In the course of interviewing for various publishing jobs, I’ve repeatedly been asked the question “Why did you choose literature for a major?” or “Why do you want to work in publishing?”  (Believe it or not, this is much easier to answer than the dreaded “What’s your favorite book?” I’m a lit major – I don’t have a favorite book, I have a hundred favorite books.)

My answer is the same every time.  I love literature, books, reading, talking, all for the same reason: words are important.  Words have power, but that power comes through their ability to express truth, goodness, and beauty.  In the human world, words are the only way we have to communicate; even body language, gestures, et cetera, are only concrete when they are matched with words.  It is true that the ultimate gift of self is a wordless action; however, that gift is ratified, sanctified, and directed by those most important of words: I do.

God himself chose not only an action, but also words and a Word.  The Creator of all created a book—words—to express Himself to us.  How precious was the role of those sacred writers, who were gifted not only to write for and with God, but to have God write through them!  This is the truest artistry; to express Truth itself.  And “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Do you ever stop to think why God the Father describes His Son as the Word?  I’ve heard many sublime explanations, and can’t remember how to explain them; in my own little way, I will try to say what I mean.

A word is a set of sounds and letters that communicates a specific image, idea, or thought.  A word can, on the surface, be different between language and language, yet the idea is the same.  Pater, padre, father, all tell us something about a man who cares, nurtures, and protects his family.  You could start going around in circles when you realize that to define words, you need more words.  Words find their end, in the Aristotelian sense, when they truly communicate the idea behind them, along with all the connotations and layers of meaning which that idea involves; yet they need that physical representation of letters and sounds to do so.  The Word Himself, made man and come to give Himself for us and to us, communicates in his incarnate nature the Idea of God Himself.  This is why words are so important.  In a similar way, I think, to the way our physical bodies are made in the “image and likeness” of God, so too our words may image Christ, the Incarnate Word.  We are able to express through our words the ultimate reality, beauty, and goodness of Truth, come to us in the Word.