The Dress of Virgins

Authored By: St. Cyprian

THE DRESS OF VIRGINS by St. Cyprian

Chapter 1

Discipline, the guardian of hope, the bond of faith, the guide of the way of salvation, the incentive and nourishment of natural endowment, the teacher of virtue, causes us to abide always in Christ and to live continually for God, to attain to the heavenly promises and divine rewards. To pursue it is salutary, and to avoid and neglect it is fatal. In the Psalms the Holy Spirit says: 'Embrace discipline, lest perchance the Lord be angry and you perish from the just way, when His wrath shall be kindled quickly upon you.' And again: 'But to the sinner God says: Why dost thou declare my justices and take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hast hated discipline and hast cast my words behind thee.' And again we read: 'He that rejecteth discipline is unhappy.' And from Solomon we have received the mandates of Wisdom admonishing: 'My son, contemn not the correction of God, and do not faint when thou art chastised by Him; for whom God loveth He chastiseth." Now if God chastises whom He loves, and chastises that He may correct, brethren also, and priests particularly, do not hate but love those whom they chastise that they may correct, since God also prophesied before through Jeremias and pointed to our own time saying: 'I will give you pastors according to my own heart, and they shall nourish you, feeding you with discipline.'

Chapter 2

But if repeatedly throughout the holy Scripture discipline is enjoined, and the whole foundation of religion and of faith proceeds from obedience and fear, what should we seek with greater earnestness, what should we desire and hold to more, than that we should stand unshaken by the winds and storms of the world, our roots firmly fixed and our homes set upon a rock, on a strong foundation, and that we should attain to the rewards of God by observing His divine commands, reflecting as well as knowing that our members are the temples of God, cleansed from all impurity of the old corruption by the sanctifying waters of life, and that we are under obligation not to dishonor nor to defile them, since he who dishonors the body is himself dishonored? Of these temples we are the keepers and the high priests. Let us serve Him whose possession we have already begun to be. Paul says in his Epistles, by which he has formed us for life's course through divine teachings: 'You are not your own; for you have been bought at a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body." Let us glorify God and bear Him in a pure and spotless body and with more perfect observance, and let us who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ submit to the rule of our Redeemer with the absolute obedience of servants, and let us take care not to bring anything unclean or defiled into the temple of God, lest He be offended and leave the abode where He dwells. We have the words of God, our Protector and our Teacher, alike our Physician and our Counselor: 'Behold, He says, thou art made whole; sin no more lest some worse thing happen to thee.' He instills the fear of living. He gives the law of innocence after He has restored health; and He does not permit us presently to wander about with free and loosened rein, but rather He threatens with greater severity the man who has delivered himself up to those very ills of which he has been cured, because without doubt it is less blameworthy to have transgressed before you have yet a knowledge of the discipline of God, but there is no excuse for further sin after you have begun to know God. And, indeed, men as well as women, boys as well as girls, every sex and every age should give heed to this and be concerned about it, in keeping with the religious obligation and the faith which are due to God, lest what is received pure and holy through the benevolence of God be not guarded with anxious fear.

Chapter 3

Now our discourse is directed to virgins, for whom our solicitude is even the greater inasmuch as their glory is the more exalted. They are the flower of the tree that is the Church, the beauty and adornment of spiritual grace, the image of God reflecting the holiness of the Lord, the more illustrious part of Christ's flock. The glorious fruitfulness of Mother Church rejoices through them, and them she flowers abundantly; and the more a bountiful virginity adds to its numbers, the greater is the joy of the Mother. To these do we speak, these do we exhort, rather through affection than authority, and not because we, who are the last and least, and fully conscious of our lowliness, arrogate to ourselves any liberty to censure, but because the more provident we are in our solicitude, the more we fear from the attack of the devil.

Chapter 4

Nor is this an empty precaution and a vain fear which takes thought of the way of salvation, which guards the life-giving precepts of the Lord, so that those who have consecrated their lives to Christ, and, renouncing the concupiscences of the flesh, have dedicated themselves to God in body as well as in spirit, may perfect their work, destined as it is for a great reward, and may not be solicitous to adorn themselves nor to please anyone except their Lord, from whom in truth they await the reward of virginity, since He Himself says: 'All men take not this word but those to whom it is given; for there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made so by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.' Again, too, by these words of the angel the gift of continence is made clear, virginity is extolled: 'These are they who were not defiled with women, for they have remained virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.' And indeed not to men only does the Lord promise the grace of continence, disregarding women; but since woman is a part of man and was taken and formed from him, almost universally in the Scriptures God addresses the first formed because they are two in one flesh, and in the man is signified likewise the woman.

