The Epistle of Titus, the
Disciple of Paul
on the Estate of Chastity
Great and honourable is the divine promise which the Lord has made with his own mouth to them that are holy and pure: He will bestow upon them what eyes have not seen nor ears heard, nor has it entered into any human heart. And from eternity to eternity there will be a race incomparable and incomprehensible.
Blessed then are those who have not polluted their flesh by craving for this world, but are dead to the world that they may live for God! To whom neither flesh nor blood has shown deadly secrets, but the Spirit has shone upon them and shown some better thing so that even in this < > and instant of our <pilgrimage on the earth> they may display an angelic appearance. As the Lord says, Such are to be called angels.
Those then who are not defiled with women he calls an angelic host. Those who have not abandoned themselves to men, he calls virgins, as the apostle of Christ says: the unmarried think day and night on godly things, i.e. to act properly and to please Him alone, and not to deny by their doings what they have promised in words. Why should a virgin who is already betrothed to Christ be united with a carnal man?
It is not lawful to cling to a man and to serve him more than God. Virgin! Thou hast cast off Christ, to whom thou wert betrothed! Thou hast separated thyself from Him, thou who strivest to remain united to another! O beauteous maidenhood, at the last thou art stuck fast in love to a male being! O holy ascetic state, thou disappearest when the saints match human offences!
O body, thou art put to the yoke of the law of God, and ever and again committest fornication! Thou art crucified to this world and continuest to act up to it! If the apostle Paul forbade communion to a woman caught in an adulterous relation with a strange man, how much more when those concerned are saints dedicated to Christ! Thou art caught in the vile fellowship of this world, and yet regardest thyself as worthy of the blood of Christ or as united with his body! But this is not the case: if thou eat of the flesh of the Lord unworthily, then thou takest vainly instead of life the fire of thine everlasting punishment! O virgin: if thou strivest to please another, then thou hast already committed a sin of volition, for the Evangelist says: one cannot serve two masters, for he obeys the one, and despises the other. O virgin! So is it also with thee. Thou despised God, whilst striving to please a man.
Wherefore contemplate the footprints of our ancestors! Consider the daughter of Jephthah: willing to do what had been promised by her father and vowing her own self as a sacrifice to the Lord, she first manifested her connection with God and took other virgins with her that in the mountains throughout sixty days they might bewail her virginity. O luminous secrets which disclose the future in advance! Virgin is joined with virgin, and in love to her she bewails the peril of her flesh until the day of her reward comes! Rightly does he say "sixty days", since he means the sixtyfold reward of holiness which the ascetic can gain through many pains, according to the teaching of the apostle: Let us not lose courage, he says, in the hardest labours, in affliction, in grief, in suffering abuse: we suffer persecution, but we are not forsaken, because we bear in our body the passion of Christ. Wherefore we are by no means overcome. And again the same apostle left an example behind him, describing his own disasters and saying: I have laboured much, I have frequently been imprisoned, I have suffered extremely many floggings, I have often fallen into deadly peril. Of the Jews, he says, I have five times received forty stripes save one, three times have I been beaten with rods, once have I been stoned; thrice have I suffered shipwreck, a day and night I have spent in the depth of the sea; I have often journeyed, often been in peril of rivers, in peril of robbers, in peril among unbelievers in manifold ways, in peril among false brethren; in trouble and labour, frequently in sorrow, in many watchings, in hunger and thirst, in many fastings, in cold and nakedness, in inward anxieties, besides the cares which do not have direct reference to my personal suffering. And in all these I have not lost courage, because Christ was and still is with me.
Oh, through how much trouble does man attain to glory! Besides there is the word of the Lord, who says: Whom I love, he says, I rebuke and chasten that the righteous man may be tested as gold in the crucible. What bodily joy can there be then in the life to come if the word of the Lord runs: Oh! As a virgin, as a woman, so is the mystery of resurrection which you have shown to me, you who in the beginning of the world did institute vain feasts for yourselves and delighted in the wantonness of the Gentiles and behaved in the same way as those who take delight therein. Behold what sort of young maidens there are among you! But come and ponder over this, that there is one who tries the soul and a last day of retribution and persecution.
Where then art thou now, thou who hast passed the time of thy youth happily with a sinner, the apostle testifying moreover that neither flesh nor blood will possess the kingdom of God?
