Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
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Cornelius a Lapide
Wherefore I say unto you, &c. For your life, Vulg, anima, "for your soul." For it has need of food, not strictly speaking, but that it may be kept in the body, and animate the body. And again, in the soul resides all sense of food, all taste of and pleasure in it. For the soul, i.e, for the life, as S. Augustine says, because the soul is the cause of life.
For, take no thought, the Greek has Î¼Î·Ì€ Î¼ÎµÏÎ¹Î¼Î½Î±ÌƒÏ„Îµ, take no anxious thought, lest, through care, ye be troubled with anxiety and distress; for the desire of gathering wealth divides the mind, and distracts it with various cogitations, cares, and anxieties, and as it were cuts it in twain. Christ, then, does not forbid provident diligence and labour in procuring the necessaries of life for ourselves and those who belong to us, as the Euchitæ maintained, who wished to pray always without working, against whom S. Augustine wrote a book, On the Work of Monks. But Christ forbids anxious, untimely, fearful solicitude, care that distrusts God, a heart grovelling in the earth, and distracted from the service of God.
And in order that He may remove it from us, He gives us seven reasons or arguments against it. The1st is in this verse in the words which immediately follow; this reason is from the care which God has of our bodies. The2nd reason is drawn from the birds, for whom God cares and whom He feeds. The3rd, in ver27 , from the uselessness of all our care without God. The4th, in ver28 , from the lilies and the grass, which God clothes and adorns5th, in ver31 , because such a care is fit only for pagans, not for Christians6th, in ver32 , because God knows all things, and it pertains to His providence to provide us sustenance, that He should add food to those who seek the kingdom of God. The7th, ver34 , because sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So many arguments does Christ use, because by far the greater part of mankind labour under this undue anxiety about providing food and raiment for themselves and their families, which is a great misery, and more than asinine toil.
Is not the life, &c. This is the first reason drawn from a minor to a major probability, as though He said, "God who gave us our souls and bodies, yea, created them out of nothing, and who continually, as it were, recreates them, He surely will give those things which are less, as food and clothes, without which the body cannot subsist. As S. Chrysostom says, "When God is our Feeder, there is no need to be anxious, for "the rich have wanted, and suffered hunger, but they that seek after the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good."" (Ps. xxxiv. Vulg.)
Behold the fowls of the air, &c. Are ye not much better than they? Gr. Î¼Î±ÌƒÎ»Î»Î¿Î½ Î´Î¹Î±Ï†ÎÏÎµÏ„Îµ Î±Ï…Ì‰Ï„Ï‰ÌƒÎ½. Are ye not very different from them? This is the second argument. If God feeds the irrational birds, who are not anxious about their living, and gives them corn and food which they have not laboured for, how much more will He feed you, who are reasoning men, created after His Image, you who are His sons and heirs, and redeemed with the Blood of Christ. He compares men not to the oxen of the earth, but to the birds of heaven, to teach them that they ought to be heavenly, and be like birds, and fly away in spirit from earth to heaven, and expect from God necessary food both for their souls and bodies. For the birds are contented with provision for the day, and are not anxious about to-morrow, but rest calmly on Gods providence, and give up their leisure time to flight and song. "Christ," says S. Chrysostom, "might have brought forward the examples of Moses, Elias, John , who were not anxious about their food, but He preferred to take the irrational birds, that He might the more deeply impress His hearers." For why cannot men do what birds do? Why should men be anxious when birds are not?
S. Francis had a wonderful delight in birds, especially in larks, and used to invite them to sing the praises of God. So a little after his death, some larks came and assisted at his funeral. In a vast multitude they flew to the roof of the house in which his body lay, and circling around it with gladness more than common, they celebrated the praise and glory of the Saint. He was accustomed to compare the brethren of his Order to larks, and to exhort them to imitate them. "For the lark," he said, "has a crest like a cap. So also the Friars minor wear a cowl, or hood, to put them in mind that they ought to imitate the humility and innocence of boys, who hide their faces in their caps2. The lark is of an ashen colour, and the frock of the brethren is of an ashen grey, to put them in mind of the saying of God to the first-formed Prayer of Manasseh , "Remember that thou art dust, or ashes, and unto ashes thou shalt return." 3. Larks live in poverty without anxiety, they pluck the grains which the earth affords; so also the brethren profess poverty; they live by begging, without care, placing their hope of a harvest in the providence of God and the charity of the faithful4. Larks, as soon as they have found a grain and eaten it, are borne by a direct flight aloft towards heaven, that they may shun the eyes of beholders, singing as they fly, and returning thanks to God, the Parent and Nourisher of all creatures. The brethren do the same, "for man hath eaten angels" food," i.e, bread asked of alms. And the angels incite those who are rich to give the brethren bread when they beg. Lastly, larks are called in Latin, alaud, from laus, praise, because they praise God by their constant songs. So also the brethren despise earthly things, and seek for heavenly, because they are strangers on earth, and citizens of heaven, and they know they have been called by God for this object, that they may praise Him perpetually with psalmody, by preaching and by a holy life. (See Luke Wadding, in Annal. Minor. A. C1226 , Numbers 39 et alii.) Listen to S. Ambrose (Serm. in c1. Malachi): "The birds," he says, "give thanks for worthless food, wilt thou banquet on the most precious feasts and be ungrateful? Who then that has the feeling of a man should not blush to close the day without the singing of Psalm , when the birds themselves manifest their exceeding gladness by the melody of their hymns? And who would not sound His praises in spiritual Song of Solomon , whose praises the birds pronounce with their modulated notes? Imitate, then, my brother, the tiny birds by giving thanks to thy Creator every morning and evening. And if thou hast greater devotion, then imitate the nightingale for whom the day is not long enough to sing praise, but makes sweet the night watches by her melody. So do thou, passing the day in giving thanks and praise, add to this employment the hours of the night."
Which of you by taking thought, Gr. Î¼ÎµÏÎ¹Î¼Î½Ï‰ÌƒÎ½, i.e, being solicitous, anxiously thoughtful, or careful. This is Christ"s third argument against cares. "If the thought and solicitude and labour be utterly vain, by which a man would wish to devise some plan whereby he might add one cubit to his stature, so that he should be higher or taller, yea though he should cogitate for a thousand years, and torment himself by devising plans, he would never accomplish it; how much more vain is that anxious care by which men strive to prolong life by anxiety and their own pains. For as it is the office of God alone to increase the body which He has created, and make it attain its proper stature, so much more is it His by His fatherly providence, to preserve and lengthen out to its appointed end the life which he has given, and supply it with necessary food."
Euthymius here takes notice that a cubit is spoken of because a cubit is the proper measurement for a man"s height. For every properly proportioned man is four cubits in height, and four in width; that Isaiah , when his arms are extended from his shoulders. This extension of the arms is the measure of every man"s stature. And thus man is found to be four-square, that is to say, as broad as he is long; to teach him to be four-sided and solid in constancy and virtue.