Tag Archives: Logos

Word and Eternal Life

Andrei Rublev, Icon of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.

John 12:44-45

Jesus is not a one person mission. Again and again, he deferred all of his actions and words to the Father. Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Most Holy Trinity depicts the Son and the Spirit looking toward the Father, the unbegotten origin of the Son and the Spirit. God is, of course, beyond spacetime; thus words like “unbegotten” and “origin,” derived from sensible experience, must be understood as pointers to an ineffable reality.

I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.

John 12:46

John’s Prologue introduces the Word of God who was “in the beginning with God” as Life and Light itself (John 1:1-5). 

And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.

John 12:47

Earlier in the Gospel, all judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22). Passages about judgment expose the core of the human heart. The voice of God in every heart provokes a search for flourishing. Fear of external judgment corresponds to an inner compass groping for Light, Life, Love, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. 

Jesus forgave his enemies from the Cross for they did not recognize him as the Son of God (Luke 23:34). But failure to recognize the Spirit of God, Jesus says, is inexcusable (Matthew 12:31-32). These puzzling Scriptures seem to point to the fundamental orientation of our heart toward the voice and Spirit of God—receptivity or rejection?1

Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.

John 12:48-49

The “word” (dabar) in Hebrew culture is loaded with significance. In Genesis, the word of God has the power to create, bringing light and life into being. A word of blessing, once given, could not be revoked (Genesis 27:1-46). Words have power to heal; they issue forth from the mouth of God to accomplish his purposes (Psalm 107:20; 147:15; Isaiah 55:11). God’s word is a living fire—a hammer that breaks rock into pieces (Jeremiah 23:29). 

In the Mosaic world, word and life (also law and life) are so closely intertwined that they are virtually indistinguishable:

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today, words you should command your children, that they may observe carefully every word of this law. For this is no trivial matter for you, but rather your very life; by this word you will enjoy a long life on the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47

Jesus, the Word of God, offered himself to the world as Light and Life. A heart shriveled, closed to love, and sunk in darkness is a heart condemned. 

The words of Christ proceed from the Father, for “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

John 12:50

The new Moses elevated the equivalence of word and life to Word and Eternal Life. Jesus is the Word sent forth from the Father to heal and give life to a broken and dying world.

-GMC

1 More than conscience, the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).

I AM. Fear not!

Amédée Varin (1818-1883), Le Christ marchant sur la mer

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

John 6:16-21

Darkness, turbulent waters, and a mighty wind threatened to capsize the disciples into the whirling vortex of chaos. The image recalls the antediluvian waters at the dawn of creation.

and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—

Genesis 1:2 (New American Bible Revised Edition)

The One who brings order out of disorder stepped out onto the surface of the deep. Fear struck the hearts of the disciples who, in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, thought they were seeing a ghost (Mark 6:49; Matthew 14:26).

“I AM. Fear not.” 

John 6:20

Egō eimi. The Greek words for “I AM” in John 6:20 match the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in Exodus 3:14. The holy, almighty and ever living God—I AM WHO AM—is the Alpha and the Omega with a human voice and face in Jesus Christ. Moses parted the Red Sea by the power of God. Jesus commanded the wind and waves by his own power.

The Spirit of God in the Word of God pacified the waters as “in the beginning.”

And the earth was tohu vavohu (without form, and void); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

Innocent Job deluged by wave after wave of suffering extolled the God of all creation who “stretches out the heavens,” recalling Genesis 1:1, and “treads” or “walks on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8), anticipating the Son of God walking on water centuries later.

They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.

John 6:21

Many commentators, including St. John Chrysostom, have thought that this last statement needed reconciling with the accounts of Mark and Matthew which explicitly state that Jesus entered the boat. Reading the line with the lectio divina approach, however, Noah’s ark comes to mind. The Lord of all creation is neither in nor out of the ark, but encompasses all space and time and brings the boat safely to land, with the sign of the Spirit (an olive branch in the beak of a dove).

“I AM. Fear not.”

-GMC

Water and Spirit

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

John 3:7-15

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked Jesus (John 3:9). How can a person be “born of the Spirit?”

The youthful Mary had also asked the angel Gabriel, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34)

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary received the forthright response, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

Gabriel’s answer did not explain how in the scientific sense, but it named the agent of the miraculous Virgin birth. “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). 

Nicodemus received a less clement response:

“You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.

John 3:11

Written in the last half of the first century, the Gospel of John was composed in the milieu of the tension between the early church and the synagogue. The shift to the plural, “you people,” seems to express a sorrowful gulf between Jesus and the community of teachers represented by Nicodemus.

The Torah is a window onto eternity. Nicodemus was expected to recognize the face of God and the works of the Spirit of God, given all his learning.