And again the law runs: Let not a man glory in his strength, but rather let him trust in the Lord, and Jeremiah says: Accursed is he who puts his hope in man. And in the Psalms it is said: It is better to trust in the Lord than to rely on men. Why then art thou not afraid to abandon the Lord and to trust in a man who in the last judgment will not save thee but rather destroy? Consider and take note of the happening about which the following account informs us: A peasant had a girl who was a virgin. She was also his only daughter, and therefore he besought Peter to offer a prayer for her. After he had prayed, the apostle said to the father that the Lord would bestow upon her what was expedient for her soul. Immediately the girl fell down dead. O reward worthy and ever pleasing to God, to escape the shamelessness of the flesh and to break the pride of the blood! But this distrustful old man, failing to recognize the worth of the heavenly grace, i.e. the divine blessing, besought Peter again that his only daughter be raised from the dead. And some days later, after she had been raised, a man who passed himself off as a believer came into the house of the old man to stay with him, and seduced the girl, and the two of them never appeared again.
For the man who dishonours his own body makes himself like the godless. And therefore the dwelling-place of the godless cannot be found out, as David says: I sought him but he was nowhere to be found, as also in the mentioned case of death those two did not dare to appear any more. Thou oughtest then, O virgin, to fear the judgment of this law: If, says Moses, a betrothed virgin is caught unawares with another man, let the two of them be brought before the court of elders and be condemned to death.
These happenings have been recorded for us on whom the end of this age has come. One thing stands fast: should a virgin who is betrothed to Christ be caught unawares with another man, let them both be committed in the final sentence before the court of the elders, i.e. of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose charge it is to investigate the case of their children. Then will the fathers disown their children as evildoers. And finally the malefactors will cry amidst the torment of their punishment: Hear us, O Lord God, for our father Abraham has not known us, and Isaac and Jacob have disowned us! Thus let the children conduct themselves that some day they may find themselves in the bosom of father Abraham. That is to say, that they may remain praiseworthy in his remembrance and be not as the daughters of Zion whom the Holy Spirit reproaches through Isaiah: They moved together through the streets, dancing with their heads erect. And they engaged themselves to men in the villages of Jerusalem, and heaped up iniquity to the sky, and the Lord was angry and delivered them up to king Nebuchadnezzar to slavery for seventy years.
You also are disobedient and undisciplined, you who do something even worse than the first committed. In the end you also will be delivered up to the wicked king Nebuchadnezzar, as he says, i. e. to the devil who will fall on you. And as they (the Jews), after they had spent seventy years in anguish, returned to their own places of abode, so a period of seven years is now appointed under Antichrist. But the pain of these seven years presents eternal anguish. And as, after their return to their homeland, they henceforth experienced much evil, so is it also now with these: after death the soul of each one will be tormented unto the judgment day. And again, after the slaughter of the beast, the first resurrection will take place; and then will the faithless souls return to their dwellings; and according to the increase of their earlier evil-doings will their torment now be augmented beyond the first punishment.
Therefore beloved, we must combat the works of the flesh because of the coming retribution. In order then that ye may escape eternal torment, ye must struggle, daughters, against flesh and blood so long as a period for that continues and a few days still remain wherein ye may contend for life. Why should the man who has renounced the flesh be held fast in its lust? Why, O virgin, thou who hast renounced a man, dost thou hug his physical beauty? Why (ascetic) givest thou up to a strange woman (i.e. one belonging to Christ) thy body which was not made for that? Why strivest thou against thine own salvation to find death in love? Hear the apostle who says to you: See, he says, that ye give not place to the flesh through the liberty of God. And again: Fulfil not the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. These are opposed to one another. Therefore, he says, do not what ye would. Otherwise the Spirit of God is not in you. O inherently false one, to despise the commandments of the holy law and (through) a deceitful marriage to lose in secret the life everlasting! O honeyed cheat, to draw on torment in the future! O unbridled passion for glory, to offend against the devotion that has been vowed to God! O steps that lead astray from the way, that a virgin is fond of the flesh of another! O faithless craving, theft of fire, honour entangled in crime! O alluring symbol of vice that brings disdain! O concealed thievery, to give an appearance of humility and chastity! O gloom of the dark deed which plunders the glory of Christ for ever! O fleeting remembrance of holiness which strives after death in the name of beauty! O silver that has been refused, which according to the saying of Isaiah is not worthy of God! O dishonoured Sabbath in which the works of the flesh come to light in the last days and times! O foot, that failest on the way to holiness and dost not arrive at a sure habitation! O ship burst open by pirates, thou that gettest away empty and miserable! O house that is undermined by burglars whilst the watchmen sleep and lose the costly treasure! O maidenly youth, thou that fallest off miserably from right conduct! O enlargement of trust in this world which turns into desolation in eternity! O consequence of unchastity which brings down upon itself the malady of melancholy! O fountain of sweet poison which springs up from flesh as inextricable entanglement! O wretched house founded upon sand! O despicable crime of this time, that corruptest not thine own members but those of a stranger! O fleeting enjoyment on the brink of collapse! O parcel of deceit! O unsleeping ardour for the perdition of the soul! O tower that is in building to be left unfinished! O shameful work, thou art the scorn of them that pass by! Why, O virgin, dost thou not ponder over it and estimate the heavenly charges before laying the foundation? In the beginning thou hast acted too hastily, and before the house was completed, thou hast already experienced a terrible collapse! In your case the saying of the law has been fulfilled, the prophecy has come to pass: Many a tract of land, it says, is built upon and soon it grows old; temples and cities are built in the land and soon they are abandoned! O flames of lust! The unclean profane with their lust the temple of God and by Him are condemned to destruction! Oh, a contest is entered upon in the stadium, and when it has hardly come to grappling, the shields fall to the ground! O city captured by enemies and reduced to a wilderness!
