Lectio Divina: The Birth of the Lord
The Prologue of John’s Gospel
1. OPENING PRAYER
In the darkness of a starless night,
a night of no sense,
you, the Word of life,
like lightning in the storm of forgetfulness,
entered within the bounds of doubt
under cover of the limits of precariousness
to hide the light.
Words made of silence and of the ordinary,
your human words, heralds of the secrets of the Most High:
like hooks cast into the waters of death
to find man once more, immersed in his anxious follies,
and reclaim him, plundered, through the attractive radiance of
To you, Ocean of Peace and shadow of eternal Glory,
I render thanks:
Calm waters on my shore that awaits the wave, I wish to seek you!
And may the friendship of the brothers protect me
when night falls on my desire for you. Amen.
a) The text:
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 name 13 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.
b) A moment of silence:
Allow the voice of the Word echo within us.
a) Some question for reflection:
- God who is light has chosen to dispel the darkness of man by making himself darkness. Man is born blind (cfr Jn 9:1-41): blindness is his condition of creature. The symbolical gesture of Jesus in gathering mud to spread over the eyes of the man born blind in John, signifies the newness of the incarnation: it is a gesture of new creation. The blind man whose eyes are still covered with the mud of creation is asked to make not an act of faith but one of obedience: to go to the pool of Siloe, which means “sent”. The one “sent” is Jesus. Are we able to obey the Word, which comes to us every day?
- The blind man in the Gospel of John is poor: he has no pretence and asks for nothing. We often live in daily blindness, resigned that we do not deserve better horizons. Can we see ourselves as having nothing so that the gift of God may be ours too, a gift of the redemption of the flesh, but above all a gift of light and faith?
- «The law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known» (Jn 1:17-18). The knowledge of what happens in the story of our lives leads us to get out of the blindness of presumption and to contemplate the light that shines on the face of the Son of God. Our eyes, flooded with light, become open to events. When shall we be able to see God in our midst?
b) A key to the reading:
John was someone who was able to see the light shining, who saw, heard and touched the light. In the beginning was the Word: constantly turned towards the love of the Father, the Word became the Father’s true explanation, his only exegesis (Jn 1:18), the revelation of his love. In the logos was life and life was light, but the darkness did not welcome the light. In the OT the revelation of the Word is the revelation of light: to this corresponds the fullness of grace, the grace of grace, given to us in Jesus, the revelation of God’s unlimited love (Jn 1:4-5, 16). The whole witness of the OT is a witness of light: from Abraham to John the Baptist, God sends witnesses to his light. John the Baptist is the last of these: he announces the light that is to come into the world and recognises in Jesus the long awaited light (Jn 1:6-8;15).
Dabar IHWH is God’s communication with man, which took place with all those whom God has called and to whom the word of the Lord came (cfr Is 55: 10-11). As Augustine says: The Word of God is the true light.
The word comes from the mouth of God, but it keeps its full force, and it is a person who creates and sustains the world. This word that creates and saves is identified with the Torah, which for Israel is the divine revelation in its totality, with Wisdom: The law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem (Is 2:3).
The memra (aramaic) is the concept used by John to go from the dabar to the logos: in the targum the memra has a creating function, but above all a revealing function that is expressed particularly through the image of light. In the Targum Neophiti, the famous poem of the four nights on Ex 12:42 it is written: «The first night was when IHWH revealed himself above the world to create it: the world was desert and empty and darkness covered the face of the abyss. And the memra of IHWH was the light that shone». In the Targum Jerushalaim manuscript 110 says: «With his word IHWH shone and shed light».
The midrash stresses that the law was before the world, it was life, it was light: «The words of the Torah are light for the world» (Midrash Dt Rabba 7.3). Only daughter of God, the Torah was written with black fire in the white flame and sits on God’s knees while God sits on his throne of glory (cfr Midrash on Psalm 90:3).
The logos-light becomes present in the world. All is life in him: the Word takes the place of the Torah. The signs are transcendent, and more than a substitution we see a fulfilment. If for the Jew the Torah is God’s daughter, John shows that she is the logos that from the beginning is with God, is God. This logos becomes flesh: man, frail, limited, finite, placing his glory in the flesh. He put down his tent, skené, among us, he became the shekinah of God among us, and he showed his glory, the overwhelming presence of God to men. The glory that dwelt in the tent of the exodus (Ex 40:34-38), that dwelt in the temple (1 Kings 8: 10), now dwells in the flesh of the Son of God. This is indeed an epiphany. The shekinah is made visible, because the shekinah is Christ, place of the presence and of the divine glory. There is one who has seen the glory of God: the only Son full of grace and truth; he comes to reveal to us the face of the Father, the only one who can do this because he has his existence in the bosom of the Father. From this fullness of life comes the new creation. Moses gave the law. Christ gives grace and truth, love and fidelity. In the Son we can contemplate God without dying because whoever sees the Son sees also the Father: Jesus is the exegesis, the narration of the divine life.
And the place of revelation is his flesh. This is why John says at the time of fulfilment: “We have seen his glory” (Jn 1: 14), when at the “time of glorification” there is only darkness. The light is hidden when it gives its life for love of men, love to the very end, without restriction, respecting the freedom of man to crucify the Author of life. God is glorified at the moment of the passion: a love completed, definitive, unlimited, a love shown even to its extremist consequences. This is the mystery of the light that becomes a way in the darkness, because love likes the darkness of the night when life becomes more intimate and one’s words die to live in the breath of the words of the person loved, the light is in the love that gives light to that hour of expropriation, the hour when one loses oneself to find oneself again in the embrace of life.
Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of God's glory for evermore,
wrap the cloak of God's saving justice around you,
put the diadem of the Eternal One's glory on your head,
for God means to show your splendour
to every nation under heaven,
and the name God gives you for evermore will be,
'Peace-through-Justice, and Glory-through-Devotion'.
stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east:
see your children reassembled from west
and east at the Holy One's command,
rejoicing because God has remembered.
Though they left you on foot driven by enemies,
now God brings them back to you,
carried gloriously, like a royal throne.
For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain,
of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk safely in God's glory.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel,
at God's command;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory,
with the mercy and saving justice which come from him.
Father of light, I come to you with my whole being. After going through times of goodness and times of slipping into evil I finally understand, because of my experience, that alone I only exist in shadow and darkness. Without your light I cannot see anything. Indeed, you are the source of life; you, Sun of justice, who opens my eyes, you the way that leads to the Father. Today you have come among us, eternal Word, as light that goes on crossing the pages of history to offer humankind the gifts of grace and joy in the desert of famine and emptiness: the bread and wine of your holy Name, which at the hour of the cross will become visible signs of consummated love, give us birth with you from that fertile side that is the Church, the cradle of your life for us. Like Mary, we wish to stay by your side to learn to be like her, full of grace from the Most High. And when our tents will welcome the cloud of the Spirit in the radiance of one more word, we shall understand the Glory of your Face and we shall bless in an adoring silence without any further hesitation the Beauty of being one with you, living Word of God.