If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

John 3:12

The “I” of the Dabar/Logos/Word spoke “in the beginning”—Bereshitthe first word of the Torah. The entire book of Genesis is a record of God’s covenant love with humankind. The Lord God Almighty of Israel gave to Moses the gift of the Ten Commandments to guide his people in living a holy life on earth, paving the way to “heavenly things.” Through his mouthpiece, the prophets, the Lord God described himself as a king, shepherd, prince of peace, potter, father, lover, husband, mother, hen, Spirit, wind, breath, rock, fortress, tower, and more. By means of vibrant and colorful earthly images, God painted a splendid portrait of his character for Israel. 

Nevertheless, making the leap from the Torah to Christ was by no means self-evident. Nor is this dialogue with Jesus in the dark of night easily comprehended. Nicodemus speaks for all persons, past and present, in his perplexity. A survey of biblical commentaries on this passage reveals an abundance of varied and divergent interpretations. Nicodemus’ “How can this be?” continues to reverberate down the centuries. 

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

John 3:13-15

Jesus identified himself with the ladder of the holy patriarch Jacob-Israel (Genesis 28:12). The Greek verbs for ascending and descending in John 3:13 and the Greek Septuagint version of Genesis 28:12 are identical. 

Jesus also identified himself with the likeness of the poisonous serpent that healed the children of Israel in the desert (Numbers 21:9).1 Moses’ original action of “setting” the serpent on a pole becomes in the Messianic light an exaltation and glorification2 of the “Son of Man,” a self-referential term from the Psalms, Ezekiel, and Daniel that Jesus frequently used. The promised Messiah has come to heal the brokenhearted and bind up the wounded, and to send his Spirit to renew the face of the earth (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 147:3; Luke 4:18; Psalm 104:30: Genesis 1:2).

The angel Gabriel’s answer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the answer for all her children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ her Son. For the Woman whose womb waters were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit is a living symbol of the watery Womb of God the Father.

And the earth was tohu vavohu (without form, and void); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

From the Virgin Father’s Womb to the Virgin Mother’s womb, the creation and recreation of Adam and the earth are accomplished by “water and Spirit” (John 3:5).

We join Nicodemus in his journey from the nighttime of obscurity to the dawning light of faith in the resurrection of the Son of Man on the third day.

-GMC

1 See related post: Christ and the Bronze Serpent

2 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to John 3:14.

Water and Word

Eucharistic Bread and Fish (Roman Catacombs)

First Week of Lent, Tuesday

Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 4:4b; Matthew 6:7-15 

Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

The living word of God waters the earth and awakens seeds, gives bread to the hungry and manna to the spirit. The word proceeding from the mouth of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword,” able to create and recreate the world (Hebrews 4:12). The Voice that spoke light and life into being with a word sent forth his Word to divinize the earth.

The Word of God uncoiled the serpent with a word:

One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4b

In the midst of temptation, Jesus taught us to turn to our Father:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

Our Father provides daily bread for the body, mind, soul and spirit. Nourished by his Word, may we become words in the Word and bread for others by our mercy. 

Another Forty Syllables for the Forty Days of Lent:

Water from Heaven breaks and opens seeds…
Our Father speaks and from his mouth proceeds
Returning Son, crushed wheat of Calvary,
Divine Bread and seed-bearing Energy.

-GMC

Living Nanoscope

Christ Pantocrator, Cathedral of the Transfiguration, Cefalù, Sicily, 12th century. Licensed by Andreas Wahra under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 2:13-17

An eye for microscopic detail, a steady hand, and ultra-fine motor skills are required of surgeons in the operating room. Cataract surgery or blood vessel repair demand technical finesse and expertise.

Medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds in the modern era as studies of the most intricate anatomical structures have reached the nanoscopic scale, even to mapping the entire human genome.

If the life of the body (bios) is complex, how much more delicate must be the life of the spirit (zóé)? What kind of scalpel or nanoscope divides and heals the thoughts and intentions of the heart? 

A surgeon’s scalpel is a non-living tool that divides living tissue, but the divine scalpel is a “living” (zaó from zóé, divine breath of life) and “active” (energés, energetic) personal being who is all eye and light. Nothing slips from this all-seeing, razor-sharp eye because all things are contained in it.

Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Hebrews 4:12-13

The “word of God” is first of all Scripture, post-patristic commentators point out, critiquing the Fathers for misapplying the Johannine Logos to Hebrews.1 However, lectio divina (sacred reading) is not only a study of words in a book but encounter with the living God. Receiving the word by ear and heart unites the hearer to the Word himself by divine, energizing grace. 

The Spirit of God transports human persons from the word to the Word, from the eye to the “I AM,” and from the ear to the silent Voice in the depths of God.

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The sword of the Spirit makes our spirit one with his by cutting away all that is alien to divine grace. Delicate incisions between soul (psuché) and spirit (pneuma), “joints and marrow” of our inner being purify our nature for divine communion. Thoughts, reasonings, intentions, images, forms, dreams, concepts and ideas are all illuminated by the Spirit.