Against this whorish behaviour the Lord turns through Ezekiel saying: Thou hast built thee thy brothel, thou hast desecrated thy beauty and thy comeliness in every by-way, thou hast become an unclean woman, thou who hast heaped up shamelessness for thyself. Thy disgrace in the unchastity which thou hast practised with thy lovers will yet come to light. And again, As I live saith the Lord, Sodom has not so done as thou Jerusalem and thy daughters. But the iniquity of Sodom, thy sister, is fulfilled. For Samaria has not committed the half of thy sins. Thou hast multiplied iniquities beyond thy sister in all that thou hast done. Wherefore be ashamed and take thy disgrace upon thy head.
O how frequently the scourgings and beatings of God are not spared, and yet no one takes to heart the word of the Lord to be concerned about the future life! Has not Jerusalem, possessing the law, sinned more than Sodom and Gomorrah, which possessed no law? And have not the crimes of Jerusalem, whose sons and daughters have stood under the banner of faith, outweighed those of Samaria, which already from the beginning was worldly-minded?
On the unprecedented crime of this new people the apostle says: One hears commonly of unchastity among you and indeed of such unchastity as is never met with among the Gentiles, that one lives with his fathers wife. And ye are yet puffed up, and do not rather mourn, that such an evil-doer may be removed from your midst. I am indeed absent in the body, but in the spirit am among you and already, as if I were present, I have passed sentence on the evil-doer: to hand over that man to Satan in the name of Christ.
O invention of the devil, sport for those about to perish! Oh poison instead of honey, to take a fathers wife in the same way as any bride dedicated to Christ whom in thine heart thou hast craved for! O man, thou hast lent no ear to the wisdom that says to thee: the lust of the ascetic dishonours the virgin. So also did the first created man fall because of a virgin: when he saw a woman giving him a smile, he fell. His senses became tied to a craving which he had never known before; assuredly he had not experienced earlier its flavour and the sweetness that proved his downfall. O man who fearest not the face of this criminal person, passing by whom many have lost their lives. The disciple of the Lord, Judas Jacobi, brings that to our remembrance when he says: Beloved, I would bring to your remembrance, though ye know, what happened to them who were oppressed by the corruption of the flesh, as for instance the genuine persons who did not preserve their dignity, but abandoned their heavenly abode, and enticed by lust, went to the daughters of men to dwell with them.
Today also they forfeit the angelic character who crave to dwell with strange daughters, according to the word of the Lord who proclaimed to Isaiah: woe unto you who join house to house and add field to field that they may draw nigh one another. And in Micah it is said: Bewail the house which you have pulled on yourselves and endure of yourselves the punishment of indignation. Does the Lord mean perhaps the house or the field of this time when he warns against pressing them together? No rather it is a matter here of warnings in reference to holiness, in which the separation of man and woman is ordered. So the Lord also admonishes us through Jeremiah, saying, It is an excellent thing for a man that he bear his yoke in his youth; he will sit alone when his hope is real; he will keep quiet and have patience. To bear the yoke is then to observe Gods order. And in conclusion the Lord says: Take my yoke upon you. And further, in his youth means in his hope. Thus he has commanded that salvation be preserved in lonely celibacy, so that each one of you may remain as a lonely tower according to the saying of the Evangelist that house should not remain upon house, but should come down at once. Why then, O man, dost thou make haste to build you a ruin upon a strange house and thus to occasion not only your own destruction but also that of the bride of Christ who is united to you?
