From Weedy@21:1/5 to All on Sat Dec 26 23:27:09 2020
Of a Pure Mind and Simple Intention (1)
MAN is raised up from the earth by two wings-simplicity and purity.
There must be simplicity in his intention and purity in his desires.
Simplicity leads to God, purity embraces and enjoys Him. If your heart
is free from ill-ordered affection, no good deed will be difficult for
you. If you aim at and seek after nothing but the pleasure of God and
the welfare of your neighbor, you will enjoy freedom within.
--Thomas à Kempis --Imitation of Christ Book 2, Chapter 4
December 27th - St. John the Evangelist.
St. John the Evangelist, like Shakespeare, has something about him
which irresistibly attracts the crank, and probably more books have
been written and more wildly fantastic theories advanced about his
writings and their authorship than about any other writer who ever
lived. The reason may perhaps lie in the strange twosidedness of his
character. How, says the critic, can works so profound have been
written by a mere Galilean fisherman? How can the author of the
Johannine epistles, with their message of love and brotherhood, be the fire-breathing visionary of the Apocalypse? Or how can the 'Son of
Thunder' who wanted Christ to call down fire from heaven upon the
inhospitable Samaritans (Luke 9:54) be identified with the gentle
'disciple whom Jesus loved' and to whom he bequeathed the care of his
Blessed Mother? Yet no theory of multiple authorship will fit the
facts, for all these different St. Johns are intimately and
inextricably mingled in all the Johannine writings. The unlearned
fisherman is there in the extreme simplicity of syntax and vocabulary.
The mystical theologian is there in the Prologue (John 1:1 ff), the
Discourse in the upper room (John 13 to 17) and the First Epistle. The
Son of Thunder is there in the truculent speeches of Jesus and in St.
John's own denunciation of 'Antichrist' (I John 2:18 ff). The
differences between the Apocalypse and the other writings are balanced
by equally striking similarities. Even in the anecdotes of St. John's
old age, preserved by second century writers, we find the same
contrast. The aged bishop of Ephesus, who condensed all Christian
teaching into the one imperative, 'Little children, love one another,'
was the same St. John who refused to enter a public bath-house where
Cerinthus the heretic was known to be, for fear lest fire from heaven
should destroy the very building (fire from heaven again"). In short,
we are still in the same position as those priests who interrogated
St. John after Pentecost (Acts 4:13) and who, 'discovering that Peter
and John were simple men, without learning, were astonished.'
Astonishment: that is what everyone must feel who comes to close
quarters with St. John.
It is as well to remember, of course, that at least 50 years--half a
century of prayer and meditation, of teaching and debate--separate St.
John the Apostle from St. John the Evangelist. As a very young man he
had listened to John the Baptist, and when the Baptist pointed to
Jesus and said 'Behold the Lamb of God' he had transferred his
allegiance to our Lord. A few months later, when he and his elder
brother James were helping their father with his fishing, Jesus called
to them, 'and they, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the
hired men, turned aside after him' (Mark 1:20). Thereafter these two,
with Peter, became the closest and most constant companions of Christ.
They alone were with him at the raising of Jairus's daughter, at the Transfiguration and in Gethsemane. After the resurrection they became,
along with James son of Alphaeus, the 'pillars of the Church'
(Galatians 2:7) in Jerusalem; but after his elder brother had been
beheaded by Herod (C. 44 A.D.) St. John seems to have left Palestine,
and it is James the Less who is bishop of Jerusalem at the time of St.
Paul's last visit (c. 57 A.D.). Of St. John's own movements between
then and his exile on the island of Patmos we know nothing. Even the
date of that exile is uncertain, depending on whether we take the
wicked emperor of the Apocalypse to be Nero or Domitian. But all
authorities agree that he spent his later years at Ephesus, acting as
patriarch to the churches of Asia; that he died there at a great age,
about the end of the century; and that it was only in these later
years that he consented, under pressure from his disciples, to commit
his Gospel to writing.
Everything that St. John ever wrote could be contained in quite a
small booklet, yet so rich is the vein that one is embarrassed to know
how best to sample it in such a brief note as this. Should one
concentrate on the famous 'Logos-doctrine'-that Christ was the 'Word'
of God, the word by which he created all things and by which he spoke
to Moses and the prophets? Or should one discuss St. John's insistence
on Faith-by which he meant not only belief in the divinity of Christ
but also an absolute and boundless trust? He certainly abhorred all
heretics, especially those who denied the actual, earthly, fleshly
reality of God-made-man in this world. Or should one concentrate on
John the contemplative, the spiritual father of all Christian monks
and nuns? Or on the visionary of the Apocalypse? Or on the poet of the
St. John himself would probably have said that the whole of him is
summed up in the single sentence of his first Epistle (I John 4:8),
that 'God is love.' It was love which had brought God down to earth in
the person of Jesus, and it is only by love-of God and of his
fellowmen--that a man can join himself, through Christ, to God. And
this union with God--for the body in the Blessed Sacrament, for the
mind and will by faith and good works-is the only thing that matters.
It is life and light and victory and bliss, here and everywhere, now
and forever. But it can all be summed up and bound together by the one
word 'love.' Love of God implies faith and trust and obedience. Love
of our neighbor implies all that is meant by 'right conduct.' All
goodness, all happiness, all wisdom is included in that single word.
'And he who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. I
am Alpha, I am Omega, the beginning of all things and their end; those
who are thirsty shall drink--it is my free gift--out of the spring
whose water is life. (Revelation 21:5.)
Jesus had promised that water to Nicodemus (John 3:5), to the
Samaritan woman (John 4:13) and to all the world (John 7:37), but it
is St. John who most simply and clearly shows us where the well of it
is to be found. 'God,' says St. John, and he was the first to say it,
among all the philosophers, prophets and saints of the world, 'God is
love,' and only in his love can the thirst of all the world be
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the
feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and
want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is
what love looks like.
-- Saint Augustine of Hippo
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod! (Mark 8:15)
In moment approaching
Through grace that is shone
A kneeling before
Your blessed throne
One of great honour
Our Creator, our King
An underserved sinner
With nothing to bring
In fear and trembling
A respect that is due
Our life in Your hands
All laid before You
See now a manger
Son hung on a tree
A passion of love
Is blessed with mercy