Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An unexpected lesson from my Alma Mater

"Veritas, Christo et Ecclesiae," I am told by people who know more about Latin than I, means "Truth, for Christ and the Church." It may surprise you to find out that such a quaint and outdated phrase is the official motto of Harvard University to this day (no matter how much most people there would like to pretend it isn't). The motto was adopted in 1692, and although you usually only see the truncated form "Veritas" these days, I guess Harvard still hasn't quite shed all its religious history, because "Christo et Ecclesiae" is still there on all the university's official documents, even its diplomas.

It's a common misconception that Harvard was founded solely as a school for preachers. It wasn't -- it was simply founded as a school that understood the immense importance of the Christian faith and believed -- rightly, in my opinion -- that truth without a foundation in the One Who is Truth is incomplete truth, at best.

Here's a passage from Harvard's College Laws of 1642:

"Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3)."

Interesting, no? A Harvard professor would probably get fired for suggesting something like that these days, but that's the school's history and, judging from the unlikely endurance of its motto, I guess it's not so easy to shake.

Anyway, I like "Veritas, Christo et Ecclesiae," almost as much as I like another of Harvard's early mottos, "In Christi Gloriam" (To the Glory of Christ), and I'll try to write this blog (and live my life) with both those mottos in mind.


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