And also if thou art free from unchastity, already thou committest a sin in keeping up connections with women; for finally thus says the Lord in the Gospel: "He who looks upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." On this account a man must live for God sincerely and free from all lust. In Daniel also we read: As these false old men, who had craved for the beauty of Susanna, were unable to practise any unchastity with her, they slandered her. Susanna was brought before their court, and these rogues had her stand before them with her head uncovered so that they might satisfy their craving at least in looking at her beauty. And thus they were unable to escape capital punishment. How much more when the last day comes! What thinkest thou, will Christ do to those who have surrendered their own members to rape? The apostle has already shown the future in advance, saying: Let no temptation take hold of you, he says, save what is human! O temptation to sensuality! Man is not able to control himself, and inflicts on himself the predicted fatal wounds! O exhalations of the flesh! The glowing fire hidden deep in the heart nourishes a conflagration! O ignoble fight, to strike root in a dark night! O tree of seducing fruit that shows thick foliage! O false lips, out of which honey drops and which in the end are as bitter as poison! O charming eloquence, the words of which shoot arrows into the heart! O madness of love: death fetters the young as a chain, whilst wisdom announces the future, this is what it always orders: Avoid, my son, every evil and everything that resembles it. And further, And every man who takes part in a foot-race abstains from all things that he may be able to obtain the crown that is prepared for him.
Why takest thou, O man, a woman as a servant? Consider the conduct of our holy ancestors. Thus Elias, a noble man who still lives in the body, took a young man as a servant, to whom also he left his mantle as a holy keepsake when he was taken up into paradise in a chariot of fire. There Enoch also lives in the body, who was carried away (there) in the first age. O holy dispensation of God, who has provided for the coming age! Enoch, the righteous, from among the first people, was commissioned to commit to writing a history of the first men, and the holy Elias was given the task of registering the new deeds of this later people!
All that has thus to be construed according to the condition of our time: each of the two springs from his own age, Enoch as a symbol of righteousness and Elias as a symbol of holiness. But we must comply with the rule of our holiness, as the apostle says: In body and spirit genus must resemble genus and the disciple the master. And the spirit of Elias rested finally on Elisha. He also begged of him that he might immediately receive from him a double blessing like the one which later the Lord gave to his advanced disciples, saying, He that believes on me will also do the works that I do, and will do greater works than these. But such grace is granted only to those who fulfill the commandments of the Master. What should we now say? If Elisha served in the house of Elias to comply with the rule of propriety and the boy Gehazi assisted the prophet Elisha as Baruch the prophet Jeremiah in order to leave us an instructive remembrance, why does a man take a woman as servant under a semblance of holiness? If it is a matter of a close relative, then that will do; but not if she is a strange woman. After the flood, the sons of Noah looked for places for themselves where they might build cities, and they named them after their wives. Precisely so do these men now behave who are united to women.
O ascetics of God who look back at women to offer them gifts, to give them property, to promise them houses, to make them presents of clothes, to surrender 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 dost thou not give her all that belongs to thee, and thou wilt possess every thing? Further and further thou separatest thyself from her: thou hatest her, thou persecutest her. And yet thy greatest safety is in her. Nay, separated from her thou attachest thyself to another. And thus dost thou think to remain wealthy in body and not be controlled 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! O divine 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. 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 commands 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 mail-clad, 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 loneliness 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 acting 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 completion, the spirit being always on the lookout for the enemy and the flesh building 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. Behold 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 angels in heaven. Thus we must endeavour through blameless conduct to gain for ourselves everlasting honour 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 loneliness? 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 resurrection 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 lonesome in hope. O great security, when a man lives lonesome in the body! Thou canst not expect to bind glowing coals on thy garment, and not set the robe alight. Should you do such a thing, then you will remain naked and your shame will be manifest. Add to this the word of the prophet: All flesh is grass. That a man then may not go up in flames, let him keep far from fire. Why exposest thou thine eternal salvation to loss through a trifle? Hast thou not read in the law this word that holds good for thee: The people sat down to eat and to drink; and they rose to make merry; and of them 23,000 fell there? For they had begun to have intercourse with the daughters of men, i.e. they allowed themselves to be invited by them to their unclean sacrifices, and the children of Israel dedicated themselves to Baalpeor.
