This year I have managed to arrange my essays in such a way that I have written about virginity twice. It’s a subject that normally makes people blink twice and I take great pride in having virginity research documents on my computer…
I have not been looking at modern interpretations of virginity but rather that of late antique Christians. Did you know virginity was THE hot topic of the fourth century with pretty much every church father of that period writing about it (ie. Augustine, Basil, Jerome, Gregory, John Chrysostom)? Nope, neither did I until I started researching. The role of the consecrated virgin (ie. ‘forever’ virgins rather ‘just not got round to having sex yet’ virgins) fits within the ascetic movements, with virginity being seen as a way to constrain the body further alongside fasting, prayer and so on.
Anyway, as fascinating as I find this topic – and asceticism in general – its not always quite so much fun actually writing the damn thing. Some of the stronger admonitions against marriage kept me amused (I am weird, I admit this now). Yes, guys if you are married – what were you thinking? Should have just stayed a virgin (and if you aren’t a virgin and aren’t married – get out of here o.O , you terrible person you).
I joke. But have some choice quotes from the church fathers to amuse you.
“Nay, all the dearly-prized blisses, and transports, and comforts of marriage end in these agonies of grief. The hilt of a sword is smooth and handy, and polished and glittering outside; it seems to grow to the outline of the hand ; but the other part is steel and the instrument of death, formidable to look at, more formidable still to come across. Such a thing is marriage. It offers for the grasp of the senses a smooth surface of delights, like a hilt of rare polish and beautiful workmanship; but when a man has taken it up and has got it into his hands, he finds the pain that has been wedded to it is in his hands as well; and it becomes to him the worker of mourning and of loss.” – Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity
“What troubles matrimony involves you have learned in the marriage state itself; you have been surfeited with quails’ flesh even to loathing; your mouth has been filled with the gall of bitterness; you have expelled the indigestible and unwholesome food; you have relieved a heaving stomach. Why will you again swallow what has disagreed with you?
The dog is turned to his own vomit again and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. 1 Peter 2:22 Even brute beasts and flying birds do not fall into the same snares twice.” – Jerome, Letter 54 (writing to a widow)
Don’t get married guyz, Jerome would not approve!