But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

The transformation from the psychological (psuchikos: animal, sensuous) to the spiritual (pneumatikos: of the Holy Spirit) is the work of God.

Now the natural (psuchikos) person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual (pneumatikos) person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15

The human person is the new temple of the Holy Spirit, of the same nature by grace as Jesus the great high priest who has severed the curtain between humanity and the Father.2

From henceforth all children of the Father are one in the Son of God. All are one in the priesthood of Christ:

But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

Untouchables, pariahs, “tax collectors and sinners” are all loved and welcomed by our high priest and humble shepherd.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Hebrews 4:15-16

-GMC

1 Examples of this critique can be found in Meyer’s NT Commentary and Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.

2 Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-20. 

Children of One Womb

Icon of the Theotokos

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 2:14-18

Out of the womb I have begotten you before the morning star.

Psalm 110:3 (Interpreted by St. Athanasius, Deposition of Arius 3)

He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”

Hebrews 2:11

All men are my brothers from the same womb, all things my companions.1

Zhang Zai (Chang Tsai, 1020-1077)

Jesus Christ fulfilled the highest intuition of the sages that we are all family. Without departing the eternal Womb of the Father, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary into our world to gather all people to himself. 

The God-man’s paternal and maternal origins resonate with the natural philosophy of Neo-Confucianist philosopher Zhang Zai who called Heaven “Father” and Earth “Mother.” Heaven and Earth constitute the whole of reality, the Universe which is fundamentally loving, nurturing, and benevolent. Zhang Zai was influenced by the ancient cosmology of China which characterized the Tao (“Way,” universal principle, Logos) as a mother. The Tao is gentle, kind, merciful, yielding, and sacrificial.

Although the book of Hebrews, full of references to Israelite temple worship, priesthood, and  customs sounds very foreign to cultures of the East, the extraordinary humility and love of Christ strike a deep chord.

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:14-18

Christ is the perfect icon of the Tao made flesh:

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice

Therefore, sages say:
The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite 

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 78 (translated by Derek Lin)

The “king of the world,” crowned with the “glory and honor” of his sacrificial death on the Cross (Hebrews 2:9), is our gateway to union and communion.

Heaven, earth, and all human persons are called to oneness in the Womb of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

-GMC

1 Fung Yu-Lan, The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy, trans. E. R. Hughes (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947), 175.

Deified Stardust

Icon of the Theotokos

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26

An earth groaning under its downward entropic spiral longs for liberation from the cycle of life and death. For the impermanence of life and the permanence of death yields an imbalance toppling the complementarity of yang and yin. True yang to the yin would be life without end. 

Nothing in the material expanse of the cosmic desert escapes entropy. No elixir of immortality has ever been found. Herbs and exercise may prolong earthly life, but everything eventually crumbles into dust.

Scripture proclaims that eternity has broken into time and united dust to divinity: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). 

The origin of the universe is not impersonal but tri-personal, the primordial Love beyond being and non-being. 

The Logos/Tao is not a What but a Who—the Son of God made man without the instrumentality of seed, born of a Virgin—fully human and fully divine without mixture or confusion. Distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son reveals the primordial fact of unique personhood. Distinct from the Virgin and all the children of Adam by his divine Sonship, he is able to lift the entire cosmos to his Father beyond the grave.

The Cross of Christ planted on the soil of Golgotha, the traditional burial place of Adam’s skull, reversed the tragedy of death. No cave or tomb can circumscribe divinity or terminate its life without beginning or end. From the moment of the Annunciation when the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes!” to the angel Gabriel, the earth began to celebrate.

The wilderness and the parched land will exult; 
the Arabah will rejoice and bloom;
Like the crocus it shall bloom abundantly, 
and rejoice with joyful song.

Isaiah 35:1-2a

The sun, moon, and stars bowed down to the Son that never burns out (Psalm 148:3). The stardust out of which humans are made was transfigured in uncreated Light found on no planet or galaxy (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:29). In an age of science fiction aliens and UFOs, Scripture informs us that no odd-shaped creature bestowed this wondrous gift of eternal life, but the unassuming, selfless son of Mary who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves” (Matthew 11:29). Not a spacecraft, but the womb of the Blessed Virgin brought glad tidings from another world. 

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven… Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:47, 49

Paralyzed humanity lying on a stretcher heard the life-giving words, “Your sins are forgiven… Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home” (Luke 5:17-26). Divine mercy opened up the gates beyond the grave to our true home in the heartland of the Trinity.

You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, for: 

“All flesh is like grass, 
and all its glory like the flower of the field;
the grass withers, 
and the flower wilts; 
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

 1 Peter 1:23-25

Each human person is a unique flower and word spoken through the Word of the Father in the Spirit. The communion of saints in the Trinity dazzles with the unearthly glory of deified Carmel and Sharon (Isaiah 35:2). 