Behold, what a godless play it was in which (the children of Israel) allowed themselves to be entangled, and perished! Seeing in advance how such criminal doings would multiply until the end, Christ the Saviour was grieved, and he said: Woe, woe unto the souls that despise their own judgment! For I see men who delight their soul in vanity and abandon themselves to the unclean world. I see also how all that is for the benefit of the enemy! Therefore I can stand by them and say: O souls that apply yourselves to unchastity and have no fear before God! The Gibeonites also in the time of the Judges moved the Lord to indignation. Twelve thousand strong men arose to overthrow the city, and only three hundred and two virgins who had had no sexual intercourse with men came forth alive. The name Gibeonites signifies children of confusion, who received the body of Christ in the form of a woman, and prostituted it to their amusement, and made it an object of derision and mockery. Dost thou not do likewise in venturing to ridicule the members of Christ with a virgin? For all of us, both men and women, who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. It is then a matter of the violation not of earthly flesh but of the body of Christ. And rightly was that city taken by the attacking twelve legions, which were a symbol of the twelve apostles. Rightly have they sprung from a strong race, for they are called sons of thunder. In the last judgment they will appear, equipped with might, to perform miracles against the Gentiles. And they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, sitting on twelve thrones. And no one from the church will then be able to get away, apart from the virgins dedicated to God, whose members have not been defiled by the enemy with the infection of his evil will. The number also suggests the sign of the cross: for 300 is written with the Greek letter T, and T is the figure of the cross, which makes its appearance in the life of virginity. Rightly also is the kingdom of heaven to be arrived at through five virgins, by which he means that the promises can be certain only through purity and wisdom. And therefore the promise was not fulfilled to Abraham through fleshly procreation, but it was through divine inspiration that he received the blessing. What would we then say to this? Can virginity not perhaps itself lead to eternal torment? (Oh yes!), but these five virgins were foolish, precisely as are those who today have not watched over their flesh but have marred their readiness for battle through desire for the male sex. Wherefore also David says in the Psalms: Those who mounted on horses fell asleep. In the body indeed they went on horseback, but they were unable to persist in their virgin watchfulness, just like the children of confusion who were again thrown from their horses. O dark cringing of the flesh which has turned into torment! Finally they will reprove themselves for their past doings with the following words: O wretched flesh, which has brought us to ruin! Had we not suffered ourselves to be misled by thee, then we also could have been numbered among the saints!
O man, who believest that all things shall be! Thou knowest that different judgments must be passed on sinners. In the member with which each man has sinned, in the same also shall he be tormented.
The prophet Elias bears witness to a vision: The angel of the Lord, he says, showed me a deep valley, which is called Gehenna, burning with brimstone and pitch. In this place the souls of many sinners dwell and are tormented in different ways. Some suffer hanging from the genitals, others by the tongue, some by the eyes, others head downwards. The women are tormented in their breasts, and the young hang from their hands. Some virgins are roasted on a gridiron, and other souls undergo an unceasing torment. The multiplicity of the torments answers to the diversity of the sins of each. The adulterers and the corrupters of such as are under age are tormented in their genitals. Those who hang from their tongues are the blasphemers and false witnesses. They have their eyes burned who have stumbled through their glances and who have looked at foul things with craving for them. Head downwards there hang those who have detested the righteousness of God, who have been evil-minded, quarrelsome towards their fellows. Rightly then are they burned according to the punishment imposed on them. If some women are punished with torment in their breasts, then these are women who for sport have surrendered their own bodies to men, and for this reason these also hang from their hands. Solomon took these things into account, saying: Blessed is the eunuch who has committed no offence with his hands. And again, If thou controllest the craving of thy heart, then art thou an athlete.
And through wisdom he admonishes in the following way: Of what benefit to an idol is an offering when it can neither taste nor smell it? Just as little does it benefit a eunuch to embrace a virgin. O my son, thou shouldest not make her the object of your pleasure! Thou seest clearly that thou hast become a stranger to God.
In another passage we read: I abhor such sport, he says, unclean heresy, lust of the ascetic, bodies entwined in one another! I am ashamed to bring forward the further final doings, which the enemy has instigated and to which the apostle has prudently called our attention, saying: I am afraid concerning you lest ye be seduced by the enemy, as (in those days) Eve was cunningly tempted by the serpent.
