Athanasius on Virginity

Here’s a two line comment Athanasius (297ish – 373 AD) makes in On The Incarnation when giving evidence on how Christ’s coming has transformed the world.

Again, who among men, either after his death or while yet living, taught about virginity and did not account this virtue impossible for human beings. But Christ our Saviour and King of all has so prevailed with his teaching on this subject that even children not yet of lawful age promise their virginity which transcends the law.

Athansius’ point is this; no-one else has come into the world, taught that virginity is a good thing, and found their teaching obeyed. In fact, no-one’s really even tried because they know it’s impossible. But Christ comes and teaches that virginity is good and it happens. In fact, even children are going above and beyond the law of no sex outside of marriage, but giving up sex entirely for the rest of their lives. Athanasius himself is one of these people, having given up sex for the sake of the gospel. This is an extraordinary, miraculous thing.

Virginity is not a normal thing for the world. Most try and get out of it as fast as possible. It’s the practice of people all over the world to disdain it. So, when teaching young people about sex outside of marriage and virginity and all the rest of it, don’t treat it as a minor thing. Teach it as the abnormal major thing that is, a thing only possible because Christ has come, died, rose again, and promises a better life eternally. Your young people (and young adults and older people) will get abuse because they hold on to it, where instead they should be given great honour. This abuse though, is part of their witness that Christ Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe.