11th January 2023

For more than fifteen years I was a National Trust volunteer at Tyntesfield – the Victorian mansion about five miles from my home. If you haven’t visited it, I would recommend that you do, not least to admire the wonderful Chapel. But there is also the Library where I would quite often welcome visitors. There, engraved on the bronzed door hinges is the Latin inscription:

Litera scripta manet

Verba locuta volant

That translates as “The written word remains, the spoken word flies away”.

When there was a quiet break between visitors, I would sometimes contemplate those words. Are they true? If they were true in the 19th century, are they still true today? With all the modern electronic means of communication do the written words remain and do those spoken fly away? Or has our modern technology actually reversed that contrast? I am still wondering!

One of the readings we probably heard at a Christmas service a few weeks ago was from the very beginning of St John’s gospel:

“In the beginning was the Word”, followed a few verses later by “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.

Now there’s a word that did not fly away. Was the baby born in Bethlehem really that “Word”? Any doubts would surely be resolved by the events we will be celebrating at Easter. It might have seemed that at the crucifixion Christ, “the Word”, did fly away, but after the resurrection it became clear that the Word remains and still “dwells among us”.

David T Roberts