Why Is Virginity Considered Pure? – Fundamentals of Christian Womanhood

Why Is Virginity Considered Pure?

Sometimes a good idea comes along, and it has a good reason for being accepted.

Then, it becomes widely accepted because lots of people recognize the good idea for what it is.

So the idea becomes commonplace.

After a while, people begin to taken the common idea for granted.

And they stop bothering to explain why it had value.

So they forget the reason why they accepted the good idea.

And they begin to question it.

Many Christians have fallen into this amnesia, and they begin to question why classic Christian views were held in the first place.

This leads them to ask questions like this one:

Why is virginity considered pure?

Virginity is pure because it is proof of one’s virtue. Chastity is a Christian virtue, and virginity is its result. Chastity is valued because it proves one’s triumph over their carnal desires. Moreover, virginity is valued because Christ was born to a virgin, and this is proof of His godhood.

Now, the value of virginity has been written of at length by many Fathers of the Christian Church.

And the most notable of these writings is titled On Holy Virginity, by Saint Augustine. In this work, the man goes into great detail about the value of virginity and its proper role in the life of the Christian.

Although it takes a little while to get through.

So here’s the gist of what he has to say.

Why Is Virginity Considered Pure? – The Overview

Virginity is moral and pure because it shows a person’s willingness to forego carnal desires in favor of virtuous (chaste) living.

The knowledge of virginity as a commitment to chastity means that both men and women may follow it virtuously. It also means that victims of sexual violence are not made unclean by the event.

Virginity is also a form of bodily integrity, although only women show physical signs of it.

The virgin birth of Christ shows that God miraculously preserved this bodily integrity Virgin Mary, even during and after her childbirth.

Virginity is composed of two elements.

The first is material. This means the absence of voluntary lusts and sexual activities with another.

The second is the formal. This means the choice to conscious decision to abstain from sexual pleasure.

This dual understanding of virginity means that violations of those commandments related to sexual desire may violate the formal element while keeping the material intact.

It is for this reason that material virginity coupled with an intense desire to commit sexual misdeeds is not considered virtuous.

The Virtue of Virginity

Is there a special virtue in virginity?

Many authors have written in the affirmative, but the Catholic and Orthodox churches generally disdain this view.

Virginity is merely the choice and act of preserving one’s sexual purity for the sake of the virtue of chastity. It is to be held in the same regard as those other actions which preserve or increase one’s virtue.

Although the value of virginity lies most in the preservation of chastity, the motivation to preserve it often arises elsewhere. People choose it because they feel that doing so makes one a good Christian.

The choice to keep one’s virginity is best stated in the form of a vow to God.

The New Testament on Virginity

The value of virginity is clearly stated in the New Testament.

It appears first in Matthew 19:11-12. Here, Jesus reminds his students that in addition to those who are either unfit for marriage or have suffered mutilation at the hands of others, some have made the same sacrifice for the kingdom of heaven. Christ recommends his followers to imitate these.

As Christ says, “He that can take, let him take it.”

Christ’s statements in these verses have often been thought to mean that one is urged to take vows of chastity, and these vows are usually attached ot an ascetic life.

St. Paul weighs in again on the value of virginity in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.

Here, he speaks as a faithful preacher of the Lord’s doctrine and asserts that marriage is a fine practice. Although he also states that it would be better to follow his advice and remain single.

In defense of these points, he gives the following argument:

A married man must provide for a wife and children, so he is always preoccupied with the material means of their existence. This draws him closer to the world and away from the heavenly.

However, a man without a wife or family may direct all his attention to his bodily and spiritual wellbeing. He is then free to devote his life to constant prayer and study.

Why Is Virginity Considered Pure? – What the Church Has to Say

The Church, following this teaching of St. Paul, has always considered the state of virginity or celibacy preferable to the state of marriage.

However, some have understood Christ’s words, “for the kingdom of heaven”, in the text above quoted from St. Matthew, as though it applied to the preaching of the Gospel.

These people have often been condemned as heretics.

The context, especially verse 14, in which “the kingdom of heaven” clearly means eternal life refutes this heresy. The passage quoted from St. Paul does so as well.

So reason confirms the teaching of Holy Scripture.

To maintain a state of virginity is a sign of victory over one’s lower urges. It proves one’s freedom over earthly cares, and these give a man freedom to devote himself to the service of God.

A virgin may fail to embody to the sublime graces of his or her state.

