ST. PAUL ON VIRGINITY & MARRIAGE
“Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in/of the flesh (θλῖψιν τῇ σαρκὶ), but I would spare you.” (1 Cor 7: 24-28)
Differently from later Christian ascetical writers on the topic, when St. Paul writes about the “goodness” of virginity, he does not appeal to divine authority, and does not dogmaticize his own opinion on, and experience of, the matter. Concerning virgins, “I have no commandment from the Lord,” he plainly admits, and then goes on to give us his own, humble “judgment” of the whole messy business of marital status.
That’s all I wanted to note today, as those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate the great feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. I wanted to note the apostolic humility of the great St. Paul, who, in light of his own vocation, and “the state in which he was called,” which is the un-married state (cf. 1 Cor 7: 7, “pace” the dubious arguments of some recent commentators, who think otherwise), offers his “judgment” of virginity and marriage carefully, with the “disclaimer” that it is he, and not a “commandment from the Lord,” that is speaking about this. “I” would spare you, he says to virgins contemplating marriage, – no more and no less. But, whether “God” would spare you, is another question.
Thank you, St. Paul, for sharing your thoughts with us, on the topic of our various “vocations” or “callings,” while recognizing the ultimate authority in this question to be God, the One Who “calls” us in the ways that He does, according to His omniscient wisdom. Holy Apostles, pray to God for us!