship does he offer, whosoever he be that makes profession of virginity and sanctity, "and denies its power. For "every tree whatsoever is known from its fruits.

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And, if with true fear 4 he crucify his body, he for the sake of the fear of God excuses himself from that word in which the Scripture 5 has said: "Be fruitful, and multiply," 6 and shuns all the display, and care, and sensuality, 7 and fascination of this world, and its revelries and its drunkenness, and all its luxury and ease, and withdraws from the entire life of 8 this world, and from its snares, and nets, and hindrances; and, whilst thou walkest 9 upon the earth, be zealous that thy work and thy business be in heaven.

For he who covets for himself these things so great and excellent, withdraws and severs himself on this account from all the world, that he may go and live a life divine and heavenly, like the holy angels, in work pure and holy, and "in the holiness 10 of the Spirit of God," 11 and that he may serve God Almighty through Jesus Christ for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. On this account he severs himself from all the appetites of the body.

And not only does he excuse himself from this command, "Be fruitful, and multiply," but he longs for the "hope promised" and prepared "and laid up in heaven" 12 by God, who has declared with His mouth, and He does not lie, that it is "better thou sons and daughters," 13 and that He will give to virgins a notable place in the house of God, which is something "better than sons and daughters," and better than the place of those who have passed a wedded life in sanctity, and whose "bed has not been defiled.

Thou desirest, then, to be a virgin?

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Knowest thou what hardship and irksomeness 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? Dost thou really know and understand what it is thou art eager to do?

Art thou acquainted with the noble task of holy virginity? Dost thou know how, like a man, to enter "lawfully" upon 16 this contest and "strive," 17 that, in the might of the Holy Spirit, 18 thou choosest this for thyself, that thou mayest be crowned with a crown of light, and that they may lead thee about in triumph through "the Jerusalem above"? Strive to run straight forward and boldly, not with fear, but with courage, relying on the promise of thy Lord, that thou shalt obtain the victor-crown 25 of thy "calling on high" 26 through Jesus Christ. For whosoever walks perfect in faith, and not fearing, doth in very deed receive the crown of virginity, which is great in its toil and great in its reward.

HOLY VIRGINITY

Dost thou understand and know how honourable a thing is sanctity? The womb of a holy virgin 29 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. Dost thou wish to be a Christian? Imitate Christ in everything. John, the ambassador, he who came before our Lord, he "than whom there was not a greater among those born of women," [1] the holy messenger of our Lord, was a virgin.

Imitate, therefore, the ambassador of our Lord, and be his follower [2] in every thing. That John, again, who "reclined on the bosom of our Lord, and whom He greatly loved," [3] -- he, too, was a holy person. Paul, also, and Barnabas, and Timothy, with all the others, "whose names are written in the book of life," [5] -- these, I say, all cherished and loved sanctity, [6] 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 [7] and spotless life. If, therefore, thou desirest to be like these, imitate them with all thy power.

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For the Scripture has said, "The elders who are among you, honour; and, seeing their manner of life and conduct, imitate their faith. Those, therefore, who imitate Christ, imitate Him earnestly.

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For those who have "put on Christ" [10] 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 Cool. No virgin, therefore, unless they be in everything as Christ, and as those "who are Christs," [11] 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," [12] by living purely and without stain, and solicitous to be pleasing before Him in every thing. She who is such does not withdraw from our Lord, but in spirit is ever with her Lord: as it is written, "Be ye holy, as I am holy, saith 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 [14] of the flesh. For, "he that is born of the flesh is flesh; and he that is of the earth speaketh of the earth," [28] and his thoughts are of the earth.

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HOLY VIRGINITY

And "the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God. For it does not submit itself to the law of God; for it cannot do so," [29] because it is in the flesh, "in which dwells no good," [30] because the Spirit of God is not in it. For this cause justly does the Scripture say regarding such a generation as this: "My Spirit shall not dwell in men for ever, because they are flesh. He in whomsoever the Spirit of God is, is in accord with the will of the Spirit of God; and, because he is in accord with the Spirit of God, therefore does he mortify, the deeds of the body and live unto God, "treading down and subjugating the body and keeping it under; so that, while preaching to others," he may be a beautiful example and pattern to believers, and may spend his life in works which are worthy of the Holy Spirit, so that tie may "not be cast away," [4] but may be approved before God and before men.


