CONTAINING COUNSELS CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE.
Chapter XIII --How to maintain Purity.
BE exceedingly quick in turning aside from the slightest thing leading to impurity, for it is an evil which approaches stealthily, and in which the very smallest beginnings are apt to grow rapidly. It is always easier to fly from such evils than to cure them.
Human bodies are like glasses, which cannot come into collision without risk of breaking; or to fruits, which, however fresh and ripe, are damaged by pressure. Never permit any one to take any manner of foolish liberty with you, since, although there may be no evil intention, the perfectness of purity is injured thereby.
Purity has its source in the heart, but it is in the body that its material results take shape, and therefore it may be forfeited both by the exterior senses and by the thoughts and desires of the heart. All lack of modesty in seeing, hearing, speaking, smelling, or touching, is impurity, especially when the heart takes pleasure therein. S. Paul says without any hesitation that impurity and uncleanness, or foolish and unseemly talking, are not to be "so much as named" 1 among Christians. The bee not only shuns all carrion, but abhors and flies far from the faintest smell proceeding therefrom. The Bride of the Canticles is represented with "hands dropping with myrrh." 2 a preservative against all corruption; her "lips are like a thread of scarlet," the type of modest words; 3 her eyes are "dove's eyes," 4 clear and soft; her "nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh towards Damascus" 5 an incorruptible wood; her ears are hung with earrings of pure gold; 6 and even so the devout soul should be pure, honest and transparent in hand, lip, eye, ear, and the whole body.
Remember that there are things which blemish perfect purity, without being in themselves downright acts of impurity. Anything which tends to lessen its intense sensitiveness, or to cast the slightest shadow over it, is of this nature; and all evil thoughts or foolish acts of levity or heedlessness are as steps towards the most direct breaches of the law of chastity. Avoid the society of persons who are wanting in purity, especially if they are bold, as indeed impure people always are. If a foul animal licks the sweet almond tree its fruit becomes bitter; and so a corrupt pestilential man can scarcely hold communication with others, whether men or women, without damaging their perfect purity--their very glance is venomous, and their breath blighting like the basilisk. On the other hand, seek out good and pure men, read and ponder holy things; for the Word of God is pure, and it will make those pure who study it: wherefore David likens it to gold and precious stones. 7 Always abide close to Jesus Christ Crucified, both spiritually in meditation and actually in Holy Communion; for as all those who sleep upon the plant called Agnus castus become pure and chaste, so, if you rest your heart upon Our Dear Lord, the Very Lamb, Pure and Immaculate, you will find that soon both heart and soul will be purified of all spot or stain.
1. Eph. v. 4.
2. Cant. v. 5.
3. iv. 3.
4. i. 15.
5. vii. 4.
6. There is no mention of earrings in the Canticles, but S. Francis probably was writing from memory, and had in mind "Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold." (i. 10.)
7. Ps. cxix. 127.