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Chapter XIX.

But besides other things the action of Miriam the prophetess also gives rise to these surmisings of ours. Directly the sea was crossed she took in her hand a dry and sounding timbrel and conducted the women’s dance 1474 . By this timbrel p. 365 the story may mean to imply virginity, as first perfected by Miriam; whom indeed I would believe to be a type of Mary the mother of God 1475 . Just as the timbrel emits a loud sound because it is devoid of all moisture and reduced to the highest degree of dryness, so has virginity a clear and ringing report amongst men because it repels from itself the vital sap of merely physical life. Thus, Miriam’s timbrel being a dead thing, and virginity being a deadening of the bodily passions, it is perhaps not very far removed from the bounds of probability 1476 that Miriam was a virgin. However, we can but guess and surmise, we cannot clearly prove, that this was so, and that Miriam the prophetess led a dance of virgins, even though many of the learned have affirmed distinctly that she was unmarried, from the fact that the history makes no mention either of her marriage or of her being a mother; and surely she would have been named and known, not as “the sister of Aaron 1477 ,” but from her husband, if she had had one; since the head of the woman is not the brother but the husband. But if, amongst a people with whom motherhood was sought after and classed as a blessing and regarded as a public duty, the grace of virginity, nevertheless, came to be regarded as a precious thing, how does it behove us to feel towards it, who do not “judge” of the Divine blessings 1478 “according to the flesh”? Indeed it has been revealed in the oracles of God, on what occasion to conceive and to bring forth is a good thing, and what species of fecundity was desired by God’s saints; for both the Prophet Isaiah and the divine Apostle have made this clear and certain. The one cries, “From fear of Thee, O Lord, have I conceived 1479 ;” the other boasts that he is the parent of the largest family of any, bringing to the birth whole cities and nations; not the Corinthians and Galatians only whom by his travailings he moulded for the Lord, but all in the wide circuit from Jerusalem to Illyricum; his children filled the world, “begotten” by him in Christ through the Gospel 1480 . In the same strain the womb of the Holy Virgin, which ministered to an Immaculate Birth, is pronounced blessed in the Gospel 1481 ; for that birth did not annul the Virginity, nor did the Virginity impede so great a birth. When the “spirit of salvation 1482 ,” as Isaiah names it, is being born, the willings of the flesh are useless. There is also a particular teaching of the Apostle, which harmonizes with this; viz. each man of us is a double man 1483 ; one the outwardly visible, whose natural fate it is to decay; the other perceptible only in the secret of the heart, yet capable of renovation. If this teaching is true,—and it must be true 1484 because Wisdom is speaking there,—then there is no absurdity in supposing a double marriage also which answers in every detail to either man; and, maybe, if one was to assert boldly that the body’s virginity was the co-operator and the agent of the inward marriage, this assertion would not be much beside the probable fact.



Exod. xv. 20.


δι᾽ ἧς οἶμαι καὶ τὴν Θεοτόκον προδιατυποῦσθαι Μαρίαν. These words are absent from the Munich Cod. i.e. the German; not from Vat. and Reg. Ambrose, Ep. 25, has “Quid de alterâ Moysi sorore Mariâ loquar, quæ fœminei dux agminis pede transmisit pelagi freta,” when speaking “de gloriâ virginitatis.”


τοῦ εἰκότοςπεσχοίνισται


Exod. xv. 20.


S. John viii. 15. “Ye judge after the flesh.” It is Gregory’s manner to make such passing allusions to Scripture, and especially to S. Paul.


Gregory here quotes from LXX. Cf. Is. xxvi. 18, and also below, τέκομεν πνεῦμα σωτηρίας σου, ὃ ἐποιήσαμεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.


1 Cor. iv. 15; Philemon 10.


S. Luke xi. 27


Is. xxvi. 18 (LXX.). See above. But R.V. “We have as it were brought forth wind: we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.”


2 Cor. iv. 16.


πάντως δὲ ἀληθὴς, κ. τ. λ. So Codd. Reg. and Morell., for πάντων. Gregory alludes to 2 Cor. xiii. 3.

Next: Chapter XX