This blog has followed the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church. From tomorrow it will follow the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary as used by the Episcopal Church. Reading 1, 1 John 2:18-21
18 Children, this is the final hour; you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and now many Antichrists have already come; from this we know that it is the final hour.
19 They have gone from among us, but they never really belonged to us; if they had belonged to us, they would have stayed with us. But this was to prove that not one of them belonged to us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received knowledge.21 I have written to you not because you are ignorant of the truth, but because you are well aware of it, and because no lie can come from the truth.
Not for the last time a leader identifies persecution of a Christian group with the end of the world. Damning doctrinal opponents with the name “antichrist” is also not a good sign. If you need to score ten before being diagnosed as seriously loopy, then you should probably count at least three for each of these. I have noted the tendency of this author to look always inward to the Christian community as a danger sign. Those who shudder at this treatment of Holy Scripture must ask themselves if they should not shudder at the many consequences of doctrinal arrogance from the persecution of 4th century heretics to the Pope’s disruptive dalliance with women-hating Anglican clergy. We have to interpret such passages in the light of the whole of scripture as lacking the realism and generosity of Christ.
Gospel, John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him.
4 What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; 5 and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it.
6 A man came, sent by God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that everyone might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light.
9 The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to his own and his own people did not accept him.
12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name13 who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself.
14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John witnesses to him. He proclaims: ‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.’
16 Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received — one gift replacing another, 17 for the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
This is such a marvellous, condensed, expression of the meaning of Jesus Christ that no commentary can ever do it justice. This translation however has one or two shortcomings that need to be noted. In verse 5 the word “light” (to phos) has the definite article in Greek as it does throughout this passage. The author is not making a general point about light shining in darkness, but specifically about THE light, which is the life from God for everyone: this light has never been grasped or overpowered by darkness.
Grace has become a theological term and its primary meaning forgotten. The Greek “charis” means objectively gracefulness or beauty; subjectively, affection, favour, kindness. Perhaps in the context of these verses, “kindness” is to be preferred. Certainly the translation “one grace replacing another” (verse 16) is misleading. Literally we have the Greek words “kindness in the place of kindness” which might mean, “kindness on top of kindness,” or “one kindness after another” We do not in faith experience God giving us a brand new kindness to replace an old one, as if it were a new model of car, but rather kindness after kindness as we share our lives with Him.
Finally, I know our sexualised speech has a problem with the word “bosom” but that’s what the Greek says in verse 18, “who is in the Father’s bosom”; and that’s what the English should say if it wants to retain the full meaning of the phrase. It is the trusting physical intimacy of child and parent, husband and wife or of friends with each other, that the author attributes to God and his Son.
On the last day of the year.
Non nobis, non nobis, domine, sed tuo nomini da gloriam.