Thursday, February 18, 2021

Latin phrases

All photographs courtesy of Unsplash

Latin was obligatory when I was at school. It was one of the standard subjects on the curriculum. I actually quite enjoyed Latin despite the old adage we used to repeat under our breath:

Latins a dead language

As dead as dead can be 

First, it killed the Romans

And now, it’s killing me

It might have felt tough going at school, but it is actually beneficial to know some Latin as a lot of Latin motto’s can be found over the entrance of many listed buildings. For instance, the motto of the University of Oxford is ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’. These are the opening words of Psalm 27 (the Bible) meaning The Lord is my Light. One of the long-established independent schools on the Wirral has the motto ‘Beati Mundo Corde’. This means Blessed are the Pure in Heart, again a quotation taken out of the Bible (the Beatitudes). It is quite significant that public institutions saw the value of quoting the Bible. This book was once the backbone of our nation’s progress and development.

One more - Pro Bono. This phrase generally describes work done for clients at no charge to them or at least at a significantly reduced cost. When I looked into this a little further, I discovered that it is short for the Latin phrase ‘pro bono publico’ which translates as ‘for the public good’. Working for no fee is not normal but commendable when the motivation is helping people who are in challenging circumstances and unlikely to return the favour.  

This is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It is the story of God’s grace towards each of us. The scenario that is described in the Bible is that the first woman, Eve, was deceived into disobeying God’s instruction. Adam, her husband, however made a conscious choice to disobey God and to stick with his wife, Eve. What they seemed to have forgotten was the warning of the dire consequences that would follow.

The cynic would say that God, if he exists - and I believe he does, is controlling and heavy-handed, repressing people who go against him and making them pay severely for their mistakes. Whereas the truth is that God is pure, loves righteousness (what is right), is essentially love in his character, is longsuffering, patient, forgiving and full of compassion. When he laid the ground rules for Adam and Eve, he protected them as a good parent would their child. When he warned them of the consequences of bad choices, he let them know what was good for them. The consequence of rebellion would be pain, suffering, guilt and ultimately, death. This was not a vindictive action on God’s part but an automatic result of breaking the moral law of God. Just as fire burns if misused and knives cut to sin hurts and ends in death.


So, where does ‘pro bono publico’ come into this. Let me introduce you to the ‘Jesus’ part of the message of the Bible. I have quoted two passages from the Bible. They are a part of two different letters that were written to believers in Jesus Christ. I want you to notice the words used to describe these people before they became Christians – dead, disobedient, driven by their own desires, condemned by their own behaviour (children of wrath or God’s anger), and ungodly. Then please re-read the passages and note what God does for us (we are in the first category) – rich in mercy, a great love to us, gave life, kindness, grace and the gift of God. 

Please note that the gospel of Jesus Christ is all ‘pro bono publico’, i.e. it is for the public good, at no cost to us. It was Jesus who died and paid the price for us personally to receive the gift of salvation and enjoy forgiveness.       

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:1-9 (the Bible)


While we were yet weak, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Rarely for a righteous man will one die. Yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (the Bible)


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