Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


48 Entries

When we judge our brother, we censure ourselves in a great sin. When therefore, we shield our brother, God will also shield us from great sins. When we uncover our brother, we drive off the grace of God from over us and we are given over to fall into the same things, so that we learn that we are all weak and the grace of God carries us. Whoever guards his tongue, that one guards his soul from great sins and falls. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

3. My child, do not speak unnecessary words, for these chill your souls divine zeal. Love silence, which gives birth to all virtues and fences in the soul so that the evil of the devil does not touch her. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

"Better to fall from a height than by the tongue." The tongue does the greatest evil to men. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

7. Always be prudent in your words; that is, think; afterwards speak; your tongue should not run before you think what you must say. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

Do not grow bold, my child, in outspokenness; many are the evils from this evil boldness -- flee from this, as from fire or from a viper! REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

8. Be attentive to guard yourself from boldness and untimely words; these dry up the soul of a man, while, on the other hand, silence, meekness and prayer fill the soul with heavenly dew, with a mourning full of sweetness. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

Yes, my child, your mouth must have a guard, in order for your heart to be guarded pure; and when it stays pure, then God comes and dwells in it and then it becomes a temple of God, and the holy angels rejoice to be found in such a heart! REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

10. Be attentive to your mouth, and firstly to your mind; do not let evil thoughts start conversation for you. Let not your mouth say words which will possibly wound your brother. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

Let your mouth put forth words that are fragrant, words of consolation, courage and hope. From what the mouth says, the interior of a man is seen -- the inner man. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

'So also the tongue is indeed a small member and exalts great things' (Jas. 3:5). Certainly it exalts great rewards if the action of the mind at the helm directs it well, according to that saying of Solomon that, 'The understanding person shall take the rudder,' but if [the mind directs the tongue] badly on the other hand, it exalts great evils of destruction for itself and its connections. So Solomon also says, 'Death and life are in the hands of the tongue.' It exalts life, therefore, if it teaches the church well, death on the contrary if it behaves perversely, for it is opposed to those who, destitute of both life and knowledge, presumed to teach and thereby did greater harm to the church. The Venerable Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles

...beware in general, of listening to any words and speeches which may harm your soul, not the least of which is flattery and the praise of flatterers... Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 24) is not the continual remembrance of God that I would hinder, but only the talking about God; not even that as in itself wrong, but only when seasonable; nor all teaching, but only want of moderation. St. Gregory Nazianzen (First Theological Oration no. 5)

...unless questioned by the brethren the fathers said nothing that might contribute to the soul's salvation; they regarded unsolicited advice as vain chatter. This is quite right; for it is because we think that we know more than others that we speak unbidden." St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 186)

A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is, he says nothing that is not profitable. St. Cyprian

Abba John Cassian related with regard to another old man living in the desert, that he had asked God to grant him never to become sleepy during a spiritual conference, but, if someone uttered slanderous or useless words, to be able to go to sleep at once, so that his ears should never be touched by that poison. This old man also said that the devil, enemy of all spiritual instruction, works hard to provoke useless words.

He used the following example, "Once when I was talking to some brothers on a helpful topic, they were overcome by sleep so deep, that they could not even move their eyelids any longer. Then, wishing to show them the power of the devil, I introduced a trivial subject of conversation. Immediately, they woke up, full of joy. Then I said to them with many sighs, ‘Until now, we were discussing heavenly things and your eyes were heavy with sleep, but when I embarked on a useless discourse, you all woke up with alacrity. Therefore, brothers, I implore you to recognize the power of the evil demon; pay attention to yourselves, and guard yourselves from the desire to sleep when you are doing or listening to something spiritual.’" The Desert Fathers

Beware of speaking in a severe or superior manner; for both are highly disagreeable and make people suspect you of great vanity and a high opinion of yourself. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Do not prolong your conversation with a man, who is not listening to you with a good heart, lest you weary him and make yourself abhorrent... Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Empty talk is the door to criticism and slander, the spreader of false rumors and opinions, the sower of discord and strife. It stifles the taste for mental work and practically always serves as a cover for the absence of sound knowledge. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Empty talk...distracts one's attention out of oneself, leaving the heart unprotected. Then the usual passionate interests and desires begin to steal into it, at times with such success that at the end of such empty talk the heart has not only consented, but has decided to commit passionate deeds. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile I Peter 3:10

