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Step 11

ON SILENCE.

1. I have briefly pointed out in the preceding degree, how dangerous a thing it is, and how easily it glides into the souls of those who seem pious, to judge others, or what is equivalent, to expose ourselves to be judged by God, and to be punished by Him most severely for the intemperance of the tongue. It is now our duty, according to the order and sequence of our discourse, to examine the cause of this vice, and the gate by which it enters our souls, or rather the gate by which it takes its departure.

2. The intemperance of the tongue is the throne in which vanity is accustomed to display herself with much pomp and ostentation. An ungoverned tongue betokens ignorance, and opens the door to detraction. It is the parent of raillery; the workshop of falsehood; the ruin of compunction. It introduces weariness and tepidity. It is the harbinger of sleepiness, and the dissipated enemy of meditation. It is the deadly foe of interior recollection; the extinguisher of spiritual fervour, and the curtain which shuts out the Holy Spirit in the time of prayer.

3. Silence, on the contrary, when accompanied by knowledge and wisdom, is the parent of prayer. It is the deliverance of the soul from captivity; the preservation of the divine fire which is enkindled in the soul; the vigilant guardian of our thoughts; the sentinel who gives us timely notice of the enemy. Silence is an interior prison, into which we enter in spirit, that we may there bewail our transgressions. It is the friend of penitential tears; the kind monitor who reminds us of death. Silence is a picture of the mind, which represents in most glowing colours, the torments of hell. It is a prudent and diligent observer of the divine and eternal judgments, and the faithful coadjutor of the salutary grief of penance. Silence is the foe of presumptuous confidence; the inseparable companion of tranquillity of mind; the adversary of the ambitious desires to instruct others. It is the fuel of the heavenly light which shines in the soul; the help-mate of contemplation; the invisible staff by which we advance in virtue; the secret elevation of the soul to God.

4. He who has a true knowledge of his faults, will repress the intemperance of the tongue. But he who is loquacious, knows himself not as he might.

5. The friend of silence draws near to God, and entering secretly into a holy familiarity of Him, is enlightened by His divine light.

6. The silence of the Son of God obtained respect even from Pilate. The silence of the pious Christian frees him from the temptations of vainglory.

7. St. Peter wept very bitterly for having spoken, and for having forgotten that sentence of Holy Scripture: “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue;”1 and likewise the counsel of the wise man: “The slipping of a false tongue is as one that falleth on the pavement; so the fall of the wicked shall come speedily.”2

8. But I do not wish to treat of this subject more at length, although the artful malignity of our propensity to talkativeness, is a strong inducement. I will only mention that which was told me by a person with whom I conversed upon silence, that the intemperance of the tongue always proceeds from one of these causes, -- from a too great freedom in conversation, or from an inveterate habit (for the free use of the tongue, like the use of the other members of the body, becomes a second nature), or frequently from vanity, in those who are still struggling with their passions, or, and this not seldom, from gluttony. It has often happened, however, that many giving full rein to their appetite, have also, at the same time, given full play to their tongue, in their eagerness to swallow down the good things of the table; thus by the weakness they have brought upon the body, and by the full employment they have found the tongue, they have closed the door to much speaking.

9. He who reflects upon death, has already cut short this evil habit of talkativeness; and he who has received the gift of inward and spiritual tears, shuns it as he would fire.

10. He who loves solitude loves silence. But he who is fond of being abroad, wanders from cell to cell through his desire of speaking to every body.

11. He who has once been regaled with the perfumes diffused through his soul by the flames of divine love, flies from conversation as bees flee from smoke. For as smoke is most hurtful to bees, so is the conversation of men disagreeable and irksome to those who love solitude.

12. It is difficult to stem a stream of water, unless we raise a mound or bank in front of it; but it is still more difficult to stop the garrulity of the tongue, if we do not put upon it the curb chain, which brings it into subjection.

He who by a noble victory has conquered the eleventh step has eradicated, together with this one vice of much talking, the roots of many others.


  1. Ps. xxxviii. 1.

  2. Eccles. xx. 20.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
USA
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