The Beauty of Virginity, Part 1The Christian life in the world and the raising of children in faith and piety is one of the ways to serve God. The Lord also shows another path—a more direct path, accompanied by greater self-denial and asceticism, greater zeal; a path thanks to which those who truly traverse it offer fruit to God a hundredfold.
” class=”tooltip”>Part 1, Preserving Virginity and the Bodily SensesThe lust of the flesh is very seductive: It easily snares the unwary and makes the soul a prisoner of the devil. According to the word of the Lord, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Mt. 5:28). That means you can defile yourself without touching anyone, through the eyes, through the imagination and the desires of the heart.” class=”tooltip”>2, Hoping in God’s Help Amidst the Battle of Spirit and FleshNow let us try to find a way to deliver ourselves from the captivity of sin, to overcome the evil lust hiding within us. Who hasn’t noticed within himself the struggle of the spirit with the flesh, the enmity between good and evil?”>3
Prayerful appeal to God
St. Gregory the Theologian says of himself:
I seek help everywhere, and everywhere I’m amazed, and I again turn my gaze to Thee, my God, the Lamp of our souls, enlightening pure hearts and making man a partaker of Divinity! Have mercy on me, strengthen me first of all in hope of salvation; fill the fading lamp in my soul with oil that it might shine with a new radiance, and I will enter with it into eternal life. Deliver me from sorrow and lead me into blessed peace, for Thou hast already tamed my heart with sorrows, as a rider tames a wild horse galloping through the thickets. Thou hast tempted me aplenty with sorrow, in punishment for my sins, and with the humiliation of my pride: For often Thy goodness makes us proud and reliant upon ourselves. My afflictions themselves can serve to teach the good and the bad alike how insignificant is our life. But this is a secret hidden in the depths of Thy wisdom; and therefore, whether it is good or evil that serves to instruct us, we must receive it all for good, although we cannot penetrate into the causes of everything that happens to us.
Scripture also points to this: For it is a token of His great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered any long time, but forthwith punished (2 Macc. 6:13), for such suffering serves for their enlightenment, not their destruction.
According to the word of the Lord: Ask, and it shall be given you (Mt. 7:7). We must ask for deliverance from evil desires that weigh us down and not doubt in the good providence of the Physician of our souls. He Who heals spiritual ailments doesn’t heal you from visible evils so that external healing might not cause you to be infected internally with pride and conceit, condemnation, and contempt for others—so that instead of the cup of salvation you’re not given deadly poison.
But being at a loss, you ask: “What remains to be done?” Be patient, pray, and hope in the mercy of God; for we are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17); In your patience possess ye your souls (Lk. 21:19). And the Prophet David says: Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and let thy heart be strengthened, and wait on the LORD (Ps. 26:14). For the eyes of the Lord are turned upon those who await His mercy to protect them. Always have a heart that hungers and thirsts for a righteous life and, according to the word of the Lord, you will be satisfied—you will see God’s righteousness (cf. Mt. 5:6).
There will come a time when the Lord will say: “Do you want to be healed?” And you, having a good desire, will say: “I do, Lord!” (cf. Jn. 5:6-7). And the Lord will give you according to your desire—you will be chaste. Only, don’t inflame your spiritual wounds, and even more so don’t violate your virginity, even if carnal thoughts greatly enfeeble your soul. Remember that those who live according to the flesh cannot please God—they think about the flesh and don’t submit to the law of God (Rom. 8:5-8), whereas he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).
Temperance in food and drink
If you want to enter into the joy of the Lord and live eternally with Him, be zealous to emulate the Apostle Paul who says: But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27). Although abstinence from carnal lust is a difficult virtue, it’s still possible, and it gives the one who loves it an inexhaustible source of consolation in God. For if a man wishes to enjoy spiritual benefits, let him try to kill the desires of the sin-loving flesh within himself, to exhaust the external man; and to this end, let him imitate St. Ephraim the Syrian, who says: “I torment that which torments me.”
Еvery man that striveth for the mastery, says the Apostle Paul, is temperate in all things (1 Cor. 9:25); imitating them, you not only don’t eat anything that fattens the body, but neither do you drink water beyond measure, so as not to burden your heart and not separate yourself from the labor of prayer and vigilance. For prayerful vigilance uproots carnal passions, compels us to preserve the purity of virginity, and implants hope and love for God in our hearts. “He who loves God,” says St. Maximus the Confessor, “will live the angelic life on Earth in fasting and vigils, in prayerful singing.”
Refraining from evil
An excellent means of adhering to virginity is to point to the vice of sensuality, committed in various ways—not only by copulation with the flesh of another, but also without it. It’s not only the soul of such a wicked man that perishes, but his body is also deprived of vigor and strength; he loses his memory and good sense—even his vision and hearing are damaged by such actions, which are an abomination before God and man. Nothing so delights the God-defying spirit as this most painful and grave sin for the soul. And the Spirit of God doesn’t depart from anyone so much as from a fornicator and indulger in self-pleasure.
Therefore, it is said: For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin (Wis. 1:4). Thus, having lost Divine reason, man becomes like cattle in his senses, falling into many iniquities and the snares of the enemy, like a stupid imbecile, and becomes completely incapable of pleasing God. Scriptures says rightly that neither fornicators nor self-gratifiers will inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
The Apostle Paul also advises not to associate with fornicators, or with idolaters: We shouldn’t even eat with them (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9–11). There’s an important reason for this, which can be understood from the following example.
In the Kiev Caves Lavra, around the year 1140, there lived Hieromonk Onesiphor. He had a spiritual son and friend—one monk who appeared to be a faster but in fact lived impurely. But this was hidden from his spiritual father. And then, although healthy, he suddenly died—and no one could draw near to his body because of the stench coming from him. Standing a way off, they could barely sing the usual hymns over him, and plugging up their noses, they carried and placed him in a cave. Many times a cry was heard, as though someone were being tortured. St. Anthony appeared to Onesiphor and threateningly said: “Why did you put such a vile, iniquitous man here? He has desecrated this holy place.” The next night, Monk Onesiphor again heard: “Immediately throw him out for the dogs to eat; he’s not worthy to be here.” From this you can see how the secret iniquity of the fleshly man is repugnant to God and His saints! Not only the soul, but also the dead body of a fornicator is unbearable for them. And the Apostle Paul says rightly: Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18).
We must know that without God’s grace, no one can preserve the purity of virginity; and it’s not given to the negligent: We have to have fervent love for studying God’s wisdom, for eating and drinking in moderation, and for placing labors of vigil and prayer upon the body. Without this, there will inevitably be a battle with the lust of the flesh, being overcome by and falling into sinful impurity. The saints observed that for pride and the condemnation of others, man is allowed to suffer an attack from a thorn in the flesh; and that for the preservation of purity, frequent Confession and Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ are very useful.