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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. III.—Commandments to Women.

Concerning the Subjection of a Wife to Her Husband, and that She Must Be Loving and Modest.

VIII. Let the wife be obedient to her own proper husband, because “the husband is the head of the wife.”25692569     1 Cor. xi. 3.   But Christ is the head of that husband who walks in the way of righteousness; and “the head of Christ is God,” even His Father. Therefore, O wife, next after the Almighty, our God and Father, the Lord of the present world and of the world to come, the Maker of everything that breathes, and of every power; and after His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom25702570     “To whom be glory,” V. mss.   glory be to God, do thou fear thy husband, and reverence him, pleasing him alone, rendering thyself acceptable to him in the several affairs of life, that so on thy account thy husband may be called blessed, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, which thus speaks: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for such a one is more precious than costly stones. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that she shall have no need of spoil: for she does good to her husband all the days of her life. She buyeth wool and flax, and worketh profitable things with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships, she bringeth her food from far. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and food to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She tasteth that it is good to labour; her lamp goeth not out all the whole night. She stretcheth out her arms for useful work, and layeth her hands to the spindle. She openeth her hands to the needy; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the poor. Her husband takes no care of the affairs of his house; for all that are with her are clothed with double garments. She maketh coats for her husband, clothings of silk and purple. Her husband is eminent in the gates, when he sitteth with the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it to the Phœnicians, and girdles to the Canaanites. She is clothed with glory and beauty, and she rejoices in the last days. She openeth her mouth with wisdom and discretion, and puts her words in order. The ways of her household are strict; she eateth not the bread of idleness. She will open her mouth with wisdom and caution, and upon her tongue are the laws of mercy. Her children arise up and praise her for her riches, and her husband joins in her praises. Many daughters have obtained wealth and done worthily, but thou surpassest and excellest them all. May lying flatteries and the vain beauty of a wife be far from thee. For a religious wife is blessed. Let her praise the fear of the Lord:25712571     [The incorrect rendering of the LXX. is here cited, as given in the text.—R.]   give her of the fruits of her lips, and let her husband be praised in the gates.”25722572     Prov. xxxi. 10, etc.   And again: “A virtuous wife is a crown to her husband.”25732573     Prov. xii. 4   And again: “Many wives have built an house.”25742574     [A.V., “Every wise woman buildeth her house.”—R.] Prov. xiv. 1.   You have learned what great commendations a prudent and loving wife receives from the Lord God. If thou desirest to be one of the faithful, and to please the Lord, O wife, do not superadd ornaments to thy beauty, in order to please other men; neither affect to wear fine broidering, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. For although thou dost not these wicked things with design of sinning thyself, but only for the sake of ornament and beauty, yet wilt thou not so escape future punishment, as having compelled another to look so hard at thee as to lust after thee, and as not having taken care both to avoid sin thyself, and the affording scandal to others. But if thou yield thyself up, and commit the crime, thou art both guilty of thy own sin, and the cause of the ruin of the other’s soul also. Besides, when thou hast committed lewdness with one man, and beginnest to despair, thou wilt again turn away from thy duty, and follow others, and grow past feeling; as says the divine word: “When a wicked man comes into the depth of evil, he becomes a scorner, and then disgrace and reproach come upon him.”25752575     Prov. xviii. 3.   For such a woman afterward being wounded, ensnares without restraint the souls of the foolish. Let us learn, therefore, how the divine word triumphs over such women, saying: “I hated a woman who is a snare and net to the heart of men worse than death; her hands are fetters.”25762576     Eccles. vii. 26.   And in another passage: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is beauty in a wicked woman.”25772577     Prov. xi. 22.   And again: “As a worm in wood, so does a wicked woman destroy her husband.”25782578     Prov. xii. 4 in LXX.   And again: “It is better to dwell in the corner of the house-top, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”25792579     Prov. xxi. 9, 19   You, therefore, who are Christian women, do not imitate such as these. But thou who designest to be faithful to thine own husband, take care to please him alone. And when thou art in the streets, cover thy head; for by such a covering thou wilt avoid being viewed of idle persons. Do not paint thy face, which is God’s workmanship; for there is no part of thee which wants ornament, inasmuch as all things which God has made are very good. But the lascivious additional adorning of what is already good is an affront to the bounty of the Creator. Look downward when thou walkest abroad, veiling thyself as becomes women.  

That a Woman Must Not Bathe with Men.

IX. Avoid also that disorderly practice of bathing in the same place with men; for many are the nets of the evil one. And let not a Christian woman bathe with an hermaphrodite; for if she is to veil her face, and conceal it with modesty from strange men, how can she bear to enter naked into the bath together with men? But if the bath be appropriated to women, let her bathe orderly, modestly, and moderately. But let her not bathe without occasion, nor much, nor often, nor in the middle of the day, nor, if possible, every day; and let the tenth hour of the day be the set time for such seasonable bathing. For it is convenient that thou, who art a Christian woman, shouldst ever constantly avoid a curiosity which has many eyes.  

Concerning a Contentious and Brawling Woman.

X. But as to a spirit of contention, be sure to curb it as to all men, but principally as to thine husband; lest, if he be an unbeliever or an heathen, he may have an occasion of scandal or of blaspheming God, and thou be partaker of a woe from God. For, says He, “Woe to him by whom My name is blasphemed among the Gentiles;”25802580     Isa. lii. 5   and lest, if thy husband be a Christian, he be forced, from his knowledge of the Scriptures, to say that which is written in the book of Wisdom: “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”25812581     Prov. xxi. 19   You wives, therefore, demonstrate your piety by your modesty and meekness to all without the Church, whether they be women or men, in order to their conversion and improvement in the faith. And since we have warned you, and instructed you briefly, whom we do esteem our sisters, daughters, and members, as being wise yourselves, persevere all your lives in an unblameable course of life. Seek to know such kinds of learning whereby you may arrive at the kingdom of our Lord, and please Him, and so rest for ever and ever. Amen.  


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