Therefore, watching craftily, let us arm ourselves with spiritual weapons that we may be able to defeat the giant, as the discourse of the Lord by his prophet runs: He who defeats a giant, says he, takes his spoil. That means to bridle the desires of the flesh that, as its spoil, we may be able to carry away the everlasting resurrection. That can only take place after we have been renewed to the glory of God. How wilt thou then be capable of defeating a giant if thou art prevented by women? Hear the thanksgiving rendered by John, the disciple of the Lord, when praying before his death: O Lord, thou who from my infancy until this age has preserved me untouched by woman, thou who hast kept my body from them so that the mere sight of a woman excites abhorrence in me. O gift (of God), to remain untouched by the influence of women! By the grace of this holy state thou canst love what is abominable to the flesh. But thou honorary ascetic, how canst thou believe that thou canst remain free from sordid deed if willingly thou hast women always before thee? Does what we teach here stand perhaps outside the law? Compare with this what even the demons declared when they made confession before the deacon Dyrus on the arrival of John: In the last times many will attempt to dispossess us, saying that they are free from women, and from craving after them and clean. And ye if we desired it, we could possess even them themselves.
Thou seest then, O man, how the strange spirits, i.e. the deeds of the devil, testify to thee that one can be overcome by womanly beauty. How then canst thou set free the bodies possessed by them if thou thyself art possessed by them? To conquer them one must have in oneself the necessary power. Beware then of being possessed by the evil one or of being conquered by the adulterer; i.e. keep thyself far from association with women and from pleasantry with them during meal-times. Thus runs the word of Holy Scripture: Suffer not thy heart to be enticed by her lest thou also come to death. Thus, my child, beware of her, as of a serpent's head. Receive into thine heart the admonitions of the blessed John, who when he was invited to a wedding, came only for the sake of chastity. And what did he say? Little children, whilst your flesh is still pure and you have a body that is still untouched and are not in a state of moral corruption and are not besmirched by Satan, the extremely hostile and shameless opponent of chastity, understand in fuller measure the mystery of the matrimonial association: it is an attempt of the serpent, ignorance of doctrine, violence done to the seed, a gift of death, an office of destruction, instruction in division, an office of moral corruption, a tarrying distraction, a sowing between them of the enemy, an ambush of Satan, a device of the malevolent one, dirty fruit of birth, a shedding of blood, a passion of the heart, a desertion of reason, the earnest of punishment, a deed of torment, a work of fire, a sign of the enemy, the deadly malice of eagerness, a kiss of deceit, an association in bitterness, an excitement of the heart, an invention of corruption, a craving for a phantom, a worldly course of life, the devils stage-play, an enemy of life, a fetter of darkness, intoxication of the mind, mockery by the enemy, a stumbling-block to life which separates from the Lord, a beginning of disobedience, the end of life, and death. Hearing this, little children, bind yourselves each one in an inseparable, true and holy marriage whilst ye await the one incomparable and true bridegroom from heaven, Christ the eternal bridegroom.
If the apostle allowed marriage itself to be dissolved that it might not occasion a heaping up of offences, what should we say of the state of the ascetic, which most of all should be free from fleshly lust? O bodies separated from one another and already dedicated to Christ! O carnal glow of youth, difficult to quench! O dew that, flowing down from heaven, warms the cold vessel! O those who have ventured to call back to life the lost heavenly dignity! O endless glory of the saints, from death set free! O field pleasing to Christ, which brings forth eternal fruits! O denial of the flesh, spiritual nuptials with eternal marriage-ties in the heavenly habitations! O how much one can do in the conflict for chastity when one is discerning!
When finally the apostle Andrew came to a wedding to show the glory of God, he separated the spouses intended for one another, the women and the men, and taught them to remain holy in celibacy. O glory of the one-horned lamb that separates the sheep from the goats, whilst the Lord himself admonishes us: Hear me, my chosen sheep, and fear not the wolf. Not to fear the wolf means to flee from the offence of death. To separate the sheep from the goats means to keep oneself free from foul sins, to live in solitude as one of Gods ascetics. So also it is said in Ezra in reference to the future: Come ye from all cities to Jerusalem to the mount and bring with you cypress and palm leaves and build you detached booths!
