St. John of Sinai
On Talkativeness and Silence
Newly translated from the Greek
2. Talkativeness is a seat of
vainglory, upon which it displays itself and proclaims its own fame.
3. Silence in knowledge is the
mother of prayer, a recall from captivity, a tower of protection, an
overseeing of thoughts, a watch of combats, a binding of mourning, a
friend of tears, an energetic remembrance of death, a depicter of
perdition, ...of outspokenness an adversary, of stillness a spouse, an
opponent of the love of teaching, a multiplying of knowledge, a creator
of contemplative insight, hidden progress, secret ascent.
4. One who knows his faults has
controlled his tongue, but the talkative has not known himself deeply as
The friend of silence draws near to God and conversing secretly is
illuminated by God. The silence of Jesus turned Pilate to respect. A man
of stillness brings to condemnation the voice of empty-glory.
5. Having spoken, Peter wept
bitterly. He forget the one who said, "I said I would guard my way,
that I might not sin with my tongue.' and another who said, "Better
to fall from a height to the earth than from a slip of the tongue."
6. I do not wish to write much
about this, for all that the passions urge me on. But I heard once
concerning stillness that talkativeness arises from one of these causes.
Either from a disordered, dissolute and evil habit - since the tongue is
a member of the body like any other and thus needs training to develop
skill - or from vanity and empty-glory, or out of gluttony. For this
reason, often when we tighten the belly with some strictness we gain
some control of the tongue.
7. He who rememberers his
departure cuts back on chatter. And one formed in spiritual mourning
destroys chatter as with fire.
8. The lover of stillness closes
firmly his mouth, but the one who enjoys going out is driven from his
cell by the passions.
9. He who knows the scent of the
fire from on high flees from the gathering of humanity as the bee from
smoke. For as the smoke oppresses the one, so human gatherings oppose
10 Few indeed can hold water
without a dike; Fewer can take control of the mouth. This is the
eleventh step. Whoever has conquered it has cut off a multitude of evils
in a single stroke.