Do the Eastern Orthodox think the state of virginity is superior and more meritorious to the state of marriage? If so, what modern Eastern Orthodox theologians support this view?

cf. Is virginity more meritorious than marriage, according to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7?

1 Answer 1


I'm not EO but I read lots of their stuff (I am lapsed Coptic Orthodox).

A few points however to be made.

1) The terminology you use "meritorious" is Roman Catholic. The EO has a different outlook than the Latin Church in regards to "the saints", Ecclesiology etc.

2) The easy answer however is to say "yes" or "sort of". Such an argument can be made by actually looking at what saint Paul says in 1 Cor. 7: "32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

That being said the EO like the Catholics believe that marriage is a special vocation from God and honorable (just as saint Paul did). But like saint Paul says, the single life of virginity does allow someone to focus solely on serving the Lord. It is interesting that many Protestants believe we are "living in the Last Days", but have a very different outlook on this subject than saint Paul!

  • EO have no notion of merit? Fr. Hardon's dictionary's "merit" entry cites the Council of Orange (529 AD), which the EO should accept: "The reward given for good works is not won by reason of actions which precede grace, but grace, which is unmerited, precedes actions in order that they may be performed meritoriously."
    – Geremia
    Apr 8, 2018 at 3:52
  • Hello Again! In general Orthodox are less likely to understand "the saints" etc. from a Juridical (legal) stand point. I would cite the definition of merit from the Catholic web site New Advent as an example. Apr 10, 2018 at 17:42
  • This understanding of the saints is more normative. orthodoxwiki.org/Theosis Apr 10, 2018 at 17:50
  • Sorry, (I’m not use to how this site does its editing). Anyway. The following link goes to the opening official definition of merit from the web site it New Advent. It is very technical. This way of doing things is a bit alien. Unless were talking Christology or some Nicene era doctrine, Orthodox are not going to be that technical. They prefer being more mystical in terms like Theosis and so on. (The saints are role models that have achieved a special level of holiness and communion with God that we should look to) newadvent.org/cathen/10202b.htm Apr 10, 2018 at 18:03
  • (Concerning your definition of council of Orange) I'm just pointing out the cultural differences in east and west that affect how they think about and articulate theology. The definition you quoted isn't bad but wouldn't be how they tend to think of things. Apr 10, 2018 at 18:10

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