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For in "the man who is of God," [5] with him I say there is nothing of the mind of the flesh; and especially in virgins of either sex; but the fruits of all of them are "the fruits of the Spirit " [6] and of life, and they are truly the city of God, and the houses and temples in which God abides and dwells, and among which He walks, as in the holy city of heaven. For in this "do ye appear to the world as lights, in that ye give heed to the Word of life," [7] and thus ye are in truth the praise, and the boast, and the crown of rejoicing, and the delight of good servants in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For all who see you will "acknowledge that ye are the seed which the Lord hath blessed;" [8] in very deed a seed honourable and holy, and "a priestly kingdom, a holy people, the people of the inheritance," [9] the heirs of the promises of God; of things which do not decay, nor wither; of "that which eye hath not seen, and car hath not heard, and which hath not come up into the heart of man; of that which God hath prepared for those who love Him and keep His commandments. Now, we are persuaded of you, my brethren, that your thoughts are occupied about those things which are requisite for your salvation.

Others, too, eat and drink with them at entertainments allowing themselves in loose behaviour and much uncleanness--such as ought not to be among believers, and especially among those who have chosen for themselves a life of holiness. Then, others gad about among the houses of virgin brethren or sisters, on pretence of visiting them, or reading the Scriptures to them, or exorcising them. Forasmuch as they are idle and do no work, they pry into those things which ought not to be inquired into, and by means of plausible words make merchandise of the name of Christ. These are men from whom the divine apostle kept aloof, because of the multitude of their evil deeds; as it is written: "Thorns sprout in the hands of the idle;" [15] and, "The ways of the idle are full of thorns.

Such are the ways of all those who do not work, but go hunting for tales, and think to themselves that this is profitable and right. And besides all this, barefaced men as they are, [20] under pretence of teaching, they set forth a variety of doctrines. And would that they taught the doctrines of truth! But it is this which is so disquieting, that they understand not what they mean, and assert that which is not true: because they wish to be teachers, and to display themselves as skilful in speaking; because they traffic in iniquity in the name of Christ--which it is not right for the servants of God to do.

And they hearken not to that which the Scripture has said: "Let not many be teachers among you, my brethren, and be not all of you prophets. For it is required of a man to know how to give an answer to every one in season. For because of the unruliness of the tongue cometh anger; but the perfect man keeps watch over his tongue, and loves his soul's life. For a severe judgment will those teachers receive "who teach, but do not," [12] and those who take upon them the name of Christ falsely, and say: We teach the truth, and yet go wandering about idly, and exalt themselves, and make their boast" in the mind of the flesh.

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Moreover, also, this is comely and useful, that a man "visit orphans and widows," [21] and especially those poor persons who have many children. These things are, without controversy, required of the servants of God, and comely and suitable for them. This also, again, is suitable and right and comely for those who are brethren in Christ, that they should visit those who are harassed by evil spirits, and pray and pronounce adjurations [22] over them, intelligently, offering such prayer as is acceptable before God; not with a multitude of fine words, [23] well prepared and arranged, so that they may appear to men eloquent and of a good memory.

Such men are " like a sounding pipe, or a tinkling cymbal; " [24] and they bring no help to those over whom they make their adjurations; but they speak with terrible words, and affright people, but do not act with true faith, according to the teaching of our Lord, who hath said: "This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer," [25] offered unceasingly and with earnest mind. And let them holily ask and beg of God, with cheerfulness and all circumspection and purity, without hatred and without malice. In this way let us approach a brother or a sister who is sick, and visit them in a way that is right, without guile, and without covetousness, and without noise, and without talkativeness, and without such behaviour as is alien from the fear of God, and without haughtiness, but with the meek and lowly spirit of Christ.

Let them, therefore, with fasting and with prayer make their adjurations, and not with the elegant and wall-arranged and fitly-ordered words of learning, but as men who have received the gift of healing from God, confidently, to the glory of God. By [1] your fastings and prayers and perpetual watching, together with your other good works, mortify the works of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.