Chapter 5

But if continence follows Christ, and virginity is destined for the kingdom of God, what have such maidens to do with worldly dress and adornments, whereby in striving to please men they offend God, not reflecting that it has been said: 'Those who please men have been confounded, because God has brought them to nought;' and that Paul has declared in his glorious and sublime way: 'If I should please men, I would not be the servant of Christ.' But continence and chastity consist not alone in the purity of the body, but also in dignity as well as in modesty of dress and adornment, so that, as the Apostle says, she who is unmarried may be holy both in body and in spirit. Paul instructs us saying: 'The unmarried man thinketh on the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that hath contracted a marriage thinketh on the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. So the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh of the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.' A virgin should not only be a virgin, but she ought to be known and considered as such. No one on seeing a virgin should doubt whether she is one. Let her innocence manifest itself equally in all things, and her dress not dishonor the sanctity of her body. Why does she go forth in public adorned, why with her hair dressed, as if she either had a husband or were seeking one? Let her rather fear to be attractive, if she is a virgin, and not desire her own ruin who is keeping herself for higher and divine things. She who has not a husband whom she may pretend to please should persevere in innocence and purity of mind as well as of body. And in truth it is not right for a virgin to adorn herself to set off her charms, nor to glory in her body and its beauty, since there is no struggle greater for such maidens than that against the flesh, and no battle more obstinate than that of conquering and subduing the body.

Chapter 6

Paul cries out in a strong and lofty voice: 'But far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.' But a virgin in the Church glories in the appearance of her flesh and in the beauty of her body! Paul says, moreover: 'And they that are Christ's have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences.' But she who professes to have renounced the concupiscences and vices of the flesh is found in those very things which she has renounced! You are discovered, O virgin, you are exposed; you boast of being one thing and you are striving to be another. You defile yourself with the stains of carnal concupiscence, although you are a candidate for innocence and modesty. Cry, says God to Isaias, 'All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.' It is not becoming for any Christian, and especially is it not becoming for a virgin to take any account of the glory and honor of the flesh, but rather it becomes her to seek only the word of God, to embrace blessings that will endure forever. Or if she must glory in the flesh, then truly let her glory when she suffers in the confession of the Name, when a woman is found stronger than the men who are inflicting the torture, when she endures fire, or the cross, or the sword, or beasts, that she may be crowned. These are the precious jewels of the flesh; these are the better ornaments of the body.

Chapter 7

But there are some women who are wealthy and rich in the abundance of their possessions, who display their riches and who argue that they ought to use the blessings that are theirs. Let them know, first of all, that she is rich who is rich in God; that she is wealthy who is wealthy in Christ; that those things are blessings which are spiritual, divine, heavenly, which lead us to God, which remain with us in everlasting possession with God. But the things that are earthly, that have been acquired in the world and will remain here with the world, should be despised just as the world itself is despised, whose pomps and pleasures we already renounced at the time that we came to God by passing to a better way. John stimulates and encourages us, and affirming in a spiritual and heavenly voice says: 'Love not the world nor the things which are in the world. If any man hath loved the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the vanity of the world, which is not of the Father, but is of the concupiscence of the world. And the world shall pass away and the concupiscence thereof; but he that hath done the will of God shall abide forever, even as God also abideth forever.' Eternal and divine things therefore must be sought, and all things must be done in accordance with the will of God, that we may follow the footsteps and instructions of our Lord, who has warned us and said: 'I have not come down from heaven to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.' But if the servant is not greater than his master, and the freedman owes allegiance to his deliverer, we who desire to be Christians ought to imitate what Christ has said. It has been written, it is read, and it is heard, and it is proclaimed for our instruction by the mouth of the Church: 'He that sayeth he abideth in Christ ought himself also to walk even as He has walked.' We must keep step with Him; we must strive to emulate His pace. Then shall our striving for truth correspond to our faith in His name, and a reward is given to the believer, if he practices also what he believes.

