We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son.
This opening paragraph from Eucharistic Prayer B, and especially its last seven words, has had a special resonance for me lately.
It started around Christmas, and all its seasonal references to “the Word.” The author of John began that Gospel, of course, with the acknowledgment that “the Word” got this whole ball rolling, so to speak:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… (John 1:1)
It’s not easy for me, I must confess, contemplating the sheer foolishness of Christmas, and the whole concept of “Incarnation” — the act of the Divine somehow occupying flesh (or carnis, in Latin). Think of it — the Ubiquitous Power of all Existence, choosing to appear in that Creation as a utterly helpless and completely dependent bastard infant of a poor, oppressed peasant girl. Truly absurd.
But every so often, Grace breaks through.
Maybe it is the darkness that comes in late December and early January, but there is something about this time of year that seems to pull me further into Mystery. Natural light is at a premium, and we dwell in darkness, metaphorically as well as literally.
And when it comes to “mystery” it may well be that “the Word made flesh” is the ultimate Mystery of all.
I am a lawyer, not a theologian, and as a habit I don’t like mystery. (I often tell my staff that it is what I don’t know that bothers me. I can take just about any bad news, and adjust as the circumstances warrant; it’s the “surprise” that often kills a case.) If I were theologian, I might know more about all the meaning contained in that one little word, “Word” (logos, in the original Greek). As I understand it, though, “Word” or Logos in John’s context puts this whole “nativity” thing into a brighter light. When the writer of John’s Gospel began his text “In the beginning…” not only was there the intention of going back to the Hebrew text and first words of Genesis, there was the revealing of the whole purpose of Jesus as “The Christ.”
For John, “In the beginning was the Word…” meant that logos was present from the start. This Greek term was marked by two main distinctions — the first dealing with human reason (the rationality in the human mind which seeks to attain universal understanding and harmony), and the second with universal intelligence (the universal Ruling Force governing and revealing Truth through the cosmos to humankind, i.e. the Divine).
And so for John (and for any of us that are so bold as to dare comprehend it), what Jesus represents is nothing less than the Highest and the Best and the Ultimate of humankind, and of the vast cosmos, merged into human form:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…Out of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son…he has made him known.” John 1: 14…16
And now, as I write this, we have moved from Christmas into the season of Epiphany. And I guess, even at the ripe “old” age of 62, I’m having one. This one little word — “Word” — is taking on meaning and depth beyond what I could have thought possible, and certainly more than I deserve.
During the Eucharist in Epiphany, the Celebrant often recites…“Because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord…” Normally I don’t pay that much attention, but last Sunday, that word jumped out. That word — “Word” — seems to keep pursuing me, and almost always it is in the phrase “the Word made flesh.” And frankly, it’s a little creepy.
But maybe, that’s not an altogether bad thing.