Friday after Septuagesima
February 14, 2020
The Need for Caution
Meditation from Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas by St. Thomas Aquinas
Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. –1 Corinthians 10:12
1. The case of the Jews who, in punishment, were overthrown in the desert (ibid. v. 5 ) is a warning for us. These words of the Scripture contain four things which should attract the wise man’s attention, namely the multitude of those who fell, for it says Wherefore; then the uncertainty of those who still stand, for it adds he that thinketh himself to stand; thirdly, the need for caution, for it adds let him take heed; and finally the ease with which disaster comes, for it says lest he fall.
St. Paul says wherefore as if to say these men, for all that they have had the advantage of God’s gifts, nevertheless, because of their sins, perished, wherefore, bearing this in mind, he that thinketh himself, by whatever kind of subtle reasoning, to stand, that is, to be in a state of grace and charity, let him take heed, diligently attending to it, lest he fall, whether by sinning himself or by inducing others to sin. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer says Isaiah (24:12), and the Psalmist, A thousand shall fall at thy side (Psalm 90:7), and St. Paul himself, in another place, says therefore, See how you walk, circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15).
2. We must note that the things which drive us to a fall are numerous.
(i) Weakness, lack of strength; as children, the aged and the sick fall in the natural life. As Isaiah says, They shall fall through infirmity (Isaiah 40:30). This happens to us through lukewarmness in well doing and through too frequent changing.
(ii) We fall under the weight of our sins, as asses fall under a load that is too heavy. The workers of iniquity have fallen (Psalm 35:13). And this happens through our neglect to repent.
(iii) Through a multitude of things drawing us, as a tree or a house falls over on the crowd that tugs at it. We fall in this way by the onrush of enemies.
(iv) The slipperiness of the road, and so we fall as travellers fall into the mud. Take heed lest thou slip with thy tongue and fall (Ecclesiastes 28:30). We fall thus through carelessness in guarding our senses.
(v) A variety of traps and we fall like the bird taken in the nets. A just man shall fall seven times (Proverbs 24:16). And this happens through the corruption of created things.
(vi) Ignorance of what one ought to do, and we fall easily as do the blind. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit (Matthew 15:14). This comes about through our not learning things necessary to us.
(vii) The example of others who fall, as the angels fell by the example of Lucifer. A just man falling down before the wicked, is as a fountain troubled by the foot, a spring that has suffered defilement (Proverbs 25:26). And this happens when we imitate the wicked.
(viii) The heaviness of the flesh: for the body when corrupted weighs down the soul, as does a stone that hangs at the neck of a swimmer. A mountain in falling cometh to naught (Job 24:18).
And this is what comes of pampering the body. (In 1 Corinthians 10.)