Feverishly working toward completion of a manuscript, cleaning out old files, I came across the following interview which originally aired on Ancient Faith Radio:
“I’ve just been informed that our special guest today, Dr Barsanuphius Indadark has just arrived: Dr Indadark! Pleasure to see you, come on in … have a seat.”
“Oh! I see you’ve brought along your dog!”
“Dr Indadark? Hold on a sec … what’s that?”
My secretary has just informed me that Dr Indadark can’t hear a word I’m saying … because he’s deaf!
“Are you serious? He can’t hear me? Well, that’s just great! You scheduled a radio interview with a man who can’t communicate! What? Hang on …”
[He’s making some sort of signs here.]
“Dr Indadark, they say, is fluent in Sign Language. Oh my … I don’t “speak” sign language! Arrrrrrrrrgh! Forgive me, dear listeners, I shouldn’t get so upset. It’s just that, well, I feel a bit handicapped for this interview. Oh wait … he’s making some more hand motions … Does anyone around here understand Sign Language?”
“Oh great … what did he say?”
“Unh-huh … unh-huh. Oh sure! The book! — Ladies and Gentlemen, forgive me, in my angry outburst I’d forgotten that our special guest, noted theologian Dr Barsanuphios Indadark brought along his new book. So, without further ado, especially since I can’t communicate with him …”
“I can at least read to you excerpts from his new book entitled … entitled … Oh for goodness sake! Y’all? Hello! This book is written in Braille! BRAILLE! I can’t … Arrgggh!”
Oh, wait … Dr Indadark is scribbling a note here: “Now … You …. Know … How … We … Feel.”
“Well, he does have a point … I mean, if we speak in a language that people don’t understand, it is hard to communicate …”
Uh-uh! The power just went out. It’s pitch black here at the Orthodixie studios. I can’t see a thing!
“Hello?! Dr Indadark!”
(Oh great, he can’t hear me.)
I don’t even know his dog’s name …
Nice doggie; you’re a good boy …
And do you know what happened next? It was amazing. Though the studio was totally pitch black and I couldn’t see a thing, that dog grabbed my sleeve with his teeth and led my hand to the arm of Dr Indadark who, being blind, was – of course – accustomed to the dark and, thanks to him and the dog, we walked out of that dark studio into the light of day.
As soon as we got outside, that dog ran off to play and Dr Barsanuphios Indadark, in a clear voice, said: “Ah! Fresh Air!”
I said, “You can talk?!”
“Of course I can talk,” he said. “Why are you so shocked?”
“Well,” I said, “because you were using Sign Language in the studio and your book is written in Braille!”
That’s when he said, “No biggie. I speak three languages. You know what you call someone who speaks two languages?”
“Uh,” I said, “bilingual?”
“What do you call someone who speaks three languages?”
Then he said, “You know what you call someone who speaks only one language?
(He did have a point there.)
Then, much to my surprise, he removed the dark glasses and could apparently see me as clearly as I could him.
“What the …?”
He said, “You know, the language of the Church is the language of love. As St Paul says, if we don’t have love we’re just making noise (regardless of the language we use). Some churches use the language of their native land as if it were a badge of honor – as if the church is somehow more special if there’s a whole bunch of foreign words found in their praises …
In my opinion this is not much different than those Protestant bodies placing great stock in glossilalia – speaking in tongues. St Paul said to just plain cut it out unless you also had an interpreter.
Then again, this is a diverse nation, America, sorely in need of the True Faith of Orthodoxy. It seems a shame to spread the Word in only one tongue. We should use all talents at our disposal; yes, even Sign Language and Braille.
But, come to think of it, the King’s English will do – even if it’s spiced up with smatterings of Greek, Slavonic, or Arabic. It ain’t gon’ hurt nobody.”
That’s when I said, “It ain’t gon’ hurt nobody? Why, Dr Indadark, where did you learn to speak like that?”
He said, “You think you’re the only one ever been to the South?”
And with that, he walked off, whistling Dixie, calling after his Dog, (that’s when I learned the dog’s name) — good grief: “Sherman!”
Funny thing is, Dr Indadark made a lot of sense. Come to think of it: smiles, laughter, tears, hugs, pats on the back, and approving nods — these — and more, are the same in any language. Even dogs and babies seem to communicate – with love!
The Apostle Paul writes …
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how shall I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all;
In the law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.
If, therefore, the whole church assembles and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
So, my brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues …
That’s St Paul in One Corinthians, Chapter 14. You might wanna read it again, through Orthodox glasses (especially those of you who are frustrated that your local church worships in a “foreign language”).
But, over and above these, is the greatest language of all – the one even babies and dogs know instinctively: Love.
Again, St Paul: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Look, there are books and bulletins, classes and weekly repetition to help us understand the Liturgy – no matter the language!
But, lacking love, even being spoon fed in our Native Tongue will not overcome our great loss.
Whatever our language skills – three tongues, two tongues, or the favorite among Anglo Americans – ONE; without love, it’s all just noisy gibberish anyway.
Tongues won’t save you.