Every now and then, a word just catches your ear and several times in the space of a day it jumps out at you and you’re tempted to say, “There it is again!”
Yesterday it was the word “consider,” an ordinary, everyday word…or is it? Why did it suddenly strike me so?
With my knowledge of Latin, it occurred to me that “consider” has something to do with the stars, for the Latin word sidera means “stars” or “heavenly bodies.” How interesting! I have use the word for the better part of fifty years and that had never crossed my mind before. But as sometimes happens, I was too busy to check it out and got on to other things, the insight forgotten as quickly as it had come.
But then this morning in the reading from the morning office, there it was again. Paul’s Letter to the Romans says,
You must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11).
“Okay Lord, I got the message. You want me to consider the word ‘consider.’ There’s something mystical and spiritual about it isn’t there, Lord?” The Lord didn’t need to answer. After prayer I spent some time checking out my hypothesis.
Sure enough, the word “consider” comes from the Latin root words cum (with) and sidera (stars), thus meaning literally “with the stars.”
The dictionary assigns the following meanings to the word ‘consider’: to think about carefully, to think of especially with regard to taking some action, to take into account, to regard or treat in an attentive or kindly way, to gaze on steadily or reflectively, and to come to regard.
And all these meanings are accurate enough.
But the root meaning referring to the stars also brings the word so much more alive. Thus my definition would include the following perspectives: to reflect upon as if pondering the stars, to gaze as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully and reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes, to look up and out, billions of miles out into the vast sweep of space with over 100 billion galaxies and untold numbers more of stars in each one. Yes, to “consider” from its literal root is to base our thoughts in the perspective of the stars. This fills us with wonder and awe, reminds of the extravagance of God’s love, and humbles us by the sheer vastness of all the things that God has done. It is to see by the light of God’s glory and his expansive love. To consider is to think in a way that sees the present moment as caught up in something far more immense and ancient than the mere here and now; it is to experience the moment, the place and time, as part of something more vast and timeless than we can imagine.
And thus in St. Paul’s admonition, “you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus,” we are being invited to grasp that God’s mercy and love are bigger than any sin we may have committed. We are summoned to look beyond the present moment and to behold with wonder and awe the perfection that God has already accomplished.
And as we see and behold that reality, we start to live out of it now. As we cast our thoughts out among the stars, as we think cum sidera, we look outward and upward from the present reality to the glory waiting for us in heaven. And, as St Paul exhorts, making this “consideration” helps that reality begin to break into the present moment and become ever more real to us and for us.
And as it does break in, sins begin to be put to death and virtues come alive. Our life begins to change as we look beyond the present, in which there may be weakness and pain, and we see (out there past the stars) to the victory that is already ours and is so much bigger than this mere moment. And thus we become alive to God in Christ Jesus.
All this from one word, “consider”: to reflect as if pondering the stars, to gaze as if with wonder and awe, to think carefully and reflectively as when one looks up and out at the night sky.
Yes words are wonderful and many of them are mystical. Think about it: the stars get you to look up and out, to gaze beyond with wonder and awe, to consider.
Not a bad thing to do when seeking perspective or pondering paths, when searching for answers, searching for meaning, searching for God.
Give it some consideration.
In a similar vein, Fr. Robert Barron has described how the word “recognize” means (literally) to rethink something, to take up a thought that has already been thought (re (again) + cogitare (to think)). We live in an intelligible world, a world that was thought into being by God. And thus when we recognize something, we are thinking something that God has already thought into being; we are rethinking it. Think about it! Can you not recognize this? Indeed, consider it well!
8 Replies to “Just an Ordinary Word…or is it? On the Mystical Root of the word”consider.””
I will consider it.
Amen! In the vastness of the universe to understand and accept, from the inner depths of the soul and mind to learn and asses, HE who was from the Heavens came to show The FATHER’s Love that we will become love as well. What a great Sacrifice of The GOD-Man for us to recognize and consider then mull and embrace this mystical truth for the well being of our spirits. LORD, let us ascend to the heavens and let us see within that we might find YOU and return our selves to YOU as a gift just as YOU have gifted YOURSELF to us. Thank you, Monsi for an exhilarating meditation. Thank YOU, LORD JESUS, I have gained wealth and wisdom in YOUR Word. We pray for those who do not appreciate what YOU have done, enlighten them. YHWH SHEKINAH!
NOW……I understand the prayer from the “Jesus King of all the Nations Devotion” where we are instructed to pray, “Jesus, King of all the Nations, may your reign be ….recognized….on earth.” I kept praying the prayer all these years, puzzling over the word “recognize.”
Thank you!!!!!! NOW…. I understand. I now understand that God’s first thought, that Jesus IS the King of ALL the Nations, is a thought that is to be “re-thought” by us, therefore “recognized.” He thought the thought first. We are to re-think His thought, and ….make the thought our own. We are to take ownership of the thought and step into God’s shoes and SEE the thought from His perspective.
What is the thought that we are to accept as our own? That Jesus is KING, and His reign is to be accepted by us…recognized!
We are to take His reign to HEART.
Okay,…I got it! Thanks!!!
This is a little goofy, and doesn’t have much in common with the word consider, but your speaking of the stars reminded me of a dream I had years ago that stuck with me….the setting was in the wee hours of the morning, say 2 – 3 o’clock, and I was walking in my back alley when all of a sudden the sun was shinning ever so bright but it was clearly night time because the sky all around the sun was a night sky with the stars shinning. My church was across the street from my house and I yelled out in the dream we have to call the rectory and tell the priests the sun is shining, they have to see this. This was like the biggest miracle ever! I ran back down the alley to my neighbor who was out puttering in his garage (he is a non church goer and non-Catholic) and I told him to come and see, the sun was shinning in the middle of the night. He just looked at me unimpressed, almost bored at the thought and said, “nah, I’ve seen that already” and went back to doing what he was doing…not even a glimmer of couriosity. He wouldn’t even “consider” it! [Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there 🙂 ]
I know what you mean, thought, about a word or a phrase jumping out at you that you heard numerous times but for some reason it was grabbing your attention. One morning, and several after that, the words from the Mass, “Through Him, With Him and In Him” we’re calling out to me. I searched and searched on the internet for an article or meditation on the phrase to no avail. I asked the priest who says the morning Mass if he knew of any authors that have expounded on this phrase but he could only recall the words being frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles. So Msgr., if you would ever “consider” to expound on this phrase I would be much appreciative! [oh there I go again, well at least I found a way to include your word 🙂 ]
Thank you for this beautiful essay. No matter how much our present world suppresses philosophy (as metaphysics: the study of being itself), “human beings are by nature philosophers”, says St. John Paul II in his famous encyclical Faith And Reason (1998). This nature will never change, and so it can never be fully suppressed. Our need to wonder about reality and its ultimate meaning will never be wiped out.
Thanks for the lexiconic enlightenment. I seem to remember , Fr. Barron, in speaking about the word recognize was quoting Pope Benedict .
Other Bible translations use words like “reckon”(King James, Douay-Rheims), “count”(NIV),” think of”(CET), etc.
Overall, “consider” and “think of” seem like the best translations. Reckon sounds like something Jethro from the “Beverly Hillbillies” would say.
Ponder would also seem like a good synonym. To ponder, as did Mary, many things in her heart.
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