Speaking does not imply saying anything, though maybe it should. Someone can talk a lot and yet have said nothing at all—think chitchatterers, depleted athletes, and political geniuses. This is because real speech reveals what is in the heart: truths we have assimilated concerning the world around us or our unique insights into our inner lives. “Spoken sounds are symbols of affections of the soul,” says Aristotle. We first have something in our hearts that we wish to make known to another. Then, by speaking we reveal to another something of ourselves, something within. Yet, if our speech does not reveal any of this, then even if that speech conforms to linguistic standards and isn’t strictly speaking gibberish, we can still call it mere noise or empty chatter.
When the archangel Gabriel announced that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would conceive in her old age, Zechariah refused to receive the revelation from the angel. As a penalty for refusing to receive the word of the angel into his heart, he lost his capacity to speak. Indeed, how could he share from his heart what he had refused to receive? But, as we heard yesterday, upon accepting the angel’s message by writing, “his name is John,” his tongue was loosed. And in his speech, he blessed God for what he had received.
By faith we receive him who is truth itself into our hearts. He is the source of our hope and our joy, and he is the object of our love. Underscoring how Christ should underlie all our speech, in a way similar to Zechariah, St. Dominic was said not to speak except to God or about God. Christ can always be on our lips if we have received him into our hearts. All else, when weighed against the Word received through faith, is idle chatter.
Image: Fra Angelico, The Naming of St. John the Baptist