Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Four: St. Ambrose tells us to keep silent until the right moment

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Four: St. Ambrose tells us to keep silent until the right moment December 12, 2014

saint_ambrose_3Keep silent until the right moment

St. Ambrose, one of the great thinkers in Christian history, weighed his words carefully. When we run the risk of being judged by our words, he says, silence is better than speaking.

Now what should we learn before everything else? To be silent, so that we may be able to speak. Otherwise my voice may condemn me before that of another acquits me; for it is written, “by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

Why should you rush to risk condemnation by speaking, then, when you can be safer by keeping silent? How many have I seen to fall into sin by speaking, but scarcely one by keeping silent; and so it is more difficult to know how to keep silent than how to speak.

I know that most people speak because they do not know how to keep silent. It is seldom that anyone is silent even when speaking profits him nothing. Whoever knows how to keep silent, then, is wise.

Finally, the Wisdom of God said, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know when it is good to speak” (Isaiah 50:4, Septuagint). We are right to call someone wise, then, who has received from the Lord the power to know when he ought to speak. Thus the Scripture says well, “A wise man will be silent until the right moment” (Sirach 20:7).

St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 1.1


Do I talk too much?

Even if I don’t think I talk too much, are there times when I might grasp the opportu­nity to be silent?


Lord, teach me to find you in silence, so that I may not be condemned by the words of my mouth.

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