Friday, July 24, 2009

RB, Chapter 6. Restraint of Speech

1Let us follow the Prophet’s counsel: I said, I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue. I have put a guard on my mouth. I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words (Ps 38[39]:2–3).
2Here the Prophet indicates that there are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. For all the more reason, then, should evil speech be curbed so that punishment for sin may be avoided. 3Indeed, so important is silence that permission to speak should seldom be granted even to mature disciples, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk, 4because it is written: In a flood of words you will not avoid sin (Prov 10:19); 5and elsewhere, The tongue holds the key to life and death (Prov 18:21).
6Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen. 7Therefore, any requests to a superior should be made with all humility and respectful submission. 8We absolutely condemn in all places any vulgarity and gossip and talk leading to laughter, and we do not permit a disciple to engage in words of that kind.

Now we begin to speak of silence. Silence is one of the very most important values a monk should have when he lives according to the Rule of Benedict. There are many stories about silence from the early monks. Most of all we must recognize that it is not easy to keep external silence and even more difficult to keep internal silence.

External silence is achieved by not talking. That sounds easy enough, but anyone who has tried to be silent externally for any length of time knows how difficult it is.
And even more difficult is to speak when we should with peace and love. If we only had the obligation of not speaking, it would be easier! Instead we must learn to be silent unless speech is really necessary. Then we must speak and return to silence.

Inner silence is the practice of always being at peace so that our words, when we do speak, come from the peace and tranquility of inner silence. Most of us can recognize when a person is being silence but resentful, silent but angry, silent but rigid and un-accepting. This is external silence without internal silence.
Most of us can also recognize when a person is silent and loving, silent and accepting, silent and at peace. This is what we need to strive for in our monastic lives.
Why silence? Always it is for the sake of listening to the Lord, living in the Kingdom, knowing that this silent listening is of more value than any words.

As we begin monastic life, we must take up this discipline. At first it seems entirely unnatural and even unacceptable. As we begin to live in silence, we come to understand its value in opening the reality of God to us, in ourselves, in one another and in all of creation.
May each of us learn to practice silence daily, even when it is difficult, so that together we create a monastery of silence, love and peace.

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