From much speaking proceeds the destruction of the virtues, the laying waste of silence, and other dishonorable passions. He who is silent is fearful to demons, because they do not see the secrets of the heart among those who are perfect when they do not speak with the lips. But he who loves much talking will not escape sin. If one were to place on one side of the scale all the works of sinful life and on the other side silence, we will find that silence outweighs them. St. Paisius Velichkovsky, Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. IV

Give no ear to the slanderer's talk nor let your talk run on in the fault-finder's hearing, by readily speaking and listening to things against your neighbor; otherwise you will fall from divine charity [love] and be found a foreigner to eternal life. St. Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries on Charity

He who has become aware of his sins has controlled his tongue, but a talkative person has not yet come to know himself as he should. St. John Climacus

If Moses, who was a god to Pharaoh, was shut out from the Land of Promise because of one word, how much more will not the evil speech of our tongue, by which we offend and hurt both God and man, shut us out from heaven? St. Ephrem the Syrian

If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. James 3:2

If the mind is strengthened with the strength that it received from the Spirit, first it is purified and sanctified, and learns discrimination in the words that it delivers to the tongue, that they may be without partiality and without self-will, and so the saying of Solomon is fulfilled, `My words are spoken from God, there is nothing froward (Cf. Prov. 8:8) And in another place he says, `The tongue of the wise is healing' (Prov. 12:18), and much besides. St. Anthony the Great

If you are praised, be silent. If you are scolded, be silent. If you incur losses, be silent. If you receive profit, be silent. If you are satiated, be silent. If you are hungry, also be silent. And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will appear; and what energy! St. Symeon the New Theologian

In general, loquacity opens the doors of the soul, and the devout warmth of the heart at once escapes. Empty talk does the same, but even more so…Empty talk is the door to criticism and slander, the spreader of false rumors and opinions, the sower of discord and strife. It stifles the taste for mental work and almost always serves as a cover for the absence of sound knowledge… Bishop Theophan the Recluse

Intelligent men should not listen to all kinds of conversation, but only to those which are profitable and lead to understanding of God's will; for His will is the way by which men return once more to life and eternal light. St. Antony the Great(170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 24)

Loquacity mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Many abstain from meat, milk and other food which God has not forbidden and which was even given as a blessing of people who have learned the truth and know how to partake of these things with thanksgiving (I Tim. 4:34). But the same abstemious, devout-living people, give scandal by their action, and spread scandal with their tongue like an incendiary fire. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Nothing so readily obliterates virtue as frivolous talk and making fun of things. On the other hand, nothing so readily renews the decrepit soul, and enables it to approach the Lord, as fear of God, attentiveness, constant meditation on the words of Scripture, the arming of oneself with prayer, and spiritual progress through the keeping of vigils. St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309

On day a brother came to Abba John's (the Dwarf) cell. It was late and he was in a hurry to leave. While they were speaking of the virtues, dawn came without their noticing it. Abba John came out with him to see him off, and they went on talking until the sixth hour. Then he made him go in again after they had eaten, he sent him away. Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 89-95

One of the fathers used to say that some old men were sitting one day and talking of what was useful to the soul. One of them had the gift of vision, and he saw angels who were waving branches in honor of the old men, but when one of them began to speak of irrelevant things the angels withdrew, and some pigs walked amongst the old men bringing a bad smell and messing up everything. As soon as they began once again to speak of what was useful to the soul, the angels returned to do them honor. The Desert Fathers

One should not...question everyone, but only him who has been entrusted with the guidance of others, whose life shines, and who is himself 'poor, yet making many rich', according to the Gospels (2Cor. 6:10). Many inexperienced men have done harm to many unwise people. St. Gregory of Sinai (Instructions to Hesychasts no. 7)

Sear your loins by abstaining from food, and prove your heart by controlling your speech, and you will succeed in bringing the desiring and incensive powers of your soul into the service of what is noble and good. Ilias the Presbyter(Gnomic Anthology I no. 55)

