The episcopal motto of a new bishop casts fresh light on a familiar passage from scripture; an earlier version of this Worth Revisiting post was first published February 19th, 2014. Please visit the linkup for Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Elizabeth Reardon at theologyisaverb.com, and Allison Gingras at reconciledtoyou.com)
To Speak The Truth . . .
Last year [14 February 2014] the Diocese of Portland, Maine, saw the consecration of a new Bishop, Robert Deeley. His episcopal motto: "To Speak The Truth In Love."
|Episcopal arms of Robert Deeley, Bishop of Portland, Maine|
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-2)
But there’s more to it than that. The old saying that “something is always lost in the translation” seems to be particularly true about Holy Scripture. So it became clear in this case when I first saw our new Bishop’s episcopal arms, where his motto appears in Latin: Veritatem Facere in Caritate. I was struck by the fact that the word translated as “speak” in English wasn’t the Latin equivalent, dicere, as I would have expected, but facere, which more properly means “make” or “do.” A more literal translation would be “Doing The Truth In Love.” It seemed a curious (if not unpleasing) choice of word, and I suspected that the answer lay, at least in part, in the scriptural source.
To Do The Truth . . .
That proved to be the case. In the Vulgate Latin translation of Ephesians 4:15 St. Paul says: Veritatem autem faciens in caritate, crescamus in Illo per omnia Qui est Caput, Christus, “But speaking” (literally “doing”) the truth in love, let us grow through all things into him who is our Head, Christ.” Veritatem faciens is itself a translation of St. Paul’s original Greek word aletheuontes, which can mean “speaking the truth”, but also “being true.” St. Jerome could have chosen the narrower, more obvious meaning and used dicens, but he seems to have thought a broader meaning was called for. His choice is instructive, especially when we look at it in the context of the whole verse. Truth should be more than just what we say, but what we do. St. Paul is talking about not just evangelization, but about becoming more like Christ (“growing into Him”) so we can take our place in His Mystical Body. Evangelization is inseparable from our own growth in holiness. It’s even clearer when we look at the larger context:
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)
"If I Speak In The Tongues Of Men And Of Angels . . ."