Yesterday I listened to a short explanation about Jesus’s introduction to the Sermon on the Mount – in the Christian calendar we will soon be entering the period of Lent. In a few verses in Matthew, Chapter 5 we are compared to salt and light. Normally at this stage I would just drift off into a light daydream, but this time the vicar really caught my attention.
How come we are compared with salt? ““You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”. Why the analogy?
It was understood from the very earliest of times just how important salt is – it is a preservative of food, it is a cleanser and healer of wounds and it also adds flavour to life. So important was it as a commodity, that people would trade in salt. In Roman times soldiers were paid salt money or ‘salarium argentum’ from which the English word ‘salary was derived. Plus of course the expression – ‘worth ones’s salt’.
In the past salt used to have many impurities – so in damp conditions the salt would simply dissolve away – leaving just the useless minerals. The verse from Matthew is clearly an analogy for how we can lose our goodness and worth.
In the Chichester area we have local reminders of the salt trade – maybe even going back to the Roman times. Salthill Road runs just along the northern boundary of Fishbourne where King Cogidubnus – local client king for the Romans at the end of the first century – had his palace built.