By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
3. Consider, my beloved, the change the Holy Spirit wrought in the tongues of the Apostles. For they who at first spoke about nothing but earthly and base things, about fleeting and vain glories and honors: "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory" (Mk. 10:37); they who spoke lowly and unworthily of Christ: "It is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias" (Lk. 9:33); they who formerly even agreed with Judas to castigate that blessed Mary and get angry at her for anointing the feet of Jesus with very costly myrrh, saying with indignation: "Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her" (Mk. 14:4-5). These very same Apostles, I say, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, did not speak about anything else but the wonderful things of God, about lofty and great things, the kingdom of the heavens, the theology of the Holy Trinity, the incomprehensible mystery of the Incarnate Economy, that Christ is true God. They spoke with sublime rhetoric, surpassing frankness, and in various tongues: "We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).
Now, my beloved, think about the words you spoke prior to reading this exercise and the words which you should now speak in order that you too may receive this change of tongue by the grace of the Holy Spirit. God gave you a tongue, my brother, as an instrument to speak good things, and not evil things. Therefore, you must use it in the way that God intended, that is to say, to always glorify and praise God with your tongue, and to recite His divine words, as it is written: "Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:11). And again: "My tongue shall speak of Thy righteousness, and of Thy praise all the day long" (Ps. 34:32). You should not use it to speak impious words against God and to call upon His holy Name for vain things: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Ex. 20:7). You should use it to criticize and reproach yourself, not praise yourself: "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips" (Pr. 27:2). You should use your tongue to counsel your brother about those things that are unto his salvation and to establish him in good and virtuous things, not sharpen it like a knife against him, mocking him, criticizing him, and scornfully insulting him with anger: "They have sharpened their tongues like a sword" (Ps. 63:3). Neither should you use it to give bad counsel, using smooth and gentle words, sneaky and inimical, in order to do harm to your brother and injure him: "Their words were smoother than oil, and yet they are darts" (Ps. 54:24). In a word, you should have the wondrous things of God on your tongue, the words of the Old and New Testament, things concerning divine Providence and judgment, and the things concerning God’s goodness. All of your conversations should be about spiritual and divine matters and spiritually edifying. If you use your tongue for these things, know that the Lord has spiritually formed your tongue, just as He did for the man who was deaf and mute: "And He spit, and touched his tongue... and the string of his tongue was loosed" (Mk. 7:33-35). And it is a good sign that the Holy Spirit has begun to change your own tongue and speak Himself through it, as He spoke through the Apostles and David: "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue" (2 Kg. [2 Sam.] 23:2).
Be ashamed, then, my brother, for having until now spoken like a carnal man and as an infant, and not as a spiritual and perfect man: "When I was a child, I spake as a child" (1 Cor. 13:11). And be ashamed that your tongue has spoken injustice, just as Isaiah says: "Your tongue mutters unrighteousness" (Is. 59:3).
Be resolved from now on not to allow any rotten, absurd, and vain words out of your mouth, but only edifying and salvific words unto the building up of your hearers, just as the Apostle orders you: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph. 4:29). For, "the word is the shadow of the deed,"10 as a wise man has said, and evil words bring about evil deeds, just as, contrarily, good words bring about good deeds. For this reason Solomon said that in the tongue’s control are both life and death: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Pr. 18:21). And just as whoever wears perfumes causes both himself and others to smell like perfume, so also whoever bears a stench causes both himself and others to stink. In the same way, whoever speaks good words profits both himself and his hearers, while whoever speaks evil words injures both himself and his hearers.
Lastly, entreat the Holy Spirit to strengthen that which He has begun to work in you: "Strengthen, O God, this which Thou hast wrought in us" (Ps. 67:29), and demonstrate a complete change in your tongue by His grace so that you never again err with your tongue by any improper word: "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man" (Jam. 3:2). But rather that the Holy Spirit use your tongue like a pen and direct it with His right hand so that you speak only those things He wants. Then you will say: "My tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing Scribe" (Ps. 44:1). And those who see and hear you will say: "This change hath been wrought by the right hand of the Most High" (Ps. 76:10).
10 Democritus, Testimonia 1.33.