Nov 15, 2002

Mystery of the Word

Online Edition – Vol. VIII, No. 8: November 2002

Mystery of the Word

God’s word is a great mystery. Through it, He Himself speaks, but in the speech of men. It appears that another form of communication also exists, a so-called purely divine form in which God enlightens and directs the soul not through the medium of words, but by a thought that stirs only from within, silent but immediately comprehended.

Tidings of this kind can never be passed on to others; they apply solely to him who has received them. Revelation is different. It is meant for all men at all times. Hence it takes the form in which the spiritual community of men asserts itself, that of the spoken word. Like all speech, it is a purely human blend of idea and sound. God’s wisdom has been placed in this human means of communication and can be removed and examined by itself at any time, but in such wise that His wisdom and the word containing it are an organic unit.

Even the natural word cannot be separated from its audible sound and taken solely by itself, for it clings to its sound as the soul to the body. This unit now becomes, as it were, the body for a new "soul" — the divine — much as a man already having body and soul is filled by grace, which makes of him a newer and higher being: the new and spiritual man described by Saint Paul [I Cor 2:15; Eph 2:15].

The divine words must be considered as whole words with shape and sound. To focus our attention only on the intelligible concept expressed by them would be folly; it would be rootless intellectual theory. A word is a wondrous reality: form and content, significance and love, intellect and heart, a full, round, vibrant whole. It is not barren information for us to consider and understand, but a reality for us to encounter personally. We must receive and store it in all its earthiness, its characteristic style and imagery. Then it proves its power. In the parable of the sower our Lord Himself compares it to a seed in search of good ground. It possesses the power of growth, the strength to start and develop life. Hence we must not receive it as we grasp an idea with our mind, but as earth receives a grain of wheat.

Revelation says that the world was created by the Word of God. God spoke: "Let there be"…. By it we also were made, beings capable of hearing the Word that God gives us in Revelation, summoning us to the new beginning and the new life of grace. Wherever we encounter His Word, we encounter God’s creative power. To receive His Word means to step into the sphere of sacred possibility, where the new man, the new heaven and the new earth are coming into being.

It is not sufficient merely to accept ideas and understand commandments. We must lay bare our hearts and minds to the power that comes to us from beyond.

God’s Word, then, is addressed not only to the intellect, but to the whole man. (It has a human quality that seeks to become a living unit with mind and blood, soul and body.) Man, the entire man, must receive God’s Word in all its significance, in the totality of its form, tone, warmth, and power. That is what the parable of the seed implies.


Monsignor Roman Guardini, from Meditations before Mass. (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 1993.)



The Editors