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4    Human Words and Silence

Rarely is anyone's speech rich in inspiration, truth, love, justice and light.

Even when using words taken from Scripture, one often falls into error; or, carried away with oratorical fervour, one adds something of one's own; or, infatuated by a brilliant personal idea, twists the words; or, in the sway of some theological concept, Scripture is unscrupulously distorted to prove by any means the correctness of that concept.

Sometimes the words that flow freely and easily from the human mouth come to be used against others, not to correct them, for their own good, but to demonstrate one's own superiority, to champion a theory, or to demonstrate the infallibility of a religious group.

Silence frees one from the danger of using the splendid but dangerous faculty of speech in a manner which is too mindless, malicious, or doctrinaire, and of using it to defeat or convince — for good or ill. It reminds one of the responsibility of being the possessor and free beneficiary of such an extraordinary gift.

Thus when — after long silent meditation, having listened to the voice of conscience, and the ever present, secret voice of God — the one who meditates breaks silence, deciding on expression with audible words, it is done humbly, mindfully, and in the spirit of service.

It is for this reason that, in the Quaker world, anything spoken during silent worship is called "ministry" (i.e., service) and it is with such service that every one participates in the "priesthood of all believers".

Livorno, Montenero, 28 III 1986

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, Devotions, xvii,

See CCEL or Luminarium)

English text by Simon Grant, based on the translation by George T. Peck revised 2008-01-29
[Original Italian by Davide Melodia]

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Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.