Why become literate in the pagan Western tradition? To read its idolatry. The animal is now dead, slaughtered, no more. Yet we are reading more than the entrails read by Roman augurs (haruspices, more accurately): we hear of the great beast and see what great filth was in it, that we might see what beauty is in the great Jerusalem above. How? The word of YHWH reads all things en arche (Jn 1.1–14), as through the Word all things have their being, so that we hear and, by hearing, have eyes to judge what is in the world.
Our ears are for the word of God’s revelation, our eyes for the world given to Man to rule and subdue. They that belong to Christ are, in him, a royal priesthood. The ancient cultures were dominated by kings and priests who lorded it over themselves and enslaved the underclass who could not read; but the Church is the place where all men in Christ are kings and priests who read society by hearing with their ears what YHWH has spoken. ‘Let there be light,’ he said, and there was light.
Much as I jest in person about slavery, much even as I often have spoken in sinful wrath about some who are ‘liars that deserve slavery’ (and do I not deserve slavery too?), Paul says in Galatians that there are no slaves in Christ. Jesus Christ, our Lord, says that the sinner is a slave to sin (Jn 8.31–38), but we are now sons (Lk 15.11–32), no longer under a tutor, but inheritors of the kingdom that will have no end (Isa 9.2–7). This, at least, is dead serious.
We, the ‘sons’ of Christ, who is greater than Levi – though of Christ we are rather brothers than sons – are priests in, with and under him. The priests, hearing what the Lord has spoken, teach (Mal 2.1–9): they teach all to bow down and worship God in the ways he has spoken into the very being of things. This is why all believers must be literate: the point is not for any to be able to cast off the authority that Christ has made but to use the authority that he has given us, the authority to be guided by his eye (Ps 32), the authority to read the earth and so rule it.
This, not the mere ability to manipulate symbols, is literacy. Will they answer the call to whom the grace of Christ is come? This change in status has already happened, but it is also not yet, just as our justification is the elder twin of sanctification. Let us attend, and let us read.