Select Works And Letters Or Athanasius by Athanasius
33. Conduct of the Arians towards the consecrated Virgins.
The Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, having become man for our sakes, and having destroyed death, and delivered our race from the bondage of corruption , in addition to all His other benefits bestowed this also upon us, that we should possess upon earth, in the state of virginity , a picture of the holiness of Angels. Accordingly such as have attained this virtue, the Catholic Church has been accustomed to call the brides of Christ. And the heathen who see them express their admiration of them as the temples of the Word. For indeed this holy and heavenly profession is nowhere established, but only among us Christians, and it is a very strong argument that with us is to be found the genuine and true religion. Your most religious father Constantine Augustus, of blessed memory, honoured the Virgins above all the rest, and your Piety in several letters has given them the titles of the honourable and holy women. But now these worthy Arians who have slandered me, and by whom conspiracies have been formed against most of the Bishops, having obtained the consent and cooperation of the magistrates, first stripped them, and then caused them to be suspended upon what are called the Hermetaries , and scourged them on the ribs so severely three several times, that not even real malefactors have ever suffered the like. Pilate, to gratify the Jews of old, pierced one of our Saviour's sides with a spear. These men have exceeded the madness of Pilate, for they have scourged not one but both His sides; for the limbs of the Virgins are in an especial manner the Saviour's own. All men shudder at hearing the bare recital of deeds like these. These men alone not only did not fear to strip and to scourge those undefiled limbs, which the Virgins had dedicated solely to our Saviour Christ; but, what is worse than all, when they were reproached by every one for such extreme cruelty, instead of manifesting any shame, they pretended that it was commanded by your Piety. So utterly presumptuous are they and full of wicked thoughts and purposes. Such a deed as this was never heard of in past persecutions : or supposing that it ever occurred before, yet surely it was not befitting either that Virginity should suffer such outrage and dishonour, in the time of your Majesty, a Christian, or that these men should impute to your Piety their own cruelty. Such wickedness belongs only to heretics, to blaspheme the Son of God, and to do violence to His holy Virgins.