That, Particularly in This Virtue of Chastity, It Is Necessary to Make Much Account of Small Things

by admin on February 27, 2011

THE higher and more precious this virtue of chastity is, the greater care and diligence is necessary to preserve it. Everywhere it is of much importance to take account of small and minute things, because, as the Wise Man says: He that neglecteth small things shall fall by little and lit­tle (Ecclus. xix. 1). But especially is it necessary in this virtue, because any stain, however small, is a great disfig­urement to chastity. In things precious and beautiful, as we see, any flaw disfigures them, and that the more, the more excellent and beautiful they are. So it is with this most high and fair virtue of chastity; we may even say that there is no virtue more tender or more delicate. Brother Giles, one of the first companions of St. Francis, likens chastity to a brilliant mirror, that at the slightest breath or puff is covered with a spot and loses its luster and brightness; so does chastity lose its splendor and beauty for very little things. Therefore we must go our way with great caution, mortifying the senses and cutting short and stopping at once any evil thought, and shunning occasions; for an evil thought, like a flame, leaves a trace of itself wheresoever it touches, more or less according as it is dwelt upon; and if it does not burn, at least it leaves a smut. Thus these things, if they do not go so far as to set fire, are enough to tarnish, because they awaken in the soul imagi­nations and thoughts contrary to chastity, and impure and disorderly motions in the body.

With great reason did our Father say that the matter of chastity needs no comment. No man can trust himself; no man can say to himself: “Up to this point I shall not catch fire; going ever so little further, I should; it is lawful thus far, but a step or two beyond, it would be unlawful.” You cannot use such language as this in the matter of chastity: “I will go so far, but not a step further;” for when you think it least, you will go where you never thought to go. He who casts himself down a slippery descent thinks only to go as far as the particular spot which he has marked; but the weight of his body and the smoothness of the rock makes him go further, though he had no such intention when he started. So it is here; this is very slippery ground, and the weight or inclination of our flesh down­wards is very great. The delicate nature of this virtue does not allow of our going so near to losing it and putting our­selves in these dangers. It is a most precious treasure, and we have it stowed in an earthen vessel so frail that in a trice there comes a crash, and we have nothing of it left.  Thus it is necessary to go our way with much solicitude and diligence, stopping in every way the approaches to any disorderly motion whereby this passion might gain the mastery of our heart.

If we are mindful in little points, the Lord will help to never fall into greater troubles

We read of one of the ancient Fathers that he had a great gift of chastity and, nevertheless, went about with great care and caution even on slight occasions, casting out any evil thought at once as soon as it started, and being extremely careful in his looks, his conversation, and his intercourse with others. His companions said to him: “Father, why are you so apprehensive, seeing that the Lord has fortified you with the gift of chastity?” The holy man answered: “Look you, if I do what I ought and what is possible on my part in these little minute points, the Lord will help me never to come to a fall in greater things; but if I am negligent and begin to be careless in these trifles, I do not know that He will help me; anyhow, I should deserve that the Lord should cast me off from His hand, and so I should come to fall. And therefore I make it a point to neglect nothing, but ever do what is in my power in all things, though they seem petty and trifling.” Sur-ius relates of St. Thomas Aquinas that, though he had received supernaturally from God the gift of chastity, so as to feel no temptations against it, and angels had told him that he should never lose the chastity which he had received, nevertheless he took extreme care to withdraw his eyes from looking at women, and on every other occa­sion that could do him harm. Thus, then, we should behave if we wish to preserve in ourselves the purity and perfec­tion of this virtue, otherwise we may have reason to fear a fall. This is what holy Job meant by saying: / made a covenant with my eyes not to look at a woman (xxxi. 1), to escape any evil thought that might thence have come to me. And he went on to say: For if I did not do that, what part would God have in me? As though he would say: “If there were not in me this care to stand on my guard and shun occasions, and cast off any evil thought, and make account of small things, there might come upon me some evil desire whereby I should lose God.” The devil in this business acts like a master burglar, who, having a mind to rob a house and finding it locked up, observes some small aperture or little window by which he cannot get in himself, but thrusts in some little thief of a boy, that he may go in and open the door for him to do his job. So the devil sends evil thoughts, a slight glance, and other little things of the sort, like small thieves to open the door for him to come in. Therefore it is of great importance to go our ways very cautiously, shunning occasions of sin and anticipating them from afar; and any care that we may take on this point will be well spent.

Cassian brings in here the saying of the Apostle: Every wrestler abstaineth from all that can hinder his wrestling (I Cor. ix. 25), and says: “Those athletes who performed and ran in the Olympic games, not to weaken or diminish the strength they required for them, abstained from foods that could hurt them; they shunned idleness and gave them­selves up to exercises that were likely to increase their strength. And not only that, but to be nimbler and stronger they put on their reins plates of lead, so that they might have no motion or illusion even in sleep, nor anything befall them to the detriment of their strength and vigor. This they did to gain a prize and a perishable and corrup­tible crown; what ought we to do in all reason to gain this angelical and heavenly virtue, and an eternal crown that will remain for ever and ever! And they indeed to gain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible (I Cor, ix. 25).”

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