Truth

In the portico of the Church of Santa Maria de Cosmedin in Rome, there is a sculpture of a head that is called 'La Bocca dela Verita', the Mouth of Truth. It is said that if you are lying and you put your hand in the mouth, it will bite it off. You may have seen it in the film Roman Holiday when Audrey Hepburn tentatively puts her hand in and Gregory Peck pretends to have his bitten off.

It is said that we live in a post-truth era. What an awful concept! And how ironic, that in an age when we are able to know almost everything about anything, the quest for truth should be held in such low regard.

Fake news is a criticism that President Trump often throws at media organisations, but fake news has been with us for a long time. The truth can be manipulated to suit the purposes of unscrupulous individuals, especially the powerful. 

Jesus declared that he “came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” (John 18.37). The Christ of St John’s gospel has truth running through him. 

The truth is not a significant facet of Christ for Mathew, Mark or Luke but is integral to his portrayal by John, from beginning to end. The prologue declares that Jesus came from the father, ‘full of grace and truth.’ He promised the spirit of truth to guide his disciples into all truth.

'You shall know the truth', Christ declared, 'and the truth will set you free'. Being truthful is indeed liberating. Lies compound and complicate life, and destroy trust, and are best avoided.

I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.’ Jesus declared and he couldn’t have put it more emphatically than that.

If Christ our King, our Lord, whose authority over us we uphold today, is truth, then we should honour and worship truth because truth is of God; truth is what Christ is. Christ is who Christ is, and we must understand him as he is, and not as we might prefer him to be. The Christian life is a quest for truth and understanding.

The American Declaration of Independence contains within it the statement: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. These ‘self-evident truths’ can be undermined when the sanctity of truth is not upheld, when it is threatened by lies, rumour and falsehood, which can be so destructive.

Just because information is well-presented on the internet it does not mean that it is true. We must be discerning in assessing information we are told and challenging what is false.  

We must consider the source: what is the background of person spreading the news, do they have an axe to grind, are they a credible witness?

Read beyond the headline, an outrageous headline might get one’s attention but what is the whole story?

Check the sources, do they have anything to back up their claim?

Check the date, is this an old story that no longer applies?

Is it a joke, not meant to be taken seriously?

Are you biased, do you want to believe it because it backs up your prejudice.

Ask an expert, go to someone who really knows if this can be true.

All this takes mental effort and perhaps we can’t be bothered.

Among Aesop’s Fables, is one concerning truth and falsehood:   Prometheus, the potter decided one day to sculpt a statue of Truth, using all his skill so that she would be able to regulate people's behaviour. As he was working, a summons from mighty Jupiter called him away. Prometheus left cunning Trickery, one of his apprentices, in charge of his workshop. Fired by ambition, Trickery fashioned with his sly fingers a figure of the same size and appearance as Truth and with identical features. Before he could complete the piece, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. When he returned, Prometheus was amazed at the similarity of the two statues and put both statues in the kiln and when they had been fired, he infused them both with life: sacred Truth walked with measured steps, while her unfinished twin stood stuck in her tracks. The forgery, thus acquired the name of Falsehood, and Aesop concluded that falsehood has no feet. While something that is false can start off successfully, with time the Truth is sure to prevail.