Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A solis ortu usque ad occasum laudabile nomen Domini… (Psalmi 112:3)
In parishes, the commentary on the Christmas gospel is very often the opportunity offered to the parish priest to speak to an unusually packed assembly. We can therefore give in to the temptation to say things that engage the attention of even the most distracted, especially worrying about teaching something good, to those many who rarely hear a sermons. The liturgy seems to invite this by proposing a text that is anything but popular: the prologue of John, a text that makes you want to talk about something else. There is no polemic intention in this observation, which among other things recognizes all the common sense of such reasoning. Leaving it up to every parish priest to locally update everyone on the mystery of Christmas I would like to propose a reading closer to the theological meaning of the Johannine prologue, and in particular of the central term: the Word, the Word, or rather the Greek noun logos. It’s a comment that derives from my notes of a beautiful conversation heard many years ago by the then Cardinal Martini of Milan, his words and his ideas are unfortunately filtered by my blunders and small personal insights, but Christmas is also time of poverty and in the crib, next to the child, there was also a donkey. This is why I offer them as they are for your reflection.
* In the 18 verses of the prologue there is a small drama unfolding, a story that opens with the origin of the world and takes place in the fullness of time. The absolute protagonist of this adventure is the word Logos that in Latin translates as Verbum, which my mother tongue of Italian translates to: In principio era il Verbo… or into English In the beginning was the Word …
This word logos is a despairing word, perhaps because it a the Greek word that has more than one meanings: mind, reason, expense account, and many other extremely disparate things. One wonders why John chose this word instead of choosing more precise ones. For example, if he wanted to point to the “word of God“, why did he not choose rema, which was perhaps the most appropriate term to expressly indicate the creative word of God? If he wanted to indicate “wisdom“, why did he not choose sophia or other similar words? Probably John wanted to offer us all together the various possible meanings of this term, to offer us a kind of ladder to ascend, degree by degree, to a deeper understanding of the mystery of the incarnation.
* For a Greek the most obvious meaning, that he understood from the use of his philosophers of the term, was that of logos of things, that is, the ultimate reason for being from reality: why is everything around us that way? What is its origin? Its meaning? Its end?
If we begin to look at the Logos in this way emerge five fundamental meanings, which John seems to have connected to one another, as if they illuminate each other:
1. reason for being from reality;
2. creative word:
3. authoritative wisdom of creation
4. illuminating and life-giving word
5. revealing word: the Son of God comes among us in Jesus (incarnates), and it is Jesus who reveals the Father.
1) The Logos is the ultimate reason of things: The ultimate reason for everything and above all of my existence in God. This is certainly a first message, perhaps implicit, but very evident of this gospel. My existence as it is (and that of the whole human situation) has a reason, it has a why, it has a meaning. And this ultimate meaning, hidden within God, came to me in the flesh at some point in history, in a concrete human person: the Logos became flesh.
2) The Logos is the creative word: Where is this ultimate meaning of all reality, of all things, of my human situation? It is in dependence on God. It is in the fact that we have all been created by him and by him alone. Everything was done through him. And it would be foolish and disastrous to forget it! To welcome this dependence with gratitude and to live it in praise and obedience is the only true possible wisdom.
3) The Logos is the authoritative wisdom of creation: With God, our dependence on Him, it is the ultimate reason not only of the being of things, but of being in the “here and now”. That is: all situations of existence, all that has happened and takes place now, has a meaning in God’s ordaining wisdom. No human situation is therefore meaningless, even the strangest apparently: both my situation as a man, and the situation of others and of the world, and the situation of the Church. Everything has a meaning in God’s ordaining wisdom and only in reference to Him are the answers to the radical questions of man about life and the darkness that often surrounds him.
4) The Logos is Light and Life: The sense that God helps us to discover within reality, if we let ourselves be guided by Him, is luminous and vivifying. Despite the obscurity of the present situation of man, despite the human tragedy that surrounds us, despite the trials of the Church and the almost absurd situations in which the world finds itself and we can find ourselves too, there is at the bottom of everything a “gospel”, good news: there is a luminous and vivifying reason for all these things, if we only know how to grasp it and let ourselves be transformed by it.
5) This Logos is Jesus Christ among us who speaks to us of the Father: The words of Jesus, which we hear in Scripture, his own personal reality constitute the luminous and edifying sense of the whole human experience as we perceive it. This is the secure and necessary background on which all the subsequent construction is grafted. Without this basic trust in the creative wisdom that regulates the present situations and manifests itself in Christ, there is no hope of doing better, there is no hope of changing oneself and there is no hope for the world. Indeed, our hope lies in this source of everything in the ultimate reason, which is the divine creation and the presence among us of Jesus Christ, who reveals the words of God and creates a situation of truth and grace in the world: Jesus “full of grace and truth” (1:14).