June 9, 2012
Welcome to the Saturday meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Visit her to read other bloggers’ moments of pause with the Lord.
The weather this week has been a merciful respite from unseasonable heat and has allowed the veggies to proliferate. The one zucchini bit the dust and the other is limping along, but the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are forming nicely.
I’m always excited to see what the Lord will do for us in the garden and He has not disappointed us. We’ve already harvested some cherry tomatoes and will have lots more ripening soon. It’s such fun to see what comes from little starter plants. Also, I’ve put zucchini seeds in four little planters to see if they will come up. It doesn’t seem right to give up on a type of vegetable that we enjoy on our table. It occurs to me that the Lord is always seeding grace in us, tending us carefully until we start a prosperous growth. But if we ignore His work, He will pull us up and throw us in the burn pile just like I did with the unfruitful zucchini. Something to think about, no?
The ninth degree of humility
We’re nearing the end of St. Benedict’s series on the degrees of humility. Today in speaking of the ninth degree he writes in the Holy Rule:
The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for Scripture warns, “In a flood or words you will not avoid sinning” (Prov. 10:18) and, “A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth” (Ps. 139:12).
One of the signs of a healthy spiritual life in a monastery and even in families, is a healthy amount of quiet time. Father Gerard Ellspermann comments:
“Controlling the tongue” is easy for an oblate to understand as a requisite of virtue. “Not speaking unless spoken to” seems foreign to an oblate’s manner of life in a busy work-a-day world. The connection between the two ideas must be the need, the absolute need, of speaking rightly. St. James comes to mind. “If a man who does not control his tongue imagine that he is devout, he is self-deceived; his worship is pointless” (1:26). Elsewhere in his letter, St. James says, “All of us fall short in many respects. If a person is without fault in speech, he is a man in the fullest sense, because he can control his entire body” (3:2).
Wow. Controlling the tongue – or the fingers on the keyboard today – is very hard. It seems to me that many people give into the impulse to flap their lips on just about everything, and when I was a lot younger I was much like that. St. James has it right, though. If we are busy making noise we can’t be devout because we’re not listening to God if we’re talking. We’re not building a good relationship with Him if we feel we must spend our time having a say on everything. And many times, we’re destroying our relationships with others, too.
Father Ellspermann continues:
St. Benedict must have considered this control of the tongue extremely important. In fact, the 9th, 10th, and 11th degrees of humility center around control of the tongue, by means of silence, gravity, and reserve. Since St. Benedict has devoted three steps to voice and language, it seems that he wanted to stress the importance of the right use of them.
Generally, the want of silence is a mark of vanity or pride. One who “runs off at the mouth” seeks to attract attention, to make himself the center of the conversation by concentrating on his own cleverness. At least, there is the danger of doing so.
It seems that we might do well to ask ourselves when we want to speak, “Is this really necessary? Will the listeners benefit in their bodies and/or their souls from my utterances? Would it be more prudent for me to be quiet?”
Controlling our tongues is really, for some of us, heroic discipline. I have used this question to myself, “In the light of eternity, how important is it for me to say something?” If the answer is “not important”, then I know I should be quiet. The added benefit is that more than once this question has helped me avoid showing off my foolishness.
This post is linked to Saints and Scripture Sundays.
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