And they may be inferior in merit to a married person.

But the examples of many saints have born witness to the spiritual fruit which may be produced when one embodies the spiritual purity of angels.

Why Is Virginity Considered Pure? – The Sanctification of the Body

Constant chastity produces a sanctified body which allows one to more closely embody the example set by Christ.

In the writings of Thomas Aquinas, he writes that this sanctity improves the joy one will know in Heaven. This is because virginity proves three special victories which mold one in an image closer to Christ.

These victories are: that over the flesh and its pleasures, that over the world and its vices, and that over the devil, who deceives man so that he will believe this material world is the only one.

In Revelation 14:1-5, St. John presents an account which is is often believed to pertain to virgins. And the words they sing are often believed to refer to a special placement which God has given on account of their chastity.

It is also often believed that the words in the fourth verse, “These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins,” are spoken of virgins. Although there are also other views which state that the words in these verses are meant to apply to martyrs instead.

Early Church Practices on Virginity

Virginity has been highly prized by the church since its earliest years.

Yet the hedonism of the pagan world in which the early Christians found themselves often made virginity a difficult ideal to attain.

It was during this time that the consecration of virgins became a sacramental rite. Prayers and blessings would often be placed upon those who strived for a chaste life, and this practice has been a part of the Christian religion ever since.

During the early years of the church, the age at which people resolved to remain virgins was not fixed. Although people often made the choice between the ages of 10 and 14.

And in the same way that parents would often offer their children up for a monastic life, so too would they offer their children to take vows of virginity.

This practice was frowned upon, though, and rules forbidding the consecration of virgins who had not yet reached twenty-five were set.

History of Virginal Consecrations

In the Catholic Church, the task of consecrating virgins was reserved for the bishop, and it could only be done once.

The first days fixed for consecration ceremonies were the Epiphany, Easter week, and the feasts of the Apostles.

Later, the Third Council of the Lateran ruled that virgins could be consecrated on Sundays. Moreover, after the council, people were able to receive special permission to alter ceremonial days.

The ceremony was held during mass. There, the archpriest affirmed the worth of the candidates.

First hymns were offered, then the pontiff asked the virgins before him if they were prepared to pursue a life of holy virginity. Then he asked for the virgins’ promise of purity, and they gave it.

The Litany of the Saints and prayers on behalf of the virgins followed.

After a certain hymn, the pontiff blessed the habits which the virgins are expected to wear. He followed by blessing the ceremonial veil, ring, and crown.

Then the event ended with blessings, more singing, and cursing of those who might try to draw the virgins away from their holy purpose.

A Brief History of Holy Virginity

Normal practices for monastic virgins first started appearing in the fourth century. They began wearing darkly colored clothing, devoting themselves to prayer, and committing themselves to a monastic life.

By the eight century, it became a common practice for virgins to enclose themselves in wholly walled rooms.

After the eighth century, it became common for monastics who had given themselves to God to become enclosed from the outside world.

So consecration ceremonies slowly lost their relevance.

Around this time, the church began to take a scholastic approach to the subject of virginity. It began addressing questions such as:

Was one who had lost her virginity to make the fact known at the price of her reputation?

and

Was it enough to present herself as a virgin in order to be able to receive consecration?

And many of the views of the Catholic Church on the subject of virginity began to appear after the rise of closed monasteries.

So the expansion of its scholasticism on virginity joined the demise of the virginal consecration ceremony.

In the modern day, only abbesses are subject to these ancient rites.

Clergy and Virginity

Virginity is lost because of by sexual pleasure that is felt both wholly and voluntarily.

And it can never be restored once lost. One saint writes:

“I tell you without hesitation”, writes St. Jerome in his twenty-second Epistle to St. Eustochium, “that though God is almighty, He cannot restore a virginity that has been lost.”

However, a person who catches himself in the sexual act before its completion may recover their chastity. This process requires intense and continued repentance which thereby restores one’s sanctity over time.

A time once was when virginity was required as a condition for entrance into some monasteries.

Yet practice is slightly different in the present day.

A writ of permission from a certain member of the clergy is often needed for the admittance of those who have been married.

And a person who has been married before may obtain one of these.

Therefore, virginity is no longer required in order to enter a monastery.

So if a person’s good standing is kept, then they may be brought into a monastery even if they have engaged in the sexual act.

Tag – Why Is Virginity Considered Pure?

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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