TINTINNABULATION heralds the coming of the Body and Blood of our Lord truly present on the altar in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
It isn’t a word resurrected from a theological treatise – it came humbly in an email to The Catholic Leader, part of an Internet subscription to a word of the day.
It means the sound of a ringing bell.
Words are the toolkit of a newspaper; it comes as no surprise that scrutinising which word with which connotation is the right one for a given story can soak up a good 15 minutes.
Words hold power.
Words like “refugee” or “marriage” are legal words with legal definitions, words that can compel government or civil action.
Other words are not only powerful but, when spoken, actually make real what they mean.
Catholics are most intimately familiar with this in the sacraments – when the priest says we are absolved of our sins, we really are absolved.
But it is not just in Persona Christi that words can become real.
When a police officer says you are under arrest – you really are under arrest.
Most Christians are familiar with the power of words because of John 1 – Jesus was the Word until He incarnated in the womb of a young woman named Mary some 2000 years ago.
This tradition of words becoming flesh continues through the Catholic Mass – we have the Liturgy of the Word, which is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a structural way of showing this sequence of words becoming flesh.
Most recently, three words have been dominating column space in newspapers across the country – voluntary assisted dying.
It is three times as many words to avoid saying one word – euthanasia.
Just like the Melbourne Immigrant Transit Accommodation centre is a nice way of not saying Melbourne’s detention centre, where a Tamil family were recently deported from.
Other words have caused a ruckus too like gender neutral names for the Persons of God – Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer.
This is the tip of an iceberg about a whole plethora of gender neutral words that will most likely be changing the way future generations speak and think.
The natural evolution of words has already seen acceleration since the rise of texting and online messaging – not to mention the shrinking of ideas to fit in a tweet.
With words changing so quickly and so spuriously, now is the time to stop and record the words we want to keep and the words we want to challenge and the words we want to change.
Because words aren’t just words; words become flesh.
And next time you’re at Mass, spare a thought for the tintinnabulation.
Joe Higgins is a journalist at The Catholic Leader