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning flee away.

Isaiah 35:10

-GMC

Peonies, Day 18

“The Eternal Tao (Panels 1 and 2)”
©️2020 by Gloria M. Chang

“The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 1, translated by Derek Lin

Tao is the word used to translate Logos of St. John’s Prologue. The Tao (literally “the Way” or universal principle) is beyond all names and concepts because it is absolute and “prior” to all creatures. 

Mystics of the Christian tradition arrived at the same realization.

According to Pseudo-Dionysius, God “cannot be reached by any perception, imagination, conjecture, name, discourse, apprehension, or understanding… the Super-Essential Godhead is unutterable and nameless” (Divine Names 1.5).

St. Gregory of Nyssa writes, “The divine word at the beginning forbids that the Divine be likened to any of the things known by men, since every concept which comes from some comprehensible image by an approximate understanding and by guessing at the divine nature constitutes an idol of God and does not proclaim God” (Life of Moses II.165). 

In the mercy of God, however, the Way back to the Father ascends through the Holy Name of Jesus (the Tao/Logos made flesh) in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. The Greek Fathers called this the divine condescension (synkatabasis). 

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s prayerful commentary on the Song of Songs expresses our pilgrim state in and toward the Trinity beyond all names:

Tell me, you whom my soul loves. This is how I address you, because your true name is above all other names; it is unutterable and incomprehensible to all rational creatures. And so the name I use for you is simply the statement of my soul’s love for you, and this is an apt name for making your goodness known.”

From the Liturgy of the Hours, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Office of Readings

Eternity in our Hearts

Christ Pantocrator, 13th century Serbian icon

25th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Psalm 144; Luke 9:18-22

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

The lilting cadences of this Hebrew poem flowed from a wonderstruck sage surveying the cyclical movements of the universe. Rising and falling like sunrise and sunset, nature’s course goes round and round, “blowing now toward the south, then toward the north” (Ecclesiastes 1:5-6). Human feelings and behavior seem to mirror the cosmic laws of action and reaction. Is humanity doomed to be swept along with the winds of change without any possibility of freedom? The human person seems like a tiny atom in a vast, immeasurable cosmos:

LORD, what is man, that you notice him;
the son of man, that you take thought of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days, like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:3-4)

A strange incongruity looms before the psalmist: vaporous, shadowy Adam fades continually, yet the Lord of heaven and earth regards him as the apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8). There’s more to Adam than meets the eye!

Once when Jesus (Adam) was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Peter’s inspired confession of the Christ sprouted from the seed of a new, deifying consciousness. Immutable divinity assumed shadowy humanity in the person of the Son of God, opening the path of return to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

The Logos beyond action and reaction was born to die and rise, to suffer without retaliation, and to be killed while forgiving his enemies. Yet Jesus harmonized with the laws of action and reaction when it was fitting: The disciples were directed to obey the rhythm of a time to be silent, and a time to speak. Premature proclamations of the Christ were forbidden.

He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Eternity (olam) is at the very heart of the human person called to deification. Every human heart from conception to eternity longs for Trinitarian union and communion. 

-GMC

Vanity of vanities!

From the Schedelsche Weltchronik or Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).

25th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11, Luke 9:7-9

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! …The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear satisfied with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 8b).

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen” (Luke 9:7-8).

Qoheleth, the Solomonic pen name of Ecclesiastes, sagely lamented the emptiness and futility of all human striving “under the sun.” 

Herod epitomized our collective vanity, surfeited with seeing and hearing, yet never satisfied. 

News and the “latest buzz” tickle the outer ears but leave the inner chamber of the heart untouched. Rumors about “John” or “Elijah” or “one of the ancient prophets” fluttered about Herod’s court, flummoxing the tetrarch.

But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.

Would “seeing” this elusive figure have sated Herod’s ravenous eyes? Jesus refused to entertain the wolfish tetrarch when summoned into his presence on the morning of his crucifixion (Luke 23:8-9). 

The gap between subject and object in seeing and hearing always leaves the subject yearning for more. All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full (Ecclesiastes 1:7). The human spirit longs to soar in union with the infinite Trinity, beyond the distinction of subject and object. Is it possible?

Nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). 

In modern times, even the marvel of the Incarnation draws a yawn. The One who keeps the sun shining was silenced and buried under it (John 1:11). 

What does our jaded world say about the resurrection of Christ? Is that new?

All speech is labored; there is nothing one can say (Ecclesiastes 1:8). 

Weary, weary words! There is the speechlessness of the resigned. There is also the speechlessness of the mystic. St. Paul received the gift of arrested speech, his most eloquent testimony: “I know someone in Christ who… was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

“The Tao (Logos) that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.”1

-GMC

1 Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 1, translated by Derek Lin.