Thursday 31 March: Lent 2011

You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the speech of the people of heaven be in this mouth’

James 3:2-12

2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

[We are at the half way point in our Lent readings!]

The tongue, we are told, is an organ that can be harnessed either for good or for ill. In community, the power of the tongue to bind or fragment relationships becomes quickly apparent. That is why, from the very earliest times, Christians learned to heed the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: ‘Say no more than you have to . . . The more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish.’

St Benedict advised: ‘Let leave to speak be seldom given.’

But our prayer today is for something else.  Heavenly words may be truth bearing or comforting; uplifting and encouraging; illuminating or convicting. Of such words writer of Proverb says: ‘Few words, aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.’ Likewise, the Psalmist rejoices in his God-sent capacity to ‘sustain the weary with a word’.

Aidan, had a habit of always withdrawing early from social gatherings in order to avoid conversations that might draw him into careless speech and chatter. No doubt he must have slipped, as we do from time to time, by speaking in a way that was out of turn or out of sorts, for the tongue is restless and ‘who can tame it?’

So, morning by morning, we pray that a words of insight and knowledge will be in our speech and the blessing of others our aim.  Therefore:

‘Let the speech of the people of heaven be in this mouth.’


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