Let us do what the Prophet says:
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth.’
I was mute and was humbled,
and kept silence even from good things” (Ps. 38:2-3).
Here the Prophet shows
that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times
to refrain even from good speech,
so much the more ought the punishment for sin
make us avoid evil words.
Therefore, since the spirit of silence is so important,
permission to speak should rarely be granted
even to perfect disciples,
even though it be for good, holy edifying conversation;
for it is written,
“In much speaking you will not escape sin” (Prov. 10:19),
and in another place,
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
For speaking and teaching belong to the mistress;
the disciple’s part is to be silent and to listen.
And for that reason
if anything has to be asked of the Superior,
it should be asked
with all the humility and submission inspired by reverence.
But as for coarse jests and idle words
or words that move to laughter,
these we condemn everywhere with a perpetual ban…
and for such conversation
we do not permit a disciple to open her mouth.
Chapter 6: On the Spirit of Silence
What interests me is the bit about being silent even in good things. The tongue is a sword and once unleashed, does incalculable damage. On the flip side, we have the modern classic of Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, where Eco shows the downfall of a Benedictine community in Renaissance Italy. They took the command against laughter literally. Benedict is not against humor, he is against mindless and often cruel frivolity.
Image: Thank you for the image.