TUESDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK
OF THE GREAT LENT
On Slander or Calumny.
1. No sensible person, I think, will dispute that slander is born of hatred and malice. Therefore it comes next in order after its forebears.
2. Slander is an offspring of hatred, a subtle yet coarse disease, a leech lurking unfelt, wasting and draining the blood of charity. It is simulation of love, the patron of a heavy and unclean heart, the ruin of chastity.
3. Some girls do wrong without shame, and there are others who secretly and with apparently great modesty behave still worse than the former; and it is the same with shameful passions. There are many insincere maidens, such as: hypocrisy, vice, melancholy, the remembrance of injuries, disparagement of others in one’s heart. They appear to propose one thing, but they have something else in view.
4. I have heard people slandering, and I have rebuked them. And these doers of evil replied in self-defence that they were doing so out of love and care for the person whom they were slandering. I said to them: “Stop that kind of love, otherwise you will be condemning as a liar him who said: ‘Him who secretly slanders his neighbour, him I drove away.’ If you say you love, then pray secretly, and do not mock the man. For this is the kind of love that is acceptable to the Lord. But I will not hide this from you (and of course think about it, and do not judge the offender): Judas was in the company of Christ’s disciples, and the Robber was in the company of murderers. And what a reversal when the crisis came!”
5. He who wants to overcome the spirit of slander, should not ascribe the blame to the person who falls, but to the demon who suggests it. For no one really wants to sin against God, even though we do all sin without being forced to do so.
6. I have known a man who sinned openly and repented secretly. I condemned him as a profligate, but he was chaste before God, having propitiated Him by a genuine conversion.
7. Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbour disparagingly, but rather say to him: “Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him?” In this way you will achieve two things: you will heal yourself and your neighbour with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
8. Fire and water are incompatible; and so is judging others in one who wants to repent. If you see someone falling into sin at the very moment of his death, even then do not judge him, because the Divine judgment is hidden from men. Some have fallen openly into great sins, but they have done greater good deeds in secret; so their critics were tricked, getting smoke instead of the sun.
9. Listen to me, listen, all you malicious reckoners of other men’s accounts! If it is true (as it really is true) that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged,” then whatever sins we blame our neighbour for, whether bodily or spiritual, we shall fall into them ourselves. That is certain.
10. Hasty and severe judges of the sins of their neighbour fall into this predicament because they have not yet attained to a thorough and constant remembrance and concern for their own sins. For if anyone could see his own vices accurately without the veil of self-love, he would worry about nothing else in this life, considering that he would not have time enough for mourning for himself even though he were to live a hundred years, and even though he were to see a whole river Jordan of tears streaming from his eyes. I have observed that mourning, and I did not find in it even a trace of calumny or criticism.
11. The demons, murderers as they are, push us into sin. Or if they fail to do this, they get us to pass judgment on those who are sinning, so that they may smear us with the stain which we ourselves are condemning in another.
12. This is one of the marks by which we can recognize malicious and slanderous people: they are plunged in the spirit of hatred, and with pleasure and without a qualm they slander the teaching or affairs or achievements of their neighbour.
13. I have seen some committing the gravest sins in secret and without exposure, and in their supposed purity they have harshly inveighed against persons who have had a petty fall in public.
14. To judge others is a shameless arrogation of the Divine prerogative; to condemn is the ruin of one’s soul.
15. Self-esteem without any other passion can ruin a man, and in the same way, if we have formed the habit of judging, we can be utterly ruined by this alone, for indeed the Pharisee was condemned for this very thing.
16. A good grape-picker, who eats the ripe grapes, will not start gathering unripe ones. A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of whatever virtues it sees in anyone. But a fool looks for faults and defects. And of such it is said: “They have searched out iniquity and expired in the search.”
17. Do not condemn, even if you see with your eyes, for they are often deceived.
The tenth ascent. He who has mastered it is one who practises love or mourning.
On Talkativeness and Silence.
1. In the preceding chapter we spoke briefly of how extremely dangerous it is to judge others and of how this vice steals into even the most apparently spiritual people; and how it is better to subject oneself to condemnation and punishment by the tongue. Now we must show the cause of this vice, and give a proper account of the door by which it enters, or rather, goes out.