Thou seest then, O holy man, that the hope described by the authors named holds good for us that, pure in body, we may live in solitude in our booths and that no one of us suffer himself to be fettered by carnal love. For, according to the question and answer of Christ, our Lord, the cypress is a mystery of chastity. Its spike on a single stalk rightly aims at the sky. By the palm leaves also he signifies the victory, the glory of martyrdom. Out of these two kinds of trees are the booths built, which are the bodies of the saints. And since he added out of the mount, i.e. from the body of Christ, he meant doubtless the substancia conexa. Blessed then are those who preserve this substancia! These the Lord praises through Isaiah: Every one that does not profane the Sabbath but keeps it and takes hold of my covenant, them will I bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer, and their offering and burnt offering will be accepted on my altar. So saith the Lord. The keeping holy of the Sabbath clearly means not to defile the pure flesh. And therefore was it ordered in the books of the patriarchs that no unprofitable work should be done on the Sabbath. Clearly then it is a positive fact that God forbids the doing of the works of this world in the flesh that is dedicated to Him.
Once upon a time on a Sabbath two men were surprised collecting wood, and God in indignation ordered that the two of them should be put to death. That took place in the past, but it is to be interpreted in the following way: the two collectors of wood signify those who are committing sin, their evil-doings being symbolized by the collected foliage. And therefore the bundle of wood could not be made by one person alone, but it was two together who defiled the Sabbath. Rightly does the Lord give warning by Ezekiel: Behold the princes of Israel, they have despised my sanctuary and defiled my sabbaths; adulterous men have shed blood in thy midst, O Jerusalem.
O most beautiful city, in the midst of thy beauty they have exposed their fathers nakedness! O priceless holiness of God rejected by all evil-doers! O sabbaths dedicated to Christ, desecrated by burglars! O priceless city, redeemed by the blood of Christ and overwhelmed with most filthy indecencies! The exposing of the fathers nakedness means assuredly the violation of the virginity that has been consecrated to God. Finally the Lord urges him on, namely the prophet, to lodge the following reproach: Each one of you has defiled a wife not his own in shameless act, and each one of you has ravished his fathers daughter. O error of judgment! The devil entices many minds to ravish not their own but the bride of Christ! O imitation of the animal way of life, when a man sleeps with his fathers daughter and with one born of the self-same mother!
Therefore, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the voice of the lawgiver sounds: Cursed be he who lies with his own sister. And the people said, Amen, Amen. Why art thou not afraid to lie with this sister, daughter of thy father and of they motherhere Christ is meant as father and the church as motheras if thou couldest evade the punishment that is to be imposed by the court? Consider the by-gone doings recorded in the Books of the Kings, e.g. when Adonijah craved for the Shunammite Abishag, his fathers girl, who was a symbol of the virginity that is dedicated to Christ, was he not because of a mere thought < >? And if Adonijah was punished with death without having realized his purpose, how much more today he who is found guilty of such a deed? If Adonijah perished because of a word, what punishment, thinkest thou, will be measured out for the act? It is hard for a man controlled by lust to come forth unsullied, as the word of the Lord through the prophet Haggai indicates, saying: Ask the priests concerning the law and say: if one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment and after that do touch with his skirt bread, wine, oil, or any other food, will it thereby be holy or not? And the priest answered and said, No. And Haggai said: so is it also with this people and with this nation before me saith the Lord. Now it is the sanctified flesh, dedicated to chastity, that was touched by the skirt of the baptismal robe. But he showed that had it come into contact with what is despicable, this food would not thereby become holy; for the material food signifies the transient wishes of the human mind. That is carnal food, and it is not pleasing to the Holy Spirit. Therefore he decreed that the kings garment should not be considered as holy thereby. And further he has likewise shown that there is a state of defilement whereby the creature also is defiled. What Moses had already previously said has been made clear to us by the author of this saying: Everything that an unclean person touches shall be unclean. And what says Haggai (in addition)? Even so this people and this race, saith the Lord. The city governor orders that the city dwellers be like him! O thou that turnest aside from holiness and usurpest honour for thyself, putting thyself on a par with that priest! O unreasonable king, thou that exploitest the people to rebellion! O the resemblance of an insincere course of life; many step in and out without justice! O worldly reckoning which is rejected by Christ! In conclusion he reproves them on the last day with the words: Depart from me, ye evil-doers, I know you not: so will I speak to those who go into destruction.
