Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech."

We've made it almost halfway through Lent, and regular readers may have noticed that posting on this blog has been very sparse. This is more by accident than by design: I've simply been too occupied with prayer, schoolwork and preparations for regency (about which I'll write more later) to devote much time to blogging. Be that as it may, it also strikes me that this relative reticence serves a salutary purpose during Lent. At least some of the time I might otherwise have spent blogging has gone to additional prayer and spiritual reading, which has helped me to focus more fully on the themes of the season.

An important element of my Lenten practice this year has been a prayerful reading of The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which includes many valuable reflections on the need for economy of speech. For example, it is written of one of the Fathers, Abba Or, that he never "spoke without necessity." Sitting in his room, the same Abba Or told one of his disciples "never to let an irrelevant word come into this cell." Then there is the following account of a meeting between Theophilus, the Archbishop of Alexandria, and the desert monk Abba Pambo:
The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, "Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified." The old man said to them, "If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech."
I hope readers have been properly edified by my relative silence during Lent. Updates to this blog will likely continue to be fairly sparse for the remainder of the season, after which I post to write a bit more often. In closing, I'd like to propose that we all reflect on Abba Pambo's words. Do we edify others by our silence? (On the same token, we might also ask whether our speech is as edifying as it could be.) In a broader way, what role does silence play in our lives, particularly during Lent? AMDG.


At 3/18/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger alyse said...

this is a beautiful quote. i didn't even consider economy of speech as a lenten discipline. impressive.

At 3/18/2009 10:52 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Beautiful wisdom from the desert. Thank you. I read somewhere - I do not now recall where - that if our words will not add to the silence then we should say nothing.

Peace, Mike

At 3/19/2009 12:57 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I read that section recently (having also been traveling Lent with the desert fathers...).

It reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ's poem - Habit of Perfection

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders
Which only makes you eloquent.


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