True Manhood

“True manhood is not shown in the choice of a celibate life; on the contrary, the prize in the contest of men is won by him who has trained himself by the discharge of the duties of husband and father and by the supervision of a household, regardless of pleasure and pain–by him, I say, who in the midst of his concern for his family shows himself inseparable from the love of God and rises superior to every temptation which assails him through children and wife and servants and possessions. On the other hand he who has no family is in most respects untried.” St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7, 12, 70

St. Clement of Alexandria here teaches that true manhood is not to be found in the denial of one’s physical body or of the bonds one has with another. Rather true manhood is that which is refined in a man’s selfless concern for his wife and his children. Through this refining, one breeds the love of God and the love of neighbour. It is this perfection that a man is called to. He who chooses the celibate is not wrong or in error but, for St. Clement of Alexandria, he remains untried. Marriage as an arena within which we labour, through ascesis, to pursue virtue and union with God, is something we often overlook today.

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