The talkative man is not stable on the earth
Thi phrase is from the extensive treatment of humility by St. Benedict. Chapter seven, the reading for this past Monday, June 7 was:
The ninth degree of humility
is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence,
not speaking until he is questioned.
For the Scripture shows
that “in much speaking there is no escape from sin” (Prov. 10:19)
and that “the talkative man is not stable on the earth” (Ps. 139:12).
When I read it last Monday morning, the words echoed in my mind and have not left.
Augmented and amplified by its antecedent: “in much speaking there is no escape from sin.”
St. Benedict, father of monasticism, lived in the fifth century. Like all Oblates of St. Benedict, I have vowed to follow his rule written for us “ordinary people.” Just so, I read a portion each day.
One would presume-wrongly, obviously,
that we humans had better control of our tongues back in the ancient days, would we not? However, just a moment of reflection reveals where it began, right? During the prelapsarian (great word, isn’t it?) time in the Garden of Eden, there was no need for words, just the echoes of eden.
The divine silence broken by …”and he said to the woman: ‘Did God really say, You must not eat…?””
Excuse the non-sequitor, back to Benedict.
As a young, wealthy nobleman, Benedict was sent to Rome to study, but recoiled from the depravity and licentiousness he found in the great city of Rome, circa 500 AD. When he fled to Enfide, most likely, he had no intention of becoming a monk or of writing prescriptions for living life, for ordinary people in search of peace. One that would be called, The Rule of St. Benedict.
Let us do what the Prophet says:
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth.’
I was mute and was humbled,
and kept silence even from good things” (Ps. 38:2-3).
Here the Prophet shows
that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times
to refrain even from good speech,
so much the more ought the punishment for sin
make us avoid evil words.
‘Sinning with my tongue’- or in these days of the lure of tweets,Face Book and the thousands of other ways to opine- with my written word…isn’t that a bit over the top?
A little too binding?
Why is Benedict so emphatic about the dire need for silence? About the risk of giving free reign to our thoughts?
Brother Jerome Leo is a Benedictine monk who pens daily online reflections on the daily readings of the Rule. The monk’s meditation on the reading from the rule emanates from years of work-the hardest work of all: taming that pesky ruler: our ego.
Here’s Brother Jerome Leo’s hard- won wisdom on these questions:
We don’t want our focus
scattered, because our work is to be looking at the very unlovely things
in our deepest self that distraction helps us deny or ignore. We have a
lifelong self-scrutiny and that requires a lot of dumping the stuff people
generally employ to avoid such truthful self-confrontation.
Even boredom- another reason we add noise- can be trotted out under
its old monastic name of “accidie” and teach us lots. In the desert of
boredom, one can confront the lackluster self! No wonder we don’t like it!
An old/ new resolution: the next time I feel compelled to jump in with my opinion or give advice, recall why the Oracle at Delphi considered Socrates the wisest man who ever lived:
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Socrates is often accused of sophistry because of remarks like this one.But is it?