Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.
Read Chapter 40
Gregory The Dialogist
2. As if he said, I would defend my speech, if I had uttered it with weight of reason. But after a tongue is convicted of having used levity, what remains for it but to be restrained with silence? It follows,
I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
In the usage of Holy Scripture, work is wont to be understood by the hand, speech by the mouth. To lay therefore the hand upon the mouth, is by the virtue of good living to conceal the faults of incautious speech. But who can be found, however perfect, who has not offended in idle words? As James witnesses, who says, Be not many masters, for in many things we offend all. [James 3, 1] And again, The tongue can no man tame. [ib. 8] And the Truth, exposing its faults by Its own mouth, says, But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall have spoken, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. [Matt. 12, 36] But holy men study to conceal before the eyes of God the faults of the tongue by the merits of their life, they study to keep down their immoderate words by the weight of good works. Whence in Holy Church the hand is laid upon the mouth, when the sin of idle talk is daily covered in its Elect by the virtue of good actions. For it is written; Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. [Ps. 3. 21] But since it is written again; All things are naked and opened unto His eyes, [Heb. 4, 13] how can they be concealed which can never be at all hid from the eyes of Him, to Whom all things are naked? But since we place lower, that which we conceal, and doubtless spread that over, with which we cover it, in order to cover that which is placed beneath, we are said to cover our sins, which we place, as it were, beneath, when we give them up; and we draw something else over them, when we choose afterwards to prefer for this end the work of good deeds. He therefore who abandons his former evil deeds, and afterwards does good works, by this addition covers his past iniquity, over which he spreads the merits of good deeds. Let blessed Job therefore, as typifying Holy Church, and in what he says alleging his own circumstances, but designating ours, say for us; I will lay mine hand upon my mouth: that is, that of my words in me which I consider to have displeased the strict Judge, I conceal before His eyes under the veil of upright conduct.