Et Teneo, Et Teneor – holding and held…

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

spurgeons-crestMost of us aren’t into Latin, but once in a while you come across a phrase that captures your imagination. At any rate, et teneo, et teneor captures mine. Translated it means, I hold and am held. It serves as the motto embedded in the crest of Spurgeon’s College, Spurgeon probably having first heard it from the hymnwriter Dora Greenwell, who had adopted it as her life motif. In the crest, a hand holds the cross of Christ, and it can be interpreted as both holding out the cross to others, and holding onto the cross.

Holding and held – a powerful image. We hold out the truth that in turn holds us… a truth about forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, new life, hope, resurrection. On the one hand we do all that we can to commend this life transforming reality to others, but much closer to home, this reality shapes and moulds us.

As with the best images, it can be interpreted in different ways. Perhaps it has something to say about the paradox of grace – we are found and rescued by grace and grace alone… there is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation, we are totally dependant on the mercy of God and the cross of Christ… yet we must still hold on to the grace that God has shown us… hold on to it and hold it out to others.

Or we could see it as addressing the creative tension within Phil 2:12-13 work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. We must work out the implications of our salvation, even as God works within us. Of course our part in this is paltry in comparison to what God has done, but it doesn’t negate that there is a part for us to play – albeit a responsive rather than an initiatory part.

Pastorally, it is a truth I try to remind myself of. At times life gets recklessly busy – demands everywhere. I try to respond to each in a way that is worthy of my calling to be a follower of Jesus – but realistically, I fall short over and over again. Sometimes living in the light of truths deeply held and believed is hard work, and I become aware of the weight of what I am holding. And that’s when this reminder kicks in… yes, I hold, but much more fundamentally, I am held.

Et teneo, et teneor is both comfort and challenge. The God who I try to hold out to others, is holding far more tightly on to me. When I feel weary, inadequate, uncertain, fearful, doubting, insecure, disappointed – I am held… I am held… I am held. And being held, I need to boldly accept the invitation to hold out the great truths of the faith to others, that they to may discover the revolutionary truth of holding and being held.

Et teneo, et teneor… and as always, nice chatting.


  1. Thanks Brian… Just what I needed to hear today… Blessings Linda

    • Very good to hear from you Linda. Hope things are going ok for you.

  2. Thank you for this message, a great help.


  1. I Hold, I Am Held | Kindling for Candles - […] of 1970 and of that summer’s night, you can find them here: My Witness. __________ Image from Et Teneo,…

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