|Saint Anthony of Padua, Confessor and Doctor of the Church|
“From this dung four worms are generated, namely: simple fornication, adultery, incest, and sin against nature.”
“All these are ‘the way trodden down by demons’, the ‘dung-hold of the ark’. In them the seed of the divine word perishes and is snatched away by the devil.”
A sermon against the lustful: And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside
6. But not everyone is faithful! Not everyone obeys the Gospel! That is why the parable continues:
And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. [Lk 8.5]
The bottom-most chamber of Noah’s ark, traditionally, is the bilge or ‘dung-hold’. The pathway
trodden under foot and this ‘dung-hold’ have the same meaning. They stand for those who
pursue the pleasures of lust. Solomon says:
Every woman that is a harlot shall be trodden like dung upon the path, [Ecclus 9.10]
and Isaiah has this rebuke for the lustful:
Thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as a way to them that went over. [Is 51.23]
This refers to the devils, who as they pass tread down the seed so that it does not germinate.
Isaiah says again:
The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. [Is 28.31]
Ephraim means ‘fruitful’, and it stands for the abundance of temporal goods. The drunkards are
the pleasure-seekers who are inebriated with the gold chalice of Babylon, temporal abundance;
and the crown of pride on the head is the haughty thought of a corrupt mind. This will be trodden
by the feet of the demons when the impure thought issues in the besotted action of lust. Indeed,
the seed of the Lord cannot germinate in such accursed soil!
The demons are also referred to as ‘fowls of the air’, because of their pride and because they
are supposed to dwell in the air. They seize and devour the seed from the lustful hearts, lest it
bear fruit. Hosea says:
Strangers have devoured his strength, [Hos 7.9]
meaning that the demons have eaten the strength of the divine word. Notice also that the seed
is said to have fallen by, rather than in, the wayside, because the lustful man does not receive
the word within his heart’s ear, but as a mere sound that lightly passes by the ear of his body.
Such folk are the ‘dung-hold’, stinking like oxen in their dung. The Psalmist says of them:
They perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth. [Ps 82.11]
Endor means ‘the fire of generation’, that is, ‘the heat of lust’. From this dung four worms are
generated, namely: simple fornication, adultery, incest, and sin against nature. Simple
fornication is a mortal sin between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is called
‘fornication’ from formae necatio, the death of the soul made in the likeness of God. Adultery
(alterius torum) is the sin of approaching the marriage-bed of another. Incest is sin between
those closely related by blood or marriage. Sin against nature refers to any act whereby the
semen is ejaculated other than in the proper place for conception, the vagina of a woman. All
these are ‘the way trodden down by demons’, the ‘dung-hold of the ark’. In them the seed of the
divine word perishes and is snatched away by the devil.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”1 Corinthians 15:33
Abraham represents reason, and Lot sensuality. The herdsmen of the flocks are the affections and movements of each, between which there is daily strife. But Abraham said, Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee. Thus does reason chastise sensuality, wanting to pacify it. It says, we are brethren, do not fight against me, do not pick a quarrel. Behold, the whole land is before thee, that you may live according to your need, not for the sake of pleasure.
Use what is lawful; live discreetly, because the Lord has given the earth to the children of men [Ps 113.16], not to the offspring of beasts. But because I see that your imagination and thought are prone to evil from your youth [cf. Gen 8.21], therefore I pray you to depart from me, because two opposites cannot live together. What fellowship hath light with darkness? What part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? [2Cor 6.14,15]. Depart from me, then, I pray; because if you do not depart, I am afraid your company will shape my behaviour. "One grape can develop mould at the sight of another"; and, "A bad companion will pass on his scabs and sores to his innocent and simple friend," says the Philosopher2. Depart from me, then, I pray: If thou wilt go to the left hand, etc.
Separate yourself, I pray you, from me: if you will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.