Sometimes speech is taken from good teachers because of evil hearers. But sometimes speech is given even to evil teachers for the sake of good hearers. Yet sometimes speed is given to good teachers for the justification of teachers and hearers, so that they increase through merit and their hearers advance in understanding and life. Truly sometimes, because neither those to whom the preaching of doctrine is offered are worthy to receive it, nor those who hold the position of teacher to offer it, the speech of preaching is taken away so that each party is judged separately. St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

Speech is given to all sentient beings for use and, just as the value of different kinds of food varies, so does the profit of speech to the soul and the satisfaction derived therefrom. The word of teaching acts like a teacher who moulds the disposition of the soul; the word derived from reading is like 'still waters' which feed it; the word which comes from practice is like 'green pastures', rendering it more fertile; the word of grace is like a 'cup' which 'runneth over' (Ps. 23:2,5) quenching its thirst and making it glad; and the unspeakable joy of grace is like 'oil to make the face shine' (Ps. 104:15) which gladdens the heart and fills it with light. St. Gregory of Sinai (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 95)

The Fathers tell us that a man gains possession of the fear of God by keeping the thought of death before his mind and remembering eternal punishment, by examining himself each evening about how he has passed the day and each morning about how he has passed the night; by never giving rein to his tongue and by keeping in close and continual touch with a man possessed of the fear of God, as his spiritual director. St. Dorotheos and Gaza, Discourses & Sayings

The feelings which seek expression in words are mostly egotistical, since they seek to express what flatters our self-love and can show us, as we imagine, in the best light. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing. St. John Climacus (The Ladder of Divine Ascent: Step 8)

The gift of speech was also given to us that we might understand one another, not through instinct, like the dumb animals, but through intellect. Thus we verbally express our ideas, which are abundantly and clearly opened to us by our God-enlightened mind, the source of thought and word, in order that we might conduct intelligent, mutual, brotherly conversation on the aim of daily life and its regulation, for mutual edification and benefit, in support and consolation of each other, and the like. Abbess Thaisia, Letters to a Beginner

The mover of the tongue is the heart: what fills the heart is poured out through the tongue. And conversely, when feeling is poured out of the heart by the tongue, it becomes strengthened and firmly rooted in the heart. Therefore the tongue is one of the chief factors in building up our inner disposition. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Those who speak from their own thoughts, before having acquired purity, are seduced by the spirit of self-esteem. St. Gregory of Sinai (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 128)

We must also ponder how we speak. For often the words which recall this man to salvation wound another. thus also Paul the Apostle, who admonishes Titus saying, `Rebuke with all authority' (Tit. 2:15), exhorts Timothy with the words: `Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine' (2Tim. 4:22). Why is it that he enjoins authority on the one and patience on the other save that he perceived the one to be gentler and the other indeed more fervent of spirit? Severity of speech was to be joined to the gentle one through the encouragement of authority, but he who burned through the spirit was to be tempered by patience lest if he be kindled with excess rage he not lead wounded minds back to salvation but injure healthy ones. The Homilies of St. Gregory the Great on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Trans by Theodosia Gray

We should shun loose speech like an asp's venom...for it can plunge us into total forgetfulness of the inner struggle... St. Hesychios (Philokalia Vol. 1 pgs. 167-168)

What shall I say about dogs who have a natural instinct to show gratitude and to serve as watchful guardians of their master's safety? Hence Scripture cries out to the ungrateful, the slothful, and the craven: 'Dumb dogs, not able to bark.' To dogs, therefore, is given the ability to bark in defense of their masters and their homes. Thus you should learn to use your voice for the sake of Christ, when ravening wolves attack His sheepfold. Have the word ready on your lips, lest, like a silent watch dog, you may appear because of your unfaithfulness to abandon the post entrusted to you. St. Ambrose of Milan

When you meet a man who loves to argue and he starts a dispute with you against what is true and self-evident, break off this dispute and withdraw from him, since his mind is completely turned to stone. For as putrid water makes even the best wines undrinkable, so evil conversations corrupt men who are virtuous in life and disposition. St. Antony the Great(170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 44)

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