All Men Shall Call Me Blessed
The Theotokos Runs the Race of Virginity and Chastity
Virginity as a Means to Approach God: The birth of Jesus Christ from a virginal mother who became known as the Theotokos, the birthgiver of God, is known for her continued and perpetual virginity; she lived the highly exalted the life of virginity in the early church. This exalted life provided the basis for the virginal life for all church members, male and female; yet at the same time the scriptures point out and the church also recognized that the role of parenthood is equal to that of virginity. The asceticism required in the virginal life became attractive to many and was extolled as an asset in the epistles of Saint Paul. This early emphasis on virginity provided an incentive for the early beginnings of the monastic lifestyle a few centuries later.
Having this mind set, down through the centuries, many in the church by God's grace, ran the race of virtue and chastity, old and young, men and women, without allowing the desires of the flesh to overwhelm them. And throughout these centuries of the early Christian era, many of these virgins became martyrs for their faith.
That leads us to the here and now as we moderns attempt to retain or return to that virginal innocence we had as newborn children. Let us not put aside and disregard the prize of virginity and chastity, the glory and crown of angels and a superhuman state of life even in this dissolute age in which we live.
We need to respect our bodies, which are made in the image of God; we should shine like the sun, just like the Transfigured Christ on the Holy Mountain, as Peter states it in 2 Peter 2:18, "And we heard this voice which was borne along from out of heaven, when we were with Him in the mount, the Holy one." Let us not stain the body which is so beautiful and retain the image of God; the brief pleasures of sin are not to be desired, we have to remember that the stain of sin lasts a long time, in fact, without repentance, forever.
Those who live virtuous lives, chaste and pure, are considered to be angels dwelling on earth. These virgins have their portion with the Virgin Mary. Let us cast aside every desired and sought-after ornament, every dangerous glance, every wanton movement, every scent that leads to sinful pleasure. Instead, brethren, let there be continuous prayer, good works, bodily holiness, humility, and obedience to the commandments of Christ. When we have accomplished these virtues in our lives, we can look forward to the Virgin's Son saying, "I will establish my covenant among you and my soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God and you shall be My people. (Leviticus 26:11-12)."
Regarding the feminine sex, the women in the time of Mary, the Mother of God, were in a sense obligated to give thanks to men for their existence because Eve came out of the side of Adam, she was born out of a man. But, Mary, paid off the debt of gratitude to Adam because she did not give birth to Jesus by means of a man, but by herself while remaining a virgin, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the power of the triune God. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catechism XII, points out that the blessed Virgin Mary restored women's dignity, giving to women an equal position with men and at the same time ennobling the role of motherhood. Men and women still have their roles (for instance in the church), but in regards to salvation and the gift of life, there is now an equal role for the two sexes. Mary's response to God who spoke to her through the mouth of an angel, is a reminder to women that they are the partners of God and men.
Although there seems to be a dichotomy in the above; first the role of virginity is extolled and then the role of parenthood; but, in either case the choice of the man or woman, virginity or parenthood, is honored . Yes, either is honorable as Saint Paul and the church fathers point this out in their writings throughout the ages.
The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought
Fr. Gambero, in this book, focuses on the works of over thirty patristic writers up to the eighth century. It contains much information on post-biblical Marian development and what the fathers of the church had to say about her.