The Words We Speak

I have posted this Lenten hymn here before as it is one of my favorites for Lent. I especially like the third stanza:

More sparing therefore let us make
The words we speak, the food we take,
Our sleep and mirth,–and closer barred
Be ev’ry sense in closer guard.

My diet is already so limited by my baby’s needs that I can’t really spare any additional calories by foregoing food this Lent. However, the same cannot be said for the words that leave my mouth. A few weeks ago I read a quotation from a homily of St. Gregory of Nyssa that has stayed with me (even as I forget almost everything else) that we must, “not to converse with torrents of words and not to allow the words that spring to mind fall like hail, through speaking impetuously.”

Working in politics, it is very easy to see the perils of impetuous words. Many careers have ended in an instant.

But do I apply that same conscious restraint that one would use speaking before constituents or diplomats when correcting my own children or speaking with my husband?

Are my words like hail as St. Gregory cautions or are they like gentle rain, encouraging a child to make a good choice?

Am I thinking not only about what I am saying but how I am saying it?

Does my tone of voice (exasperation, frustration) instantly put someone of the defensive?

How often do I speak about myself instead of listening to others? How much of what I say is complaining?

Just something I am pondering the Lent. I hope you all are having a blessed Lent!

Hymn at Matins for the Office of Lent

The fast, as taught by holy lore,
We keep in solemn course once more,
The fast to all men known and bound
In forty days of yearly round.

The law and seers that were of old
In divers ways this Lent foretold,
Which Christ, all seasons’ King and guide,
In after ages sanctified.

More sparing therefore let us make
The words we speak, the food we take,
Our sleep and mirth,–and closer barred
Be ev’ry sense in closer guard.

Keep we from vilest thoughts apart
That undermine the restless heart,
And yield no ground in ghostly fight
With crafty fiends’ usurping might.

In prayer together let us fall,
And cry for mercy one and all,
And weep before the Judge’s feet,
And his avenging wrath entreat.

Thy grace have we offended sore,
By sins, O God, which we deplore;
But pour upon us from on high,
O pard’ning One, thy clemency.

Remember thou, though frail we be,
That yet thine handiwork are we;
Nor let the honor of thy Name
Be by another put to shame.

Forgive the sin that we have wrought,
Increase the good that we have sought,
That we at length, our wand’rings o’er,
May please thee here and evermore.

Grant, O thou Blessed Trinity,
Grant, O Essential Unity,
That this, our fast of forty days,
May work our profit and thy praise.Amen.

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  • Kellie “Red”

    Words are a big issue for me as I have a big mouth! I often lack charity when I speak, and frequently speak without thinking! Just last night I said something really uncharitable about a person, and it flew out of my mouth. By God’s grace Mr. Red called me out on it. I need to work on a softer tone. This is a great thing for me to be thinking about this Lent because I also cannot really make food sacrifices. My diet is always a limitation, so it is not a good for me to take out additional things.

  • Since you brought up the topic of difficulties with fasting during Lent…For those who have ever struggled with food and body-image issues, the Lenten sacrifice might be somewhat different: for example, fasting from artificial sweetener in favor of real sugar or honey might be a real sacrifice! Another example would be someone making sure that she eats all of what she has served herself (or been served), rather than eating half and throwing the rest away as she might normally be tempted to do.
    For you ladies who have so many dietary restrictions, the Lenten fasting sacrifice must be nuanced to fit your situation; in a similar way, those who have struggled with eating issues must prayerfully consider what their fasting will look like. One size certainly does not fit all!

  • maryalice

    Ash Wednesday fell after I had spend a week concerned about my milk supply, so I thought that I had better not fast. I really forced myself to stick with super healthy, simple foods. So, I had my greek yogurt without any jam or honey. For me, eating a real meal of whole foods rather than grabbing a handful of cookies as I dash out the door would take a lot of discipline and be much healthier.

  • Thanks for this, Tex. I recently asked a spiritual director for advice on how to speak with family and acquaintances about issues on which we disagree. Her advice? “Keep your mouth shut more often.” It is really hard, she admitted, but we need to insert our opinions less rather than more. Charitable silence and grace-filled actions speak a lot more than sharp retorts or contradictory responses. I appreciate your reflections so much.