Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

“By your words shall you be justified”

14 January 1971
Theme: Spiritual life   Place: London Parish   Period: 1971-1975   Genre: Sermon

There are two sayings in Holy Scripture to which I should like to draw your attention. One refers to the speaker, the other to the hearer. The first is Christ’s saying “by your words shall you be justified and by your words shall you be condemned”, and it refers not only to the man who preaches the word of God and who will answer particularly for what he knew and said, yet often remained unresponsive himself; it refers also to every word of ours. Some words we utter bring life to a person, make the heart alive again, illuminate the mind, move the will to do good, renew his whole being. These are words of life; God grant that we should speak them to each other. But there are words that are dead and deadening, cold, hard, unfeeling words, in which there is no anger but only dimness and indifference. For such words we shall answer before God. In this respect the prayer that St. Tikhon Zadonsky used constantly is significant, “Lord give me silence that judges words.” i.e. give me the kind of silence that will allow me to choose from its depths those words which may be spoken, which will give life, words pure, deep, of which I shall not be ashamed before God’s judgement. “Lord, give me the wisdom that judges words.”

However, not only the one who speaks it but the one who hears it is responsible for the word. “Take care how you listen” says St. Paul. One can listen with a heart wide open, or one can listen with a tight-locked heart and soul. One can listen to something, even something divine and deep for the sake of a momentary thrill, without the least intention of living according to the word. One can listen with a sneering, bitter mind, one can pass by Christ himself who speaks, and remain barren. Throughout our lives we hear Christ’s divine words in the Gospel, and how little they change our lives, but one day we shall hear Christ’s word, already spoken in the Gospel, “I do not judge you, the word that I have spoken shall judge you.” because that is a living word. These words may momentarily touch our hearts, fill us with life, but they do not penetrate into the depths of our being, do not become the inspiration of our life, and we pass by amazed, and remain barren. Why? Because we have not the depth and because we have not the courage and daring that would make us say “if that is the truth, then I will live according to it,” and then relentlessly, without any self-pity, for the sake of life, act contrary to all our desires, against our own falsehood and deadness. Therefore let us think about these two scriptural sayings and let us learn to keep silence in such a way that our words may be chosen ones, pure and life-giving, and let us learn to hear in such a way that not one word of life should be spoken in vain and become our condemnation at the day of judgement. Amen.


Published: NEWS-LETTER No. 14

January 1971


Listen to audio: Watch video: