“What part of our body is so important that if we could learn to control just that one part that perhaps as the scriptures say, we could be considered to be a perfect person? What part of our body is it that in a moment’s notice can either establish us in the presence of the saints or abruptly remove us from any semblance of holiness? What part of the body of the person is essentially the door to the soul? When it opens, it exposes the truths, the existence, the pulse and the texture of the being that is within. What part of our body? What part of our body has the ability to kill or to raise-up, to destroy or to build, to heal or to wound, to make whole or to make lame, to love or to hate, to distress or to comfort, to teach or to blind, to give life or to bring death quickly?” – Fr. George Passias
The answer to Fr. George’s questions is found in James 3, the tongue. Which is able to speak life, or to kill. To be used as a powerful weapon or a shield.
Today I want to reflect on the story of St. Mary of Egypt. She couldn’t find peace among her father and her mother. She decided to get up and leave and go make it on her own. Yet the hunger in her stomach drove her to use the beauty in her eyes sinfully, in order to make a living. She fell victim to making a living by being a prostitute. She sold her body in order to feed her passions. She lived like this for years. She didn’t know the inside of a Church, yet down-deep in the utter depths of her heart she knew God. One day she heard that a piece of the actual cross of Christ was going to be placed in a church in Jerusalem. She chose to go there. Something inside of her was calling her to that Holy Cross. When she got there she tried to go in. Yet, some invisible force would not allow her to enter. She tried again while people walking to the right and to the left of her entered without the slightest impediment. She couldn’t walk in. She finally began to be worried. “My God, My God, have I become so bad that I don’t deserve to enter the front door of the Church.” Her final attempt to enter the Church bathed in her tears. Now at once she gained access to her God. God is a loving God but He is also a discerning God. He looks at the heart; He looks through the mouth, and He sees the potential of a person in the inner depths of the soul. He saw sincerity. He saw her created in His image, and He welcomed her. She went in, fell on her face and kissed the Holy Cross. Afterwards she lived the rest of her life in the desert, in true repentance, while falling in love with God.
At this point, someone might ask what’s the point of this story? How quick we are to condemn. Can one imagine those people who had condemned St. Mary of Egypt as a prostitute, and how they felt as they saw her the upper heights of heaven? Imagine how those who reviled our Lord Jesus Christ felt when they finally saw Who He really was and is? Can you imagine what it is going to be like in Heaven to see people as saints who we criticized? How ashamed or embarrassed we might feel? Our words leave our mouths so superficially. We condemn and destroy at will and at sight. Saint John Chrysostom says, “If you are fasting from meat and dairy and fish and oil and even bread and water and you condemn your brother, even if it is Holy Friday, go and eat the meat and fish and dairy products etc. and shut your mouth and don’t condemn your brother. For eating your brother with criticism is far worse than breaking the fast that we hold so dear.”
I ask you to consider your tongue, which accepts the body and blood of Christ, the very door of our souls. The tongue is able to give glory to God, or condemn Him at the cross. To build His Kingdom here on Earth, or to destroy it. Put in the effort to see everyone around you as if they are Christ, because truly they are all His image.