From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Church writers and theologians also spoke out against the practice of spiritual marriage, more often than not condemning it. Those who wrote about this subject include Athanasius of Alexandria, Jerome, Eusebius of Emesa, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom, among others.
Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria was a fourth century writer who wrote two letters on the subject of virginity. The second letter is addressed to a group of virgins newly returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He gives advice on how to continue their ascetic lives properly, including a section on spiritual marriage. Here, he condemns the practice of spiritual marriage and of the subintroductae, suggesting that it is a betrayal of the Bridegroom Christ to whom all virgins devote their life to when they take their vows of chastity. He mentions those virgins who "dare[d] even to live and mix with men, not considering such a great danger or how easy it is to fall in this life" and goes on to call on women to abandon their practice of spiritual marriage, "lest you break your covenant with the heavenly bridegroom".
John Chrysostom, another fourth century writer, wrote two treatises on the subject of spiritual marriage, both condemning the practice. He suggests that living together chastely will only intensify lust for one another, as it is never satisfied by sexual intercourse ("sexual desire...serves to still passion and often leads the man to satiation... But with a virgin, nothing of this sort happens...the men who live with them are stirred by a double desire".), that it was not spiritual love but lust that drew these couples together and, like Athanasius, sees spiritual marriage as a betrayal of Christ the Bridegroom. His protests also show the prevailing views of men and women that existed during this time, as his writing suggests that spiritual marriage goes against traditional views of men and women occupying separate spheres.
- The Bride of Christ Goes to Hell: Metaphor and Embodiment in the Lives of Pious Women, 200-1500 by Dyan Elliott