Coram fratribus intellexi
The phrase I have chosen as my episcopal motto, set to music by Jonas Hilger, comes from a sermon on Ezekiel by Gregory the Great (II.2). I happened to be reading this text the day after the papal nuncio’s visit to announce my appointment. Gregory, himself a monk, reflects on the fact that he often has a hard time understanding the meaning of Scripture when he reads it on his own. But it often happens, says he, that he later, on hearing the same passage read out in church, ‘coram fratribus meis positus, intellexi’. That is to say: ‘face to face with my brethren, I have come to understand’. I was struck by this insight. I took it to heart. It speaks to me of three things:
- That God is a God who is alive, present, and active, for which reason we must live in a state of contemplative, expectant alertness;
- that what God speaks exceeds, by definition, the categories of any individual’s intellect, requiring us to be humble in the face of truth;
- that it is a word addressed to all of us together, so that we need one another to receive it, to understand it rightly, and to follow it faithfully.