Sunday, 26 May 2013

Elder Ephraim of Arizona - On Silence, Idle Talk, and Boldness

Elder Ephraim of Arizona(Philotheou ,Athos) 
Chapter Nine.

Compel yourself in silence, the mother of all godly virtues. Keep silent in order to say the prayer. For when one speaks, how is it possible to avoid idle talk, which gives rise to every evil word, which weighs the soul down with blame? At your work, flee conversation; only speak in moderation when necessary. Let the hands work for the needs of the body, and let the nous say the sweetest name of Christ, so that the need of the soul, which we must not forget even for a moment, will also be provided for.

2. Do not grieve for me, my child, but struggle ardently. Struggle in silence, prayer, and mourning, and you will find the elements of eternal life. Compel yourself; close your mouth both in joy and in mourning. This is a mark of experience, so that both states are kept safely. For the mouth does not know how to guard riches. Silence is the greatest and most fruitful virtue; for this reason the God-bearing Fathers called it sinlessness. Silence and stillness, one and the same thing. The first divine fruit of silence is mourning—godly sorrow, joyful sadness. Afterwards come luminous thoughts, which bring the holy flow of life-streaming tears, through which the second baptism* occurs and by which the soul is purified, shines, and becomes like the angels. Where shall I place, child of Jesus, the spiritual visions springing forth from silence? How the eyes of the intellect are opened and see Jesus with sweetness greater than that of honey! What a novel wonder is worked from lawful silence and an attentive intellect! You know these things, so struggle. I have revealed a little to you; compel yourself and you will find yet greater. I keep you in my prayers just as I promised you. I wonder, are you ready?
*The Holy Fathers speak of four “baptisms”: (1 ) the Mystery of Baptism; (2 ) the baptism of tears of repentance; (3 ) the baptism of tonsure into the monastic schema; and (4 ) the baptism of blood, i.e., martyrdom.

3. Do not speak unnecessary words, my child, for they chill your soul’s divine zeal. Love silence, which gives birth to all virtues and fences in the soul so that the devil’s evil does not approach it. “Better to fall from a height than with the tongue”. The tongue does the greatest harm to man.

4. Salvation is not gained when we speak idly or when we pass our days without keeping accounts. Be careful with your tongue and your thoughts, for guarding them fills the soul with the light of God. But he whose mouth is unbridled deposits various impurities in his soul.

5. Flee from idle words and laughter if you want your prayer to have boldness through tears and grace! Constantly say the prayer intensely, with zeal, with longing; only thus does one become strong in soul. Avoid idle words at all costs, for they weaken the soul and then it does not have the strength to struggle. This is no time for daydreaming, but a season for spiritual profit. Who can guarantee that after going to sleep, we shall wake up? Therefore, let us compel ourselves.

6. When one keeps silent, he is given time and freedom for prayer and concentration; but when he passes his hour carelessly, he does not have time to pray. Furthermore, through his careless speech he accumulates various sins. For this reason the Holy Fathers placed the virtue of silence at the summit of the virtues, for without it no virtue is able to remain in the soul of man.

7. Always be prudent in your words; that is, first think and then speak; do not let your tongue run ahead before you think what you have to say. Do not become bold in talking much, my child; many are the evils from this evil boldness. Flee from it as from fire or a viper!

8. Guard yourself from boldness in talking and untimely words; they dry up the soul of man. Silence, meekness, and the prayer, on the other hand, fill the soul with heavenly dew, with mourning full of sweetness. Despise idle talk as the mother of coldness and dryness*, for idle talk drives the tears away from our eyes; that is, it takes them away from us and our soul withers.

9. My child, have patience, humility, and love, and guard your tongue, for when it defeats a person, it becomes an irrepressible evil for him, sweeping away also other people in its course and casting them down into the abysses of sin. Yes, my child, you must guard your mouth so that your heart may be kept pure. And when it stays pure, God comes and dwells in it, and then it becomes a temple of God. The holy angels rejoice to be in such a heart! Likewise, drive away filthy thoughts with anger and the prayer; the prayer is a fire that burns and expels the demons.

10. Be careful with your mouth, but primarily with your mind; do not let evil thoughts start talking with you. Do not let your mouth say words that could perhaps wound your brother. Let your mouth put forth words which are fragrant: words of consolation, courage, and hope. It is a person’s mouth that reveals his interior, his inner man.

11. Struggle, my child, as much as you can to become forceful—force yourself in everything, especially in silence and in mournful tears. When silence is practiced with knowledge and maintained with tears, the foundation stone of monasticism is set, on which the secure house will be built wherein the soul will find spiritual warmth and comfort. It is a bad omen for the soul’s future if silence is not kept, since one who is not silent scatters whatever he gathers; for a monk who is free with his mouth will be disorderly in everything. When we are silent, we have the time for interior prayer, which brings full assurance, and the time for luminous thoughts, which fill the intellect and heart with light. Therefore, my child, compel yourself in everything, for the good beginning is praised, but the negligent beginning is censured, for its end is most lamentable.

12. We have so much material offered by the devil, the world, and our carelessness to talk about idly, so many events and stories that are taking place and will take place, that we have plenty to occupy ourselves with; while “the one thing needful”, to approach God through prayer, we have laid aside. Our need for this spiritual turning to God is so urgent that nothing else should preoccupy us other than how to be close to God by means of prayer and holy thoughts, which also greatly help us achieve this goal.

Taken from the book "Counsels from the Holy Mountain" By Elder Ephraim of Arizona+Philotheou(Mt.Athos)

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