That Passage of David Explained; what the Harps Hung Upon the Willows Signify; the Willow a Symbol of Chastity; the Willows Watered by Streams.
But not to pass away from our subject, come, let us take in our hands and examine this psalm, which the pure and stainless souls sing to God, saying: [2617] "By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof," clearly giving the name of harps to their bodies which they hung upon the branches of chastity, fastening them to the wood that they might not be snatched away and dragged along again by the stream of incontinence. For Babylon, which is interpreted "disturbance" or "confusion," signifies this life around which the water flows, while we sit in the midst of which the water flows round us, as long as we are in the world, the rivers of evil always beating upon us. Wherefore, also, we are always fearful, and we groan and cry with weeping to God, that our harps may not be snatched off by the waves of pleasure, and slip down from the tree of chastity. For everywhere the divine writings take the willow as the type of chastity, because, when its flower is steeped in water, if it be drunk, it extinguishes whatever kindles sensual desires and passions within us, until it entirely renders barren, and makes every inclination to the begetting of children without effect, as also Homer indicated, for this reason calling the willows destructive of fruit. [2618] And in Isaiah the righteous are said to "spring up as willows by the water courses." [2619] Surely, then, the shoot of virginity is raised to a great and glorious height, when the righteous, and he to whom it is given to preserve it and to cultivate it, bedewing it with wisdom, is watered by the gentlest streams of Christ. For as it is the nature of this tree to bud and grow through water, so it is the nature of virginity to blossom and grow to maturity when enriched by words, so that one can hang his body [2620] upon it.


[2616] "By the waters of Babylon," etc. [He passes to the next psalm.]

[2617] Psalm 137:1, 2.[[Here is a transition to Psalm 137. which has been the source of a confusion in the former chapter. This psalm is not Eucharistic, but penitential.]

[2618] Odyss. K'. 510.

[2619] Isaiah 44:4.

[2620] organon. The word used for harp above, and here employed with a double meaning. ["Body" here = "man"'s physical system.]

chapter ii the protection of chastity
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