Chapter 8

You say that you are wealthy and rich. But Paul objects to your wealth, and with his own voice gives directions for keeping your apparel and adornments within right limits: 'Let women, he says, array themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, nor gold, nor pearls, nor costly attire, but as it becometh women professing chastity in good conversation.' Peter also agrees with these same precepts and says: 'Let there be in woman not the outward wearing of ornament or gold or the putting on of apparel, but the ornamentation of the heart.' But if Paul advises that married women also, who are accustomed to make their husbands the excuse for their costly attire, should be restrained and kept within bounds by a scrupulous observance of church discipline, how much greater is the obligation of a virgin to render such obedience, who may claim no forbearance for her adornment, and who cannot attribute to another the deception in her fault, but remains herself alone accountable.

Chapter 9

You say that you are wealthy and rich. But not everything that can be done ought also to be done, nor should desires that are immoderate and that are born of worldly vanity overstep the bounds of virginal honor and modesty, since it is written: 'All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful, but all things do not edify.' But if you adorn yourself too elaborately and appear conspicuous in public, if you attract to yourself the eyes of the youth, draw after you the sighs of young men, foster the desire of concupiscence, enkindle the fire of hope, so that, without perhaps losing your own soul, you nevertheless ruin others and offer yourself a sword and poison, as it were, to those who behold you, you cannot be excused on the ground that your mind is chaste and pure. Your shameless apparel and your immodest attire belie you, and you can no longer be numbered among maidens and virgins of Christ, you who so live as to become the object of sensual love.

Chapter 10

You say that you are wealthy and rich. But it does not become a virgin to boast of her riches, since holy Scripture says: 'What hath pride profited us? Or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.' And the Apostle again warns us, and says: 'And they that buy, let them be as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away.' Peter also, to whom the Lord commends his sheep to be fed and guarded, upon whom He established and founded His Church, says that gold, in truth, and silver he has not, but that he is rich in the grace of Christ, that he is wealthy in His faith and power, wherewith he wrought miraculously many great works, wherewith he possessed in abundance spiritual blessing unto the reward of glory. These possessions, this wealth she cannot have who prefers to be rich in the world rather than in Christ.

Chapter 11

You say that you are wealthy and rich and you think that you must use the things that God has wished you to possess. Use them, but for your salvation and for good works; use them for what God has ordained, for what the Lord has pointed out. Let the poor feel that you are rich; let the needy feel that you are wealthy; through your patrimony make God your debtor; feed Christ. That you may preserve to the end the glory of virginity, that you may succeed in attaining the rewards of God, pray with the prayers of many; lay up your treasures there where no thief digs them up, where no treacherous robber breaks in; acquire possessions for yourself, but rather possessions in heaven, where rust does not wear away, nor the hail strike down, nor the sun burn, nor the rain corrupt your fruits, which are eternal and never failing and free from every touch of the blight of the world. For you are offending God even in this very point, if you believe that wealth has been given to you by Him for the express purpose of enjoying it without thought of salvation. For God has indeed given man a voice, and yet he should not sing love songs and songs that are coarse; and God ordained that iron should be used for cultivating the land, but murders should not be committed on that account; or because God has made incense and wine and fire, should they be used in offering sacrifice to idols? Or because the flocks of sheep are numerous in your fields, should you slay them as victims and sacrifices? Nay truly, a large patrimony is a temptation unless the income is devoted to good purposes, so that through his fortune every wealthy man should atone for his faults rather than increase them.

Chapter 12

Showy adornments and clothing and the allurements of beauty are not becoming in any except prostitutes and shameless women, and of none, almost, is the dress more costly than those whose modesty is cheap. Thus in holy Scripture, by which the Lord has wished us to be instructed and admonished, a harlot city is described, beautifully attired and adorned, and with her adornments, and rather because of those very adornments, destined to perish. 'And there came,' it says, 'one of the seven angels having vials, and addressed me, saying: Come, I will show thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. And he led me away in spirit, and I saw a woman sitting upon a beast; and the woman was clothed in a cloak of purple and scarlet, and was adorned with gold, and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of malediction, filthiness, and fornication of the whole earth.' Let chaste and modest virgins shun the attire of the unchaste, the clothing of the immodest, the insignia of brothels, the adornments of harlots.