2. Talkativeness is the throne of vainglory on which it loves to show itself and make a display. Talkativeness is a sign of ignorance, a door to slander, a guide to jesting, a servant of falsehood, the ruin of compunction, a creator of despondency, a precursor of sleep, the dissipation of recollection, the abolition of watchfulness, the cooling of ardour, the darkening of prayer.
3. Deliberate silence is the mother of prayer, a recall from captivity, preservation of fire, a supervisor of thoughts, a watch against enemies, a prison of mourning, a friend of tears, effective remembrance of death, a depicter of punishment, a meddler with judgment, an aid to anguish, an enemy of freedom of speech, a companion of quiet, an opponent of desire to teach, increase of knowledge, a creator of contemplation, unseen progress, secret ascent.
4. He who has become aware of his sins has controlled his tongue, but a talkative person has not yet got to know himself as he should.
5. The friend of silence draws near to God, and by secretly conversing with Him, is enlightened by God.
6. The silence of Jesus put Pilate to shame, and by a man’s stillness vainglory is vanquished.
7. Peter, having said a word, lamented it bitterly, because he forgot him who said: “I said, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue,” and the other who said: “A fall from a height to the ground is better than a slip with the tongue.”
8. I do not wish to write much about this, even though the wiles of the passions urge me to do so. But I once heard from someone who asked me about silence that talkativeness is in variably born of one of the following causes: either from a bad, lax environment and habit (for the tongue, said he, being a member of the body, like the rest of the members, requires the training of habit), or again, in the case of ascetics, garrulity comes especially from vainglory, and sometimes also from gluttony. That is why many who bridle the stomach by force afterwards easily check the tongue and its chatter.
9. He who is anxious about his departure, cuts down words; and he who has obtained spiritual mourning, shuns talkativeness like fire.
10. He who has come to love silence shuts his mouth, but he who delights in wandering about outside is driven out of his cell by his passion.
11. He who knows the fragrance of the Fire from on high, runs from a concourse of men like a bee from smoke; for the bee is routed by smoke, whereas man is hampered by company.
12. Few can hold water without a sluice; still fewer can tame an intemperate mouth.
The eleventh step. He who has mastered it has cut off at one blow a multitude of evils.
1. The offspring of flint and steel is fire; and the offspring of chatter and joking is lying.
2. A lie is the destruction of love, and perjury is a denial of God.
3. Let no one with right principles suppose that the sin of lying is a small matter, for the All-Holy Spirit pronounced the most awful sentence of all against it above all sins. If Thou wilt destroy all who tell lies, as David says to God, what will they suffer who stitch an oath on to a lie?
4. I have seen some who, priding themselves on their skill in lying, and exciting laughter by their jests and twaddle, have pitiably destroyed in their hearers the habit of mourning.
5. When the demons see that in the very beginning we intend to keep aloof from the witty lecture of a coarse leader, as from an infectious disease, then they try to catch us by two thoughts, suggesting to us: “Do not offend the storyteller,” or: “Do not appear to love God more than they do.” Be off! Do not dally, otherwise at the time of your prayer the jokes will recur to your mind. And not only run, but even piously disconcert the bad company by offering for their general attention the thought of death and judgment. For perhaps it is better for you to be sprinkled with a few drops of vainglory, if only you can become a channel of profit for many.
6. Hypocrisy is the mother of lying and often its purpose. For some define hypocrisy as no other than meditation on falsehood, and an inventor of falsehood which has a reprehensible oath twisted up with it.
7. He who has obtained the fear of the Lord has forsaken lying, having within himself an incorruptible judge – his own conscience.
8. We notice various degrees of harm in all the passions, and this is certainly the case with lying. There is one judgment for him who lies through fear of punishment, and another for him who lies when no danger is at hand.
9. One lies for sheer wantonness, another for amusement; one, to make the bystanders laugh; and another, to trap his brother and do him injury.
10. Lying is wiped out by the tortures of superiors; but it is finally destroyed by an abundance of tears.
11. He who gives way to lying does so under the pretext of care for others and often regards the destruction of his soul as an act of charity. The inventor of lies makes out that he is an imitator of Rahab, and says that by his own destruction he is effecting the salvation of others.
12. When we are completely cleansed of lying, then we can resort to it, but only with fear and as occasion demands.
13. A babe knows nothing of lying; neither does a soul that is stripped of evil.
14. He who has become merry with wine involuntarily speaks the truth on all subjects, and he who is drunk with compunction cannot lie.
The twelfth step. He who has mounted it has obtained the root of all blessings.