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NON-CANONICAL EPISTLES AND RELATED WRITINGS

property, to promise them houses, to make them presents of clothes, to surren­ der to them their own souls and yield to their name all that belongs to them! If thou then, O man, behavest rightly and innocently, why dost thou not take thine own sister with thee? Why doest thou not give her all that belongs to thee, and thou wilt possess every thing? Further and fur­ ther thou separatest thyself from her: thou hatest her, thou persecutest her. And yet they greatest safety is in her. Nay, sepa­ rated from her thou attachest thyself to another. And thus dost thou think to re­ main wealthy in body and not be con­ trolled by any lust, and dost say that thou possessest the heavenly hope. Hear a word that holds good for thee. Consider what the Lord in the Gospel says to Mary: “Touch me not, says he, for I am not yet ascended to my Father!”39 O di­ vine examples which have been written for us! And Paul, the chosen vessel (of the Lord) and the impregnable wall among the disciples, admonishes us when in the course of his mission the virgin Thecla, full of innocent faithfulness to Christ, wished to kiss his chain—mark thou what the apostle said to her: “Touch me not, he said, because of the frailty of (this) time.”40 Thou dost see then, O young man, what the present Lord and the recorded testament of the disciple have said against the flesh. For they did not order the women to withdraw for their own sakes, for the Lord cannot be tempted and just as little can Paul, his vicar, but these admonitions and com­ mands were uttered for the sake of us who are now members of Christ. Above all the ascetic should avoid women on that account and see to it that he does (worthily) the duty entrusted to him by God. Consider the rebuilding of Jerusalem: at the time of this laborious work every man was armed and mailclad, and with one hand he built whilst in the

other he held fast a sword, always ready to contend against the enemy. Apprehend then the mystery, how one should build the sanctuary of celibacy: in ascetic lone­ liness one hand must be engaged in the work that an extremely beautiful city may be built for God, whilst the other grasps the sword and is always ready for action against the wicked devil. That is then to be interpreted in this way: both hands, i.e. the spirit and the flesh, have in mutual harmony to bring the building to com­ pletion, the spirit being always on the lookout for the enemy and the flesh build­ ing on the bedrock of good conduct. Therefore it is said in the Gospel: “Let your works shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven.”41 Be­ hold what a splendid structure is built in the heavenly Jerusalem. In this city one contends rightly in a lonely position, without any intercourse with the flesh, as it stands in the Gospel: “In the coming age,” says the Lord, “they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be as the angels in heaven.”42 Thus we must endeavour through blameless con­ duct to gain for ourselves everlasting honor in the future age. O man, who understandest nothing at all of the fruits of righteousness, why has the Lord made the divine phoenix and not given it a little wife, but allowed it to remain in loneli­ ness? Manifestly only on purpose to show the standing of virginity, i.e., that young men, remote from intercourse with women, should remain holy. And its res­ urrection points finally to life. In this connection David says in the Psalms: “I will lay me down and sleep in peace for thou, O Lord, makest me to dwell lone­ some in hope.”43 O peaceful rest given

39

John 20:17. 40The scene is described in the surviv­ ing Acts of Paul and Thecla c. 18. 41Matt 5:16. 42 Mark 12:25 and pars. 43Ps 4:8. 44Cf. Prov 6:27.

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