Chapter 13

Isaias also, filled with the Holy Spirit, cries out and chides the daughters of Sion who have been defiled by gold and raiment, and reproves those who have an abundance of harmful riches, and who withdraw from God for the sake of the pleasures of time. 'The daughters of Sion,' he says, 'are haughty, and have walked with high necks, and wanton glances of the eyes, and sweeping their tunics in the tread of their feet, and mincing their steps. And God will humble the royal daughters of Sion, and the Lord will uncover their vesture; and God will take away the glory of their attire, and their adornments, and hair, and curls, and little moons, and their head dress, and bracelets, and the clusters of grapes, and armlets, and rings, and earrings, and silks woven with gold and sapphire. And instead of the odor of sweetness there shall be dust, and in place of a girdle you shall be bound with a rope, and instead of golden ornaments for the head, you shall have baldness.' This, God blames; this, He brands with reproach. By this He declares that they have been defiled; by this they have departed from the true adornment that merited disgrace and shame. Having put on silk and purple, they cannot put on Christ; adorned with gold and pearls and necklaces, they have lost the adornments of the heart and soul. Who would not detest and shun what has caused another's ruin? Who would seek and take what has served as a sword and weapon for the death of another? If, on draining the cup, he who had taken the potion should die, you would know that what he drank was poison; if, after taking food, he who had taken it should perish, you would know that what could kill, when taken, was deadly, and you would not eat nor would you drink whence you saw beforehand that others had perished. Now what ignorance of the truth it is, what madness of mind to wish for what has always been and still is harmful, and to think that you yourself will not perish from the same causes from which you know that others have perished!

Chapter 14

For God has not made sheep scarlet or purple, nor has He taught how to tint and color with the juices of herbs and with shell fish, nor has He made necklaces of precious stones set in gold, or of pearls arranged in chains with numerous joinings, wherewith to hide the neck which He has made so that what God has created in man may be covered, and what the devil has invented may be exposed to view. Has God wished that wounds be inflicted on the cars, by which childhood still innocent and without knowledge of the evil of the world may be tortured, so that later from the incisions and holes in the ears precious stones may hang-heavy, although not by their own weight but by their high prices? All these things the sinful and apostate angels brought into being by their own arts, when, haven fallen into earthly contagion, they lost their heavenly power. They also taught how to paint the eyes by spreading a black substance around them, and to tinge the cheeks with a counterfeit blush, and to change the hair by false colors, and to drive out all truth from the countenance and head by the assault of their corruption.

Chapter 15

And indeed at this point in my address, because of the fear of God which faith excites in me, and the affection which brotherhood demands, I think that not only virgins and widows but married women also, and all women in general should be warned that the work of God and His creature and image should in no way be falsified by employing yellow coloring or black powder or rouge, or, finally, any cosmetic at all that spoils the natural features. God says: 'Let us make man to our own image and likeness.' And someone dares to change and transform what God has made! They are laying hands on God when they strive to remake what He has made, and to transform it, not knowing that everything that comes into existence is the work of God; that whatever is changed, is the work of the devil. If some painter had depicted in color rivaling nature's the countenance and form and outward appearance of anyone, and after the portrait had been painted and finished, another should lay hands on it, as if, thinking himself more skillful, to improve what was already represented and finished, grievous would seem to be the insult to the first artist, and righteous his indignation. And you--do you think that you will perpetrate such wicked and rash insolence, an offense against the Artist, God, without being punished? Although you may not be immodest toward men and unchaste through your alluring cosmetics, in corrupting and dishonoring the things that are God's, you are counted a worse adulteress! As for your thinking that you are adorned, that you are beautifully dressed, this is an assault upon the divine work, a violation of the truth.

Chapter 16

The voice of the Apostle gives the warning: 'Purge out the old leaven that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened; for Christ, our Pasch, is sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate a festival not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice or wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.' Do sincerity and truth abide when the things that are genuine are corrupted by meretricious colors, when truth is changed to falsehood by lying dyes? Your Lord says: 'You cannot make one hair white or black.' But you, in order to triumph over the word of your Lord, wish to be more powerful than He; in your wanton attempt and sacrilegious insolence you dye your hair; with an evil foreboding of the future you begin now to have flame--colored hair, and you sin--oh the wickedness of it!--with your head, that is, in the nobler part of the body. And although it is written of the Lord: But His head and hair were white as wool or snow, you abominate gray hair; you loathe whiteness, which is like unto the head of the Lord.

Chapter 17

Do you not fear, I ask, being such as you are, that when the day of resurrection comes, your Maker may not recognize you, that He may set you aside when you come for His rewards and promises, and may exclude you and, reproving you with the severity of a censor and judge, may say: 'This work is not mine nor is this our image.' You have defiled your skin with lying cosmetics; you have changed your hair with an adulterous color; your face is overcome by falsehoods; your appearance is corrupted; your countenance is that of another. You cannot see God since your eyes are not those which God has made, but which the devil has infected. Him you have followed; the red and painted eyes of the serpent have you imitated; adorned like your enemy, with him you shall likewise burn. Should not the servants of God reflect on these matters, I ask? Should they not meditate on them always, day and night, with fear? Married women should consider to what extent they are deceiving themselves with regard to the comfort that they give to their husbands through their efforts to please them; for in putting them forward as their excuse, they are making them cooperate in a guilty agreement. Assuredly, virgins, to whom this does not pertain, who have adorned themselves by devices of this sort, should not be numbered among virgins, in my opinion, but, like tainted sheep and diseased cattle, they should be kept apart from the pure and holy flock of virgins, lest while they are together they corrupt others by their contact, lest they who have themselves perished ruin others.

Chapter 18

And since we are seeking the blessing of continence, let us avoid whatever is dangerous and hostile to it. I shall not pass over certain things which, in coming into use through carelessness, have acquired liberty for themselves by usurpation, to the detriment of modest and sober manners. Some are not ashamed to attend weddings and, in the freedom of the wanton discourse there, to take part in the unchaste conversation, to hear what is unbecoming, to say what is not allowed, to look on and to be present in the midst of disgraceful talk and drunken feasts, by which the flame of passion is enkindled, and the bride is incited to tolerate and the bridegroom to become emboldened in lust. What place is there at weddings for one who has no thought of marriage, or what can be pleasant and enjoyable in those occasions wherein desires and interests are so different? What is learned there? What is seen? To what a degree does a virgin abandon her own purpose! How much more immodest does she go away who had gone there modest? She may remain a virgin in body and mind, but by her eyes, ears, and tongue she has diminished the purity that she possessed.

Chapter 19

But what is to be said of those who go to the common baths and who prostitute to eyes that are devoted to lust bodies consecrated to chastity and modesty? Do not those who, in the presence of men, and naked, with no sense of shame behold men and are seen by them, offer of themselves an inducement to vice? Do they not excite and arouse the desire of those present to their own dishonor and harm? 'Let another,' you say, 'look to his motive in coming here; as for me, my only concern is to refresh and bathe my poor little body.' Such a defense does not justify you, nor does it excuse the sin of lust and wantonness. Such a bath sullies; it does not purify and it does not cleanse the limbs, but stains them. You gaze upon no one immodestly, but you yourself are gazed upon immodestly. You do not corrupt your eyes with foul delight, but in delighting others you yourself are corrupted. You transform the bath into a public show; the places where you go are more shameful than the theater. There, all reserve is cast off; the honor and modesty of the body are laid aside together with the clothing; virginity is unveiled to be marked out and contaminated. Now then, consider whether, when she is clothed, such a one is modest among men who has grown in immodesty by the boldness of her nakedness.

Chapter 20

Hence, then, the Church frequently bewails her virgins; hence, she groans over the notorious and detestable gossip about them; hence the flower of virginity is destroyed, the honor and modesty of continence are killed, all glory and dignity are profaned. Hence the conquering enemy insinuates himself by his wiles; hence by snares that deceive through secret ways the devil creeps in; hence virgins in desiring to be adorned more elegantly, to go about more freely, cease to be virgins, being corrupted by a hidden shame, widows before they are brides, adulteresses not to a husband but to Christ. Just as they had been destined as virgins for wonderful rewards, so now will they suffer great punishments for their lost virginity.

