On the Gift of Speaking in Tongues (Part II)


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


BY Archimandrite Zacharias

Many in the early Church were gifted with tongues, but over time the gift became rare. The problem was, quite simply, that if someone spoke in tongues, he would unintentionally take up all the spiritual space of the congregation as a whole, which would not derive the least profit from the gift. The best explanation for God's gift of tongues to the early Church lies in the necessity of teaching newly-converted Christians to pray with their heart rather than just externally, as they were likely to have been used to doing. But the Church soon discovered a deeper way to educate the heart, for She was concerned to cultivate the inner man. She discovered the invocation of the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And little by little, the Prayer of the Heart ('The Jesus Prayer') replaced the gift of speaking in tongues. The Jesus Prayer is a way of praying in the spirit without losing any control of the spirit, and, therefore, without running the risk of usurping the space of the other members of the Body of Christ. (All the things we do in church must be done in a way that respects the spiritual space of our fellows. 

In conclusion, to speak in tongues or to pray in the spirit is indeed to immerse our nous in the sea of the Spirit. But the Apostle himself prefers to draw us into shore, that we avoid even the possibility of disorder in the Body of the Church, and that everything is done for the sake of the edification of the people. By far, the best possible way of approaching the phenomenon of glossolalia in out times, as our Tradition teaches us to understand it--that is, without condemning or criticizing--is to consider that, if people are prevented from worship god with the heart, God can once again bestow on them this gift of speaking in tongues. The fact that this gift has reappeared now in modern times, when the way of the heart has been forgotten or is not known, points towards one single purpose. Clearly, the Spirit of God yearns to lead all people home to the Church, to place them within the Body of the Church, and to instruct them in this noble form of worship that has been practiced by Christians for so many centuries, that their hearts might once more be cultivated through the invocation of the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And we know that whosoever bears His Name, does so unto salvation, "for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). If this gift has indeed been given temporarily to some people, perhaps it will enable them to discover the true unbroken Tradition of the Church, the Tradition of the Prayer of the Heart, which IS THE surest and humblest prayer in the edification, inspiration, and salvation of man. Through this prayer, we receive the greatest of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift which will heal our nature and strengthen it, "guiding us into all truth" (St. John 16:13), it will enable us to bear the fullness of divine love. And this gift will never outlive its purpose--indeed, it will accompany us beyond the grave.

It is important that we understand this phenomenon of glossolalia-- we must not be seduced by it. (Source: The Hidden Man of the Heart. The Cultivation of the Heart in Orthodox Christian Anthropology)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George