“If anyone offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.”
+ James 3:2
“And a word in due season, how good is it!
+ Prov.15:23 (KJV)
A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A bitter word may hate instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill;
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day;
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
+ Author unknown
Page title & additional keywords:
EN: How we speak
Pondering Holy Scripture
(in English, Engels, EN)
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The poem on the previous panel, written by an anonymous author, comes from an unknown source, but how strikingly does it show the power of the word we speak. As the apostle James wrote: ‘If anyone offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.’ But it is obvious, that this perfection is beyond us -
‘A word in due season, how good is it!’ says one of the Proverbs, according to our translations from the Hebrew. But the Septuagint stresses here rather the negative side of the matter: (Prov.15:22) ‘Those that do not honour the counsels, place thoughts (logismoi) higher, but counsel remains in the hearts of those that take counsel. (23) A bad man will not obey it, nor will he say anything at the proper time, or anything good in general [or: for the common weal].” In other words, our words are rooted in our thoughts -
Not for nothing, therefore, do the Holy Fathers teach us, first of all to master our thoughts, and to direct ourselves to the divine perfection of the Lord.
On the next panels two words which, in very different ways, show something of the way in which the Saints are attentive to the word they speak -
In his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul teaches us where to direct our thoughts. And this, therefore, is the kind of thoughts that should also inspire our words:
... whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if something is a virtue, and if something is praise, think on these things. (Fil.4:8)
Now abba Isaac the Syrian says somewhere, that if a man would first ask himself if it would be profitable to open his mouth, in many cases he would choose to keep silent.
But say, that the word remains burning in us, can it then pass the test of Saint Paul’s word?
1) Most likely we are convinced, that what we wish to say or write is true, but is it also honourable to say it -
2) And, if so, though we may also consider our thought
3) If this is indeed the case, our word should also be lovely [that is, lovable] and of good report [or: fair-
4) And then, if our word does indeed have the character of Christ’s own word, it may indeed be able to give our fellow-
All the teaching of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers raises the question, how we ourselves could attain to such perfection. In this, especially the ascetic Fathers can teach us much (see, for example, the text ‘Living by a single thought’).
Moreover, they also show us that, ultimately, the perfect do not break their heads about what they should say, but they give themselves entirely to ‘acquiring the Holy Spirit’, as Saint Serafim of Sarov puts it.
In the same spirit Saint Silouan asked the above mentioned question to Father Stratonicos, who was a venerable and experienced monk. After some pondering that Father answered that he did not know this mystery, and he asked the Saint to answer the question himself. Upon which Saint Silouan said:
+ cf. “Saint Silouan the Athonite”
(GK, p.70; EN p.57; NL p.69).
But as long as we have not reached such a measure, and neither can be fully sure of our spiritual discernment, we will need the touchstone of Saint Paul. To prevent that we ourselves, limited as we are, would ascribe to the holy fire of the Spirit, that which in reality only springs from our own human fieriness -
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