Chapter 21

Listen, therefore, virgins, as to a father; listen, I pray you, to one who fears for you and at the same time warns you; listen to one who is faithfully watching over your advantages and interests. Be such as God, the Creator, has made you; be such as the hand of the Father has fashioned you. Let your countenance remain uncorrupted, your neck pure, your beauty genuine; let no wounds be inflicted on your ears, nor let a costly chain of bracelets and necklaces confine your arms or your neck; let your feet be free from golden fetters, your hair colored with no dye, your eyes worthy to behold God. Let the baths be attended with women whose bathing among you is modest. Let indecent weddings and their wanton banquets be avoided, contact with which is dangerous. Conquer your dress, you who are a virgin; conquer gold, you who conquer the flesh and the world. It is not natural for one to be invincible before greater things and to be found unequal to lesser. Straight and narrow is the way which leads to life; hard and steep is the path which ascends to glory. By this pathway the martyrs proceed, the virgins go, all the just advance. Avoid wide and broad roads. In them are deadly allurements and death-bringing pleasures; in them the devil flatters that he may deceive, smiles that he may harm, entices that he may kill. The first fruit, that of a hundred-fold, belongs to martyrs; the second, sixty-fold, is yours. Just as with the martyrs there is no thought of the flesh and of the world, and no slight and trivial and dainty struggle, so also in you, whose reward is second in the order of grace, let the power of endurance be next to theirs. The ascent to great things is not easy. What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom.

Chapter 22

Persevere, virgins, persevere in what you have begun to be. Persevere in what you will be. A great recompense is reserved for you, a glorious prize for virtue, a most excellent reward for purity. Do you wish to know from what misery the virtue of continence is free, what advantage it possesses? 'I will multiply,' said God to the woman, 'thy sorrows and thy groans, and in sorrow shalt thou bring forth thy children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall have dominion over thee." You are free from this sentence; you do not fear the sorrows of women and their groans; you have no fear about the birth of children, nor is your husband your master, but your Master and Head is Christ, in the likeness of and in place of the man; your lot and condition are in common. This is the voice of the Lord that says: 'The children of this world beget and are begotten; but they who shall be accounted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither will they die any more, for they are equal to the angels of God since they are the children of the resurrection.' What we shall be, already you have begun to be. The glory of the resurrection you already have in this world; you pass through the world without the pollution of the world; while you remain chaste and virgins, you are equal to the angels of God. Only let your virginity remain and endure entire and unwounded; and as it began courageously let it persevere unceasingly, and not seek necklaces and clothing as adornments, but right conduct. Let it look upon God and heaven and not lower to the concupiscence of the flesh and of the world eyes that have been raised aloft; let it not turn them to earthly things.

Chapter 23

The first pronouncement gave the command to increase and multiply; the second counseled continence. While yet the world was uncultivated and empty, we, begetting large numbers in our fecundity, propagated ourselves and increased for the extension of the human race. Now, when the earth is filled and the world is peopled, those who can take continence, living in the manner of eunuchs, make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom. And God does not order this, but encourages it; nor does He impose the yoke of necessity, since the choice of the will remains free. But when He say that in His Father's house there are many mansions, He points to the homes of a better habitation. Those better dwellings you are seeking; by cutting away the desires of the flesh you are obtaining the reward of greater grace in heaven. All indeed who attain to the divine and paternal gift by the sanctification of baptism put off therein the old man by the grace of the saving waters, and, renewed by the Holy Spirit, they are cleansed from the impurities of the old contagion by a second birth. But the greater sanctity and truth of the second birth belong to you who no longer have desires of the flesh and of the body. Those things alone in you which pertain to virtue and the spirit have remained unto glory. This is the voice of the Apostle whom God called the vessel of His election, whom God sent to announce the mandates of heaven: 'The first man,' he said, 'was made of the slime of the earth; the second, of heaven. Such as is the earthly, such also are the earthly, and such as is the heavenly, such also are the heavenly. As we have carried the image of him who is of the earth, so let us bear also the image of Him Who is of heaven.' Virginity bears this image, purity bears it, sanctity and truth bear it, those who are mindful of the discipline of God bear it, who observe justice scrupulously, who are steadfast in faith, humble in fear, brave in enduring all suffering, mild in sustaining injuries, ready in showing mercy, of one mind and heart in fraternal peace.

Chapter 24

Each one of these things, O good virgins, you ought to observe, to love, to fulfill, you who, devoting yourselves to God and to Christ, are advancing toward the Lord, to whom you have consecrated yourselves as the greater and better part. You who are advanced in years, give instruction to the younger; you who are younger, give an incentive to those of your own age. Stimulate one another by mutual words of encouragement; summon to glory by rival proofs of virtue. Persevere bravely, proceed spiritually, attain the goal happily. Only remember us when virginity shall begin to be honored in you.