This passage stands out to me as particularly interesting, especially in regards to two topics which I have touched on here in the past: 1. the “making equal” of women that was accomplished in early Christianity and which led disproportionately largely numbers of women to convert to the new faith and 2. the development of monasticism and its place as an official institution in the Church as well as the view of monastics as living the “angelic” life.
Hold fast, O virgins! hold fast what you have begun to be; hold fast what you shall be. A great reward awaits you, a great recompense of virtue, the immense advantage of chastity. Do you wish to know what ill the virtue of continence avoids, what good it possesses? “I will multiply,” says God to the woman, “thy sorrows and thy groanings; and in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” You are free from this sentence. You do not fear the sorrows and the groans of women. You have no fear of child-bearing; nor is your husband lord over you; but your Lord and Head is Christ, after the likeness and in the place of the man; with that of men your lot and your condition is equal. It is the word of the Lord which says, “The children of this world beget and are begotten; but they who are counted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage: neither shall they die any more: for they are equal to the angels of God, being the children of the resurrection.” That which we shall be, you have already begun to be. You possess already in this world the glory of the resurrection. You pass through the world without the contagion of the world; in that you continue chaste and virgins, you are equal to the angels of God. Only let your virginity remain and endure substantial and uninjured; and as it began bravely, let it persevere continuously, and not seek the ornaments of necklaces nor garments, but of conduct. Let it look towards God and heaven, and not lower to the lust of the flesh and of the world, the eyes uplifted to things above, or set them upon earthly things.
St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Dress of Virgins, 22
This book is a wonderful introduction to the life, spirituality, and mission of the monks of Holy Mount Athos. The historical notes, detailing of the daily life of the monks, and description of the impact their spirituality has had on the world via St. Herman of Alaska were particularly moving and helpful aspects of the book. Perhaps the greatest aspect of this book, however, is the inspiration it provides for those of us who are trying to live a life of authentic Orthodox spirituality in the world and not on Mount Athos. The monks, in the sermons and other short writings and sayings excerpted in this book, have constant reference to the attainability of God’s grace even for those in the world and offer us encouragement and advice on how to attain to it. I recommend this book both for those who want to better under the place of the Holy Mountain in Orthodoxy and for those who want to deepen their own spiritual life.