Thou seest how those who counterfeit holy celibacy, the enemies of chastity, the unjust corrupters of belief, the destroyers of the flock of God will be rejected. He shows that no one will escape punishment. Why thinkest thou, O foolish man, that what thou committest in secrecy is not forbidden, when God is Lord of the night and of the day, saying for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, and hid, that shall not be known. If one knows that it is not lawful to comply with the divers desires of the flesh and does what he regards as contrary to belief, can that not be described as obstinate offence? And it is that even if he does not give a thought to the fact that, although no one is present, contempt of the law weighs more heavily than unchastity. The lusts of the flesh must be deplored; this greediness must be expelled from the mind; but thou repentest not of this offence, and passest thyself off as guiltless when on the threshold of the glory that is due to guiltlessness and praisest thyself! But consider what David prophesies and what the Holy Spirit says through his mouth: I said, he says, ye are gods and altogether the children of the Highest, but ye will die like men and perish like one of the princes. O gods who die a human death! O glory of princes that falls from the height into the depth! That will take place some day, there being a separation between the righteous and the profane, and no fellowship of the believer with the unrighteous, of death with life. Or else consider what lies between destruction and salvation! Today the prophecy of the Lord through Ezekiel has finally come to fulfilment: My house, he says, has for me turned into such dross as brass, iron, tin, lead in the midst of silver. Into such a mixture have you turned. For in the state of the ascetic, which is silver, there have emerged in the end alloys of different sorts, bad ingredients. Now these are the elements of this mixture. The iron signifies the hardness of the heart in which wisdom of the spiritual mind has taken no root. Reuben was rightly characterized by Jacob as the hardness of iron, for he is reckoned the hardest among those who belong to the Jewish people. The lead signifies the heaviness of the flesh, which is extremely heavy. By this is signified the offence which submerges men in the destruction of death, for the submerging of Pharaoh and his people as lead in the sea according to the account in Scripture was only a sign for us. And similarly we are admonished through Zechariah: The mouth of a shameless woman is stopped up with lead, whereby crime is clearly meant. The brass signifies the stench of the sinful flesh, after which the sons of Israel craved in Egypt when they longed for the fleshpots. And on that account they died and were unable to come into possession of the ancestral promises, precisely as those also who suffer themselves to be enticed by the cravings of the flesh will not attain to the possession of the kingdom of God! The interpretation of the tin is this: They are tin who dazzle our eyes with the wisdom of God and who in the matter of chastity exhibit an appearance of polluted silver, but who are in no wise of great value in the church. They will be rejected according to the saying of Solomon: In secrecy they carry out abortions and at the same time think that they will live forever. That is then the mixture that has come to be in the house of God. O seducers of women who concoct new doctrine! Burglars in strange houses, corrupters of maidens, violators of chastity, apostates from belief, resisters of the truth, rebels to the discipline of God! O outrageous mixture! Thou hast turned into silver, i.e. to chastity, and therefore these will be melted in the furnace of burning judgment, and then will the Lord purify for himself precious, pure, sterling, fine silver for that holy Jerusalem with a view to preparing for himself the paternal throne. But the others, of whom we have spoken above, who have apostatized from belief, these will go into eternal torment! Blessed are those who have remained holy in body and united in spirit, for they will often speak to God! Blessed are those who have kept themselves from the unchastity of this world, for they will be pleasing to Christ, the Son of God, and to the Father, the Lord! Blessed are those who have kept the baptism of salvation, for they will enjoy eternal delight. He who has the hearing of the heart, let him hear what God promises: To the victor, he says, will I give to eat of the tree of life which stands in the paradise of my God. O incorruptible nourishment that comes from the tree of wisdom, the leaves of which are destined for the healing of nations, where there shall be no curse and where no unclean flesh can enter, where no spite from unrighteous works and no lie will find a place, but only God and the Lamb will be enthroned. Their servants will render them homage forever and ever! These then are the servants of God who always minister to His will and please Him, who live not for the flesh but for the Holy Spirit. These are they who will not be overtaken by the second death and who will eat of the hidden manna, the food of the heavenly paradise. They will receive the white stone, the helmet of eternal salvation, upon which is written the ineffable name of God, which no man knows save he who has received it. O host most white, legions of sanctity, precious to God, to whom Christ the Lord orders royal powers to be given for the judging of all! Like the potters useless vessels will they smash them! I will give them, he says, the eternal morning star, as I myself received it from my Father. Likewise will he grant those victors to be clad in splendid clothing, nor will their name ever be deleted from the book of life. I will confess them, he says, before my Father and his angels in heaven. Blessed therefore are they who persevere even unto the end, as the Lord says: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit at my right hand in my throne, even as I have overcome and sit on the right hand of my Father in his throne to all ages forever and ever. Amen.
THE EPISTLE OF TITUS, THE
DISCIPLE OF PAUL,
ON THE ESTATE OF CHASTITY.