Saturday, December 27, 2008

St John the Divine

December 27, 2008

John 21.19b-24

I had never really considered St. John much before reading Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent book, Encountering the Mystery. In it, Bartholomew devotes a section titled “Saint John the Divine: Source of Theology.” After reading it, my devotion to St. John has increased greatly.

Patriarch Bartholomew writes in this section: “…the hermeneutical tradition of the Church considers the moment when St. John reclined upon the breast of our Lord Jesus Christ during the Last Supper as the starting point of the theological journey. It is from this event that the gift of theology is derived and drawn, as if from a life-giving spring and source.”

This one simple action—this beautiful act of love and affection—is, as Patriarch Bartholomew maintains, the beginning of all theology, of all deep and meaningful spiritual longing.

Ever since I read this passage from Encountering the Mystery, I have found myself returning again and again to the Gospel of St. John—a Gospel I admit I have struggled with over the years. But now, after reading the Patriarch’s book, I have come away with a new appreciation for this Gospel, about which Bartholomew writes: “It is no wonder that the Gospel of John is the central evangelical text of the Orthodox Church.” He goes on to highlight the Gospel’s “emphasis on light and resurrection together with its theological eloquence and poetic expressiveness.” I have also found myself returning again and again to that passage in today’s reading from St. John’s Gospel:

“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper…”

The beauty of this action of St. John’s is that it is an action we ourselves should be imitating. St Bonaventure said, “There [in that moment] our Lord fed [St. John] on the mysteries of his Divine wisdom, abundantly, uniquely, wholesomely, profitably.” We, like St. John, should also be fed abundantly, uniquely, wholesomely, and profitably. We should find our consolation, our joy, our absolutely gladness in that place, reclining alongside Jesus. And more than just reclining. We too should find ourselves in that place of complete trust. We too should lay our heads—full of our sorrows, our troubles, our pains, our angers—we should lay our muddled heads against the breast of Jesus that contains his sacred and love-filled Heart.

There, in that place so near to the source of his love and affection, we should find our shelter, our refreshment, the place we have longed to be spiritually and actually.

St. John truly is the model saint. Like him, we too should strive to be the one Jesus loves. That love should be the only goal in our lives.

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