Every year during the season of the Great Fast we pause to reflect on where we are in our life’s journey and where we want to be. Over and over, all the prayers and readings remind us to abstain from evil, close the door to sin, go beyond earthly passions and become more Christlike. One of the greatest evils which we are continually warned against in the penitential prayer of St. Ephrem, is the sin of idle talk.
What is idle talk? It is the wickedness of words devoid of meaning and purpose. The gospels say “men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
The ability to think and speak – to express ourselves – is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It is what sets us apart from plants and animals. It is what shows us to be made in the image and likeness of God. God calls Himself “the Word”, saying in the Gospel “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. (John 1:1)
With words we can give thanks, create goodness, beauty and wisdom. But these same words can curse, gossip, lie and condemn. The same tongue that sings praises to God can also criticize and blaspheme.
- Have I thought or said angry words or foul words?
- Have I spread rumors or gossiped in thought or word?
- Have I ridiculed people in thought, word or action? Have I mocked others in a harmful way? Have I insulted anyone?
From Journey Through the Great Fast. Published by Office of Religious Education, Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. November 2001.