The Testimony of Virgins in Ancient Christianity Cover Image

Świadectwo dziewic w starożytności chrześcijańskiej
The Testimony of Virgins in Ancient Christianity

Author(s): Piotr Turzyński
Subject(s): Christian Theology and Religion, Theology and Religion, Biblical studies, Systematic Theology, Pastoral Theology
Published by: Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II - Wydział Teologii
Keywords: Early Church; virginity; spirituality; consecrated life; monastic life

Summary/Abstract: From the very beginning, within the community of Christian believers, there have been men and women who decided to follow Christ in His celibate style of life. Virginity and sexual renunciation in the early Church had distinct meanings and motives that differentiate it from similar practices within other religions and philosophies. For early Christians, the virginal ideal constituted a special way of life in which one was dedicated wholly and permanently, with love, to God and His kingdom (which truly was believed to be at hand). The Gospel message with its eschatological calling, and the new life in Christ with its transforming power, were the ultimate sources of this remarkable phenomenon. This article tries to present the topic in three steps: a brief account of the institution of virginity in the early Church; the motivations for this special form of devotion; and the meaning and the effects of virgins’ testimony. At the beginning virgins lived in their families without special tasks in the community. Gradually the importance of virginity increased. In III and IV century, virgins achieved almost the same status as martyrs had in the period of persecution. At that time virgins started to live together in monastic communities, and the great Fathers of the Church dedicated a considerable number of works to the subject. Early Christian ascetics looked backward, toward gaining a pre-Fall state of the heart, as well as forward to their resurrection. Through the renunciation of sexuality and gender, they condemned neither, but attempted to participate in the glory of the angels. The Fathers of the Church recognized that virgins were already being made a new creation. While on this earth we are still male and female, in the kingdom of heaven, they are already one in Christ. In the writings of early fathers, quite often the value of virginity was demonstrated in comparison with the value of marriage, not in contraposition but in a simple hierarchy of value: good and better.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 28
  • Page Range: 377-399
  • Page Count: 23
  • Language: Polish