Fr. Dale Matson
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Gospel of John 1:1)
Two of my favorite passages in Scripture deal with words. In Genesis, God spoke the universe into being. In St. John’s Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ is immediately identified as the Word of God and God Himself through whom all things were created (verse 3).
Words are an important means of communication and provide humans with a history. While we can now communicate with images, it is words that provide a longer historical memory for humans. Our intellectual functioning is possible because we have a language to form and express thoughts and images. Much of my life has been spent developing, cultivating and refining the use of words. I am amazed at how well brilliant individuals can provide a clear image with few words. It reminds me of the economy of genius of the composer Beethoven, who could use so few notes in so many ways in the first movement of his 5th symphony. The same can be said of words. I remember a critic stating succinctly that the movie Remains of the Day was a “superb portrayal of unshakable repression.”
While words can be used in positive ways to create and portray, they can also be employed for the opposite outcome. Words can be used with the precision of a scalpel to help or they can be a dagger that leaves a wound that never heals without intervention. Those of us with the gift of exhortation possess the opposite also. I have said things to my sons in anger that have the power of a curse. Their forgiveness came grudgingly but helped heal the collateral damage I had incurred.
Another concern for me is that the use of words, that should be used to communicate clearly and with precision, have become a kind of Romulan cloaking device to create incremental change and communicate permissions to those in power. The words are nuanced in such a way as to stay off the radar of those of us who believe that our yes should be yes and our no should be no. It is subterfuge and it is dishonest.
Finally Words should be an improvement on Silence. The sheer volume of words by individuals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury becomes a white noise covering the overly nuanced intentionally obfuscated meaning. When a leader speaks, the words must breathe life into the hope of those they lead. They must engender courage. They must speak the truth in love.
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63) Amen