From a sermon On the Dress of Virgins by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr
The more numerous her virgins, the greater the joy of mother Church
Now I wish to address the order of virgins. Because their way of life is more exalted, our concern for them must be greater. If we compare the Church to a tree, then they are its blossom. Virgins show forth the beauty of God’s grace; they are the image of God that reflects the holiness of the Lord; they are the more illustrious members of Christ’s flock. They are the glory of mother Church and manifest her fruitfulness. The more numerous her virgins are, the greater is her joy.
To these virgins then I speak and address my exhortation, out of love rather than any sense of authority; and I do this without claiming the right to censure them, for I am among the last and the least and fully aware of my lowliness; I do it rather because the more anxious and concerned I am about them, the more I fear the devil’s attack. For it is no idle concern nor vain fear that takes thought of the path of salvation and keeps the Lord’s life-giving commandments.
They have dedicated themselves to Christ, and, renouncing the pleasures of the flesh, have consecrated themselves body and soul to God, in order to finish a task that is destined to win a great prize; they should not strive to adorn themselves or give pleasure to anyone but the Lord, from whom they hope to receive the reward for their chastity.
Virgins, persevere in the way of life you have begun, persevere in what you are to be. For you will receive a glorious prize for your virtue, a most excellent reward for your chastity. You have already begun to be now what we shall all be in the future. You already possess, here in this world, the glory of the resurrection. You pass through this world without the world’s infection. If you persevere in chastity and virginity, you are equal to God’s angels. Only keep your profession of virginity strong and inviolate. You began your way of life courageously; now persevere without faltering. Seek right conduct as your adornment, not jewelry or attractive clothing.
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, God’s chosen vessel, sent to announce the commands of heaven. Paul said: The first man was made of the dust of the earth; the second is from heaven. Those who are made from earth are like him who was on the earth. Those who are of heaven are like him who is from heaven. As we have borne the image of the man who is of the earth, so let us bear the image of the man who is from heaven. This image is shown forth in virginity, purity, holiness and truth.