Among a good many advantages our predecessors in the early Church could claim was a more nearly adequate vocabulary. For instance, they were in possession of a number of words that indicated a number of amazing truths. Nous, kardiá, népsis and théosis were among those words that helped to keep the young Body focused on the task at hand, the task of healing our shared array of rifts — rifts within ourselves, between ourselves and others, and, most keenly, between a Holy God and a race of creatures that had broken off communion.

Three of those words — nous, népsis and théosis — have been all but lost to our contemporary conversation, and the deep significance of another, kardiá, which is to say “heart,” has been sorely diminished. With these onetime commonplace words enhancing their spiritual conversations, our predecessors were better able to give their attentions to the profound complexity and the vertiginous promise of the human person, another treasure neglected over the centuries.

The import of nous has been obscured thanks to a history of not-so-good choices translating that very good Greek word into other languages that didn’t have direct equivalents. What we have received are, at best, half measures, and none of them sufficiently delivers to us the mystery of ourselves.

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